Don’t disparage the usefulness of your traditional job when building your dream careerOct 26, 2022
As I interact with people at all stages of online platform development, from beginners who are just getting started to experts who have a highly developed online business, one theme seems to be common. Typically, when you're building an online platform, you're also thinking about the day when your business can replace your traditional job. For many of us, that's the dream, and I believe it's more than possible for most of us to get there. But there are tools and opportunities we've been blessed with along the way that we shouldn't neglect or ignore, and one of the most obvious tools is the traditional job some of us are dreaming about escaping.
I have a traditional job and I'm not dreaming about escaping it. As I have done for the past 25 years, I serve as the pastor of a local church. I continue to serve in that role because I view it as a calling, not just an occupation. I'm not serving in that role for money. In fact, our church leadership knows that paying me is optional. As a non-profit organization, there are seasons when our finances are good and other seasons when our finances feel tight. Several years ago, I was able to tell our treasurer that I would only accept a paycheck if all other bills, obligations, and salaries were paid first. In other words, my reasoning for serving in my traditional job is not financial.
But let me tell you another story. It's a story about a good friend of mine and I'm going to alter a few of the identifying details so you won't be able to figure out who I'm referring to. My friend is a very talented artist, speaker, writer, and coach. She's a joy to interact with, and I'm always impressed with the art she creates as well as her heart to serve people. She's in the process of trying to establish her online presence, but she feels stuck and she hasn't been making the progress she'd like to make. At the same time, she's also attempting to fund her life through the sale of her art. People love what she's creating, but unfortunately, not enough people know about it yet, so it isn't bringing in enough for her to earn a living, and she's getting behind on expenses.
We had a conversation recently where I encouraged her to consider a different approach, and I think what I shared with her was somewhat surprising. My advice was to seek a stable, predictable, traditional job that provided a regular source of income while she continues to build her online platform. I know this surprised her because I speak so much about the benefits of earning a living through an online, message-based business. But I'm speaking from experience when I share advice like this.
I reminded her that while I built my platform, I had a traditional job. In fact, I had two. I was serving as a local church pastor and I was teaching classes at a local university. That helped give me a runway to cover my day-to-day expenses so I didn't have to build my platform in desperation. Granted, there were seasons where my income from the church wasn't predictable, but even when things were tight, they were usually able to pay me something.
As I observe my friend who is attempting to build her platform, I'm convinced that a big reason she's feeling so stuck and isn't making progress as fast as she would like is because she's trying to rely on income from a platform that's in its infancy. Most online platforms don't generate the kind of income you can live off of right when you're getting them off the ground. The same is true for most brick-and-mortar businesses. It's usually a few years into the development of a traditional business before they become genuinely profitable.
So if you've been thinking about building an online platform that becomes your dream career, let me encourage you to consider serving in a traditional job at the same time while you get your new thing off the ground. It doesn't have to be a permanent arrangement, but let me suggest a few reasons why you might want to consider it a temporary option.
1. You'll be more creative if you aren't stressing about living expenses.
When I'm trying to produce creative content, it's helpful to me if my mind is clear and I'm not feeling anxious about basic things. It's hard for me to be creative if I'm abnormally hungry. It's hard for me to think about building something when I'm worried about paying my bills, rent, or mortgage. But when my living expenses are covered and I have an emergency fund on top of that, my mind is much clearer and my creativity gets activated. I also have more energy for serving others when I'm not worried about my own needs being met.
2. If you have a spouse, he or she will find it easier to support your dreams when the basics of home life aren't feeling neglected.
I care more about the opinions of my wife and children than I care about the opinions of anyone else on this planet. I want their support. I want them to be excited about what I'm involved in and working on. Throughout the course of my adult life, I have been blessed to have a very supportive wife, but there have been a few times where I'm sure it was difficult for her to support some of my dreams while financial margins at home were feeling tight. I think she would admit that it's much easier to support my ideas and ambitions when she doesn't have to worry if there's enough money in the budget to buy groceries.
3. You'll get more ideas while you're serving others than you'll get from sitting in isolation.
Most people get new ideas when they're in motion, not when they're standing still. If you're isolating yourself and avoiding other people, I think you're going to find it difficult to come up with creative ideas. I think you'll struggle to find inspiration. I'm convinced that we get some of our best ideas while we're serving other people, even when we're serving in ways that don't seem directly connected to what we're attempting to build online.
4. For many of us, it's healthy to do more than one thing.
I like variety in daily activities. If I'm doing the same thing for too long, I eventually find it boring and I start to crave change. I suspect many online entrepreneurs are wired similarly to me. And if that's the case, you might find it mentally, emotionally, and relationally healthy to be involved in doing more than one thing. A traditional job, even if it's part-time, might help you find that kind of healthy variety.
5. You'll make poor choices and may even compromise your convictions if you put yourself in a place where you become desperate for money.
People do strange things when they're desperate. I know some good people that I have seen make moral compromises in their lives when they became financially stressed. I've seen honest people act dishonestly, kind people become irrationally angry, gentle people become violent, and generous people become thieves. Don't put yourself in a place where you might be tempted to compromise your convictions because you're fearful you might not survive financially.
In some circles of entrepreneurship, having a traditional job is treated like a badge of dishonor. Depending on who you're talking to, you might start to feel like a failure if you're still working in a role that follows a more stable and predictable path. I would encourage you not to view traditional jobs like a failure. In fact, they might be a gift. They can be a very useful part of your overall financial recipe, and for most of us, they will provide the financial margin we need to get our online platforms built. Personally speaking, I would rather build my platform from a place of delight than a place of desperation.
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