From ages 22 to 26, I was working day jobs. I worked at Intel, then at Facebook, and finally at Mint.com.
I had some cool experiences, but overall I was mostly unhappy because I wanted to start my own business, sooooo…. I kept quitting early or getting fired.
If I could go back in time I would do things a little differently… and this is the post I wished I had when I felt stuck. I hope it will help give you some clarity on your entrepreneurial journey.
Here are the 2 BIG things I’ll cover:
- I’m going to show you how your day job is actually your BEST resource for starting your own company
- I’m going to give you steps to follow to go from full-time employee to full-time entrepreneur
(PS: Get the full story behind how I was fired from Facebook here)
When to Quit Your Job & Escape the Rat Race
The Rat Race Has Advantages
The truth is: Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Most days, it’s really challenging and a lot of the time, you’re alone to solve your problems.
People don’t seem to realize that at day jobs, there’s a lot of great benefits. You meet a lot of interesting people, there’s a lot of really smart people to learn from, and you get to bounce ideas off these people. When you’re a solopreneur and you want to put together a super cool marketing campaign, you have to figure it out yourself.
I think there’s a lot of counterintuitive advice out there saying you can only have freedom and riches by being an entrepreneur… but you can actually have a lot of that by being an employee and having a great day job.
The other counterintuitive advice I hear a lot and encourage you to not take on board right away, comes from the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman. He’s a super successful investor, and I really admire him but he says that entrepreneurship is like jumping off a cliff and then building a plane on the way down. I think his point is that you figure it out as you go along and just throw caution to the wind and go for it…
But my approach to entrepreneurship—which has worked out really well for me and I think can work out for a lot of you—is a bit different.
I de-risk my entrepreneurial endeavors, so it’s not risky when I actually have to quit my day job.
I’ll talk more about how to do this later on.
Why I Started My Career Working 9-5 Jobs
I think I fell into the trap of all my friends going out and getting jobs, so I went and got a job at Intel. Which was great! Luckily, that was one of the best places I could work. Plus I got to live at home with my mom.
But it was cubicle hell. Just like in the comic, Dilbert.
I knew that my dream was always to start my own business. I knew I wanted to do it, but I had no idea how to ACTUALLY do it. This is probably very common for a lot of you out there.
If you have a day job that you hate (and I HATED my day job) that’s awesome.
Huh? What do you mean? Why was it awesome if you hated it?
- #1: It gave me freedom of mind. At lunch, at night, and on weekends I wasn’t worrying about my work whatsoever. It gave me a lot of space to work on other things.
- #2: I was starting a lot of side hustles. I started CommunityNext.com. I had Entrepreneur27.org. I had the ability to network and meet a lot of other people.
So what can YOU do during your day job to start planting seeds?
A lot of us want a different life, and starting those things right now is the important part.
But be mindful of whether working at your current day job keeps you aligned with your vision of being an entrepreneur, or whether it takes away from it.
When I worked at Facebook, the team there wanted everything to be about Facebook 100% of the time. But I still wanted to do my own stuff and my own side hustles.
Mark even came up to me and said, “Noah, do you want the Noah show or the Facebook show?” and at the time, I wanted both. So I had an inner conflict—and that eventually turned into an outer conflict.
So think about it for yourself: How is your inner alignment going?
If you’re working a day job but you want to be running your own business, there’s unalignment there. But if you want to run your own company and you get to do it when you are still involved in another company—that’s great alignment!
It’s about reflecting on it and accepting ourselves.
How to Know When to Quit Your Job
If you’re asking that question, it’s probably the right time.
But I can’t really give you advice on that without understanding your full story.
Like if you have debt, if you have a family, if you have certain lifestyle stuff—I can’t tell you when you should be quitting or changing up your life.
But here’s how I approached it.
I was working at Mint.com, and I owned 1% of the company. I guessed that in the next four years, they were going to sell for about $300 million. So I thought about the opportunity cost.
If the company sold for $300 million and I got 1% then I would make $300 million. But I’d have to stay there for four years. So that’s like, what? $750,000/year… Pre-tax.
But at the time, I was also working on my Facebook games side hustle, which was exploding. I had a lot of users, Naval Ravikant wanted to fund me, people at Kabam.com wanted to buy the company, Mark Pinkus was connecting with me…
So I thought about the opportunity cost of my time and money: In the next four years, could I make at least $3 million dollars doing my own thing instead?
The answer was yes.
Plus I’d finally get to live my dream.
So I made sure I was able to make $3000 a month (which I’ll explain in just a second) and it was an obvious decision for me to quit Mint and do what I really wanted to be doing.
This $3000 number—what is it, and why that number?
It was the minimum amount I needed to live sustainably. That was my rent, my credit card, and my entertainment. If I could make at least $3000 a month, I could quit Mint and feel good about it.
A lot of people want to quit their job first so it forces them to make entrepreneurship happen—but I’ve never approached business that way. I try a lot of businesses out, I find the one that finally works, and once it shows potential, I feel comfortable quitting my $100,000/year “safe job” to make $3000/month and work hard on my side hustle.
After I quit Mint, I made $40,000 over the next two years, so it was a trade-off. Staying at Mint would have made more money in the short term, but following my dreams made me WAY more money in the long run.
How to Transition from a Day Job to an Entrepreneur
- Step 1: Figure out how to get paid for what you do by working as a freelancer. Start building up new clients and experiences so you can eventually leave your 9-5 and get more autonomy over your calendar, while still earning money.
- Step 2: Deploy patience and don’t rush. Based on my experiences and what I’ve seen, it takes about a year to generate a few thousand dollars a month of side hustle income. Start building it NOW during lunches, nights, and weekends.
- Step 3: Put yourself out there. You need to pick at it every day. Don’t fall into the trap of reading more books or consuming more YouTube videos. Start actually building your businesses.
You CAN do both, by the way.
You can be a full-time employee and an entrepreneur and enjoy life and not actually work insane hours.
If you really hate your day job, start by changing that up. I know for me, I HATED my day job at Intel, but I actually loved my day job at Facebook. And now I still have a day job running AppSumo, even though I’m technically an entrepreneur, and I LOVE it.
It’s all about mindset and making the small changes that create a big impact—and using where you are now as leverage to get to your next step.