Going out on your own… Should you take the jump?

I read an interesting discussion on Quora this week about society being conditioned for employment as opposed to other sources of income, presumably being in business for yourself.  I then recalled three conversations I’ve had this week with different friends, who each expressed how unhappy they were with their jobs – all good paying stable corporate jobs, not overly demanding but boring and unfulfilling.  These conversations aren’t unique and I seem to have them every week with a different person.

My usual outsider response is “well, quit.  Start your own business”, to which I usually get “it’s too risky, what if it fails?”  I would argue this ingrained attitude is equally, if not more, dangerous than trying to go out on your own, leading to unhappy and unfulfilled life.
So, are you in the same position? Are you sitting on the edge wondering whether to take the leap?  Here’s my two cents on the matter from someone who has:
The Upside:

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  • Fulfilment and happiness:  It’s extremely liberating being in charge of your own endeavour.  You are free to be truly creative, make your own decisions and bear the fruits of your efforts.  Personally, I hate having a boss.  I like to make my own calls and deal with the consequences if I get them wrong.  I’m much happier when I make mistakes and answer to myself.
  • Risk = Reward: You’re putting in the hard yards, and for good reason.  When you work for someone else your upside is capped and your downside? Yep, getting fired and having no job.  Everybody says getting a job is ‘safe’, particularly those in public service.  Well, given the State job cuts in my state last year I’d like to see anybody argue that now.  Working for yourself, your upside is unlimited and you have the same financial downside as being an employee but much higher personal satisfaction.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.
  • Challenge yourself and learn:  One of the favourite parts I love about being in business is the constant learning.  Every week I’m meeting people smarter, more successful and more interesting than myself – and I learn from all of them.  How does that sound compared to sitting in the staff room talking about Big Brother?

The Downside:

  • Time: I don’t want to deceive you into thinking it’s easy.  To build a truly successful business you’ll have to work really hard, but wouldn’t you rather put your energy into something you’re passionate about?  At the end of the day you will be putting time into building your own future, not someone else’s.  That’s time well spent.
  • What if you fail?  Despite your worst thoughts it’s unlikely you’ll end up on the street peddling Big Issues.  If you’re reading this you most likely have a job now, so you can get another one.  Chances are that you won’t have – if you’re putting time and energy into something you love you’ll figure out a way to make it work.
  • People with jobs will hate you:  I work better at night, so I sleep in more than I used to when I was a wage slave.  When people stumble across this fact I always get “you’re so lucky’ with a bitter tone, like I had some unfair gift bestowed upon me.  They don’t really hate you, they’re just jealous.  Don’t be one of those people.

I have to balance this out by saying I know plenty of people satisfied with their jobs, who are constantly learning, being challenged and getting a sense of fulfilment, but they are in equal parts to the unhappy people, who have no excuses.  Weighing up the above I think they’ll find the ‘risky’ option is to stay working for someone else wasting your talent away.