Career Advancement Or Side Business?

Reader simplesimon left this comment to my post last week Wages During and After Recession:

Regarding how to earn more, check out the I Will Teach You To Be Rich blog by Ramit Sethi. He tries to get people thinking on what their skills are and how to turn that into income. From what I’ve read, many people have taken his advice and created side businesses for themselves.

I went to Ramit’s site and read The 30-day course on hustling your way to success. Although I don’t know how typical the stories are, they are surely motivating. This brings up a question: if you want to raise your income, should you try to advance your career or should you create a side business?

Technically this blog is a side business. I get paid for carrying ads on the blog. My writing and selling a book Explore TIPS is also a side business. However, if they interfere with my career advancement, I’d be willing to put them on a backburner. With the way my wages stalled, I already wonder if I took my eyes off the ball and missed some career opportunities.

I’m not a writer. Not if I try. I’m a fan of Matthew Amster-Burton. I linked to his posts at MintLife blog several times. He used to write about food. Now he writes about money. He does it just as well as he does about food. That’s a professional writer.

If I try to compete in the side business of writing, I’d be competing with professionals like Matthew. Odds are not in my favor. The founder of a venture-backed company recently invited me to be a paid contributor of their blog. I turned it down. Now I see he has no trouble in signing up other bloggers.

I think career advancement is still more effective in raising one’s income than a side business. You are already trained for your career. You have a lot to leverage and build upon. You are not starting from point zero and competing with others who have already been doing it, or with others who have more time than you do.

Of course if you discover special talent or skills in a side business, a side business can become a main business. Some lucky or skilled ones will make it. For the vast majority, learning new skills on the job will be a better use of one’s time.

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  1. Andy says

    Great article and my sentiments exactly. About 2 months ago I realize that blogging will be a side business for me, and once that priority is set I am now focusing on my career. That mental shift is huge and I am already seeing the dividends of that. but I enjoy blogging so I’ll try and stay active when time permits, but it will just be a passion rarher than potential profession.

  2. Chuck says

    A 10%, or even 5% raise would get me more money than any side business I could think of. I’m focusing on my career.

  3. Kathryn C says

    I read Matts stuff too, I hope his head didn’t explode, really, because it’s the only column I read on Mint and that would suck.

    I agree, switching careers is *tough* but totally doable. I think Ramit’s stuff is great because he encourages people to explore other options, that may or may not turn into a full blown career change.

    If we’re talking money alone, I agree with you, probably better to focus on existing career. But, if you’re a hustler you can get something going on the side and ramp that up to the point where you can eventually change careers. But I don’t think too many people can accomplish the latter, because it’s a boat load of work. Not just working 2 jobs, but 3, since your side job becomes like working 2 jobs because you’re busting your rear so much. Ok back to my “real” job! (I’m not a professional blog commenter, despite what it might seem like today)

  4. hmc says

    It depends on what kind of career you have. If age plays a big role in your career (such as modeling, software engineer, etc), when you get older, you will start to lose your advantage. Technology is moving very fast and what you learnt 10 years ago is useless now. Young people have more time, energy and better memory to pick up new technologies and sooner or later, you are not competitive anymore.

  5. WayToWealth Guy says

    How to start an online business: Step 1 – find a niche market; Step 2 – Dominate it! This requires time, dedication, passion and long hours. Break step one and two, and you have yourself a side or part-time business.

    The real questions are:
    1. Are you willing to work half a life time for a boss and face the possibility of downsizing?
    2. When you do stop working, will you be happy to lower your standard of living. This is a reality?
    3. Can you find an activity that you are really passionate about and turn that into a business?

  6. Kyle says

    I think a side business is the way to go for most people. In many professions (not all), there’s a limit to how far you can go without switching to the management/executive track. Engineering (both software and traditional) can be such a profession. Many people are simply unwilling to do that. I have managed people in the past and I have no desire to ever do that again unless perhaps I also happen to own the business in question. I just don’t enjoy it that much. For me, a side business is the only way to grow my income by an additional $100,000 per year. I will never, ever get a $100,000 raise at my job no matter how well I perform because there are enough other people willing to do the job for less.

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