A few years ago I got hooked by the startup bug.
Like many young techies and entrepreneurs, I was fascinated by the idea of building a scalable startup and someday walking away with millions.
But ultimately this path lead me into one of the darkest periods of my life.
It lead me into a path of trying to please others and not being true to myself.
In lead me to realize that startups are becoming the new 9-5.
The Startup TrapAfter leaving my video production agency, I got fascinated with the idea of starting a software company that could scale.
I was even fortunate enough to have an angel investor come on board as a founding partner.
Going into this business, I had it in my head that I wanted to bootstrap this company, not take on funding and run it my own way.
But startup culture got the best of me.
Everywhere I looked and everyone I talked to said the same thing.
You have to raise money.
This advice was repeated again and again by nearly everyone I spoke to inside the startup incubator program.
When I said the word 'bootstrap' I was met with resistance and treated like I wasn't a serious entrepreneur.
So my mindset shifted and I started seeking investment.
I went out and bought new dress clothes to look the part.
I started wearing suits and ties to meetings.
Slowly my days became filled with pointless meeting after pointless meeting.
Some days, I can remember being in a car for 4 hours, driving all over town and meeting with random strangers who somehow related to my business idea.
Everywhere I went I was looking for investment, and I was looking for someone who could help me build my business.
During these dark days, it wasn't out of the norm for me to work 12-16 hour days 5-6 days a week.
And the sad part…
My startup didn't make a dollar just like most never do.
Why startups are the new 9-5This investor-backed startup world is becoming a new script for how people live their lives.
We feel rebellious by departing from our 9-5 jobs, but then enter the startup culture and find ourselves working even more.
We find ourselves trying to please investors and advisors. We try to meet with gatekeepers who hold the magic keys to our company’s success.
We work, and work, and work even more in pursuit of the pipe dream of someday selling our startup for millions of dollars.
This “startup dream” might as well be a 9-5. In fact its more like a 6am-10pm.
It's not uncommon in the startup world to see people brag about how many hours they worked on their company this week.
They sacrifice health, relationships, and happiness in pursuit of the “startup dream”.
These entrepreneurs measure success in life by the amount of hours they work, and the startup culture rewards it.
Create your own storyEventually myself, and many other entrepreneurs I know came to our senses.
We realized the bullshit that was being fed to us, and we created our own stories.
For me, that meant departing from my founder who was dead set on raising capital. I began building a freelance career that would double my income and give me freedom in life.
For the guys at Gun.io, that meant pushing forward by bootstrapping the company and retaining control.
For developers Grayson Caroll and Patrick Cason, that meant abandoning their startup and building a successful career as freelance developers.
The startup culture may look at us in ways and say we were 'failed startups', but we aren’t.
Instead, we learned that the startup life wasn't for us.
We learned that we wanted to live life on our own terms.
We didn't become entrepreneurs to have a board of investors looking over our shoulders telling us what to do and rewarding us for working long hours.
We became entrepreneurs because we wanted to control our schedules, control our income, and make decisions about our lives and our businesses.
We created our own story. Our lives and our finances are all better as a result of it.
Two bootstrapped companies that change your viewpoints on startups
A micropreneuer is someone who builds small bootstrapped software companies.
The goal of the micro businesses is not to make millions of dollars or to scale into something massive.
Instead, the goal is to create something small that fixes a problem and can provide a good income for the founders.
Rob doesn't raise money for his startups, but instead builds these small software companies on his own terms, at his own pace.
You have never heard of any of the companies Rob runs, but some of Rob's software companies generate him over $7,000 per month.
Patrick McKenzie is another great example. Patrick, runs multiple small software businesses online. He has no investment backing him, and has built them up slowly and steadily over time.
In total, Patrick's software businesses generated over $112,000 in 2013 and they have continued to grow in 2014.
Rob and Patrick don't follow the traditional startup script, instead they build their businesses on their own terms.
Now they have the freedom of a by great income from their businesses and they don't have any investors to answer to, or split the profits with.
How to design a business that fits your life
Step 1) Figure out what you want
The first step to designing a business that fits your life is to identify what it is that you really want.
What does your ideal day look like?
How much money do you want to make?
What kind of work do you want to be doing?
These are challenging questions, but they are worth answering. Don’t just answer them in your head, sit down and actually write out the answers.
The act of writing these answers makes them more concrete in your mind.
Step 2) Surround yourself by the right kind of people
The famous speaker Jim Rohn says that “we are an average of the five people we spend the most time with.”
That means your income, your happiness, your lifestyle and your career becomes the average of the kind of people you surround yourself with.
Personally, I had to leave the incubator space I was working in. The mentality of people there was all focused on raising capital with no focus on quality of life or building a lifestyle business.
It wasn’t easy to leave. People were skeptical and disagreed with me. Some of them completely stopped talking to me all together.
But leaving that incubator space allowed me to surround myself with creatives, bootstrapped entrepreneurs, and freelancers who were living the life that I envisioned.
I found communities and events to attend and I joined online groups with other like-minded people.
How can you remove the bad influences from your life and surround yourself with the kind of people who you want to become?
Step 3) Make the change
Once you know where you are going, it is just a matter of hustling to make it happen.
When I left the startup world, I had to hustle and find freelance clients to support my digital nomad lifestyle.
When Gun.io opted not to raise capital, they had to build a plan in order to bootstrap the company on their own.
Changing directions isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it can be painful and difficult. At least at first.
You will be filled with doubt and fear every step of the way.
But when you divert your efforts from raising capital and time wasting meetings of the startup world, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.
Use your free time to enjoy life, work on building a business that you control, and designing the life that you want to live.