Figure It Out Friday: Should I Start A Placeholder Biz While I Explore My REAL Biz On The Side?

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‘Figure It Out Friday’ is a new weekly blog series where you submit your questions and struggles about designing your Uncaged career – and I give you my straight up advice. Because sometimes you just want someone to tell you what to do.


The thing I’m struggling with is deciding if it’s worth starting a business (a very small, low start-up cost, low maintenance business) that is NOT my passion but that will allow me the freedom to explore my passion until I can turn THAT into my uncaged career?


I’m actually going to start my answer with a reply-post from another reader (as this question was posted on my Uncaged Lifer Facebook group – which you are a part of, right?)

“I did just what [original poster’s name] has suggested in her first comment and I’m finding it tough to stay motivated/find time for my dream business (dream business that I want to make my REAL LIFE business that is!) That being said, I’m super grateful to be my own boss and not have to continue in retail etc. and really learn the ropes of owning a business too. Nevertheless, I’m struggling to find a balance {being a business owner is really no joke it seems!}.”

Bingo. Starting a business is NO JOKE. If there was a simple, easy business that would make us all rich quickly, I’m sure we would all start it.

For several reasons, I’d be wary of starting a project if your heart really isn’t in it. I mean, the ONLY reason most business owners get through all the nitty gritty day-to-day crap in their business is because they are SUPER connected to the bigger cause. If you’re totally not psyched about what you’re doing, you’re basically just working any old job, but likely working WAY harder than you would at any old job.

So my gut response is NO to this question.

But (and there’s always a but)… Actually, I have two BUTS:

BUT #1: I’ll all up on my soapbox lately about tying different parts of your life together. So I’d be curious what it is about this non-passion business that you’re actually attracted to? There must be something interesting about it? Can you find something you love about it, something that ties into your passion business, and try to meld the two together in some way? Or can you use some of what you want to do in your passion business, in this placeholder business? Let’s say you want to be a writer, and your placeholder business is a cleaning business* (may or may not be a hypothetical example). What if you could become known in your cleaning business for the amazing blog posts you write about how much cleaning sucks and how they should hire you instead? Or your stories about how Cinderella could have really shown those nasty bitches who was boss if she had just learned a few key cleaning tips? Or whatever. Do something that excites you in your placeholder business or else you WILL likely go insane.

BUT #2: It’s never so black and white. Sure, you need money in the meantime, so either get a job or start something that will make you quick cash, AND be sure to be working on your real interest in the meantime. Start it as a project and see where it takes you. Not having the pressure to make it a business right away can actually be a really good thing!

Starting a business isn’t exactly a quick way to make money, so unless you have a business idea that you KNOW will bring you income right away (and please, do share what it is so all the struggling business owners out there can also take it up as a side business!), I’d almost say that it would be WAY less work and hassle to just get a regular job and work on the thing you actually give a crap about in your spare time.

What do you think? Have you started a placeholder business while you worked on your real business? How did it work out for you? Share in the comments below!

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Read 5 Comments & Leave Yours

  1. barelylucid5

    I started a side business as a freelance journalist/publicist while working on my real dream of becoming a novelist. In some ways, it has worked for me because I love being my own boss and setting my own schedule. I’ve been freelancing for years, even when I worked for others, so finding work and paying the bills has come easy and I definitely don’t have to work as hard as I did before–but that’s probably because I don’t need to market myself as a journalist/publicist anymore. The work comes to me now. 
    It is challenging to focus on my novels as much as I’d like when I have paying clients I have to satisfy, so I think it depends on how much time your side-business would consume. And how much of your mental energy and passion? So far it’s worked for me and it’s such a relief not to have to answer to a full-time boss and deal with office politics anymore. But I won’t know if it really worked until I get published.

  2. barelylucid5 Thanks for sharing this example! And it sounds like “getting published” is the goal. And I’m curious what will happen if you don’t ever get published? Will it all be for nothing? What can you take away from it if the tangible end goal never comes to fruition?

  3. barelylucid5

    Rebecca Tracey barelylucid5 Oh, I WILL get published. It’s just a matter of time, consistent effort, and patience. I can self-publish if it comes down to that, but I’ve had a NYC agent before so I’m confident I can do it again if I set my mind to it. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I need to believe in this 100 percent right now and not accept defeat, because this is a tough business that can take a long time to find success in.
    In the meantime, I’m already a professional writer and have been for twenty years. I’m happy doing what I’m doing–I’d just be happier if I could concentrate on fiction.

  4. barelylucid5 Rebecca Tracey I don’t think you sound cocky. I was only asking because you said that you “don’t know if it worked until you get published”, referring to taking on a placeholder business while you work on the real dream…  but actually it sounds like it already “worked” :)

    Just wanted to make sure your “success” didn’t hinge on being published or not.

  5. barelylucid5

    Rebecca Tracey barelylucid5 Thanks, Rebecca. Hard to imagine being truly satisfied if it never happened for me, but at least these days taking matters into one’s own hands is more respected and a legitimate choice. We’re no longer dependent on the whims of the publishing industry, which is awesome. :)