Like anything, working for a startup has its pros and cons.

When you think of working at a startup, it’s likely that what comes to mind first is ping-pong tables, snacks… lots of snacks, and an over-abundance of sparkling water.

In many cases, these things are included (and they’re awesome). But on top of the super cool stuff—including some pretty great perks—life at a startup is also accompanied by hard work, weird hours, and a ton of ups and downs.

The benefits of working for a startup

Working at a startup comes with a pretty large amount of instant gratification. And if I’m being honest, that’s one of the coolest things about it.

From the moment of employment, you have an incredible amount of responsibility. Joining a team in the earlier stages means you share in the growth and success of the company; you belong to something special. Because of this, it’s easy to understand how startup life can be an attractive career path for many.

Although there are plenty of startup advantages and disadvantages, we’re big proponents of eating our dessert first. Let’s cover some of the benefits of working for a startup, then we’ll dive into some disadvantages, right before convincing you that they’re all more than worth it. 😇

Teams at startups are small but mighty 💪 

At a startup, there’s plenty of work to go around and very few people to do it, so that means you’re bound to wear a ton of hats.

You could be a marketer, an editor, a lunch ordering pro, and an event planner all in one day. The workflow is constant, and while burnout is certainly possible, the plus side is, you’ll always be an integral part of a powerful team at the ground floor of something special.

No-brainer: You learn a lot

Taking on a project that’s never been done or establishing a role that has no previous path means you’ll have to learn as you go (and as the company grows too).

You’ll gain experience in a variety of areas, so opportunities for learning and growth are aplenty. Not to mention, startup founders work directly with each of their employees—and since there’s no middleman—you’ll learn from the best. And hey, this is an especially helpful aspect of the job if you ever see yourself owning a company in the future.

You’re surrounded by passionate people

A passionate, driven team of ownership-loving employees is a key component of the foundation of a successful startup.

Although the days are long and the work can be unpredictable, you’ll be surrounded by people who really care about the success of the company. Everyone has an all-hands-on-deck attitude and, as a result, the culture has the potential to be really incredible. Plus, you get to play a big part in building what that culture looks and feels like for years to come.

Great perks are almost inevitable 

If there’s one thing we know well, it’s that startups are usually stacked with employee perks.

Some examples are flexible working hours, liberal work from home policies, catered lunches, casual workwear, and employee discounts—to name a few. This makes working the sometimes long and unpredictable hours all the more worth it.

There are opportunities to innovate 📈

A huge pro of working at a startup is that you have the opportunity to show off your brilliance and expertise directly to the CEO and other founding members of the company. 💁‍♀ This means you get to come up with fresh designs, new processes, and innovative concepts that have a hand in moving your company up and to the right.

Worth it, but inevitable: The cons of working at a startup 

Uncertainty is imminent (so, uh, where do you see this going?)

When you’re a part of the team at a startup, it’s no surprise to anyone when we say things are continually changing.

The possibility is high that you could come into work ready to execute on a project you spent all last week planning, only to learn that the direction has changed—oh, and now you’re on a new project due in two hours. 🙃

Plans shift by the minute, roles and titles are constantly changing, and even the product you’re powering could come barreling down to an explosive end (don’t worry, it was most likely no fault of yours). Not to bring up Vin Diesel, but buckle up, because the startup life is fast and furious.    

Time is limited

When it comes to time, the pace of a startup is simply faster, in terms of both learning and getting projects done quickly, efficiently, and on point.

There’s so much work being done around that clock that it can be hard to find the time and energy to put toward something you’re really interested in. This can be a bummer, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to dive deeper and develop your ideas on an extended project. This is worth keeping in mind.

There’s almost too much freedom (look ma, no hands!)

If you’re the type of person who needs pre-determined structure and well-defined rules, it’s understandable that startup life might not be for you.

While there’s freedom of planning your own schedule and flexible work hours, this doesn’t diminish the need to work hard. It does mean, however, that how you approach and execute on the work is naturally more flexible. This means you’re required to possess a lot more self-driven motivation than you might need working at a well-established company.

Your work/life balance might be… well, a little less balanced ⚖️  

Building a startup takes a significant amount of passion and commitment. And while that comes with inspiring co-workers and meaningful work, it also means you’ll probably have to put in long hours—sometimes even extending into weekends and evenings.

Hours are often random, self-dictated, and rarely stick to a typical 9–5. This is especially true during product launches, campaign build-outs or pushes to sell new products. In the beginning, startups need big wins, and that kind of pressure can increase stress amongst employees.

You’re taking a risk

The not-so-glamorous truth is that startups can be unpredictable and unstable. In fact, most of them will fail.

So, when you’re working at a startup, there’s a possibility your employment status can change quickly. Even if the company isn’t going under, there may be gaps in funding or resources that can lower or suspend your salary payments. This is typically more prevalent at the very early stages of a startup, but it’s still a good thing to keep in mind throughout those fragile first years.

Alas, don’t let those pesky startup cons deter you.

As long as you’re a self-starter, driven, and passionate about your work, you have our full support in jumping feet first into working at a startup—no matter the stage in your career.

The truth about working for a startup is that it’s equally as rewarding as it is risky. The workflow is constant and the hours can feel endless, but the great thing is that you have the potential to be a part of something huge. It’s a learning experience no one can prepare you for, but it could be the step you need to take to land your dream job. (Did we convince you yet?)

With great risk usually comes great reward. So strap in, throw your hands up, and enjoy the rollercoaster ride that is the #startuplife. 😀


Sierra Carter (she/her) is a freelance copywriter based in Chicago. As a creative copywriter, her writing is rooted in storytelling. She's worked with a variety of clients including StarKist, TAMKO, S&T Bank, British Airways, Michigan Ross University and SHOP 'n SAVE.

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