Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Bridge Job

Working on Your Dream Business? Get a Job!

Seven years ago, with certification in hand and high on my new-found health, I decided: It’s time to quit my full-time job. I had just graduated from health coach training and was certified to finally pursue my dream job: coaching people. I’d improved my own health dramatically, and I liked the power in knowing I could change someone else’s life for the better.

I was also at a crossroads at my full-time job. I enjoyed my job and adored the people. The work was meaningful for me, and I was making more than I ever had. However, my role at the organization needed to shift to better serve the needs of my department. There was an entirely new set of skills I’d need to learn in order to assume my new role.

Logically it seemed like a smart idea to learn what they needed me to, keep my job and health coach on the side, but there was something inside of me that just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to move in the direction of coaching. And this new role seemed to take me away from it.

Simultaneously, the opportunity to move to San Francisco with my partner came up — a city that was far more into holistic health than Boston was at the time. Plus, our new rent was half the rent I was paying in Boston. (Gotta love rent control.) I felt the universe was telling me to just go for it. I left my consulting job with no real plan and no significant savings. I leapt…

And fell, hard.

I know, that’s typically the part in the story when you’d expect me to write about how glad I was that I dropped everything to pursue my passion and how everything just fell into place once I stepped on the path to my dream job.

But I missed a crucial step in the process: the bridge job. It’s only in hindsight, now, that I understand how much that would have benefitted me — and my business.

A bridge job is an interim job that pays for your bare necessities while you build your dream business. Whether or not you’ve got money saved already to put toward your business, these jobs can provide the wings you need to soar after you make that leap into entrepreneurism.

Looking back, I know that I struggled more than I needed to that first year because I didn’t set myself up with a bridge job. I didn’t have the resources to invest in the support I needed to get my business going. I made barely enough from my new clients to cover groceries, rent and public transport.

I was fortunate to have some help from a business coach, who worked with me for four months. But figuring out my marketing strategy, business model, target market, and how I was different than every other health coach in town — plus getting the confidence to just start selling my work — took longer than four months to learn. And I hadn’t saved enough to invest in a coach and support myself as I worked to fine tune my business.

If you think you can just quit your job then start a business at home that will, in 90 days or less, start supporting you, itself and the lifestyle you want, you’re wrong. It won’t even happen in six months. (I thought it might, but I’ve since learned that’s very very rare.) Even if you’ve saved up six months of expenses or a full year of expenses, there’s still a lot of benefit to getting a bridge job. Why?

Because you need to invest in your own education, marketing and team in order to grow your business. Building a website does not a business make. And you don’t want to dip into your savings (which I see happen far too often) in order to invest in your support.

The clients I see who use their savings are racked with guilt about it. They are terrified they’ve made a mistake when the money doesn’t come back to them right away. They see the number in their bank account getting smaller and smaller before they bring in any new money, and as a result, their fear is fertile breeding ground for a scarcity mindset. (Also not the most client-attractive.)

Having watched my clients who do get bridge jobs (and seen the error in not having one myself that first year) I’ve noticed that people with bridge jobs grow their businesses faster and with more ease. I’ve also noticed not all bridge jobs are created equal. Here’s what you should know.

There are five essential criteria for a bridge job as women and wealth expert Barbara (Stanny) Huson points out in her work on following your calling:

1. Your bridge job isn’t a career and it isn’t full time. Aim for 20-30 hours a week so you have the time and headspace to work on your own business.

2. It provides predictably consistent hours. This ensures you are free. You aren’t waiting around for someone to give you a schedule so you can then try and schedule your life and business growth activities. My clients who’ve had to wait around for schedules are troubled by the way they can’t really plan to leave town, go to conferences, network or schedule their own clients. In turn, their businesses grow much more slowly.

3. It also provides a consistent and predictable paycheck. This paycheck should cover your basic needs to live every month. It should be the same amount every time so you have no surprises. And it should also come at the same intervals (monthly, weekly, bi-weekly, etc.) This way you can make plans and aren’t waiting around for money to use to invest in your business.

4. It should allow you ownership of your mind and time when you leave. When you walk out of the building, you don’t want to drag your bridge job with you. This shouldn’t be the type of job where your boss calls you when you aren’t there, or where you’re expected to do work even when you aren’t in the office. That’s not a bridge job; that’s a career. If you’ve already got a career and dream of starting a business, you may want to consider a “demotion” to something less engaging so you can put more of your creativity and energy into building your business.

5. It isn’t another side business that requires you to find clients. If you have to go out and find people to pay you (e.g. freelance jobs or short-term contract work) then it’s not a bridge job, it’s another business. You want to keep your headspace free to start the business you’re actually passionate about.

By default this rules out the majority of jobs in these categories:

  • Retail jobs
  • Waitressing, bartending and almost everything in the food and beverage industry
  • Freelancing
  • Yoga teaching (or any other modality requiring you to chase hours and build a following)

My clients’ best bridge jobs are those for which they’re overqualified for and may be bored doing. Why? Because in moments when they aren’t fully engaged, they can think about the business they’re passionate about and do some things to get it off the ground. Many of them had full-time jobs in one industry and switched to part-time jobs in a different industry because it met the criteria they needed. This bought them the time they needed to make sure their business was viable.

The best kind of bridge job is one where you sit at a desk at an office and work with your strengths. If you are anything like me, your heart just sank a little bit. Office work?! That’s so not me! I want to do something I’m passionate about! 

I totally get it. But this is where you have to put your big girl business owner panties on and look at your life holistically and over the long term:

Passions or not, if your bridge job works with your strengths the job will be easy for you, and that’s what’s important. Save your bandwidth and your money. You’ll need it for that dream business you’re building!

Budding and existing entrepreneurs, let us know: Did you get a bridge job? Do you have a bridge job now? How has it helped?

Kristen Domingue is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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One Response to “Why Every Entrepreneur Needs a Bridge Job”

  1. Natalie Biesel

    Holy crap. I was really depressed today about my day job, as it’s often boring and I could care less about the work and the company. I realize now, I have your exact description of a bridge job, and that slow and steady, while boring as hell sometimes, is the way to go to build my business