Doing my own thing isn’t risky. Stability is risky.
Going to business school, there’s a singular thinking. All paths, no matter what, funnel down to one. The primary concern between the months of January and May of your final year is getting a full-time job beginning shortly after graduation.
There’s a sort of value put on you based on what company you’ve committed to and what starting salary they’ve offered you.
Before I started university, I was heavily influenced by my entrepreneur parents. Struggling, but with happiness and fueled by passion, I watched as they built their businesses and provided their own income…and consequent freedom. I’d honestly never even seen a pantsuit in person. I had never even imagined myself walking into a large corporation anytime in my life.
I just knew, somehow, doing something, I was going to make it like them.
I began my first week at university entirely overwhelmed by the amount of clarity the other freshman had of what their path looked like. What company they were applying for, what internships they would complete, what their title, role, and even what their salary in five years would look like.
I panicked. I started to try to pinpoint exactly what I was, what company I should start courting, where I wanted to be.
Then as some student’s paths didn’t go according to plan, the facade started to fall apart. And thanks to my choice in entrepreneurship and philosophy classes, my thinking once again branched away.
Through my experience writing and love of digital marketing (I would quite literally practice in my free time rather than watch Netflix), I started to build a little portfolio of clients. Maybe I can make this work, I thought to myself frequently, while the pressure of corporate life hung over my head from my more traditional professors.
I remember my absolute favorite professor saying something that fused my hope and my reality:
“The statistics of you losing your job and your business failing within the first two years are both about 50%.”
This never resonates well with those students who are convinced their connections, GPA, internships, and $2000 custom suit will secure a pension-guaranteeing position for life at their dream company.
But unfortunately, it’s true. By 2020, 20% of the workforce will be contingent labor. They don’t want you full time. You’re expensive and you don’t produce long term results full time. They want to be able to scale up and down, without you.
And it makes sense. That’s how they provide you with all of the innovative and efficient things you want. Big companies move too slow to make us happy. And the fast ones don’t want to pay into your 401 k.
Realizing this is when I decided I had no choice but to throw myself behind turning my side project into my income. For the next year, I spent every night in the library until early morning hours after classes building it up. My friends were pretty bad at hiding their disbelief in my path as they accepted job offers.
“Aren’t you worried it won’t work?”
Instead of working for one company, I work for 7. Instead of one revenue stream, I have 7. Instead of one learning and experimental environment, I have 7.
If one of my clients can’t work with me anymore, that’s 14.3% of my income gone. If a company fired me, that would be 100% of my income gone.
I’m always worried, but I’m not that worried.
On May 13th, I graduated with no full time job offer, an income, and a little anxiety. Since then, I’ve traveled to California, Las Vegas, Dallas, while living in New York for 3 months. Last Friday, I relocated to Barcelona to work in office with my biggest client. I’m about to hire my first employee.
The most beautiful part is that without corporate pressure and formality, I’m free to be real with my clients, experiment, and throw myself behind making their businesses succeed.
This is in no way to say that there aren’t supportive and incredible companies to work full time for. Maybe one day, I will join one. But right now, the thinking that there is only one successful path, one stable path simply isn’t true. I hope to be proof of that.