Not All Startup Founders Can Go Full Time On Day One – What It’s Like Balancing A Startup, Full Time Work and A Family
You know what sucks? Hearing people say that you can’t possibly be committed to your startup if you still hold down a full time job.
I’m sorry……… but I’d bet a decent amount of money that I am just as committed and put in just as many (productive) hours as most other founders.
That said, I do understand why this belief persists and in today’s post wanted to share what it’s like to balance a startup, with full time work and a family.
First of all though, why do people want to see you go full time?
Why There Is A Push To Go Full Time
I will be the first to admit that there are many advantages to going full time in your startup from day one.
The biggest of which is that you simply have more time to focus on your startup. That’s more time to build your product/service. More time to market your product/service and more time to speak with customers/potential customers.
A startup founder who can work 60 weeks on their startup can theoretically do twice as much as someone who only has 30 hours spare. Of course, that’s not always how it works in the real world, but that’s the mindset you are dealing with when you broach this topic with someone on the street.
Beyond that, I also agree that investors don’t want to be running round hearing from startup founders who say they will “start company XYZ once they get an investor on board so that they can still maintain their $x wage”. I think that’s bullshit too!
But despite what I (and many other founders) would obviously like to do it’s not always possible. We have to hustle. We have to balance startup life and work.
But before I get into that I can hear people say “it’s about sacrifice. You should just still quit and go full time”. I get it, trust me. I have done it before and know what sacrifice means.
What It’s Like Quitting Your Job To Go Full Time
This is perhaps my biggest bug bear with the “quit your job or don’t bother crowd”. They act like everyone else doesn’t get what it means to make sacrifices.
Some even believe that they are automatically a better startup founder just because they quit their job.
Obviously, this is not true. I know what it’s like. I have been on all sides of the coin in this equation. In fact, what some of you may not know is that when I was 16 I bought my own retail surf shop on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
It was a 70sqm store and I employed up to three staff. It would be easy to think that I am a “trust fund kid” or that this was easy for me. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I had been doing multiple paper/pamphlet runs for at least 5 years leading up to that and worked all day Saturday and Sunday (as well as after school a number of days) at the Bunnings Hardware store across the road.
I saved almost every cent I earned. That’s why, when the opportunity to buy the store came up I was able to do so. While, this isn’t quite the same as quitting your job and going full time. I was studying Year 11 (and then Year 12) working in the store after school and on weekends (essentially working 7 days a week).
Later in my career I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my job and go full time on my second venture, an online resume business that I owned for three years. Do you want to know why I was able to do that?
Well, I didn’t have a mortgage, I didn’t have kids and was like 21 or 22 at the time!
That said, It was still a risk to a degree, but not a “life threatening one”. If the business didn’t work out, no problem I could live for a couple of months on minimal money and get another job in a fairly short time frame.
So I do get it. I know the benefits of having all that time and energy to devote to your business. But that’s not an option for everyone!
Why I Balance My Startup With Full Time Work
My current situation isn’t really that unique, beyond the fact that I got married at a relatively young age compared to my peers. Having been with my girlfriend (now wife) all through high school, I got married back in 2010 just before I turned 21.
As a result that part of my life has been “accelerated”. I have two beautiful boys (aged 4 and 3), have bought and sold our first property together (bought back in 2014) and now have a second mortgage out on what will be our family home for many a years to come.
I wouldn’t change any of that for the world, but it does create commitments that I have to live up to. My wife and children, their safety and health are paramount.
My actions do impact them so I always have to consider them in the things that I do. That essentially is why I maintain a full time job while bootstrapping Task Pigeon.
I know that this has downsides (for now). Things do take a little longer. It does make me less investible. And sometimes I can’t finish something I need to do for Task Pigeon right then and there. But I do make it work.
How I Balance My Startup With Full Time Work
I’m not going to lie. You are going to have to give up stuff. In fact, you are going to have to give up a fair bit if you want to make this work.
For example, prior to Task Pigeon I used to compete in Ultramarathons and 24 hr endurance events. I used to be extremely fit. At the peak of my training I would be running or training in the gym 15 to 20 hours a week easy. That’s gone now.
There is also no such thing as “binge watching netflix” for me. In fact, my most of my daily “downtime” comes during my lunch break at my full time job where I usually spend that 45 minutes trying to switch off from everything.
I make these sacrifices because I believe in Task Pigeon and L O V E building and creating new things. I will also gladly sacrifice watching some crappy TV show in order to spend more time with my wife and kids. This, combined with everything I do below, is designed to maximise the amount of time I have available each day.
To get this started each day I aim to get up at 5 or 5:30am most mornings. Getting an 60 to 90 minutes of work in before I need to head to my full time job does wonders for my productivity.
I also use my commute to educate myself. Instead of listening to music or sitting in silence I listen to podcasts on startups, marketing and growth tactics, etc.
In the evenings I look to maximise the time I have with my kids while they are awake. I am normally home from my job by 6 and have a solid 90 minutes to spend with my kids. They are young so normally hit their bed by 7:30. But during this time I get to hear about their day, play with them and help feed/bath/dress them for bed.
I also structure my week so that I have two super late nights where I can fit in another whole work day on Task Pigeon. For me this is Tuesday and Thursday nights. I can fit in 6 hours of continuous work from 7:30pm to 1:30am on most of these nights.
Yes, yes, yes. I know that’s not health. Yes, I know I’m not getting enough sleep. Especially if I’m up again by 5:30am but its a choice I consciously make.
That leaves Monday and Wednesday nights when I do a small amount of work/things that require my immediate attention, but don’t dive into new/large projects here. I also leave Friday/Saturday nights completely free so me and my wife have time to relax and switch off for the week.
My wife works on Saturday so I have the kids that day. I typically squeeze in a few hours of work when they are occupied with their toys, drawing or watching a movie and on occasion spend longer working when its required.
I then have Sunday nights scheduled in for another uninterrupted chunk of work. It’s not as late a night as Tuesday/Thursday so I get about 3 – 4 hours of work in here.
I know all of those hours don’t add up to a full time work week, but my productive time would match or exceed that of most people who are “working”.
For me all of those hours are spent on driving Task Pigeon forward. I’m not browsing the web or being distracted by office gossip.
The other thing that has been beneficial for me, even though it is often see as a negative in the startup community, is the fact that I’m a non tech founder and outsource the development work on Task Pigeon. While this comes with a cost it also means that compared to tech founders who need to build the product, I can focus on the sales/marketing/etc and essentially get 120+ hours of dev work done a week if need be (with a team of 3 devs I use).
Now I know some of you will look at my schedule and think it’s BS. I’m not going to lie. I don’t hit that each and every week. Some days I can’t get out of bed till 6am. Other nights I finish up at 12:30 rather than past 1. But I always try to maximise my time and productivity.
None of this feels like work to me. I love working on Task Pigeon. I can’t envisage ever being anything other than an entrepreneur.
It excites me. It motivates me. And it makes me who I am.
That said, I also haven’t written this as a guide. I don’t want other founders/entrepreneur who need to balance work with startup life to feel bad/guilty if they can only spend 10 hours a week on their company. We all have unique circumstances and need to find what works for us.
I mainly wrote this because
a) I truly being that you can combined a full time job with building a startup and
b) I just hate it when I hear people say that if you are not working on your startup full time, you are not committed!
Also published on Medium.