With the economy in shambles, talk of self-employment is on the rise. Americans are beginning to realize that dedication and loyalty to someone else’s business is no guarantee of security, and working for themselves is sounding better and better. However, many people harbor significant misperceptions about what entrepreneurship really means. The myths and realities of entrepreneurship should be well understood by anyone thinking about going out on their own.
Myth #1: Starting my own business means I will have more free time.
Reality: For most startups to succeed, the entrepreneur must put in extraordinary hours, especially during the early stages. Every detail of the business requires attention from you and your to-do list will grow faster than it does at a 9 to 5 job. Carving out time for yourself will be necessary, but difficult because you will forever be thinking of the thousand things that should already be done, but aren’t. If you are looking to build a thriving company, don’t count on spending lots of time on the golf course, at least not in the first year or two.
Myth #2: Owning my own business will solve all my financial problems.
Reality: While it is true that business ownership is the only way to dramatically increase personal wealth (besides winning the Lottery), it does not happen overnight. After months of work to get your venture to the break-even point, your next objective is ramen-profitability. That is, a successful startup will keep you and your family in ramen noodles until the next sales growth spurt. Plan to sink every dime you can into your startup for at least the first year. It might be tough, but the payoff is significant — and one you aren’t likely to find crawling up someone else’s corporate ladder.
Myth #3: My idea is so good it will sell itself.
Reality: No, it won’t. Building sales requires time, money, effort, and planning, no matter what you are selling. Even if you are starting with a great client ready to buy, you must always be looking for the next great client. Marketing is at the heart of all businesses — no marketing, no sales.
Myth #4: Self-employment is easier than working for someone else.
Reality: Working for yourself is far more demanding than any job. The business begins and ends with you. Sick days, hour lunches, and leaving work at work are perks reserved for employees, not the boss. Until you have grown your venture to the point of having a trustworthy staff to cover all critical tasks, it is on you. However, successful entrepreneurs are driven by the control and autonomy that come with self-employment and enjoy the feeling of being responsible for every outcome — good or bad. If entrepreneurship were easy, more people would be on board. As it is, only 7.2% of Americans are self-employed — far fewer than most other industrialized nations.
Myth#5: Running my own company means I get to be my own boss.
Reality: It’s true! You do get to be your own boss, as well as your own accountant, your own lawyer, your own marketing department, your own support staff — the list goes on. While entrepreneurs do have more control over what they do and when and how they do it, they also have the added pressure of all the responsibility for the success and failure of the business. Entrepreneurs also trade in a single boss at a regular job and receive hundreds or thousands of bosses — your customers. Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. It is your responsibility to provide a product that benefits them and offer customer service that keeps them satisfied and coming back for more.
As your business grows, your responsibilities expand to include keeping your employees happy as well. No longer stuck with a boss? Now you have thousands of them.