This post is all about saving your skin. I also want to save your wallet, your time, your frustration and your dignity. I have seen a number of colleagues and a number of random people on the internet grab a hold of the start-up craze. Obviously it’s nothing new. Start-ups have been popular since Myspace but, there are so many pieces of bad advice encouraging people to make a start-up out of nothing, invest everything in it and then hold on tight. It’s going to be a grueling ride. Here’s why.
Those Techies are Preaching from a Comfortable Position
It might seem inspiring to watch videos or read interviews of start-up darlings who have made it so far as they reflect on how far they came. You can laugh along as they talk about the days of living in their car, maxing out 12 different credit cards, not holding a traditional job, etc. and then reflect on how that enabled them to become the entrepreneur they are today. They didn’t give up.
That’s great for them, except most of us will give up and many of their peers gave up. Is it worth it to waste several years of your young adult life fiddling around with a great idea that leads nowhere? You could argue it was a learning experience, which could have value, but what about where you could have been? What about the stuff that really matters in life like family, friends, relationships, hobbies, getting out and experiencing life?
I won’t be the first to tell you that there have been a lot of people with inventions, start-ups or dream brand name ideas who fail miserably and fall into deep poverty. Not everyone is meant to be the next founder of Facebook. Relax, your life is probably way better anyway.
So Many Elements are Out of Your Control
I know a number of guys working on a start-up (they don’t want to be named), specializing in redefining the text book market. One problem they continually have is that their website (where they would receive all of their income) is wholly dependent on Google search engine algorithms and affiliate programs, much like this website. Currently, mine is but a hobby. When the day comes it doesn’t make money or readers happy, I can walk away and enjoy another hobby. These guys can’t. It will destroy them. It will destroy their savings and much of what they work for.
Can you think of another example that is just out of our control?
We Get Attached to Our Babies
Another gentleman I know has been working on a start-up that attempts to revolutionize human resources recruiting through video. He’s been pumping money into the enterprise for years, taking the fat profits from his kiosk businesses (probably a better decision). Where has it led him? Almost no business and a lot of wasted time and money. Yes, he’s been featured on TechCrunch and other sensational start-up endorsing sites but did that lead anywhere? No!
I’m a victim of this one myself. I had a website idea that I thought was brilliant, going to revolutionize SEO practices and send me to the bank everyday. When a colleague poked the hole in my grand idea and revealed its flaws I was already dedicated with months of time spent researching, money spent marketing and my own self-respect on the line. I couldn’t let it fail! So what did I do? I went down with it in flames. I held on for another year and a half, losing all of the money I put in, wasting more time and saving nothing.
Solution – Create Something but Start Small
I’m actually a big advocator of entrepreneurial efforts. This post shouldn’t be a scare away from that. Rather it should be a reality check and remind everyone to start slow with whatever they do. The name start-up conotates a grand tech or social revolution. If you are not an expert in either of those or know a lot of people who are, give up on that idea. Instead focus on what you are great at!
For example, I’m a historian by trade. So I do historical consulting in addition to what I do for my employer. Likewise, I have over 15 years experience in antiques, collectables and auctions. I sell my knowledge through appraisals and consignments. On top of that I occasionally write on this blog.