In 10+ years of my career, I have worked with over 60 clients. Among my clients were small and medium-sized businesses and giant corporations. I worked with the individuals. I worked 4 to 16 hours a day, depending on the customer.
I was lucky to work in a startup from Silicon Valley. Do you think that I am a millionaire who's chilling and writing articles? Well, you're mistaken. I will not tell you the name of the company. It has not yet taken off enough, so it won't tell you much.
There are many ways to talk about working conditions. For some, work in a startup is the path to enrichment and creative freedom. For others, this is a path full of unpaid crunches and low wages. There are no guarantees for those working in a startup.
Both are right and wrong at the same time. Let's figure out what is going on. I'll compare working in a company and a startup from my experience. I leave the right to conclude to you.
I'll start with the money talk. In a company, an employee receives a salary only. Salespeople get compensation + interest from each good sold. The size of the wage and interest rate they get is in the contract. It depends on the KPI. The company reviews it every six months or a year.
A usual startup worker receives salary and company shares. In the beginning, they cost nothing. If the startup takes off, you can become a millionaire in theory. In reality, no one knows if this will happen, but everyone hopes for it. During your work in a startup, everything can change: from the name to the concept.
If the company "took off," no one guarantees payment to you. So if you need to sign an agreement with clear terms of payment for options, be attentive to the contract's details. Read the contract even if you like the team, work, and the CEO has honest eyes. :)
This point flows from the first one, you'll get what I mean. If you work for a company, its financial success won't affect your wage. In a startup, the company's success = your success. The same works for crisis times.
In large, stable firms, you will do a defined range of tasks and nothing more. It seems comfy, at the same time, it slows your professional development down. A stable workflow pulls into your "comfort zone."
In startups, there is no comfort zone, as well as a defined range of tasks. Everyone is doing everything they can and what they can't for the good of the company. You'll need to learn on the go and do what the startup needs from you.
If you want the CEO to listen to your ideas, the startup is where you belong.
In stable firms, C-levels make strategic decisions about the company. Someone can consider your opinion, but last, and if you're lucky. You are not welcome to C-level meetings if you are a usual employee.
In a startup, each one shares their vision of the firm at each meeting. C-levels will listen to you. You can influence the development of a startup. There is a chance that you will get a promotion if your ideas work. You will take part in all rallies and briefings, even if you are a beginner. Your word will carry weight.
Working for a startup is like freelancing. The difference is that you do not waste time looking for customers. And you get a monthly wage, and not the per-project or hourly rate.
Companies have a schedule. If it is flexible, there is a desired start and end time for the workday. You work about 8 hours a day. The load is even, and most tasks are not urgent. If overtime occurs, you get a double rate for each hour.
In a startup, you can adjust the schedule for yourself. Yet, the pace of tasks will not allow you to relax, even on weekends. A message like: "We have come up with smth, let's discuss it" can pop up any time.
You can build your boundaries and turn off notifications outside business hours. Yet, this will not last long as a team. A startup needs attention. It is unlikely that you will be able to build a work-life balance. If the startup is in the beginning stage, you will work even more than usual.
In firms, recruiters and HR ensure your skills and experience match the position you hold. You won't get a job that needs 2+ years of experience if you have only one. You will not get the job if you do not have relevant works in your portfolio. In startups, people get the positions for which they lack the knowledge and skills. Startupers believe that you will learn all you need from work. This approach WOWs. There is more career freedom in a startup than in a firm. Yet, things can go awry thanks to the ones hired "upfront."
After working in a company, you know enough to open one if you lifted from the "bottom" to the leader or started from a C-level. Some documents limit the duties and expertise of each employee. Some companies have privacy levels. After 15 years of work, the cashier is unlikely to open one's store.
A startup is like in a village - everyone knows everything about everyone. If you hold out for at least a year, you can start your startup. You will see how they look for investors, come up with MVPs and make pivots. After this "school of life," creating your startup will be an easy task for you.
In firms, you do an internship, and you get instructions related to your work. You teach them and hone them in practice. If nothing extraordinary happens in your career, you can do the same for years.
In a startup, as in life - no one gives instructions. From day one, you are in the thick of things. If you do not know something, it is your problem, and you need to fill this gap. You process as much info per day as someone from a firm can process per week. You'll become learnable, stress-resistant, and other clichés from the resume if you do not burn out and do not run from there screaming, of course.
In companies, HR's choose those who fit the corporate culture. If you are lazy and the firm is active, you won't get the job, even if you are a pro. In startups, what happens reshapes you. There will be no trace of laziness after a couple of months of work. If you didn't get the people running marathons before, you'd get that they do it to eliminate the stress.
You will get up early, exercise, and biohacking. You will quit bad habits as at any moment you need to be at your peak efficiency.
Companies have different types of management. You can find out how comfy it is to work in someplace from the reviews. In startups, leadership is not OK. You will not get a quiet rest or task reprieve, even if you are sick. You can forget about vacations at all until the company “took off.” The tasks will “burn” and accumulate 24/7, and overtime working will become the norm. No one will tell you about this either when applying for a job or in reviews.
The company pays you, no matter what the state of affairs is. If the company goes bankrupt, you get fired. You can go to a similar position and salary to competitors.
The chances of getting rich are just chances in most cases. You get a token salary or none at all and are fed with promises. A startup can close faster than it can reach a reasonable level. No one will compensate you for the time and nerves you have spent. Only you can do this by opening your startup :)
In firms, no one rushes you, and you get a 2X from your hour's cost for the overtime work. There are firms with strict management, but people run from there and write bad reviews. Such firms close or change direction to reduce staff turnover. In startups, the deadline is "yesterday," you will work nights and weekends. No one will pay for this time. The team will rush you and add tasks. It doesn't matter that you haven't done even half of what you got.
In firms, you do the duties that were in the vacancy. You won't do the tasks for an employee from another department for free. If you work well, you will get a promotion.
In a startup, you will do everything, even if it is not your duty. An engineer may make a logo. A designer will develop a marketing strategy. You will have to spend time on self-study, and, of course, no one will pay for it. And you will succeed at the level of a strong beginner, at best.
Working in a startup, I learned to react and learn, adapt to any requirements. There are no impossible tasks for me. Some of them take longer. Yet, I got a little burnout. These days I enjoy quiet work on a schedule, for a month's salary: no overtime, tight management, and yesterday's deadlines.
I can start my startup, but I prefer to work for a company. A roller coaster with an unknown outcome is not for me. In 5 years, I can change my mind.
Whether to go to a startup or not is up to you to decide. Consider the pros and cons before making a final decision. Either way, this is an extraordinary experience that will change you and stay with you.