Becoming an entrepreneur is exciting. You get to work for yourself and you have no limit on how much you can make if you put in the work. You have the creative power to decide how things look and feel in your business, and you don’t have to satisfy a quota-hungry manager to keep your job. Many people dream of the day they can escape the 9 to 5 and follow their dream. It almost seems too good to be true at times, especially when the monotony and frustration of a “normal job” sets in.
But there is another side to the story. Running your own business comes with challenges that few ever tell you about beforehand. Entrepreneurial wisdom is often gained through trial and error, and through learning the hard way. Many things that look great on the surface can be much more like an iceberg, with hidden unknowns that can make your work difficult, or sometimes very rewarding.
So, to help you understand what running your own business is like, here are some of the most important lessons you need to learn.
Tim Ferris, in his bestselling book The Four-Hour Workweek, explains why every business deals with this by interpreting it through the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your income will come from twenty percent of your clients. Conversely, eighty percent of your frustration and trouble will come from twenty percent of your clients. More often than not, it’s the least paying twenty percent who are causing it.
Why does this happen? Well, if a client is struggling to afford the cost of services, it is most often because they have stretched their budget to do so. That uncomfortable feeling they have with spending “that kind of money” resonates into everything else they do with you. They want to be so sure that they aren’t wasting their money that they will constantly demand “results” or favors, although they aren’t exactly sure what those means at times.
Giving discounts can often result in this kind of behavior, especially with new clients who aren’t friends or family. Be careful who you work with just to make a buck. Go with your gut and if things feel uncomfortable because of money early on, then take note of it and, if you have to, choose not to do business.
The belief that becoming an entrepreneur means you no longer have to answer to a boss is quickly dispelled once you actually start running your own business. A successful entrepreneur has many bosses. They are called clients. Now, technically these people are not your actually boss, but you will have to report to them and do good work to “keep your job” and get paid. You will have to fulfill requests from them.
You may think you want to be an entrepreneur because you don’t want to answer to anyone, but the reality is, you will answer to a lot of people. In fact, you’ll more than likely have to talk to and work for more people than you ever had before, and they all want your best work, every time. You can’t phone it in or waste your days. Every working moment counts that much more, because people are relying on you to produce great work.
Whatever your business is when your start, you can expect it to change every 6-12 months. New technology will force you to change how you do certain things. One of your clients can cancel business with you and you’ll have no control over it. You’ll learn that you must have several streams of income coming in from different sources. You can’t rely on just one. If it falls through, your business is done. This means you must constantly evaluate what is working and what is not. You must grow yourself and expand what you do, always. You must hire people who can help your business grow, which is a challenge all its own. Don’t expect things to just cruise along for years while you make a ton of money. Be willing to change, adjust, add, delete, and expand at any given time.
One thing you’ll realize very quickly when running your own business, is the lack of people around you. At an office, working for someone else, you have other people to talk to, to eat lunch with, to have coffee with, to hang out with you. While there are many perceived downsides to working a normal job, one of the greatest benefits is community. Working for yourself doesn’t include that, at least not for some time.
If you’re married, don’t expect your spouse to work with you. Some couples do work together and are very successful, but it’s a rare thing. Working together can out a strain on your relationship in some ways. You’ll end up always talking about work, and missing out on the social beauty that is marriage.
You’ll have to become much more intentional about your relationships and social time. Make it a point to stay connected with people and avoid loneliness burnout.
Most entrepreneurs are creative at heart. That’s a large part of the appeal of working for yourself: you get to have creative control. There’s also an assumption that entrepreneurs have more fun in their work. That’s partially true, but you learn quickly that the fun things aren’t as productive, or lucrative, as the boring things. Most people will never see the work you put into your business. You’ll do most of it alone, behind the scenes. That can get boring.
Hanging out on social media and checking your accounts all day might be fun, but it’s not very effective. Getting on the phone and sending out emails are much more effective. Writing good sales copy isn’t as much fun as liking and commenting on Facebook posts, but it will pay much better dividends. There is a ton of money and opportunity out there, but more often than not, you have to be willing to do what most people won’t. That means doing the hard, and often boring work, consistently. Don’t get distracted by all the flashing lights out there. Do what actually grows your business, and do it for a while.
Being an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you can do in life. Just make sure you go into with clear expectations.