Ten Misconceptions About Having a Job (Why Entrepreneurship Isn’t All It is Cracked Up To Be)

I normally like the stuff that Steve Pavlina writes, but I just don't agree with his 10 reasons you should never get a job. I've had a regular job with a big company. I've had a regular job with a small company. I've started a company and focused on it as my sole full-time gig. I've started a company or two as side gigs while working a full-time job. And the truth is that everything has tradeoffs. I don't agree with Steve's points, so I decided to provide my own perspective on them.

1. Income For Dummies
The reason jobs are for dummies is "because you only get paid when you're working." I disagree. First of all, this misconception that all corporate environments are for mindless drones that punch a clock is wrong. There are good places to work out there (not a ton, but there are some). My current job isn't concerned with hours worked, it is concerned with results. If I worked 5 hours a week but got a sweet deal with Microsoft to put our wireless software into Windows CE, my boss would care less about when I was in the office or how much I worked. No one looks over my shoulder, I get to define much of my own workload, and when things are slow, no one cares if I work on side projects or personal things.

2. Limited Experience
Again, this is a misconception. This was true when I worked for a large company, but the small firm I work for now asks me to do all kinds of new and different things. I just had a trip to Taiwan to attend a conference. I'll be going there quite a bit to help open an Asian office. My company paid for the trip, and I am gaining invaluable experience about international business. If I was doing my own thing, I probably could not afford to fly to Asia on a regular basis unless I either raised money from investors (which means I'm now working partially for them and partially for myself) or else waited who knows how long until my business ramped up and had adequate cash flow.

3. Lifelong Domestication
If you let corporate life kill your entrepreneurial spirit, then it was weak to begin with and you probably wouldn't have made it if you had tried to go out on your own.

4. Too Many Mouths To Feed
To an extent, this is true, but when you factor in health care, 401K matching, etc., it can be a really sweet deal. The key is to get paid what you are worth.

5. Way Too Risky
Studies show that entrepreneurs do better the second time around. So why not make your first gamble on the company's dime instead of your own? Practice intrapraneurship by going to your boss with an idea and taking the lead. If you fail, the company pays the financial price. You still get your paycheck. If you go out on your own and fail, you have one hell of a hole to dig yourself out of.

6. Having an evil bovine master
The flip side of this is you could work for a business genius that teaches you all sorts of lessons in two or three years that it would have taken you ten years to learn on your own. Think about it – if you want to be a value investor would you rather start from scratch or work a few years under Warren Buffett?

7. Begging For Money
Again I say if you are good, you will get paid what you are worth. Begging for money is what you do when you owe the bank or credit card companies or whoever financed your startup and you don't have enough customers to meet payroll. Many entrepreneurs I have met get paid less than they are worth for several years because customers don't value their services as much as a private company would. Often, customers expect the new business on the block to be cheap and willing to cut deals to gain business.

8. An Inbred Social Life
It's your own fault if your only friends are co-workers.

9. Loss Of Freedom
This only happens if you work for a bad boss, and you should never work for a bad boss unless you have no other option.

10. Becoming a Coward
If you lose your drive, it was weak to begin with. And anyway, not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. It is tough. Maybe it isn't tough for Steve. Maybe it isn't tough for a small percentage of the population, but I know dozens of people that failed at it, and it was tough for them. Just because you aren't an entrepreneur doesn't mean you are a coward. What if you work at NASA on the space shuttle and you love that? How in the hell do you work on the space shuttle by yourself as a startup? You think someone will fund you if you don't have some experience related to space already? What if you are a physicist working on one of those massive particle accelerators? How do you get access to a particle accelerator if you don't work for CERN or someplace similar?

I am so tired of this common thread on blogs that says everyone must be an entrepreneur and in order to be an entrepreneur you have to be a programmer, web designer, consultant, or freelance writer. There are tons of skills that real people have that are not accurately appreciated on the web. Not all of them lend themselves well to startups, and not everyone has the skill set to be an entrepreneur.

I'm not against entrepreneurship. I think it is the single most exciting and educational "career" path you can pursue, but it isn't for everybody. I have done it in the past, and I have something in the works as we speak, but the truth is that most people that do it will never end up better off than their friends that have jobs. Many of the ones that are successful will piddle around with small salaries for several years before they finally take off and do okay.

Working for a company has advantages. It lets you save money to use to start your venture some day. It gives you access to assets that you wouldn't have otherwise. It is an easy way to meet people in an industry and make contacts that will be invaluable when you are ready to start your business. It allows you to test some of your ideas while someone else bears the financial risk. The best thing though, is that if you work for a company you can usually go home at 5pm. As an entrepreneur, work is your life (which can be both good an bad).

If you are smart, you will take control of your own career no matter what you do. If you want to be an entrepreneur, work for a company that will teach you skills you can use. Analyze your company to figure out what processes and procedures you can use to aid your own startup workflow someday, and what processes and procedures you should never implement because they just get in the way. Most importantly, never let someone else tell you what you should do. People are different, and Steve's path is good for him just like your path is good for you. Set your expectations high, be true to yourself, and go after what you want – whether entrepreneurship, a job as CEO of a large company, or whatever it is that will be challenging and rewarding to you.

  • Marc Echols

    I have to agree that entrepreneurship is not for everybody.

    “If you want to be a value investor would you rather start from scratch or work a few years under Warren Buffett?”

    As fo above question, I would rather to start from scratch :-)

  • I agree with you mostly. But not all. Intrapraneurship in my opinion is in no way equivalent to the experience that you get from starting your own business. The only way to get real entrepreneurship experience is if you have no safety net.

