It can be really easy, when you’re looking for advice about your beloved business, to get bogged down in other people’s opinions rather than finding the advice you needed in the first place.
I’ve noticed, among some of the mentors/teachers/gurus out there, a tendency to imply that having a day job, keeping a day job or going back to one once you’ve quit, is somehow failing at the entrepreneur / solopreneur / digital nomad / business owner format of life.
And I have to say, I think this is total bollocks.
Especially if you identify as multipod / multipassionate / multipotentialite / Scanner.
If you’re reading this, you’re seeking more meaning & fulfilment from your life than just going to someone else’s office for 40 hours a week and doing work that they give you.
There are people who are totally happy with that, and have no desire to be their own boss – which is brilliant (and sounds rather more restful than how I’m wired, if also infinitely less exciting than the life I’m creating for myself).
But if you find that your projects need more investment over a period of time, or you like the security of regular income, or, like me, your work has become your social life as well as a source of income – there is absolutely nothing wrong in hanging onto that job. Until it’s right for you to move on, or forever if you want to.
As I have recently discovered, in exploring my options between my businesses and my day job, I don’t necessarily want to be in it forever, but neither do I want to jack it in straight away.
I crave physical freedom – I’d be much happier if I could work from anywhere, and work at any time, not just between 9 and 6, but in all other respects I’ve found what Barbara Sher calls the “great enough job”.
Six reasons having a day job is a good thing
1- Freedom to experiment.
Yes, I know that’s an unlikely thing to read as a positive of a day job, which are usually seen (and can be) restricting and limiting of freedom.
As a multipod, I need variety in my life like other people need air to breathe. I cannot physically focus on just one thing for very long, and I get unwell if I don’t have enough variety in my life. Imposed structure is a dreadful thing, in my world.
This means that while I’m never short of ideas, and while I’m able to laser-focus for a short time, and get things up and running in an unfeasibly short space of time when I put my mind to it, I also shift direction so often than it can be really hard to get businesses to the point where they’re profitable.
So the day job is a really useful anchor which means I can still pay my mortgage & save, while I experiment with new things. If a product or service bombs, it’s not the end of my livelihood – it’s just a month where I might have a heftier credit card bill, and my day job salary helps with that.
2- Social contact.
The more I talk to my fully self employed friends, the more the common theme of loneliness, isolation or feeling frustrated with lack of social contact comes up. Yes, we get annoyed with the mindless chat in the kitchen, but having no mindless chat at all might actually be worse.
As a happy single who lives alone, and who tests INFP/ENFP equally (though I do love the ENFP Survival Guide) but identifies as strongly introvert on every other measure, I do have a fear of going fully self employed.
Not the money, but the fact that I might actually go days or weeks at a time without talking to anyone. I’d probably produce some great work, but I think this would be quite detrimental to my mental and emotional wellbeing.
Friends who are married/coupled/live with housemates say it’s really good to have that contact on a daily basis. I don’t want to share my home with anyone, so my day job provides that contact for me!
3- Avoiding procrastination.
As much as I adore my businesses, when I have four straight days to work on them, I inevitably play with the things I enjoy (mermaiding, taking & editing photos, blogging) and dodge the stuff I don’t want to do (hello, tax return and receipts, filing, non-client based admin) until the very last possible moment, and then blitz it and feel stressed out.
In contrast, when I’m fitting in bookings around my day job, editing in the evenings and blogging at lunch time, I’m extraordinarily efficient and get loads more done in the limited time I do have. Resulting in happier clients and a happier me, and a much healthier little business.
4- Steady income
Maybe an obvious one, but I quite literally cannot create when money is an issue. Whether that’s short term cash flow issues, or an emergency that has eaten my savings, having a day job has saved my sanity on several occasions when an unexpected vet bill, house repairs or something else has cropped up.
It also turned out to be quite instrumental in securing my home & my mortgage – generally it’s quite hard to borrow money if you don’t have any. Though I do remain astounded at how much easier it is to get credit now I have some already!
Peace of mind is priceless – and until I have steady passive income, a day job is a good way to ensure my essentials are covered and I can sleep easy at night.
More critically, it means I can confidently turn down clients who don’t fit my ideal client profile, people who are shopping solely on price, and people who are going to demand the earth for enormous discounts.
If I don’t need the work, because my bills are already paid by the work I do in an office, then I can choose to work on what I want, with who I want, and build my business in exactly the direction I want it to go.
5- Other perks
Depending on your job, you might have staff benefits ranging from discounted gym membership to health insurance, free training courses to subsidised Starbucks coffee (though that was only a thing in one place I’ve worked, sadly).
While I don’t recommend staying solely for these perks, don’t discard them while you do still have the job – use them!
Currently my day job grants me discounted access to local leisure facilities (so deep water mermaid swimming on a Friday night is cheaper), access to online and in-person training on a whole variety of subjects, free basic gym membership at their onsite gym (which I confess I don’t use as I wanted a pool, so I’ve joined a different gym using my staff NUS card), and of course the gorgeous, woodland campus, along with lots of cafe type coworking spaces where I can mooch and set up with my laptop (and decent WiFi!).
6- True friendship
This one was totally unexpected, but while I don’t miss any of the jobs I’ve had, I do miss the friends I’ve made in them. Two of my jobs stand out for delivering some of the most important people in my life – one is the uni I currently work at (hi ladies!) and the other was the library – it was the first time I’d ever worked with people who were so much like me, and it was a total revelation.
Barbara Sher, in Refuse to Choose, talks through various methods of making a job and multipod tendencies work together, and one of her recommendations is to make work into somewhere you want to be, if not for the work, then for the people.
I can highly recommend this approach – the work is fine, but the people here make it worth battling my own morning lethargy to come in to campus.
We all have passions, projects or businesses outside work, and we’re all sympathetic to how hard it can sometimes be to juggle it all. We’ve set up a craft group on a Tuesday and a Friday lunchtime, and that’s given us a creative outlet during work time where we can also swap stories, advice and panic-laden moments. Utterly sanity saving.
If you work somewhere big-ish and you’re not sure how to go about meeting new likeminded people, try a noticeboard or your work’s email/classified system – our craft group started because two of us met to buy & sell some hand cream, got talking about Sarah’s crocheted brooch, and off we went.
You could start a writing group, a photography group, a comic book or drawing or videogaming group – almost anything you’re into, you’ll find other people who will be only too happy to meet up and talk about it as a break from the daily grind.
Perhaps your preferred thing is more active – start a running group, or a skating meetup, a geocaching group or a group to visit the gym together. It doesn’t have to be business related to make your workday better, happier and more fulfilling!
Someone I know from my photography mentoring group, Shining Lights, posted this wonderful piece about how to stay focused on your day job when you’d rather be working on your business. Solid gold advice!