Are You Sure You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship isn't as glamorous as you might think— many entrepreneurs report working sixteen-hour days.

Are people choosing entrepreneurship for all the wrong reasons? I'd say so. The recent attention given to famous entrepreneurs and the economic development successes of a few cities in the world (San Francisco, New York, London, Austin) make it seem like everyone can be an entrepreneur, and also make entrepreneurship seem more glamorous than it is.

In the seventeen years I've been coaching entrepreneurs and the long years I've been one, ideas about entrepreneurship have done a 180. When I graduated from college, everyone wanted to work for a big corporation —that was the definition of success.

Now it seems that the opposite is true. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Big corporations are having difficulty coercing millennials to work for them, offering incentives from internal gyms to free meals and dry cleaning to working from home. Corporations are in a race to be the "best place to work" to attract "human capital, " because no one is just an employee anymore.

But that's only because entrepreneurship has been so glamorized. Pop culture portrays the role of the entrepreneur as changing the world like Elon Musk or Bill Gates, being in control of the privacy of billions of people, like Mark Zuckerberg, to being rich like Richard Branson or the 20-somethings in the Bay Area whose companies get acquired for billions of dollars without revenue. (Snapchat's turn down of a $3 billion offer was the last nail in the coffin for realistic conceptions of entrepreneurship.)

Yet the reality belies the media. To be an entrepreneur today is to be a "solopreneur," creating few or no jobs and eking out an existence. Far from a way to control one's life, entrepreneurship —with or without success — is a ticket to a perpetual roller coaster ride that can be nauseating most of the time.

Most startups are founded during recessions when jobs go away. As the economy improves, the Kauffman Foundation sees a falloff in actual startup rates, demonstrating how many people actually used entrepreneurship as a way of bridging the gaps between jobs. 87% of the new businesses in the Kauffman study have 0-3 employees and those are dominated by consultants operating out of home offices. Of people who did start businesses, only the youthful have high confidence that their businesses will be more profitable in the next year than they are now.

The truth on the ground is a bit darker than in the glow of the press. It's a good idea to think carefully if you considering entrepreneurship because you're passionate about what you are doing, or just because you don't know what else to do. If it's the latter, you might bear in mind that 40 percent of people in entrepreneurial businesses report working 16 hours a day.

[Image: Flickr user Poetic174]

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  • I think the point is Entrepreneurship is not as glamourous as it shown in the media. Those who are self-aware alone succeeds in this journey. Rest all get this give it a try mentality and 9 out of 10 times they dont make it.

  • Since when is operating a business out of home offices necessarily a bad thing? I have purposefully chosen to start an agency (now in its fifth year) where all staff and myself work remotely, out of our homes.

    It keeps overhead costs down and gives us a lot more flexibility when deciding who to hire: we don’t need to limit ourselves to choosing talent who live within commuting distance to a central office.

    Although this article has some truth to it, it erroneously implies that businesses based in home offices are somehow not as professional or successful.

  • I've been a solo-preneur industrial designer since 1995 and I've had far more job security than I ever did working for billion-dollar corporations that randomly lay people off from reorganizations or small companies that try to grow to fast and implode. It is hard work and very scary sometimes, but far more exciting and rewarding than the "Office Space" cubicle life. I know I've grown far more than I would have as an employee, and I'm endlessly motivated by the awareness that the sky is the limit. Busting my ass praying for a ten percent raise each year just doesn't do it for me knowing that I could double my income in a year if I hit on a great idea and see it through.

  • I've been a solo-preneur for a year since leaving 15+ years in corporate. I love what I do AND 15 hour days are common; it's hard work and takes time to gain momentum and cash flow.

    More than anything else, starting a business has been a personal growth journey. I get to define what I want to do and it's up to me when business grows or doesn't. When I procrastinate, I don't get work. When I am afraid to make a call to a potential client, I don't get work. I see all the places where I am afraid, where I usually give up, where I rely on others to make it work for me - all the things that were hidden when what I did was defined by my job description. For me, creating my own business has been a form of personal leadership that's continuously permeating into all areas of my life, including relationships. Easy, no! Fulfilling, yes! Pushing my boundaries and expanding my capacity as a person, absolutely!

    • Irene
  • Same here... HR seems to find no value in my multipourpose skills. Since most companies look for one person to do 1 task. I believe the fact that I can fulfil many roles might seem just too crazy for them.

    I decided to be a Multipurpose, Multicultural and Multilingual Start-up Professional.

  • Marc Bond

    I would quite happily have settled into an employee role, but HR/Personnel departments/employment agencies are so rigid with their requirements, when people apply for positions. More fulfilling going the entrepreneurial route, in the long-run