The world is full of individuals who dream of becoming their own boss and starting a business.
Many will go through life just dreaming about it while a few will actually take the leap into the unknown.
However, being an entrepreneur isn’t all about sunshine and rainbows and that’s what I’m here to tell you – the untold secrets and the ugly truth of being an entrepreneur.
Now, I’ve launched and scaled several digital businesses over the past few years. I’ve been involved with an online finance community of over 850,000 people and founded an AI-focused job marketplace.
I’ve loved launching businesses and working on projects with no certainties ahead.
And while I wasn’t told everything about the hardships and quirks of being an entrepreneur, I still wouldn’t change a thing.
In fact, I love it so much I’m still doing it and helping other startups to grow.
Being an entrepreneur is my passion.
Nonetheless, there were nine things nobody told me about being an entrepreneur – and I’m about to share them with you.
#1 You need more than just passion
The most common thing people say about being an entrepreneur is that it takes a lot of passion.
The times you hear passion touted as the key piece in the puzzle…well, it will make most aspiring entrepreneurs think passion is all you need.
I’m not saying passion isn’t important. Heck, you need passion to keep moving forward when the going gets tough.
But passion isn’t the only thing that helps.
You can’t just dream yourself into the next big entrepreneur.
You need the holy grail of entrepreneurship, out of which passion is only one part. The other two are knowledge and discipline.
You need knowledge because information will turn passion into reality. It tells you what markets to go for and which business models generate the most revenue.
Gee, you probably aren’t passionate about taxes but you need knowledge of taxation to succeed.
You need to be thirsty for knowledge, too. You need to want to know what kind of small business tax code you are dealing with and how search engine optimisation really works.
You need to have and improve your knowledge beyond just your industry. Sure, you are passionate about fitness but you also need knowledge about business legislation to get that fitness app running without a lawsuit.
So, you have passion and you have knowledge. You still need discipline.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t always fun. Heck, learning more about online marketing might seem like the most boring thing you can do.
It’s discipline that will ensure you don’t give in when the going gets tough.
Passion can waver slightly. Some mornings your passion for coding might feel less strong than your passion for sleeping in your warm and cosy bed.
Life will question your passion.
Discipline will keep you on the road.
The beauty of this holy grail of entrepreneurialism is that you will expand your horizon and learn to defeat any obstacle life throws in your way.
The three things are the tools you need in any area of your life.
#2 You don’t just need to rely on an idea
Another thing often thrown around is that starting a business is all about the idea.
That’s just not true in any level.
You don’t need an amazing and brilliant idea in order to become a successful entrepreneur.
Ideas are not everything that helps build a great business. You don’t just need thinkers.
Heck, you can’t have a business without those who know how to build things, design things, sell things, market things and so on.
In essence, you can’t just have an idea, you also need to be able to execute on it.
Indeed, investors are generally not even focused on the ideas. They look for entrepreneurs who can turn even the most average business idea and product into a winning business – those that just have the right entrepreneurial mindset.
This is what makes being an entrepreneur interesting.
You don’t just have a single road to success. You don’t just need to sit tight and think as long as you come up with a winning business idea.
You could be technically genius or you could be able to spot a winning idea from a sea of ideas. You can take all sorts of roads on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur – none are better than others.
#3 You can have too much time to procrastinate
You need to make many decisions as an entrepreneur.
To ensure you don’t screw it up, you want to be careful and take your time to analyse each option. You want to find that right approach and answer each time.
But no one tells you this kind of behaviour can lead to something dangerous: procrastination.
You don’t have the luxury to think about an idea or a decision for too long because you might lose momentum. Once you’ve pondered enough, the moment might have passed and your decision isn’t the right anymore.
Now, the dangers of procrastination might seem obvious.
You might be thinking, “OK, so I’ll just make decisions quickly. Fine. It’s not like I have a lot of extra time on my hands as an entrepreneur.”
Well, except that no one tells you how much ‘free time’ you’ll actually have.
The opportunities to procrastinate as a starting entrepreneur are way too abundant.
It’s a big mistake to think you won’t have time to do anything – including pondering – as you are constantly working on things to get your business up and running.
