The worst thing happened to me in 2014. My first business had failed only six months after quitting my 9 to 5 job. I panicked. I didn’t want to go back into the corporate world. I don’t belong there. I had never been freer or happier than I had been in those six months that I was building online stores. I just needed more time. But time ran out, so I didn’t have it. And that was a tough pill to swallow. So there I was interviewing for 9 to 5 jobs again. “This isn’t what I want to be doing,” I’d think to myself. But at the time, I didn’t know how to scramble money together. And that’s when it hit me; I need to use the 9 to 5 to level up my skills.
Going back to the 9 to 5 wasn’t going to be a curse. It was merely going to be an opportunity to get my finances back on track. Develop skills on someone else’s dime. And get myself back on track to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in a 9 to 5 setting that has helped me build better businesses over time. So if you’re currently feeling out of place in the 9 to 5, this is what you can do to prepare you for entrepreneurship.
What Entrepreneurs Actually Do In A 9 to 5 Job
1. Network With People in Various Roles
In a 9 to 5 job, you work with all types of people with a range of skills. You’ve got the recruiter who hired you. From them, you can learn about what skills you should look for in hiring a potential candidate for various roles. You’ve got the accountant who does your payroll. You can ask them questions about how to cut costs on taxes, how to manage a budget, and other finance-related subjects. You’ve got the company founder. From them, you can ask about the strategies and tactics they used in the early stages to set the right foundation for the business.
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you should have coffee meetings with coworkers in various positions to learn more about how their work impacts the business. What problems do they solve for the company? Which tricks and tips can they share to help you better understand how to grow your business from a skills perspective. Focus on gaining insight so you can see how each role fits together to make the business function effectively.
2. Ask to Expense Education Pieces
Most employees don’t take advantage of learning opportunities they can take for their role. For example, if you’re working in a marketing or sales role, you might choose to attend a marketing conference, invest in business books, or take marketing courses. That way, you can grow your skill set for your job.
But to invest in that kind of learning, you don’t need to pay for these events out of pocket. You can speak with the founder of your business or boss about being able to expense these costs for you.
In many countries, employee education is a tax write-off for companies. So, your company would be able to deduct the cost from the taxes while allowing you to invest in your knowledge so you could become better at your job (and business).
If there are conferences with speakers you want to learn from or books you want to read, you can ask your work to cover the costs for you. You might need to speak with your boss before spending money on it though.
And by enhancing your skill set, you better prepare yourself for the world of entrepreneurship. It helps your 9 to 5 as well because you become more skilled in your role as you focus on levelling up your skills.
3. Develop Skills In New Areas
Entrepreneurs are generalists. They know a little bit about a lot. That’s what makes them so successful. However, in a 9 to 5 environment, employees are often specialists. They know a great deal about one focus area.
To help you transition from employee to entrepreneur, you’ll need to start transitioning your skills towards new areas of expertise. For example, if you’re a social media marketer, a natural skill to learn would be advertising. Since it’s a natural shift, it won’t alarm your boss.
Slowly, you want to start developing a strong understanding of the new advertising role. And from there, you might transition to a role focused on lead generation but tackling a different set of skills.
You need to resist being pigeon-holed. In the event that you can’t switch roles or develop new skills. There are a couple of alternative ways to build those skills. The first way is with your own business which you should have already slowly started working on. The second way is through a freelance opportunity or part-time job you do after work or on weekends.
4. Take Risks You Couldn’t Easily Do On Your Own
Marketing experiments always cost money. Thus, making it hard to try experiments on your business if you don’t have the budget. I mean, your business’ budget, in the beginning, is typically whatever’s leftover after expenses from your full-time job’s salary.
Let’s be clear: entrepreneurs take calculated risks. And there’s always a risk with everything new you try. But you don’t want to take a risk that’ll put your 9 to 5 company in jeopardy. You’ll simply need to try new ideas that are tough to do on your own.
For example, you might try a new SEO format for a high volume keyword on your company website. Why? Because their site has a higher domain authority than your new business. And so if it works, the results will appear almost instantaneously. If it works, you can then apply it to your company and know that it’ll work over the long-term.
If you’re running ads for your 9 to 5 job, you might spend higher budgets testing ideas. But with your business, you need to reinvest profits in the early stages to get yourself to a higher level. So, it’s safer for your business to test ad ideas with your 9 to 5 job first.
5. Ask the Founders Questions
Most founders get asked two popular questions by their employees or friends. The first is: can I get a raise? The second is: can I get a job at your company? But the questions future entrepreneurs should be asking are:
How did you build your business?
What advice do you have for building a profitable business?
How did you learn how to make money?
What was your most significant success in the early days that set your business up for success?
What skills did you need the most in your business’ early days?
