Does having a day job mean giving up all your dreams?

Starting A Side Business

So the end of the year is just around the corner again. This is the time of the year where people start wondering, what have I done with my life this year? Why haven’t I worked on the dream / magnum opus yet?

Everyone thinks there are only two choices in life :
1) Slog through your day job and give up on your dreams, grit your teeth and join the daily grind
2) Quit your day job, hopefully giving the finger to your boss and slamming the glass door on your way out. Then work on their dream business while eating 2 dollar packets of instant noodles every day.

Does having a day job mean giving up on all your dreams? Do you need to quit your job to be successful?

The cult of the entrepreneur

Most of us in day jobs look enviously at people who have started successful business. Must be nice not to have to work for a boss. Must be nice to be the one calling the shots. Not having to punch hours in the clock. This is the era where the cult of the entrepreneur is on the rise. Everyone idolizes the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Tory Burches and the Jack Mas.

There’s just a slight problem with that:
In his 2013 book The Founder’s Dilemmas, 1 Noam Wasserman (an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School) laid it out:

“One recent study supports the notion that….many founders of high-technology startups believe they stand a much greater chance of becoming wealthy by launching a startup than by ordinary employment. If many founders really do believe this, it appears they are largely wrong. For the self-employed, initial earnings are lower and earnings grow significantly slower than for those engaged in paid employment. …All told, entrepreneurs earned 35% less over a 10-year period than they could have in a “paid job”.

And of course, people are forgetting that founding a company is far, far more risky than earning a salary. Only the extremely successful entrepreneurs appear in the papers. And Noam Wasserman is suggesting that entrepreneurs are in most cases giving up security and health insurance without making much extra money in return.

Most entrepreneurs have family money

And there’s another dirty little secret that not many people are talking about.

University of California, Berkeley economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubenstein analyzed the shared traits of entrepreneurs in a 2013 paper, and found that most were white, male, and highly educated. The chances of becoming an entrepreneur dipped significantly if someone did not have access to family money.

I’ve interviewed and read about many entrepreneurs over the course of the past year and it’s a common denominator. Most people underestimate the power of having family money to fall back on. It’s a lot easier to be creative and take risks when you have a safety net to fall back on. The rags to riches story where a guy comes from a dirt poor back-ground and builds a multi-million dollar business is very rare.


So where does that leave us?

By us, I mean those of us with day jobs and no family money with bills to pay at the end of the month. That’s most of us right?

This is where it’s time to start a business on the side. There’s too much risk in just up and quitting your day job. You’ve have it for a reason, because there’s bills to pay. Starting a business on the side is one of the best ways to test out whether your business works. You don’t run the risk of losing your day job and you still have a safety net to fall back on.

3 reasons why you should start a side business

  1. Most people simply don’t have the guts to earn more — they just sit around and complain about the government, CPF and the economy. It takes motivation and dedication, so very few people ever try to earn more money, so the rewards are substantial if you can make it work
  2. There’s only so much you can cut back on. If you earn 3,000, you can’t save 4,000 dollars, it’s impossible. But you can earn 4,000 more dollars on the side.
  3. If you lost your job tomorrow, do you have another source of income? The problem with recessions is that when you lose your job, everyone else is also losing their jobs, so there are fewer jobs available. So what can you do to diversify your income sources? (PS: We’re almost in a recession right now)

There are many examples of people in Singapore who’ve started successful side businesses and still kept their full-time jobs. Here’s an example on Reddit of a bunch that’ve made a 150,000 slinging T-shirts on the side. My wife also has a side business that is on track to cross a 100,000 a year and both of us are also in 6 figures a year jobs.

But, a warning:

Singapore seems to be rife with courses that promise earning more but are actually scummy tactics and Ponzi schemes.  I’ve been to many of these seminars where people give you a system to do Internet Marketing”. You don’t even need a product or even any time or effort. Just market other people’s products and automate everything on your computer, the money just pours in. For a low, low price of $9,999 dollars, this system can be yours too.

If you want a super-easy way to earn $5,000/day using “Internet marketing”, just go away. This isn’t for you. While you’re reading this, you might be getting excited about earning money. But what if I asked you, “How can you earn an extra $100 this week?” Suddenly, the excuses start coming out.

These tips might work for someone, but not me! I’m too (insert excuse here). You can earn more income without quitting your job. Earning more is more than just the money. You can free up time to do things you really love, including leaving your own job (if you want).

PS: If you want to learn more how start a business on the side

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  1. I too have attended many of these seminars, preaching no or little money down, spend only an hour a week, no effort, idiot- proof methology, and using other people’s money. Yet week in week out, they are advertising it. Let’s face it if their schemes are so successful, why are they resorting to teaching these schemes instead of practicing and making millions from them. Many of these gurus have doctorates to boast about, claiming they do this for charity work! And as you say, their fees are low, low only $9999 and only 2 seats left….

    Once I challenged a guru about practicing no money down on him first and only pay him when I made my deal that he disallowed.

  2. Depends on what your dream is, I guess. If your dream is like mine, to paint or to create art, which isn’t necessarily a money-generating dream, then maybe this article doesn’t apply? I had a side business where a friend and I taught art workshops, mainly to children. When I let go of day jobs to focus on making the side business my full-time business, well, we’re in the process of closing shop now. It is true though that a lot of successful entrepreneurs did have access to family money, or at least, a substantial amount for them to grow their business and/or to fall back on and/or live on during the business’ growing pains. My friend and I didn’t have that; is that why our business failed? Oh wells ~ for now it’s back to day jobs for me by day and painting at night; it sounds loseriffic but I’m beginning to resign myself to the fact that in order for at least my dream to work, I can’t ever give up having a regular source of income, which, unfortunately, is the day job. Luckily, I have a boss who is kind and supportive of my dream.

  3. Thank you 😀 I try to be hilarious when I can!

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