I've had my own company on the side of regular employment for over ten years. I have not considered myself an entrepreneur, because it has rarely been my full time work.
I set a company up when I left a consultancy with the intent to become independent. I had been framed as a "senior test consultant" and back then I hated what my role had become. I would show up at various customers that were new to the consultancy, pretending I had time for them knowing that the reality was that on worst of my weeks, I had a different customer for each half a day. Wanting to be a great tester and make great impact in testing, that type of allocation did not feel like I could really do it. I was a mannequin and I quit to walk away from it.
Since I had been in contact with so many customers, I had nowhere to go. According to my competition clause, I couldn't work with any of those companies. They were listed in a separate contract, reminding me of where I can't work. One of the companies back then on the list of no-go was F-Secure, and the consulting I had done for F-Secure was a single Test Process Improvement assessment. F-Secure had a manager willing to fight for their right (my right) for employing me, and just stepping up to say that they vanished from my no-go list and I joined the company for 6-months that turned into three years.
As I was set out to leave in 6 months, we already set up a side work agreement. And in my three years with F-Secure, I started learning what power entrepreneurship on the side could have.
In the years to come, it allowed me a personal budget to do things the company wouldn't have budget for - including meetups and training that my employers weren't investing in for me. It allowed me to travel to #PayToSpeak conferences I could have never afforded without it. Training for money a day here and there were enough to give me the personal budget I was craving for.
I recently saw Michael Bolton tweet this:
I've known I'm self-employed on the side, and it has increased my awareness that everyone really is self-employed. We just choose different frames for various motivations to do so. On the side is a safe way of exploring entrepreneurship.Everyone is self-employed. Not everyone knows it. —source uncertain; Matisse Enzer? @JerryWeinberg?— Michael Bolton (@michaelbolton) January 24, 2017