  • Rob

    That is true, but at the same time there is a side of entrepreneurship that never gets told. There are plenty of people that have tried to start their own business only to end up 2 years later with 150K in debt, losing their house, and on the verge of bankruptcy. It happens. I have seen entrepreneurs get their credit destroyed, and it takes several years to build it back up. In addition, their are tons of entrepreneurs that stick it out for several years making 20K or so from their business, when they might be worth 80K in a corporate job. They finally give up, get a regular job, and don’t try it again until they have saved up enough money.

  • Chris G

    I’m posting here because Steve conveniently CLOSES posting to his website early to limit any real discussion.

    As for his bit about why you shouldn’t work for somebody else … wow. This Steve guy is just a LITTLE full of himself. “I make $9000 a month from my rant, and BTW please leave a donation?” Like as if. All people who go out and get a job are “morons”, are they Steve? Everyone on the planet, if they only listened to wise Stevie, would be earning an income 24/7 with no need to go out and get a job … “just like your plants grow”. Terrific comparison Steve.

    “My only investment was $9 in a domain name.” … what about the computer? Software? Network connection? Hosting company? Still living with Mom are ya Steve?

    Bill O’Reilly makes a pile of dough for tossing out his over-the-top bits of wisdom every day … why can’t you make THAT sort of money Steve? That’s real money. Bill probably spends your $9K/month maintaining his POOL. What are you, inept? A moron? What’s wrong with you Steve. Make yourself some REAL money (and tell us all about it) or STFU.

  • John

    While I certainly agree with many of your points, I feel that both yours and Steve’s view are based on the exception rather than rule.

    Sure, making a killing Steve’s way is an understated longshot, and getting all that experience can come at a costly price. The majority of startups do fail and accordingly can cause some incredible pain to its entrepreneur.

    So in that case, why not curb some of this risk by finding a corporate job where you can have creative and personal freedoms? A job with no mind-droning management and bureaucracy. Not one with a “bad boss” but rather a business genius that provides international travel opportunities. Yup, sounds great.

    See where I’m going with this? I believe that both tracks — making it big with a startup and finding and exploiting this “dream job” are equally exceptional options. Maybe I’m just pessemistic. But, if someone lands a corporate job like your own, they probably already had the drive and skillset needed to excel as an entrepreneur. (After all, didn’t you say that you got your startup experience _before_ arriving at your current position?)

    Just my $.02

    – John

  • Speaking as someone in the middle of “Intrapraneurship”, I’m looking forward to the day I can pack it all in, stick it to the man and pay my mortgage from my own business. However, the thing that is most bothering me is the social aspect you’ve mentioned here. I work for a large, young, company with a great social life and a high proportion of very nice young ladies :) Working on my own, or with a small team, I’m going to become a social recluse!

  • Nice post. You are right about many entrepreneurs making little money. If I would work along my internet business I am doing for 7 years I would be sparing some money instead of dreaming and hoping my websites will start earning big cash :)

  • Dmitri Kozlov

    Do not take Steve’s writing too literally and it will make much more sense that way. To work for oneself or for a company? Is it the real question?
    I am a programmer and if I am giving a talk before a group of people about my profession will I tell them how great is it? Absolutely. Will I suggest them to try the same? Sure! But will I imply that everybody should go out and get the same profession? No. For obvious reasons.

  • You will always work for someone, rather it be a midlevel manager or your own customers. Entrepreneurship stills involves working for someone else.

  • Very good article. For some people striking out on your own is as natural as walking, but that is definitely more the exception than the rule. There is no shame in having a day job, and in fact it is a critical step in most ventures, as outlined in the article. If you need to raise money, earn an income if things go south, or meet people in the industry, day jobs are the best way to do it.

    An often overlooked part of entrepreneurship is that most successful small companies occupy specific niches. Working in an industry as an employee is one of the best ways to find these niches so that you can then develop a product to fill them. The number of small companies that succeed with broad consumer market products is extremely small.

  • Steve made a comment in another article about trying to talk someone out of going into business for themselves. The typical argument is “About 80% of businesses fail within 5 years”, to which Steve replies “Most new employees fail within 5 years”. He does have a point to that, but I can’t say I agree with his “1 size fits all” mentality of running your own business. Some people just aren’t cut out for it. A single person can only accomplish so much. Steve does pretty good at his niche, but I doubt his $9000 a month self-employment could crank out the next generation of processors, or develop an office suite. He couldn’t keep up highway maintenance in a city, nor could he build an aircraft carrier. There are some things that require an organization to accomplish.

  • There’s no job security. In the past decade, I’ve lost a well-paying job job, my home, and drained my savings. Getting cancer didn’t help either. I came to the conclusion that I needed to be self-reliant. So I went about learning how to fish so that I don’t have to worry about being hungry again. Today, I have several web businesses. The internet has been a blessing. I’m not concerned about job security anymore, because I’m not dependant on employment. I had to change my mindset, though, and break out of my comfort zone. Hope this encourages everyone. Be in control of your own income.

  • Ultimately, it comes down to personality. There are those who embrace risk and those who don’t. For those who embrace risk, working in an entrepreneurial environment can be fulfilling. On the other hand, those who shun risk should proceed with caution. It takes a certain kind of person.


  • Some things are true but it is definitely ok to get a job ! It toughens you up and you can be more independent. (i am talking about students or teenagers) as for people who have families : what are they to do ? beg ?

  • Well i wouldn’t get a job if i had a business working for me. Jobs equal money, we work for money if we have money we won’t work it’s just as simple.

  • I have to tell you that you really sounded superficial to me. You seem to be talking just out of the air with some logic that you gained out of the “normal conformist world”