Should I Get A Job Just To Make Ends Meet?

Azriela Jaffe

The good news, when you work full-time with your spouse, is that all of the profits of your endeavor go into only one bank account - yours. All of your energy and success leads directly to your own prosperity, instead of that of an employer. Alongside the upside is the downside risk. You've heard the expression, "all of your eggs in one basket." Well, if the business isn't working well, those eggs can become scrambled, and the financial anxiety you bring to your family is enormous.

Many entrepreneurs elect to have one of the adults in the household working a steady job with benefits, to minimize this risk. This woman who wrote to me for help is feeling the pressure of a new business, and unpaid bills:

"My husband and I have started a new business and we have bill collectors at the door. He is working a day job and working in our business evenings and weekends. We also have income from rental property. I am only working on our business, and I am thinking about getting a job. I want this business to grow, but I'm so anxious, and I think that if I work too, we can get the bills behinds us. I just need a word of wisdom."

Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs face this moment every day. Do I keep plugging away full-time at this business, or do I get a job, and moonlight at the business until it is more profitable? If you had a crystal ball, what you'd want to know is, "If I just keep working harder and longer at this business, will the profits be able to sustain us?" If you knew the answer to that question was "YES!", then you would postpone your return to the job market and put your energies into the business. But if the answer to that question turns out to be "NO!", then you are getting deeper into debt the longer you focus entirely on the business.

Because you describe this as a couple-owned business, whatever decision you make needs to be made with your husband. Here are several questions for the two of you to ponder.

1. Is there evidence from our customers and our marketing efforts that there is a market for our services, and that in time, we could develop this service into a full-time, profitable business?

2. What are the negative consequences to us of not being able to pay the bills? Is our credit rating being destroyed? How will that impact us personally and professionally? How much anxiety is this situation creating for us? Are we fighting more, sleeping less, and enjoying our life and our business less because we are so worried about money?

3. Is there any way to reduce our expenses, rather than requiring both of us to get jobs? Or, is it possible for me, (the wife) to get a part-time job, rather than a full-time one, so that I can continue to put more hours into the business?

4. Is there any kind of job I could get that would actually be synergistic with the business, and help it grow, by developing my skills or professional network?

5. Is this a case of us paying off some long-term debt, or are we continually living above our means, so that bill collectors will likely still be at our door, even if we are both working full-time? Are we capable of managing our money responsibly, or do we need help from a credit counseling service, accountant, or some other professional to assist us?

6. How badly do we want this business to work? Enough to really suffer for it? Is it likely that the business will falter, or not grow, if we both work at it only weekends and evenings? Or, do we both have the physical stamina and commitment to keep working long hours at the business, even if it means less sleep and leisure time?

7. Forget what everyone else is telling us. What does our gut tell is us the right thing to do, for our physical and emotional well-being, to protect our marriage, and to achieve the goals that we want for our family?

And here is one last question for you to consider. Is fear of financial disaster acting as a motivator for you, prompting you to work even harder at the business, and propelling your business forward, or, is it stopping you from working at your best?

It may be, ironically, that you'll be more successful with your business when you are not depending on it for your livelihood. Released of the terror you feel when the bill collectors come calling, you might be freer to devote your energies in a productive way to your business. Your business success is correlated to not only the quantity of hours worked, but also their quality. If you are a nervous wreck much of the day, you can devote full-time hours to the business, but not get very far, because your fears are ruining your ability to be effective. On the other hand, for some people, there is nothing like the bill collector at the door to get you to make a sales call you are scared to make. Which one is true for you?

Whatever decision you make, it does not have to be a permanent one. You and your husband can revisit this question on a regular basis, choosing what appears to be the wisest path at the time.

Good luck to you. I wish you strength, courage, and all the contacts you need to make your working life work for you. Don't give up!

Azriela Jaffe is the founder of "Anchored Dreams" (www.isquare.cim/crlink), and author of several books including Honey,I Want to Start my Own Business, A Planning Guide for Couples ( Harper Business 1996), and Let's Go Into Business Together, Eight Secrets for Successful Business Partnering (Avon Books 1998) and Starting from No, Ten Strategies to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection and Succeed in Business (Dearborn, April 1999), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beating Debt (MacMillan, 2000) ( For free online newsletter for entrepreneurial couples, best ideas in business, or marketing on the web, or for information about her syndicated column, "Advice from A-Z", email

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