We are living in an unprecedented age. The World Bank estimates that 30% of the global population (about 2 billion people) is self-employed and analysts predict this number will continue to grow-especially in North America and Asia. Over 70% of millennials aspire to start their own businesses. But it's not just the under 35 crowd that's in on it, the majority of successful tech founders started their first company at age 39. There's no denying it, small business ownership is hot. I mean, who wouldn't want the freedom to do something you love, take holidays whenever you want, and make money while doing it? It all sounds so glamorous! Until you're actually doing it, that is. So if you're thinking of taking the plunge into the world of self employment, read this before you quit your day job.
1. Business is like, hard
Excuse my inner valley girl but the obvious truth of this statement, and my stupidity in not recognizing it sooner, justifies it. I come from a very entrepreneurial family and the seeds were planted young. From the time I was 10, my grandfather used to say, "If you're not going to work for yourself, work for the government". I couldn't see myself as a gov. employee so I was always on the lookout for an opportunity to make my own. In the meantime, I had the invaluable opportunity to witness the triumphs and trials of everyday life as a business owner. You'd think this would prepare me for the challenges that lie ahead. Instead, I thought to myself, "matchmaking? this is hardly building building a hotel/ fashion brand/ any of the other amazing businesses I've been lucky to witness". I couldn't have been more wrong. I've learned that no matter what you're working on-even if it looks fun and glamorous to onlookers-building a business bigger than yourself (even in the "love industry") is a lot of work.
2. People Won't Get It
Try mentioning that you want to start a business to your family and friends. I'm guessing 90% of the people you talk to will be skeptical. If it's an established business model, they'll try to talk you out of it by saying "who needs another?", and if its a completely new business idea, they'll say things like "that's silly, no one will ever pay for that." They'll tell you that there are better uses for your time. And you know what? They might be right. but if you've done your market research-and it still looks like a good idea-go for it!
But it isn't just the idea, or why you'd start a specific business, that they won't get. Even after you've launched, and business is growing steadily, very few will understand what goes into it on a day-to-day basis. To them, work looks like sitting at a desk or pound the keys on a blackberry. They won't understand that whether you're at a cocktail party, reading a magazine, or staring blankly at your computer screen-the odds are high that you're thinking about your company. You and your business have become one. They may leave their work at the office, but a founder's work is never done. Problem solving or planning the next step for your company is always on your mind.
3. It's lonely
It's an amazing thing to have the opportunity to pursue your dreams, and watch your visions become reality, but it can also be an incredibly isolating experience. Few people will understand the immense pressure you feel, knowing the success or failure of that dream rests on your shoulders. On top of that, the time you have to actually spend with your friends and family can be limited.
4. Boundaries are Everything
When I first began, I was so eager to succeed that I'd bend over backwards to please my customers. adjusting contracts to meet their specifications, placing no limits on the number of calls I'd take or time I'd spend to get the job done. Even if it meant working beyond what the contract entailed. Most people behaved within reason, but there will always be a few who push you to the limit just to see how far you'll go. It wasn't until a client berated me for not answering his call at 2am (for a casual inquiry) that I realized things needed to change. If you aren't getting the respect you want, it's because you've chosen to accept less. Whatever you are willing to put up with is exactly what you will have. Setting clear expectations up front can help you avoid uncomfortable conversations later on.
5. Things will take you much longer than you expect
Go ahead and make that timeline but don't be too surprised when it goes out the window. Humans are notoriously bad at predicting the amount of time any given task will take, my self included. for example, I estimated writing this post would take one hour, yet 3 hours later I'm still writing it... Hofstadter's Law is a very real thing and, unfortunately, there's no way around it. Even when we recognize that we have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time a task will take and attempt to account for the added difference, it will STILL take longer than you expect. We're just too optimistic, or slightly delusional.