You read sites like Entrepreneur, Inc. and VentureBeat religiously. Guys like Seth Godin, Sean Ellis and Andrew Chen are your idols. You’ve got a great idea and a burning desire to make it a reality. In short, you like to think of yourself as – an entrepreneur.
However, just because you think your idea could change the world doesn’t mean that making it happen is easy, or even what you’d expect. I’m going to dispel some of the myths about being an entrepreneur and share some advice from my own experiences of bootstrapping my company.
Myths About Being An Entrepreneur
Starting Your Own Company Gives You Unlimited Freedom
First, a show of hands – who’s ever fantasized about handing in a letter of resignation at a job that sucked the life out of them and telling their boss precisely where they can shove their TPS reports?
The allure of turning your back on the 9-to-5 grind forever and becoming your own boss is a siren call that’s hard to resist for many would-be entrepreneurs. The notion of casting off the shackles of corporate drudgery and embarking on an exciting adventure to change the world is what appeals the most to many aspiring business owners.
It’s true that in some cases, being your own boss is tremendously satisfying and incredibly rewarding. However, launching a business isn’t always so simple, especially when it comes to money.
Unless you’re fortunate enough to secure angel investment funding from a benevolent benefactor who really “gets” your idea, or choose to rely exclusively on your own bootstrapping efforts, you may find yourself in a position where you’re forced to accept venture capital or other sources of financing to help get your fledgling business off the ground.
When this happens, that unlimited freedom you’ve been dreaming about goes out the window. Investors expect results and by putting their money into your business, they effectively become your new bosses. The kind of bosses who don’t believe you when you call in sick and make you work late on Fridays – and weekends.
Yes, you’ll still have control over some aspects of your company, but make no mistake, the bigger your venture becomes, the more people you’ll likely end up having to please. And we all know how that works, right?
Good Ideas Become Successful (Insanely Profitable) Overnight
These days, everyone from Silicon Valley to Wall Street is eyeing the next big thing. Sensational stories about apps developed in bedrooms being sold for millions (or even billions) are irresistible to the media. More than a few aspiring entrepreneurs fall into the trap of believing their business will become profitable very quickly.
As with most things in life, the startups that sell for billions of dollars seemingly overnight are the exceptions, not the rule. Even if your goal is to open a small store, it’s tempting to believe that your product or service is going to make bank – fast.
However, many small businesses and new startups take a long time to become profitable ventures, and you may have to make serious compromises to make your company a success. You might even come dangerously close to the brink of financial ruin before your venture starts to see real returns.
It’s a cliché, but starting your own business is a marathon, not a sprint. Be prepared to buckle down for the long haul. If success comes overnight, more power to you. But don’t go into your venture with unrealistic expectations.
Starting a Business Allows You to Focus on Your Passions
If you’re passionate about something, launching a business centered on these interests may seem like a perfectly good idea. After all, for any venture to succeed, entrepreneurs have to eat, sleep and breathe their idea. However, just because you start your own company doesn’t mean you’ll get to spend all day doing what you love.
Depending on the size and scope of your idea, you’ll likely have to spend more time actually running your business than doing the fun stuff. This could mean kissing prospective clients’ butts, managing the financial side of the business, dealing with subcontractors and any other number of mundane, yet essential, tasks.
Your skills and the type of business you want to launch will also play a role in how much of your day is spent doing what you love versus the “housekeeping.” Launching a business doesn’t have to mean switching one soul-destroying job for another, but you probably won’t get to spend all day having fun.
As it turns out, living the dream is a lot of work – what a drag.
The Only Way is Up
I previously wrote that making mistakes is awesome  because of everything you can learn. I’ve also spoken about the importance of dusting yourself off after your venture tanks and getting on with it. While this is true, the notion that persistence can only lead to success – is bunk.
Listen to any motivational speaker or life coach for a while and you’ll start to hear all sorts of empty rhetoric about “conquering your fears” and “visualizing success.” This is all well and good, but what they forget to tell you is that failing sucks. It isn’t just the financial risks that make failure so punishing, it’s also having to deal with inconvenient truths like maybe your idea was terrible, or the fact that you mismanaged your business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to dissuade you from starting your own company – far from it. What I am trying to do is get you to realize that a failed business venture can have a crushing impact on your bank account, your sense of self-worth and your motivation to get up and do it all over again.
Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There will be sleepless nights spent worrying about your dwindling customer base, the creeping dread about telling your staff you don’t have any money to pay them, and other seriously major bummers. You shouldn’t expect disaster, but you need to be ready for it.
Do you have what it takes to handle this kind of failure? Not everyone does, and it takes a lot of guts to be this honest with yourself.
You need confidence, drive and determination to make your business a success. You also need a healthy dose of realism and a back-up plan in case your revolutionary software tool becomes vaporware, or you realize that consumer demand for electronic back scratching devices isn’t as strong as you anticipated.
Starting your own business is an amazing experience, and one that can change your life in untold ways. To paraphrase the life coaches, you should be ready to conquer your fears and dive right in.
Just be honest with yourself and go into your new venture with open eyes about what life as an entrepreneur is really like.