Being an entrepreneur can be very difficult, but also very rewarding. Here are 7 lessons I learned in the first year of starting my own business.
1. Being an entrepreneur isn't easy
PROS: Being your own boss
CONS: Everything else.
No really, being an entreprenur downright sucks at times. It takes an unbelievable amount of resolve in the face of disappointment and at times you'll feel like you want to bury your head in a pillow and scream. Sometimes it feels like you're climbing up a hill with no end in sight; other times it feels like you're free-falling without a parachute.
My experience in general is that people will:
- Try to take your money
- Rip you off
- Ignore contracts & NDAs
- Ignore your calls / not read emails
- Tell you you're flatout wrong even when you're presenting airtight facts on paper
- Constantly try to grind you to lower your prices even when you're already giving them something at cost
With all of that said, you have to push past all of that and realize that it's not all bad. And hopefully you'll also realize that as a leader you're also surrounded by good people who share your vision and cause and will fight with you to the very end.
2. For an introvert (or even an ambivert), networking is hard
Hand-in-hand with screaming into a pillow, sometimes I just want to disappear. I want to throw my phone into a lake and literally just get on a plane and fly away, forever. But I can't - because then I'd be disappointing a lot of people I care about, and because of that I'd only end up disappointing myself as well. Being an introvert and having to seek out facetime with people can be really uncomfortable, especially when you just want to sit at home and read books or work on your website.
With that said, there are some amazing people in your local business groups - joining the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce was one of the best decisions I ever made. I'm surrounded by like-minded people who understand the struggles (and the rewards) and are very supportive. Also be on the lookout for mentors in your existing circle - some of whom I've met while working in previous roles before starting my own business.
3. Criticism sucks - get used to it
It's what you do with criticism that matters. The old saying "everyone's got an opinion" applies here; I've had people close to me say things that absolutely gutted me. On the other hand I've had people who I've never even met tell me how much they loved an article I wrote or a creative piece I put together. People have different opinions; take what they're saying with a grain of salt, learn what works best for your vision + target market and move on.
It's what you do with criticism that matters.
4. Put faith in the people who share your vision
It seems like this one should be obvious but it isn't. For a long time I felt like I was slogging it out all by myself. As a highly-motivated (and slightly picky) individual I'll be the first to admit that I have a difficult time letting other people do the work.
But lately I've realized something very important: a sure sign that you're surrounding yourself with the right people is when they begin to take some of that work off of your shoulders. I'm exremely grateful for this; up until recently I felt like I was ready to collapse under all the pressure of trying to keep my business afloat. Isn't it great to know that there are people who care and who want to help you? So let them!
5. Don't put any energy into time-wasters
This is another one that should be obvious but is easily forgotten when you're literally trying to expand your business by any means necessary. Toxic people are a waste of time. I'll say it once more:
Toxic people are a waste of time
You can't make people happy when they're inherently unhappy. You know the type I'm talking about - the ones who yell and scream at you over the phone, try to demean you to get their way, constantly ask you for minute details and throw you under the bus for every little thing that goes wrong.
These people are time vampires: They will suck you dry and leech off of you until you have nothing left to give. Dump them fast and find a customer who actually needs / wants to work with you. It isn't worth trying to hold onto relationships that will affect you negatively (and by extension the quality of your other relationships).
6. A penny saved is a penny wasted (focus on the things that matter)
Things I've wasted money (and time) on: poorly-designed business cards (yes I designed them and yes I'm still trying to get rid of them), flyers I never used (because I changed my pricing strategy a month later), web hosting that didn't do what I wanted, software that didn't do what I wanted, bookkeeping that would have been better off (and cheaper) if left to an accountant, the list goes on.
The point is, you're better off spending your time and money on letting highly-reviewed professionals handle the bulk of creative tasks; you'll end up with better results and you'll probably end up spending less money by not having to redo it later on.
7. It's all worth it in the end
With all the challenges of being an entrepreneur, some people may be wondering how or why it's even worth it. No one ever said it would be easy (and if they did I'd like to meet this person) - but it's all worth it in the end.
If your business fails, you've walked away with a ton of life experience. This experience is invaluable when applying for jobs, or perhaps you might all of a sudden realize that you wish to change careers altogether. Being an entrepreneur helps you learn more about yourself, and may reveal something that was your true desire all along but you just never got around to it.
Lastly, if your business succeeds, you'll be rewarded with the passion of being able to do something you love without having to answer to authority. Entrepreneurship done right can be the ultimate pathway to peace, prosperity and happiness.
Do you have a question or comment about being an entrepreneur? Feel free to share your thoughts on my Twitter feed.