First, being an entrepreneur isn’t about working 24/7 – especially if you are smart.
Secondly, your work environment might cause you to do things without not really doing anything constructive.
Many entrepreneurs start by working from home. It’s cheaper and it’s convenient. Indeed, it’s so convenient you’ll often end up sitting in your sweatpants.
When you are at home, you often lull into this feeling that you should just really think things through – that the answer to your business model will come when you think about it while binge watching Netflix shows.
You end up sitting on your laptop reading business blogs thinking you’re doing a lot of thinking and planning when you might actually just be wasting your time.
It’s so easy to think you are doing many things when you’re not really doing anything useful.
Now, this doesn’t mean being your own boss and being able to work from wherever isn’t cool. Indeed, it’s liberating and it can be more creative as well.
What you just need to remember is that you are your own boss, not a friend when it comes to your startup. You need to give yourself the tough talk and set those deadlines.
A good way of keeping yourself from procrastinating is to create a daily routine that works for you and treat it like a 9-to-5 job (it doesn’t have to involve those hours, of course!).
The steps to developing a routine are:
#4 You’re going to meet many people who will enjoy you failing
I don’t know if it was just me, but don’t most of us still believe in humanity?
I went about life thinking the other entrepreneurs and people around me want me to succeed.
Well, the world is unfortunately full of assholes – those who just want to see the world burn.
You need thick skin as an entrepreneur. You need to know that not everyone you meet will be rooting for you. In fact, some will enjoy every opportunity to see you fail.
And the tricky part is this: you will fail.
Being an entrepreneur is about failing and getting up only to fail and get up again.
You’re not going to make it without ever screwing up. And some people will be there to point out your mistakes in a judgemental and irritating manner.
What you need to learn is being honest to yourself and trusting your instinct with people.
We can often spot the bullshitter.
You need to do this when you have made a mistake. To distinguish those with valid and constructive criticism from those who are just happy you’re not doing well.
Now, don’t let the above turn you into an asshole.
Just because there are bad people out there, it doesn’t mean good folks don’t exist.
There are good people out there and good entrepreneurs who actually really want you to succeed.
In fact, many startup owners understand the struggle and they want to lend their helping hand to those who are just starting their journey.
It’s what I want, too.
So, don’t become cynical but be a realist.
#5 You’re not the only person following dreams
Some people might find what I’m about to say a little controversial.
But being an entrepreneur is not the only cool thing you can do in life.
It’s easy to be too hyped about the dream of starting your business because frankly, it is something we’re constantly told to do in modern society.
We’re constantly told to look for our dreams and often this statement is followed by how running your own business is the best thing you can do. We have TV shows that push out entrepreneurialism such as Shark Tank.
It’s all we are told. That to be authentically happy, you need to be an entrepreneur.
Blogger and writer Jon Westenberg agrees with my sentiment.
In his Medium blog post he writes:
“There’s nothing wrong with being an employee. There’s nothing wrong with building someone else’s dream. There’s nothing wrong with having a job that you fucking love.”
And that’s the point: everyone has dreams and desires – and they are all different.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t in itself a salvation you should seek. Don’t think it’ll make you happy or that anyone who isn’t an entrepreneur isn’t really loving life.
The world needs all sorts of people.
You can’t force others to buy in on your dream and give up their cosy corporate jobs. And if they don’t, then they aren’t doing it because they are afraid to follow their dreams (well, at least not all). They might do it because they enjoy what they are already doing.
Your dream of being an entrepreneur is not the only valid dream in the world.
#6 You will need to build a team around you
The moment when you decide to become an entrepreneur and start your business is a moment when you go, “Finally, I’m able to be my own boss and do what I want”.
While you will be able to decide the path you take and control the way you run your business, you should not assume you could make it on your own.
Entrepreneurs are often considered a lonely bunch of people.
But you don’t run successful businesses without a team around you.
And you certainly won’t succeed as an entrepreneur if you don’t know how to lead a team.
Running a business is never a one man (or woman) show.
So, if it is solitude you are looking for, then becoming an entrepreneur is probably not for you.
