Thinking of Leaving Your 9-5 & Starting Your Own Design Business? Read the Pros + Cons
Starting your own design business can be a big leap, especially when you want to make it a full time gig.
I know many people who have quit their 9-5, started their own design businesses and never looked back (including myself). But for some people, it’s not quite as simple.
There are literally so many benefits to starting your own business and of course I’m going to go over those today, but there are also some aspects and challenges that totally might put you off.
Personally, starting a design business was the best decision I’ve made in my life so far. It gave me so much freedom, drive and happiness that I think you would be crazy not to start your own. But then I remember that everyone is different, and telling everyone that if they start a design business they’ll be as happy as I am isn’t really realistic.
So, as someone who’s been in this industry for a while now, I thought I would put together a list of pros + cons list of starting your own online design business vs staying in your 9-5 job, so you can make an informed decision before you take the leap.
Why I think you should start an online design business:
Starting my business has allowed me to have freedom in pretty much every aspect of my life.
I have freedom to create my own working schedule. Take a midday yoga break? Sure! Don’t want to work on Mondays? You got it! Sleep ins? Yes! Don’t get me wrong, I still work, but I work less, and I work whenever I want.
I have the freedom to travel all over the world. This one is huge! Running an online business has made traveling often a reality. No more 2 weeks of vacay time a year. Wherever I can take my laptop and get a good wifi connection, I can work from. I don’t have to ask anyone for time off, and I don’t have to stop working (but I can, if I want to!)
I have the freedom to say yes to jobs I want to work on, and say no to jobs I don’t want to work on. I’m picky about who I work with and the design projects I take on, because I can be. It’s totally up to me what sort of design work I want to do and I don’t have anyone telling me what I have to be working on.
I have the freedom to choose if I want to get dressed or not everyday. Ok this sounds ridiculous, but I seriously hated getting up everyday and having to make myself look presentable. These days I usually spend all day in my workout gear, and sometimes I don’t even get out of my pyjamas, because, I can! And of course, if you do love getting dressed up everyday, you can totally still do that too: your business, your choice!
I have the freedom to literally decide how much money I want to make. When I first started, my big goal was to match my 9-5 monthly income -- I did that within 2 months. I then had a realisation that I could potentially make more than my 9-5, which was insane to me because I thought I was on pretty good money. Within 6 months I had doubled my income, and it’s been going up ever since. Now that I’ve been pretty deep in the online business space for a while, I’ve realised that the potential for online businesses is limitless. Whether you want to match your 9-5 income, double it, triple it, it’s completely up to you.
It doesn’t get boring
I could never hold a 9-5 down for very long because I would get totally bored. As soon as I had learned everything I could learn at a job, or it got too repetitive, I would be searching for the next one.
With an online business, you get to decide how much you learn and what you do. If I start to feel myself getting a little bit bored or in a rut, I just decide to learn a new skill or pivot my business slightly.
This will look totally different for everyone's business, but being able to adapt and shift to however you’re feeling is a huge benefit of being in charge.
This may not be something that you’ve ever even thought about, or maybe you don’t think you care about it, but it’s a huge benefit of having your own business.
It’s more like a side-effect. You generally don’t start your own business with your biggest goal being “personal growth”, but it’s just something that happens along the way.
Looking back on my journey, I can’t even explain how much I have learned just because I started this business.
Having a business forces you into growing as a person and opens so many doors for learning opportunities.
At the risk of sounding cliche, even if your business was a huge failure, you would still come out with lots of life lessons and huge person growth.
This one is one of those benefits that will be there no matter how everything ends up. But it won’t be there if you don’t take the leap in the first place.
Why you may not want to start an online design business (even though I still think you should):
Having your own business can be a little uncertain at times, and your income can go up and down from month to month. This uncertainty can really turn people off, the idea that you may not know how much money you’re going to be bringing in month to month can be unnerving.
I will say though, if you implement the right strategies, the money can start flowing nicely. It’s very possible to have a consistent income, it just takes a little bit of strategy and perseverance to get there, and usually won’t happen for at least the first few months of your business.
In my experience, I’m making about 6x what I was making at my 9-5, so, it’s totally possible to surpass anything you ever thought possible for your income.
Being alone, a lot
This one is different for everyone depending on your personality type. When I first started working for myself I was worried that I would get lonely or go a bit mad sitting with just my thoughts all day, especially coming from working environments where I was always surrounded by other people.
Luckily, I found out along the way that I absolutely love spending everyday by myself at home working, it’s quiet and peaceful and I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to. It’s turned out to be a big benefit for me.
But I might be the minority here, as I know a lot of people can’t stand to be in their house by themselves day after day after day, not talking to anyone.
This is actually a big issue I’ve noticed in the online-biz community, and often see lots of entrepreneurs talk about how they really struggle to be on their own so much.
But because it happens to so many people, it gets talked about a lot, and there are some awesome ways around it!
Like, working from a co-working space (basically like working in a more fun, creative office) or working from your local starbucks or cafe. Partnering up with a small group of other entrepreneurs and having weekly in person or even online “mastermind” meetings. And eventually, maybe even hiring your own team!
There are so many ways to solve this problem, but the key is to be proactive about it. Don’t let yourself get stuck in a “I haven’t left the house in 4 days” slump.
If you know you’re someone who is going to be affected by this, schedule in activities and days working away from home and make sure to stick to that schedule.
It’s going to be hard-ish
I don’t like to say that it’s going to be hard, because honestly, this journey for me hasn’t been “hard”. Hard would be the last word I use to describe it.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve worked long days, pushed myself to get things done on deadline, overworked myself, taken risks, and questioned everything that I was doing.
What I mean is that it’s going to take some hustle every now and then, that’s just realistic. There’s going to be some road bumps, but you’ll get through them. You’re going to have to take risks and it’s going to feel scary, but that’s how you grow and learn. You’ll have to put yourself out there, and that’s terrifying, but totally worth it.
If your business is going to be a success, it’s unlikely that you’ll get there without some struggles along the way. This is what you sign up to when you start your own business.
If you don’t take risks and scare yourself, you’re not going to move forward, that’s true for any aspect of your life.
If you’re still on the fence, here’s my advice:
Keep your 9-5 for a while, and start your online design business as a side-hustle. Dedicate a certain amount of hours to building it every week. If you’re enjoying the process, then get to a place where you feel comfortable quitting your 9-5 and pursuing only your design business.
You will never feel 100% comfortable and there will always be some uncertainty, but it will be more comfortable then just quitting your job and starting from complete scratch.
Here’s the thing: you can ALWAYS go back and get a job. You can always go back to a 9-5 if you decide you don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not really that big of a risk in the grand scheme of things -- so take it already!
(and let me know when you do, so I can cheer you on!)
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