The Power of Being an Entrepreneur Without a Paycheck

If you have small or nonexistent income, you are probably a new entrepreneur still in shock over the loss of your paycheck, or your business has launched but is in lean times. Or, perhaps you’ve established your idea but need to tighten up to grow. You are not alone, as most entrepreneurs have been here.

Independent of your future success, the benefits of being without a paycheck are amazingly powerful and long lasting. Trust me on this one. I couldn’t see the benefits while in the thick of this tough financial time, but now that it has been in my rear view mirror for many years, I am truly thankful for the gifts that resulted.

A little context: I co-founded a company over 20 years ago that grew to enterprise scale and has helped shape the quality of the in-home care industry. When I would make the leap and become a full-time entrepreneur, we had $40,000 in the bank, two professional paychecks and two babies. We self-funded, using our savings for the business and my husband’s paycheck to live. I did not draw a paycheck for 15 months. Then I took a symbolic $1,000 per month for the next 12 months. Easy math: $12,000 in 27 months!

Related: What Should New Entrepreneurs Pay Themselves?

Here are my top 10 takeaways from my time without a paycheck

  1. Being without a paycheck brings belief in your idea to a gut level test. If your belief does not waver in the absence of a paycheck, you can have confidence you are on the right path.
  2. Being the captain of a tiny, unprofitable ship brings a level of hard work, openness and can-do attitude that is required for success. I did not have this before, and it is a core part of who I am today. A true gift.
  3. It brings pride in working for future reward and success versus in the moment satisfaction from current accomplishment and salary.
  4. It produces humility that comes from working from the ground up. A trait that stays with you for a lifetime. Priceless.
  5. Having minimal financial means produces a primal focus on the basics of life. The result is an understanding of the importance of prioritizing.
  6. Prioritizing out of necessity brings clarity on what is really important in life. A gift for understanding how to integrate life successfully.
  7. Being without a paycheck makes you able, willing and ready to do what it takes. To roll up your sleeves and participate at every level, and to love every minute of it.
  8. It creates a primary focus on long-term strategy and success. Short-term strategy and small successes are important, but they are most powerful when in full support of long-term strategies and greater success.
  9. The focus on long-term strategy cultivates holistic, big picture thinking. Critical for good decision-making. Invaluable for highly effective, high quality strategies.
  10. Being without a paycheck grows a glass half full outlook and an approach that failure is an opportunity to learn what we can do rather than a reminder of what we can’t do. Adopting these attitudes when the going got tough has been difference making for success as well as for personal fulfillment.

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In the time that I was without a paycheck, I told no one that our business was unprofitable and that I did not have income, but that I really believed in our idea and the difference it could make. Today, I tell everyone. Most likely because of the power and benefits given to me when I was without a paycheck.

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