How to Be an Entrepreneur While Working for Someone Else

Half Steps to Success

It’s kind of common knowledge that musicians need to hold down some sort of “real job” in order to make ends meet.

Many think the sensible thing is to work as a college professor teaching music, so they spend 10 years pursuing a DMA, racking up 6-figure debts in the process, to do so.

Others work at places like Costco, Papa John’s, or what are considered “dead end” jobs so they have time to pursue their music.

The thought of doing something like sales is frowned upon. Why, how could you have time to do your music if you have to put in 50-60 hours selling trinkets to the local fitness center?

That makes sense. But a MusicPreneur is both a musician and an entrepreneur.

If you absolutely have to have a job – and we all do at some point – why not learn some entrepreneurial skills while you’re at it?

No, you won’t be able to practice your scales at 2 pm while watching a movie, but you can certainly learn some business savvy you can apply to your own business when the time is right to go out on your own.

What follows are a few things I’ve done to learn entrepreneurial skills while working on a job for someone else. I’m sure there are more, but this is a good list to start.

1) Imagine you’re the owner. Ask yourself, “How would the founder of this company act? What type of enthusiasm would they bring to the table? How would they talk to this upset customer?”

The key concept here is ownership. The owner obviously has more skin in the game. Their survival, not to mention their ability to prosper, depends on their business succeeding. Everything that has to do with the business ultimately falls on their shoulders. It’s really overwhelming if you think about it.
Putting yourself in their shoes does a couple of things. First, you’ll quit being concerned with your problems and put the needs of others before yourself. The owner needs that customer’s problem to be solved. Otherwise they’ll go somewhere else.

Second, you’ll be able to practice the incredibly powerful art of visualization. If you’re imagining you’re the boss, it’s only natural you’ll visualizing yourself being the boss of your own business. It’s amazing how things begin to naturally work in your favor when you visualize the end goal and work towards it.

Personally, I’m grateful for the employers I’ve had over the years. Some were good people and some were horrible. However, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I learned a lot from each of them. Now that I’m an entrepreneur, it’s amazing how those experiences influence my actions, reactions and decisions.

2) Never underestimate the value of the training you’re receiving working at that job. One of the best jobs I ever had was for a drywall company in Washington State. My job was to collect the scraps the hangers had left and load them into a truck so the tapers could do their job. Any of those three would make Mike Rowe’s list of Dirty Jobs, but mine took the cake. It was utterly exhausting, both physically and emotionally. It was grueling, devoid of any meaning or tangible value. A drywall hanger could at least look at their work when they’re finished and appreciate what they’ve accomplished. There wasn’t a lot for me to admire outside of a swept floor.

The reason I say it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had is it taught me skills that are invaluable to an entrepreneur. I didn’t have someone “supervising” me. I went to each house myself and had to push myself to work – and I mean work – until I was finished. Any entrepreneur can relate to what I’m saying, but I acquired that perseverance while working for someone else – and at a pretty decent rate of pay I might add. I averaged $14-15/hr.

3) Celebrate other employee’s successes. This one is easy and is a terrific way to set yourself apart from the pack. Most employees do not have an entrepreneurial mind. They are envious of each other and resent it when other employees get recognition they think they deserve.

You, on the other hand, don’t see this job as your final destination. Your ultimate goal is to be the owner of your own business. The silly awards they hand out like carrots in front of rabbits, like “Employee of the Month,” mean nothing to someone with an entrepreneurial mind.

When others get their award, be the first to shake their hand and say, “well done.” There won’t be anything disingenuous about it. You’ll really mean it. It’s actually a form of pity. If that person thinks they’ve accomplished something for receiving an award, or a “promotion” – which really means they take on double the work for an extra buck an hour – good for them. You’re an entrepreneur. You’ve got bigger fish to fry than silly stuff like that.

4) Volunteer to do the dirty jobs. Why not? You’ll be doing all that stuff when you’re starting your own biz anyway. Why not do it now? You’ll be able to form bonds with others stuck with the same work and can hear them open up about how they view life, their job, their ambitions, etc. It can be invaluable insight when you employ other people. The best scenes in Undercover Boss are when the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, disguised as an employee, gets to bond with the guy making $7/hr. while peeling potatoes together.

The worst possible attitude to have is, “I’m an entrepreneur. I refuse to wash dishes…” If that’s your attitude, you’re not an entrepreneur. You’re a wannabe. And you’re also a royal pain in the neck to everyone around you. You have no idea what it takes to be an entrepreneur and you may as well join the pack to win the “promotion” to assistant manager.

5) Practice your “I Quit” speech. Write it down. Say it in front of the mirror every day.

“Steve, can I talk to you for a minute? Hey, this job is going great and everyone has been wonderful to me. But the thing is, I’ve been working on this project on the side for the last year and a half and it’s become so profitable that I’m able to support my family with the revenue. Here are my paychecks from the last 6 months. I really don’t need the money. I only stayed this long so I could be absolutely sure my business was sustainable for the long run.”

Imagine the look of pure shock on the face of your boss when you say this. Imagine the feeling of euphoria inside your soul while you say this. That’s visualization. And guess what, you’ll never experience that if you don’t visualize it.

If you didn’t get all that, get this. A successful entrepreneur doesn’t just wake up, decide they’re going to make a million bucks and go out and do it. It’s always after a period – and much longer than they would prefer – of struggle, failure, humiliation, hardship and heartache.

Some people would rather live in a cardboard box and eat nothing but dry soup and ramen noodles while building a business than work for someone else. For most of even the most hardy of entrepreneurial spirits, that’s not an option – especially if you have a family to take care of.

Sometimes you just have to work on a job to make ends meet. Don’t worry, all is not lost. There is plenty you can learn and apply to your entrepreneurial endeavor while working on a job so long as you keep the right attitude and know where and how to look!

About the author, James

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