Does a 9-5 job look tempting?

Many entrepreneurs occasionally yearn for the (perceived) stability of a regular job, where they just show up five days a week and get paid every two weeks. Maybe it’s during a time when you are experiencing a client drought, or perhaps when you are working far too many hours for what you’re getting paid. You find yourself over at CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com, browsing through job ads.

diverI consider this a symptom of a need to commit. My spouse often uses the analogy with her clients of being “in the pool or out of the pool”. Either you are willing to jump in and swim, or you will sit and dangle your legs over the edge, unwilling to fully engage.

To extend this analogy, looking through job listings while you are running a business is like being in the pool but still hanging on to the ladder. Yes, you’re in, but you are never going to actually swim until you let go of that ladder. It will still be there if you decide you can’t swim anymore; your focus needs to be on swimming in the pool.

If you feel yourself succumbing to the apparent allure of becoming an employee, think about what it is that you don’t like about your business right now. Rather than divide your focus and energy between finding a job and building a business, choose which avenue you want to pursue wholeheartedly. The following concerns are often mentioned by entrepreneurs who are considering traditional employment. See if any of these sound familiar to you, and consider your options for getting refocused on what you really want to do.

  • Are you scared because you don’t have enough (or any!) clients? A lack of clients simply means that you haven’t yet figured out what your clients most value and how to effectively communicate your expertise. If your current marketing approach isn’t working, you need to conduct some research to find out what your clients really want and how they describe their most pressing needs.
  • Are you not able to cover all your overhead expenses? The financial realities of being self-employed have hit you. You suddenly find that you have to pay the employer’s portion of your Social Security (FICA) taxes; you are now charged the full cost of your health insurance payments. Be sure that you have set your billing rate at a level that ensures you can pay for the additional overhead of self-employment. See my free eTool, What’s My Hourly Rate? How to Set Your Professional Fee to Ensure You Make a Profit for thoughts on how to price yourself.
  • Do you miss the stability of a regular pay check? First, remember that no employment is guaranteed. Instead of relying on one employer for all of your income, you are building a base of multiple “employers” (we call them clients). And if you want to reduce your cash flow fluctuations, explore ways to create ongoing relationships with multiple clients. What can you provide every month that your clients value and that they can’t get anywhere else?
  • Do you miss the atmosphere of the office and the presence of colleagues? Some entrepreneurs get their fix of office buzz by working in coffee shops and other busy venues. They appreciate the stimulation, while still being able to go back to their quiet home office after a couple of hours of noise and activity. Other entrepreneurs seek out local networking groups and other face-to-face meetings where they can interact with other people on a regular basis.

Being an entrepreneur means getting a daily reminder of your strengths and weaknesses. You regularly push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Your business continually evolves as you learn how you can provide the highest value for your clients. You will always be learning new skills to better serve your clients’ needs. And you will always be challenging yourself in new ways, some of which may have you reaching for the ladder out of the pool. Take a couple of deep breaths and decide whether you want to climb out of the pool or push yourself off the side and into the deep end.

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