Coding with Jesse

Don't Quit Your Day Job

For a long time now, since I was in high school, I've had an itch to start my own business. I've had many ideas, most based around the idea of a web design company. I've never followed any of them through though. I've always felt like I would in the near future, but it was never the right time.

Lately though, I've started to think about this a lot more. I guess I always need to have some kind of goal to look towards. Over the past year, a lot has happened. I moved from Canada to Germany. But now that the dust has settled, I guess I feel like I need to be doing something new. I need a challenge in my life, and the clearest way to do this seemed like starting my own business.

I say seemed because that was before I read the sex & cash theory. In a chapter of his excellent piece on How to be Creative, Hugh Macleod says, "The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

This really struck a chord with me. I've often thought that starting my own business might be a bad idea. If I did, I wouldn't want to do the marketing. I would hate doing sales. I would want to get someone else to do the designs. I wouldn't mind doing management and support, but it would distract me from what I really love doing: developing software. So, then, what's so bad about being a software developer in a larger company?

Hugh made me realise that I could have the freedom to be creative in my spare time, while still being able to pay off my massive debt by working during the day. And it's not like my work is a bad place. It's a really interesting job and a great company too. I get to do exactly what I want to be doing. I might not have the sort of control I would have with my own business...but then again, if I had my own business I would have to do what clients wants most of the time (if I want to get paid!) So it's really the same situation.

By keeping my day job, I also don't have to worry about making money. If I had my own business, I'd have to find ways to make lots of money with my talents. By letting my day job take care of the steady flow of money, I can feel free to contribute to open source software, volunteer for organisations, or work on web sites with my mom and dad. I can do anything I want! Being self-employed, I wouldn't have this freedom because I would be trying to focus on paying the bills.

I feel a real desire to do something big with my life. I'm really excited about the potential of the Internet (ie., The Future of the Web :) and the ways it is beginning to grow and evolve. I love the way it is transcending hierarchy and reshaping the social structures of the human species. It has already changed so much and we can't even imagine what the impact will be a hundred years from now. I think being a software/web developer in this era might be the most exciting job in the most exciting time period ever.

But, I now realise that there are millions of ways to participate without starting my own business. I just want to be able to continue to work on exciting projects that let me push the envelope of web technologies and web application development. I leave the business-starting to those who are passionate about business, and I'll focus on doing what it is I'm passionate about.

How do you express your creativity and passions at work and at home, or is there even a distinction between the two for you?

Published on October 31st, 2005. © Jesse Skinner

About the author

Jesse Skinner

Hi, I'm Jesse Skinner. I'm a web development coach & consultant. I teach web development teams how to scale up their server infrastructure, improve automated testing and monitoring, reduce costs, and modernize their legacy systems. I focus on empowering teams through customized training and coaching.

Feel free to email me. I'm eager to hear about your challenges and see how I can make your life easier.