The Alternatives Of 9 To 5

I don’t know why everyone calls it “9 to 5”. Here it is usually “9 to at least 6” with one hour lunch break if you are lucky to get it. Anyway, I am not going to argue about the exact duration of the typical working day – I prefer to talk about its alternatives.

9 to 5 Alternatives
Photo by Jele! at Flickr

A Quick Introduction

I left the typical corporate world in 2003 when I was fired from the last company I worked for as a prepress specialist. (They called it “laying off”, but I know it was firing because we couldn’t bear each other personally.) Currently I am an independent IT consultant working remotely and I am doing some small web projects on the side. Since the time I don’t spend my day in a typical office environment, I have discovered my productivity to increase and am definitely feeling better.

This post is not about leaving your job and running your business, although this is one of the most valuable options. This post is about not working in the typical “9 to 5” mode – and some of the options below will let you do it even with a regular job. Most people think they hate their job, but that’s not the real problem. If you have taken long vacations you know that – people are born to be engaged with something and don’t feel comfortable if they have nothing to do. So having work isn’t your real enemy. What really troubles you are the fixed working hours, the sterile office environment and the boss who is walking around all the day.

Starting Own Business

If you choose this way of escaping 9 to 5 you’ll need some initial capital and you will need to risk it. Prepare to work harder than you work in the day job at least in the beginning. Many people who start their own business don’t understand when is the time to stop working so hard so they keep doing it forever.

It’s a mistake to think that starting your own business is the wholly grail of financial success. It’s only one of the ways to escape from the cubicle and this way is not appropriate for everyone. Starting own business is often harder and riskier than the other ways you can take. A lot of people fail, and a lot of these who succeed don’t really own a business, but let the business own them.

I don’t mean to discourage you however. Running a business – if done successfully – is much shorter to financial freedom than passive investing for example.

Online Business

Online business is just a business but the difference is in the way it can be started. There is almost no real world business that can be started with just one computer, internet connection and $8 for a domain name. In most cases you can do it even without incorporating (although this can cause you a trouble in some countries).


The low entry and the global character of the online business causes a lot of competition. The portion of web sites who fail to bring profits higher than the costs of the domain name (not to count the hours of work invested) is probably more than 99%. Such ratio would be a disaster in the real world but it justifies the lower amounts you risk and is considered OK online. However it shows that running an online business is not as easy as many “gurus” want you to believe.

Freelancing and Consulting

A less riskier 9 to 5 alternative is doing what you do now, but without having a boss. Just skip the company and work directly with the customers usually from your home office or at customer’s place (that really depend on the kind of job you are doing).

Freelancing and consulting doesn’t require big capital – I remember starting with $0 – but investing a bit in a website, incorporation and paying for some service that can bring you quality customers certainly helps.

On the risk scale freelancing and consulting is somewhere between running a business and telecommuting which is discussed below.

Telework and Telecommuting

If you have been a typical 9 to 5 person for years you are most likely to like telecommuting most of all the ways you can take – because it combines the [false] security of having a job with the comfort to work from home and see the eyes of your boss no more often than 1-2 times monthly (in most cases).

I have a lot of reasons to believe that telecommuting is the business model of the future but it will take a while before most company CEOs “get it”. Until then you may need to leave your current job first and replace it with such in a company that is open to teleworkers. You may get surprised on how many they are especially if you are in IT or a creative field.

Working Part Time

When switching to part time job you will have to solve a big dilemma – do you want more money or more time. If you have a high paying job now or have used to live frugally it will be much easier to switch to a part time job.

I am sure you will be more than happy to work half day, but the real question is not whether you can find such a job (you can even if you have to change the field), but whether you make enough per hour to afford working less hours.

Besides being a great way to break 9 to 5 pattern, working part time gives you one more advantage as opposed to most of the other options. You may use the extra free time to enjoy life or to try running own business, online business or freelancing. This is really a great low risk method to try going on your own without losing the regular job income.

Choosing a Mobile Profession

Finally, choosing a mobile profession like a contractor, insurance agent, realtor, PR, journalist, sportsman, landscape designer, farmer etc. – just to name a few of the many – can offer you a lifestyle very different to the standard 9 to 5. Don’t forget however that each of these jobs has its disadvantages. They may all look attractive from your bored office-self, but the reality isn’t always so bright.

A general change in the profession is much easier when you are in your early 20, but you can do it even if you are 40+ – don’t let fear and conventional thinking put you off your ideas and desires.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with 9 to 5 in general – it’s just fine for a lot of people. If you ask an average low qualified farm or factory worker if they want to work from 9 to 5 in a comfortable office, the answer will most probably be yes. In the past all people have dreamed about such a job. But now there are a lot of people (like you?) who just hate fixed working hours and the smell of an office. If you are one of these souls ask yourself why do you go everyday to a job that you hate, when there are so many alternatives.