A friend came to me not long ago, complaining about his business. He had recently moved to my town and was looking to start over. Back where he used to live, he made a nice living as an independent real estate broker. He had many clients and deals were easy to come by.
Then he moved here, to a whole new situation. Of course, he had fewer contacts, and even fewer potential clients. Given that he didn’t really have to work too hard to get business where he used to live, he wasn’t used to marketing, didn’t like it much, and didn’t want to put so much time into getting clients at this point in his career.
It seemed to me that my pal likes all of the perks that come with being his own boss, but frankly, and this is what I told him, he seems unwilling to pay the price that self-employment demands. Yes, it is easy to think lofty thoughts about the life of the entrepreneur. I do it too. It’s easy to think “how fun and interesting it is to create something from nothing, how great it is to be your own boss, how welcome it is to make your own schedule and to make money.”
But, to get those benefits, you have to be willing to pay the price. What price is that? Glad you asked.
1. Be willing to put yourself out there, again and again. The price of admission into the game of entrepreneurship is that you have to continually put yourself out there - you have to market yourself and your business. You may have to go to networking events, or try new ideas. You might even have to cold call.
A seasoned small businessperson once told me that it’s like throwing cooked spaghetti against the refrigerator door to see if it’s done. What he meant by that is that when you are in business for yourself, you have to keep experimenting to see what sticks. If you are not willing to be that proactive or that creative, then this game is not for you.
2. Realize that there is no rainmaker – you are the rainmaker. One of the great things about working for someone else is that it is usually their job to generate business. It is your job to carry out the various assignments that that business requires.
However, when you work for yourself, not only do you do the work, but you have to get the work as well. This is like having two jobs rolled up into one and will almost certainly mean late nights and early mornings. Again, that is a pre-requisite. If you are not good at rainmaking or don’t like it, think twice. If you get really good at it and stay in business for a while, your workload, ideally, should slow down at some point. But entrepreneurs work a lot for the most part.
3. You will miss some important personal and family moments. I interviewed a guy who started what is now a very busy and growing website operation. He says that he missed school plays, vacations, and more, for the first two years. Yep.
4. No steady income. Clients and customers come and go. You will make more money some months than others. If you’re self-employed, you need to be able to live with that sort of uncertainty.
5. You will wear lots of hats. Employees have assigned duties and tasks. Sometimes they will be asked to take on extra work outside of those tasks, but for the most part, they do what they are paid to do. Not so for entrepreneurs. We wear many hats within the organization. One day it may mean doing shipping all day and another day it might be doing taxes. Roll up those sleeves.
6. There will be stress. Everything that I’ve previously mentioned means that the life of a small business person is creative, interesting, liberating, and hopefully fun and exciting.
It is also stressful, exhausting, and nerve-wracking.
To enjoy the first part of that list requires that you pay the piper with the second part of that list. That is the deal you must be willing to make.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.