Find a time to get a coffee with your company’s founder or original team to learn more about their business in the early stages. In the beginning, focus more on just learning more about the company’s beginnings. Don’t dive right into the conversation of learning how to build your own business. Ease yourself into that. You’re likely to learn more context in the initial discussions by hearing about the foundational elements that came into play in the early days. You’ll learn things you might not have known to ask.
As you become more familiar with the early context, you can start asking for business advice that’ll help you build your own business. But remember, you’re still an employee. You should only work on your business after work, on weekends, and vacations. If you start working on your business during work hours, your 9 to 5’s founders will likely become less supportive.
6. Work on a Side Hustle
You can always spot the entrepreneur in a 9 to 5 job because they always have a side hustle. Companies always pay you enough, so you don’t quit. But that makes it hard for you to earn more. And so some people turn to side hustles to earn additional income. Maybe you start a dropshipping store, create an app, or focus on freelancing on the side. This is simply the first step you need to take to become an entrepreneur.
Most people make excuses:
“I’m too tired after work.”
“I have too many responsibilities after work.”
“I don’t know where to start.”
“I just want to relax after a busy day.”
“There aren’t enough hours in the evening.”
But the reality is employees work 9-5. But entrepreneurs work 9-9 and sometimes more. So, by working on a side hustle, you gain practice of what it’s like to be all in all the time with work. It isn’t easy. In the beginning, you need to make sacrifices. Work hard today, so years from now, you have more balance. But the side hustle is important because it’s the thing you need to build to escape the rat race. Otherwise, you’re trapped for life.
7. Entrepreneurs Grow Their Savings
Entrepreneurs in a 9 to 5 job focus on growing their savings or investing it. They do this so that they can easily transition from the 9 to 5 to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. They create an entrepreneur fund so that they have enough money to cover their expenses when they finally take the plunge and begin running their business full-time. But don’t forget that your business needs to make enough money to pay for business expenses, reinvest profit, and pay you before you quit to run it full-time.
But when it comes to money, entrepreneurs also invest it. They might have stocks that they purchase when the price is low. Or they invest their money into their business to grow it into a successful brand. Or they invest it in real estate while renters pay down the debt on it. Ultimately, entrepreneurs invest their money into assets that will make them money. Whereas, most people spend money on liabilities which cost them money such as a mortgage, a car, or consumer purchases.
8. Take Advantage of Vacations and Weekends
An entrepreneur in a 9 to 5 job takes advantage of evenings, weekends, and vacations to invest in their escape from the rat race. So instead of going on that Mexican getaway to drink tequila and eat tacos, you might choose to take a one week vacation to work on the business you’re building.
One of the key indicators to determine a person’s potential success lies in their ability to delay instant gratification. Delaying gratification can lead you to have a better long-term outcome. So, if you’re working hard consistently now instead of relaxing on evenings and weekends, in the long-term you’re more likely to experience success. And that’s compared to someone who focuses on enjoying their time on evenings and weekends instead of focusing on their long-term exit strategy from the rat race.
Of course, taking breaks is an essential part of your mental health. We’re not saying you need to work 12 hours a day seven days a week every week. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed, by all means, take a few hours off to take care of yourself.
Just don’t make the mistake of using relaxation as an excuse to procrastinate on what you want in life. We know how hard it is to take that first step and to find the motivation to keep going. But when you’re building your side hustle out, you’re on the right track from transitioning from employee to entrepreneur. Don’t let the fear take over.
9. Get Motivated
There’s always a positive and a negative way to look at a situation. If you feel suffocated in your 9 to 5 job, a pessimist feels trapped but an optimist uses that frustration to motivate herself to plan her exit. From low pay to inflexible hours to monotonous work, the 9 to 5 can be pretty dull to an entrepreneur. But an entrepreneur takes all those frustrations and channels it towards building a better future for herself.
It’s important to remind yourself that being in a 9 to 5 environment is only temporary, especially if you’ve already started working on your side hustle. The more progress you begin to see, the more work you’ll put into your business. Eventually, your 9 to 5 job doesn’t cause as much frustration as it once did because your brain is distracted by all the good things happening in your business. You start feeling excited because the end of your time in the rat race is near. And freedom is just around the corner.
Optimizing your time in the 9 to 5 to help you develop new skills, understand different roles, earn money, and meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet can make your 9 to 5 a learning experience. Entrepreneurs don’t last in the corporate world too long. They don’t belong there. And everyone around them sees that. You will get restless and bored. But you need to focus on building your exit from the environment so that you never need to go back into it.
Are you an entrepreneur in a 9 to 5 job? How have you used your full-time job to help you with your business? Let us know in the comments!
Want to Learn More?
10 Characteristics of An Entrepreneur Who Succeeds
13 Astonishing Habits of A Successful Entrepreneur
10 Obvious Signs You Should Be Working for Yourself
10 Famous Failures That’ll Inspire You To Try One More Time
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