Most of us dream of setting our own schedule, working only on projects we love, working in complete harmony with our best friends by our side, bringing in a million dollars per year, and having it all not even feel like work. (And of course, accomplishing all of the above in under a year!) While these dreams are not impossible, they are highly unlikely. Perhaps you have looked out across the sea of beige cubicles around you and thought, “Entrepreneurs have it all: control, freedom, passion”. However, there are actually major pros and major cons to working as an entrepreneur. Check out Abbey’s story in today’s article to see what I mean.
Abbey’s first job in high school was at a bakery located inside of an amusement park. She loved learning how to bake the massive cinnamon rolls, doughy elephant ears, and crazy-good chocolate chip cookies. During the summer, Abbey worked 60+ hours per week for just above minimum wage ($5.15 at the time!). She started work at 6:00 AM and sometimes did not leave until the park closed at 11:00 PM. But she loved the camaraderie between the bakers and felt good after a hard day’s work.
Fast forward a decade and Abbey graduated from an elite pastry school in New England. She worked in every kind of restaurant and bakery you can think of in a zillion different cities. She worked her way up from prep work to line cook to sous chef and eventually was the Pastry Chef of a prominent bakery in San Francisco. While Abbey often complained about terrible hours when she was an employee of all those restaurants and bakeries, she had a steady paycheck coming in each week.
After years of working extremely long hours for equally demanding executive chefs who seemed bent on making her life miserable, Abbey decided she wanted to open her own bakery.
“Just think,” she said to a friend on her only day off in over 2 weeks, “I can open the shop whenever I want, make whatever pastries I desire, and choose only the coolest people to work with.”
She and her friend fantasized about the various luscious desserts she would make, the amazing corner property that would house the bakery, what she would call it, and what color her apron would be.
Another 5 years passed Abbey finally opened her bakery in a growing suburb of Atlanta, GA. When she owned her own bakery, there were a few months she couldn’t afford to pay herself. This caused a sense of panic for Abbey and added to her stress.
Additionally, while she did hire a few of her friends and former co-workers, they all actually didn’t end up working well together. Abbey had been a leader before but not in the way where she was responsible for the livelihoods of these people. She was able to set her own schedule and take a day off or two without asking anyone for permission, but that first year she mostly worked. She felt alone a lot of the time and felt a heavy burden to make this bakery a success.
After a year of trying, Abbey’s business failed. Just because you are a great baker or chef does not mean you are a great business person.
But don’t worry – this story is not all depressing. Abbey eventually opened another concept store in Nashville, TN (a smaller market) and has had a great success! She learned a lot from her first “failure”, asked for help the second time around, and enjoys her ability to control what happens in the store. She’s thinking about opening another store on the other side of town and is excited by the possibility to grow her income even more.
So which avenue is right for you? Entrepreneur or employee?
There are challenges and advantages to both being an employee and an entrepreneur. I made a quick chart which illustrates those pros and cons:
– Lots of Control
– Freedom to Set Schedule
– Potential for Higher Income
– Responsible for the Risk
– Heavy Workload
– Natural Community
– Larger Projects / More Projects
– Steady Paycheck
– Not in Complete Control
– Income Cap
No option is better than the other and one category might fit one stage of your life and you might switch half-way through. It’s about what is right for you.
There is one thing I would caution: I see a lot of business models that are based around selling the dream of entrepreneurship. They tout their own financial success as evidence of the possibility for any entrepreneur to be successful. In reality, selling a dream is easier than making a dream come true. Who do you thinks more money- the piano seller or the average pianist? One is selling the dream. The other is executing it.
So just be aware that people who link fulfilling your passion to business ownership are hammering home the pros of being an entrepreneur and ignoring the cons. “Make money doing what you love!” “Be your own boss!” “Have the freedom to work anywhere!” While all of those things sound great, they are only half-truths. Where is the marketing program that says, “Pony up $50,000 in startup fees, work like a dog for many years, feel alone in your decision-making, and don’t plan on making a ton of money in the beginning – if you do at all. But you can be your own boss!”? Be leery of organizations selling you all the good things about entrepreneurship without explaining the not-so-glamorous aspects too.
Have you ever thought about being an entrepreneur? Leave a comment below!