But the need to have a team around you in order to create is part of the beauty of being an entrepreneur and starting businesses. There is nothing better in the world than meeting people with similar mindsets and ideas and then working on a project together.
It’s a magical feeling to find people that think like you and who believe in the same vision as you do.
#7 You will have to live like a student for a while
OK, you might find it hard to believe that this entrepreneurial truth needs saying but there are plenty of people who don’t quite believe it.
Becoming an entrepreneur does not mean you’ll drive a Bentley and have seven-figure sums on your bank account within six months of starting.
You do need to learn to be thrifty and live like a student when you first start it all out.
It might seem like a cliché but you’ll probably end up cutting your eating out habit and you might choose to sleep at your parents.
Now, you don’t necessarily even ‘suffer’ in terms of making money.
Many startups can start increasing income right from the start.
But the trick here is to understand there is a better use for this money than buying yourself a cool car or a new suit (unless your old is worn out!).
You want to bootstrap and reinvest the money you generate at the start in your business. Use the income you are generating in order to scale the business further.
In the long-term, this strategy will help you earn more.
Now, this thriftiness is actually a helpful lesson to learn at the start of your journey.
Not having a lot of money at hand will help you realise that life is more than just cash – you won’t just end up making better business decisions, but also appreciate the things that matter to you the most.
The real things – not the bank balance.
#8 You don’t have to risk it all to make it
One of the most persistent and harming misconceptions people have about starting a business is that it costs money.
I certainly wish I’d known that you don’t need to re-mortgage your home or create a huge amount of debt just to get started.
You don’t need to have a million on your savings account – you don’t need to risk it all just to become an entrepreneur.
Through bootstrapping and clever fundraising strategies, you can launch a successful business without financial difficulties.
Indeed, people often have the idea that you will risk a lot of things if you want to be an entrepreneur, not just money.
People think the road to running a business is considered one where you lose your mind, risk your relationships with other people and just don’t have any life outside of being an entrepreneur.
But it isn’t like that.
You do not need to risk your money, sanity or relationships in order to make it.
Yes, it will be tough and it will require sacrifices but nothing you can’t recover from or control.
If you think being an entrepreneur has consumed your whole life, you might be doing something wrong.
You need to take a step back and evaluate your situation. Are you really doing what you want?
#9 You can’t force success
Ultimately, I wish I knew that success isn’t every guaranteed.
Heck, it isn’t always up to you as the entrepreneur. You simply can’t force success.
Now, this isn’t to say you get to dodge responsibility and claim your idea and execution were perfect but something outside of your control ruined it. You do need to look in the mirror first and be honest about the things you could and should have done differently.
However, you should understand and accept that luck can play a role.
You simply can’t control all aspects of creating business success.
Entrepreneurs and their businesses operate in an eco-system (just like all of us in this blue planet). The government, the environment and even the people around you can all change their condition in a second and have a direct or indirect impact on your business.
Sure, you can prepare for risks and eventualities but not everything can be prepared for. Things can just happen.
What you need to do is believe in your idea and your ability to execute it.
You also need to work hard.
But perhaps, more than anything, you need to understand and accept the fact that you can’t buy true success – just as money can’t buy true happiness.
Now, this is part of the beauty behind entrepreneurialism.
It’s forgiving. It tells you that it is OK if things don’t always go according to plan.
Indeed, it gives you a second, third or even fourth chance.
Heck, in the case of James Dyson it took over 5,000 prototypes before creating the one that turned him into a billionaire.
In the end, being an entrepreneur is rewarding and addictive
“I think being an entrepreneur is great because the possibilities are endless. You can be as creative and innovative as you want to be and the results are the most rewarding.” – Anneliece Velasco, owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Smithtown
All the above, all the things I’ve learned point out to one important lesson:
Being an entrepreneur is everything and nothing you thought it would be.
There is no single entrepreneurial story. But this is why it’s so addictive and rewarding.
This is why I love helping others grow and develop as entrepreneurs.
Because everyone will do it differently, feel differently while doing it and take different things with them from the process.
Nobody really prepares you for it. But when the entrepreneurial bug bites it bites hard and it won’t let you go.
Just go with it.