My Salary for the First 2 Years of My Startup

If you want to start a business, do it. But know this: your early salary will most likely be low. Here's how much I made...


December 29, 2018

Dear Hustle readers,

Welcome to the new year!

Tis the time for your 2019 planning. Your resolutions, next year’s financial goals, fitness commitments…those types of thing.

But inevitably, in about 60 days, many of you will have given up on the stuff you’re about to write out and commit to. Maybe things were too hard or unrealistic.

So, since The Hustle is all about giving you business news and highlighting entrepreneurship, I want to give the folks out there who want to start a business in 2019 some fuel.

Early days of the business.

A look into my early journey.

Below is my annual company salary during the first two years of The Hustle’s existence.

  • Year 1: ~$20,000
  • Year 2: ~$33,000

We got lucky. Because we didn’t take funding early on, our business was (mildly) profitable right away with seven figures in revenue over the two year years. But still, my company salary was…lean.

Thankfully, I started working on the business when I was a single 24-year-old, so my expenses were super low. And while I lived in San Francisco, I lived like a spartan…owning and spending very little.

But, based on hundreds of conversations I’ve had with other product-based (not consulting) entrepreneurs who didn’t take funding early on, those numbers are typical. Some of them had families, some were older, some were younger, whatever, but my story is common.

I started "The Rubbish Boys" as a way to pay for college back in 1989. source: Huffington Post
1-800-GOT-JUNK did $200m in revenue in 2016. However, it took them 10 years until their first $1m in revenue.

In fact, many early-stage entrepreneurs I know paid themselves even less than what I paid myself. If you’re bootstrapping a business, $0 in salary in the first year isn’t uncommon. Other times, salaries can be a bit higher. $30,000 the first year, $60,000 the second. But still, nothing huge.

Maybe the low salaries are out of necessity because the revenue just isn’t there. It took 1-800-GOT-JUNK took 10 years until they hit $1m in revenue.

Or maybe because the owners want to reinvest as much as possible into hiring others, growing revenue, and creating a foundation to make more money later on (like what we did with The Hustle).

My point in telling you these numbers isn’t to discourage you. I still think now’s the time to take a risk. But I want you to know what to expect. Plan for the worst. Hope for the best. Save your money and embrace the grind. It’s going to be a hard as hell 2019. But if you’re in love with it, do it anyway.

But don’t expect results to come fast. Plan for the worst. In fact, don’t make 2019 resolutions. Make 2021 resolutions…but start working on them now.

Sam, CEO of The Hustle

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