Congratulations, you’ve just started a business! You’ve decided to be brave and either leave your stable job or to try something that you’ve always dreamed of doing. But in making that choice, you probably didn’t think of all the things that come with this new venture. The entrepreneurial life can be wonderful but it can also have its downside.
In this post, I will share ten things I have personally learned about entrepreneur life. It’s in no way to discourage you but just to give you the heads up on what you too may face. If entrepreneurship is something you are considering, these are things that you should definitely know about. I’m sure you’ve read several posts telling you to go for it but not many share the naked truths of this lifestyle. I want you to go for it but I also want you to go in there prepared- like a warrior. You need to be strong and mentally prepared because if you’re not, in less than a year you will most likely be back at corporate.
I’ve split this post into two parts since it’s quite lengthy. So, grab some coffee, sit back and enjoy!
1. Doubt and Disapproval
Get ready to spread the news to your so-called family and friends about taking on your own business. You’ll hear lots of “good for you!” “that’s awesome” or “good luck”. But the expressions you will see on peoples faces-as if you just put a third eye on your forehead is just priceless. The truth is most people think you’re crazy and other people are extremely jealous that you’re able to do something that they can only dream of doing. My personal advice on dealing with doubt and disapproval- in the words of Taylor Swift “shake it off.”
2. The Lonely Road
A boss life is a lonely life. You don’t have coworkers to gossip with at the water cooler, you don’t get happy hour unless you force yourself to go out which in most cases you won’t, and there aren’t many people that can relate to what you do. Not to mention you don’t even get a lunch hour. Hell, you don’t even have a regular schedule. You eat, sleep, breathe and live your work.
If you’re in a relationship, your significant other won’t understand your life either. While they get to sit in their cozy cubicles and take orders from the boss and execute certain tasks every day, their 9-to-5 begins to look incredibly simple to you. On the other hand, they might think that you’re at home in a more relaxed setting, watching tv and just promoting your “little” business on social media all day. They just have no idea.
This is where you need to understand the importance of networking. Networking is key. It will not only help you to connect with others and possibly gain new clients, but it will also help you establish professional friendships that will help you thrive as a business owner. When I first started out I was big into networking. I attended almost every networking event that I heard of and I made several connections. I am often asked how I know so many people and it’s because I network. Mind you, I am no social butterfly. I am shy, feel awkward around strangers and hate introducing myself to others. But I learned from several years of shyness, that being shy will get you nowhere. It is a fear that will hold you back and make you miss out on opportunities. So, eventually I learned to pull out my card and introduce myself. I also learned to send a friendly “hello” email after getting another professional’s card.
Many people are frightened by the thought of going up to a total stranger in a business setting- or social setting, and handing them their card. But I will tell you something – if you don’t crawl out of that hole you’re living in you will not succeed. For me, becoming a business owner from a young age is something that took courage and made it more difficult when going out to network with professionals ages 40+.
I remember being in a social setting where the group mostly consisted of men except myself and one other female. This woman was vicious. From the moment I introduced myself to her, she made a joke that she thought I was someone’s daughter. While the men in the group discussed business opportunities, I engaged in the conversation. When she chimed in, she made another joke toward me and said- “I don’t expect you to know about this actor, you probably weren’t even born then!” I laughed and replied, “Oh, actually I watched that movie with my grandmother a few times.” My point- be armed with wit because there will be lots of “mean girls” (or boys) out there. After that event, I admit I didn’t return to that groups meet ups but a few connects I made there still keep in touch with me today. Not every meet up or group will be for you and that’s ok because you’re there to make new contacts not to reunite every month with the same people.
And after you make new connects, the learning continues. You will learn to grow thick skin, you will learn that not everyone is out to help you and that many are out to get your business or steal your ideas. But once you become a pro at weed whacking, you will stick with at least three to five really good connections. Those people will recommend you, work with you, and even help you at times. Those people might even be guests on your wedding day.
3. Everyone Calls You for a Good Time
When you tell people you work from home they immediately assume that you have more time on your hands. Only you know the many hats you wear. The Staples commercial couldn’t have put it better when they showed the business owner in the commercial wearing several hats. Secretary, bookkeeper, content creator, public relations person and so on. But for some reason your family and friends think that you have time on your hands. This is why uncle Tom will call you for a ride to the doctors office and this is why your sister-in-law will ask you to watch the kids for an hour while she gets her nails done. And what about the friend who has a luxurious life and gets to live off of her husband’s wealth who calls you and ask you to go to brunch every week? I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.
This will always be difficult to deal with and you might lose a friend or two along the way.
You need to put your foot down and bluntly tell these people that you are running a serious business and that you are operating hours just the same as any other business. You also need to explain that you depend on the income that’s coming in- that you work so hard for and that any time that you take away from your business you are practically stealing from yourself. Let them know that one hour of your time equals an hour pay or dance lessons for your daughter. You are not on a hiatus, you are not hanging out at home, you are not keeping busy- you are WORKING. You deserve real respect as a business person and if those family and friends cannot treat you that way then you need to stop answering their calls and get a video monitor at your doorstep. Eventually they’ll get a clue.
4. “You want me to do what for free?”
Ahh the freebies…don’t you love those? Friends or people who meet you and try to make you think they’re your friend so that they can snag a freebie off of you.
