Perils of part-time entrepreneurship

commitment

More and more people find themselves thinking about creating up a side business while studying or working. Inspired by stories of billion dollar Instragram exits, the 4 Hour Work Week, or peers they set out and tip their toe into the pool of entrepreneurship. Most of the worlds greatest startup success stories have started this way – coding late evenings after a full day at work. This allows you to validate the crazy ideas before jumping ship full swing. I believe this kind of part-time entrepreneurship, where is aim is test for scalability and market fit, is healthy and often a necessary step to avoid disasters.

However, there exists another kind of part-time entrepreneurship, where your startup becomes a hobby instead of a business. You don’t necessarily always plan to create a hobby-startup. Yet it’s easy to fall prey in a situation where other priorities seem to take over, time is limited and the you’re not extremely passionate about your own idea. Alternatively, you’re looking for a quick buck with minimum work, trying to create a ‘muse’, passive income cashflow that doesn’t require too much commitment.

How can we recognise the hobby-entrepreneurs? First of all, they don’t plan to ever work full-time for their own startup. Even in a best case scenario where market fit is found, they’ll hire a manager from outside to handle the growth. Secondly, they’ll avoid accountability. In order to preserve their “freedom” they’ll resist taking mentors or investors, who might push them to prioritize the startup over other things. In addition, these founders will often end up funding their new-found hobby with their salaries for a long period of time, instead of the typical “scale fast, fail fast” mentality. Finally, hobby entrepreneurs are often not driven by an intrinsic desire to solve a problem of their own. While there’s nothing inherently wrong about solving the problems of other’s, you’ll find it hard to ever fully understand your customers without being one of them.

There are several dangers in hobby-entrepreneurship that will prevent you from achieving success if you’re not aware of them. Let’s lay them out in the open:

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Conquering the water – my journey from 50 to 2000 meters

swimming-pool

Yesterday I swam 2000 meters in a row for the first time in my life. It took me around 54 minutes, which is not very spectacular by any standards. What makes it more significant, however, is that mere two years ago I had a hard time getting from one end of the pool to the other. I attributed my deficiencies in the water to challenges in breathing because of asthma, which turned out to be complete BS.

In my early 20s I decided that I want to master the element of water. I saw myself doing mornings swims in the ocean, and participating in the Ironman competitions, which inspired taking action. Probably one of the events that sparked the ultimate change was watching a TED talk by Tim Ferris, where he described his own journey to mastering the skill of swimming. I could easily relate to his story and made the commitment to give it a try. My progress certainly wasn’t linear nor always easy, but I can say with clarity now – it was totally worth it. For example I’ve since gotten the PADI scuba diving licence, which would have been totally impossible few years back.

In this article I will lay out the biggest mistakes I made and how you can avoid them. The goal is to provide inspiration and practical tips to anyone who’s struggling the same way I was. This is not meant to be a comprehensive or scientific list, but rather a bunch of lessons from someone who’s been there and learned the hard way.

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