So you want to be your own boss. You’re in good company. There are so many reasons running your own business is a fulfilling lifestyle to pursue. But that’s for another post. Today, we’re talking about the things I wish someone had told me about…no, warned me about before choosing this for myself.
I write this knowing most of these lessons are hard learned and only take roots once you’ve experienced them yourself. Even still, I refuse to believe sharing lessons from down the road to those just starting off is a waste of time.
1. You’re not the exception, you’re the rule.
If you’re lucky and work really hard you could succeed. If you’re really really lucky, you’ll skip the completely-broke-eating-ramen-noodles-on-the-living-room-floor-stage, but that’s not normal. Diving into your own career expecting to skip this stage won’t work. Are you trying to start a career or find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? You’re an entrepreneur, not a leprechaun. Most businesses fail. That truth affects the entire world, and it will affect you too. You’re not immune to the risks of starting a business any more than the rest of us. Nothing but extreme arrogance will tell you otherwise.
2. It’s lonely.
It feels like there are more eyes looking at you, all the time. But they’re looking at you because they want something – an employee, a customer – everyone around you is relying on you, asking of you, taking from you. You might find yourself breaking down crying when someone finally says to you, “You just want someone in your life who isn’t asking anything of you” because that thought will be such a breath of fresh air. I don’t know if it feels “lonely on top” because I’ve never seen the view from up there. I’d wager it is, but I know its a lonely road getting there too. Find a community of other entrepreneurs in a similar field or stage as you to connect with so you don’t feel too isolated (or don’t try to talk your friends’ to death about it).
3. The risk might outweigh the reward.
The risk of starting your own business is never just about money. Risking a regular paycheck, your own capital and assets, and maybe even healthcare is no small thing. But you also risk relationships, belief in yourself, health, time, and many other things. The level of risk for each aspect will always vary, and the potential reward for each thing is largely unpredictable and may not even be worth the loss of reaching it. What’s most important to note is that sometimes even the most successful outcome for the business won’t be a successful outcome for your life. It’s important to take the time to assess what you could be losing by starting a new venture, and weigh it against a variety of outcomes (success or failure).
4. Your business doesn’t need passion, it needs grit.
If you’re in an accident and you find yourself in the hospital in need of extensive surgery who do you want operating on you? Someone who is invested and passionate about your life? My mom is very much both of those things, but I certainly don’t want someone to give her the scalpel. Or do you want someone who is skilled, calm, and ready to get dirty and get the job done. There’s a reason a lot of successful businesses are run by people who aren’t necessarily passionate about the product. Quite a few reasons actually.
Just like a high risk surgery, the risks of starting a business are high. What’s going to matter when you’re doing the hard surgeries, making the deep cuts, and making the tough calls for your business? Passion can keep you hopeful and motivated for a little while, but grit will roll up its sleeves, keep a clear hear, make the hard decisions, and get the job done. I’m sensing an entire blog post in the making.