“I’d love the freedom of being my own boss.” How many times have you heard someone say that? I know when I was in the corporate world, this was a common discussion among peers when times were tough or if there were frustrating events taking place in the industry.
The idea of running your own business is very romantic and may appear to be the escape that would set someone free. The truth is, it takes a certain kind of person to make it as a business owner. It is not all fun and games and if you are not prepared to face some serious adversity, then I recommend you keep your day job.
Having said that, there is a certain segment of the population who would totally thrive in an entrepreneurship role. They have the attitude, drive, desire and passion required to take a vision and bring it into reality by any means necessary.
Not sure which class you fall under? Let me give you my 4 best and worst things about being an entrepreneur. Check your thoughts as you read them and you will quickly recognize your calling.
I don’t think I have ever met a single person who does not strive to have complete control over their time. I believe it is the ultimate freedom. When you are the boss, you call the shots, including when you work.
The Good: Instead of thinking in traditional time blocks where evening and weekends are the typical free time, you can create your own free time blocks whenever you want. For example, when I was an employee I would always go to the gym after work when everyone else was going. It was always crowded and I didn’t always get the machines I wanted to use. When I took my business full time, I started going to the gym at 3pm and there is hardly anyone around at that time of day. A much more enjoyable fitness experience. When I was an employee, I could have probably figured out a different time of day to workout when it was less busy (i.e. early morning before work or late at night) and still make it fit with my job but 3pm is when I have the most energy and enjoy the gym experience most. I don’t have to ask anyone for permission...I just go!
The Bad: If anyone tells you that starting a business will give you loads of free time, they are flat out lying. In fact, be prepared to work way MORE hours than you did at your job, at least in the beginning. As an entrepreneur, you certainly do have full control over your schedule but it can be very difficult to force yourself to take a break. When every sale, every support request and every client is counting on you to deliver, that does not leave a lot of room for hanging by the pool with a cocktail.
One thing I always encourage new entrepreneurs to do is to book free time in advance. Treat these time blocks as scheduled appointments that you cannot miss. I did a terrible job of this for my first few years as a business owner and it stung. I was not spending enough time with my wife and I was not taking enough down time to rejuvenate my mind and body. While you still may find me working on any day of the week, you will also find my phone shut off and email closed for an entire morning or afternoon while I unplug for personal time.
This is a total must for everyone.
Income entirely in your own control
In most employment positions (not including sales), your income is capped and usually pre-determined at the beginning of the year. Sure there are opportunities to gain a raise or get a bonus, but it is still limited. If someone wanted to double their earnings, the most obvious way to do it would be through business revenue.
The Good: When you are your own boss, you have the ability to grow your business as big as you want it to be. If you are good at what you do, have a good marketing strategy, a strong sales process and a market that is in need of your skills, you can earn a serious amount of money. Your earning potential is capped only by your ability to expand your business. A very exciting proposition for most people!
The Bad: There are absolutely no guarantees. When you are an employee, you put in your time, and assuming you have done a half-decent job, collect your paycheck every couple of weeks. As a business owner, you could take on a project, pour in all kinds of hours and have a client forfeit payment. The market could turn and your clients decide to cut your product or service out of their budget. If you are just getting started, you may not have success finding enough clients to pay the bills. The entire financial burden of the company and your paycheck rests on your shoulders.
This level of responsibility is not for the faint of heart. Are you prepared to handle that kind of pressure?
Life skills and personal development
I always tell people that becoming an entrepreneur has been the biggest personal growth experience of my life. I have had to learn so many new skills and overcome a lot of fears to get to where I am today.
The Good: I have acquired more bankable skills in the past 3 years as a business owner than I did in 7 years as a corporate employee. The main reason is that I had no other choice. If I did not develop new skills quickly, I would have probably had to fold my business. A short list of skills I have picked up along the way include professional speaking, professional coaching, product development, web development, search engine optimization, professional audio recording, video blogging. When I look back, I am truly amazed at how much I’ve been able to learn in a relatively short period of time. I look at other entrepreneurs I work with and they have all had similar experiences.
The Bad: There is no room for fear, apprehension or worry. When you are building a business, you are often thrown head first into scenarios that you may or may not be mentally prepared for. It can be down right scary especially if you are accustomed to sitting behind a desk never having to try new things.
When I first went full time in my business, one of my offerings was a professional goal setting workshop. I had run a few of these workshops with smaller test groups to develop my content and get it ready for “prime time”. My plan was to have at least 10 small sessions under my belt before taking contract work. When a contract opportunity came up after only 2 practice sessions, I had no choice but to take the work. It was my first “big” deal. While delivering the presentation to about 75 professional health care workers, a couple of ladies in the middle of the room took exception with some of my content. They began challenging me in front of the entire audience and questioning the basis of my exercise. Without going into details, I was able to deal with them pretty well considering my lack of experience but I was absolutely terrified on the inside and sweating through my shirt on the outside. It was a great example of trial by fire. I learned very quickly how to deal with a tough audience.
Are you prepared to face similar learning experiences?
Ability to solve problems that bother you
When I think of a business owner I think of someone who solves problems for people in exchange for a profit. Every successful business I see today was built around a problem that needed an innovative solution.
The Good: As a business owner you can separate yourself from people who sit around complaining about the state of the world talking about how someone needs to fix everything that is wrong. You can become part of the solution instead. You can look at a problem that really bothers you and fix it. I was really tired of talking to business owners who had been abandoned by their web programmers and left feeling very frustrated. I created a program that completely removed this problem and put the power back in the hands of the business owner. It has been extremely well received by my clients.
The Bad: When you are solving problems as a business person, you are often addressing a problem that was caused by the poor performance of another business. When you come up with a creative solution to the problem, you are an immediate threat to the other providers in that space. Rightly or wrongly, people will lash out against you. These businesses will feel threatened by your presence and may try to negate your credibility or outright attack you. Existing customers for those businesses may react negatively towards you thinking you are trying to “steal” their supplier’s business.
Can you develop a thick skin and persist in the face of resistance?
If you are a new entrepreneur or someone thinking about starting their own business, I strongly recommend you consider the 4 areas I have discussed here today. Find other business owners, advisers and coaches who you can learn from and put yourself in the best position for success. Realize that it is a long journey and if you have followed your heart (i.e. picked a business that is in tune with your passions), you have all the resources within you to make it a success.