Let’s take my business for instance. I am a style blogger but I also am a photographer by day. In the photography business, you are pretty much an artist you create your work, you are passionate about it. Just like art, there are people who think an artist simply splashes paint onto a canvas and there are others who truly appreciate the color, the textures and the emotion of the painting. Those are two totally different minded types of people. The people who lack appreciation have no passion and lack creativity and those are the people who I do not want as clients.
As a photographer, I have been invited to parties and asked to bring my camera along with me- in other words “will you photograph my party for free?” I have also been approached by the mom who says, “I had this great idea to do a shoot with my son holding a dozen colorful balloons in a great big field! Would you like to take on this project ?” (instead of saying “I have a really great idea for a creative shoot I would love to hire you for and work with you.”) These people are disrespectful and they are cheap and they have no appreciation for what you do.
Don’t fall for people of this type. They are no better than the big bad wolf in the woods luring little red riding hood to grandmas house. They will eat you up and they will give you no credit for your work. They will never recommend anyone to you and you will get nothing out of working with people like this. Trust me I can tell you from real experience.
Then, there is doing business with family. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked about my services- be it by close friends or family who end up going with super cheap and untalented people because they refuse to make the investment with me. Even with a discount. For some reason, there are relatives who feel they are giving you money for something they can skimp on with an amateur. And they later regret it,too. They don’t say it but by looking at the quality they get elsewhere, I just know.
The truth is these specific family and friends may look at your new business as a hobby and not support you at all. And when inquiring about your services, some will even expect you not to charge them. For some odd reason, family members at times feel entitled to get freebies. I’m not sure why. I suppose they’ve forgotten that you also have bills and expenses like everyone else.
One of my mentors once told me he does business with family members but gives a discount of 10-20% depending on the job. He explained that he didn’t mind giving a discount he’d offer to any of his clients but anything steeper than that was a definite NO. I couldn’t agree more and this is what I also go by now. If they don’t like it, it may just be better for you than to deal with a headache.
5. Don’t Be Like Discount Dave
You know the guy on Facebook who isn’t a legit business but tries to make himself look like one. For example, he has a fancy logo, he has a Facebook page, and he even has a business card. But in reality he works for someone else and he’s trying to learn every trick of the trade so he can apply it to his illegal side gigs. He’s pretty much doing everything they do but under the table. So, he doesn’t pay Uncle Sam, has no contracts, he does not have to pay business expenses or membership fees, is uninsured and he gets paid cash. He offers ridiculous discounts that are difficult to compete with and make other business owners look bad.
Although you know in your gut that it will hurt you to compete with these prices, your last resort might be to offer low rates like he does. But don’t fall into that trap because once you do, your work will be just like the price you’ve tagged it; cheap. And when your work is cheap, it becomes questionable. For example, is she qualified to do this job, why are her rates so much cheaper than the average line of business she is in? Is she just trying to make a quick buck?
Just think about it we are all brand consumed. I opt for Apple computers, Apple phones- Apple everything. The reason that I do this is because I know that Apple provides me with high-quality, up-to-date technology, and because their brand has a good and solid reputation. I love how everything syncs to each other and their cool features. I am willing to pay their prices because I know that I am getting a good product. And yes, a cheaper price does not always mean poor quality. The Toyota car is an excellent brand and of great quality. It holds its value. A Mercedes is also a great car but it’s luxury. So, when you are putting your business together you need to know your audience. And then you have Bob’s Used Car Lot. Toyota and Mercedes are reputable brands but what do we know about Bob’s? Well, Bob’s is the cheaper way to go. And Bob’s clients look for cheaper rates and decent quality. Now, Toyota and Mercedes clients look for decent rates and good quality and most likely, customer service. Do you want to be a reputable brand or do you want to be a brand for discount lovers leaving you to offer a not so great product (because you can’t afford to give them more)? Both are absolutely fine, but too steep of a discount will never help your business thrive. You want your clients to WANT to hire you and PAY for what you offer without hesitation.
For example, I was asked to put together a press kit for a up and coming artist. Supposedly, this person had great connections. But as I researched this artist for myself, I saw that most likely, this was an exaggeration from their manager. The pay that was offered to me for this project was extremely low. If I had taken on this project for such a steep discount it would not have been worth my time. Every business owner knows that time=money.
On another note, I once had a client who asked me to give him a discount on a photography package for his daughter’s sweet 16. He promised me more business. He told me that he came from a large community of professionals that all had daughters around the same age and that they were also looking to hire a photographer for these upcoming parties. I usually don’t go on these promises, but the discount that he asked me for was not that much, so I accepted the offer. A few weeks later, I began to get calls from all of this man’s professional friends and I was booked for the entire year with Sweet 16 parties and graduations. That type of discount is worth doing.
These are my first five lessons I learned from being an entrepreneur. Honestly, these were no easy lessons and I wish someone had told me what I could be up against. But as I always say – everything is for a reason and in order to succeed, one must fail. MANY TIMES. I am thankful for the lessons life has taught me and the fact that I am now able to share them with you all is pretty awesome.
There are three things I have used to survive my years as an entrepreneur: Faith.Courage.Strength.
Like this post? Join me next week for Part II of this post!