When you read about earning money and creating financial freedom, there’s often a big emphasis on creating passive income. Working a job or building a business where you’re doing all the work isn’t enough. You need to create something that runs itself so that you can cash checks and drink margaritas on the beach – or so we’re told.
I understand the appeal of creating passive income. And ultimately, it’s true. As a necessity, you have to eventually create some sort of passive income because, at some point, you can’t work anymore.
For most of us, passive income comes in the form of our investments and retirement accounts. The money we saved there is what we live off of. If you’re lucky, maybe you have a pension that dishes out income for you. When you get older, social security becomes a passive income source too.
Real estate is another, albeit less passive source of “passive income” that many of us can obtain. If you have a property manager handling your property, you might even be able to maintain your rental property and collect rent without having to do anything yourself.
Finally, there are businesses, which can often become a source of passive income. For a lot of the online money and entrepreneurship crowd, this is what business is all about. You create something that can scale and run itself, then go off and do what you want while your business works for you and generates profits.
My wife and I are both business owners. But our businesses are far from passive income sources. We both have to do most of the work ourselves and while we’re doing well for ourselves financially, we aren’t free to sit on a beach, drinking margaritas and collecting checks. We both have to work – and we work a lot.
There’s an interesting thing I’ve realized though about creating your own business. Even if all you’ve done is create a job for yourself, creating a job that you own is very different than simply finding a job. Depending on the job you’ve created for yourself, it likely has an asset behind it – something that inherently has value. And when you own an asset, your job becomes more than a job.
Renting Your Job Vs. Owning Your Job
The way I see it, there are two ways you can get a job. The first is to apply for a job and work for someone. This is how most people do it. You get hired, do your work, and every week or so, you collect a paycheck. When you’re done with that job, you move on to a new one.
The second way to get a job is where you create your own job. To do this, you need to find something you can sell or find a service that you can do for money. Creating your own job is hard because there’s no roadmap. No one can tell you how to do it. You have to just go out there and figure it out yourself.
Getting hired by someone is the way I approached jobs for most of my adult life. I worked hard in school, got myself a good job, worked as long as I could stand it, then moved to a new job. Each time I switched jobs, I thought my next one would be my dream job – the one that I could stay at forever. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me. And when I was done working, I was left with nothing from those jobs. I left and my job went to someone else.
This blog is a result of following the second route. I started this blog years ago, working on it during the few spare moments I had in my day. Eventually, it become more than a hobby and became a job that I created for myself. While the money I earn from this blog isn’t tied to the hours I work, I still have to work hard to keep things moving along. Even now, after more than 6 years of writing, I’m still writing all of my own posts.
You can see the difference between the normal jobs I had compared to my current job as a full-time blogger. With my regular jobs, my income was, in a sense, rented. I was paid while I had the job, and then when I was done with it, I moved on to a new job and was left with nothing from the old job. But like with renting anything, I wasn’t responsible for any of the stuff that comes with ownership. I didn’t have to put any of my own money in or take any risks. That was all handled by someone else.
Creating your own job is different. Even when you have to work all the time, you’re working at a job that you own and created for yourself. And just like with any owner, you get to keep the underlying asset. This blog is a job. It’s not passive. But, when I’m done with it, the blog does have value. I own it – and in theory, I can sell it when I’m done with it.
Some Jobs You Create Have More Value Than Others
Of course, not every job you can create for yourself is the same. Some have an underlying asset with it. Others don’t.
My wife and I both created jobs for ourselves that come with an underlying asset – a piece of property that we could theoretically sell to someone when we’re done with it.
It’s sometimes hard for me to comprehend that a blog like mine has value. But it undoubtedly does. The domain name has value. The authority and links that it’s built up have value. And of course, the revenue it generates has value.
The fact that I’ve created a job that comes with something is important. There are a lot of ways to create a job for yourself. Freelancing comes to mind as a job a lot of people in today’s economy have created for themselves. Being a freelancer is fine, but it has a problem. You’re selling your own skills, but you don’t own anything beyond yourself. When you’re done with it, you don’t have anything left.
That’s why creating your own platform or having something you can sell is so important if you’re creating your own job. Some things are easier to sell than others. A hot dog stand or a food truck might be a job. It may or may not be hard to sell these things later when you’re done with it. But it’s at least something that has some value that you might be able to sell.
I Prefer To Own My Job
You can rent a job. Or you can own a job. It’s not easy to own a job. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with renting a job either. It can be easier to rent your job, get your paycheck, and save your way to a great life.
But for me, owning a job is the way I’d rather do it. If I’m going to have to work, I’d rather work at a job I made for myself, even if it means I have to take all the risks.
In Your Money or Your Life, Vicki Robin tells you to calculate your net worth by including everything of value you own. This includes things like furniture, clothes, and basically anything you could sell online or at a garage sale.
When you think about it, that means the businesses you own – any job you created that you can sell – should be included in that net worth. This blog might not be worth millions. But it’s worth something. It’s a job I work at every day, but unlike all of the other jobs I’ve ever had, it’s worth something on my balance sheet.
Even my six-figure biglaw job I had – when I made the most money per year I’ve ever made – was worth $0 on my net worth sheet.
I think this concept of renting versus owning your job is a useful one. There’s not one right way to do it, just like there isn’t one right way to deal with housing. Some people find more value in renting. Others find more value in owning.
Financial Samurai has talked about how renting means you’re shorting the housing market because the return on your rent will always be zero. After years of paying rent, you will always have nothing in the end.
Perhaps the same can be said about jobs. If you don’t own your job, the value of your job will always be zero. You can still save a lot of money from your income and be fabulously wealthy, but your job itself isn’t worth anything.
But when you own your job, you can collect income and have a chance that the job you created is worth something in the end.
Mrs. Dink says
Thanks for this perspective! I like it – I currently rent my job but am using the freedom I gain from renting to do more passion side projects. I think about freelancing all the time, and I like the idea that I’d be shifting from renting to owning my job. A fun way to think about it!
I can also totally relate to “always thinking your next job will be your dream job”. When I finally let go of this mindset, it was so freeing, and now I just use my job as an income stream to pay for my real dreams 🙂 Thanks again for this post!
This is why employers gives employees restricted stock or options that vest over the course of employment.