Since I began speaking to groups, I’ve spoken to thousands of young people and many of them say they want to own their own business one day. After doing some probing, I find that most think this will free them from having to work for anyone, or have a boss. Sorry to burst your bubbles but I’m going to take a phrase that one of my big brothers said to me regularly when I was given the opportunity to become a member of our fraternity: “It gets a lot worse.”
Now, like joining the fraternity, the benefits to owning your own business are very visible. But what you don’t see is the grunt work that goes into it. I wrote in a post quite some time ago that “No one sees a brand being made.” And it’s true. As you’re developing your brand, you are going to have days that make you want to give up. And one major aspect of those days are going to be those bosses you thought you wouldn’t have. Yes, I said it: bosses. Another word we like to use for them is “clients.”
When you work for yourself (at least at the beginning), you don’t set your hours. Your hours are “I’m going to be up until I get this project done for the client.” If you’re a coffee drinker, invest in a reliable but inexpensive coffee machine and some good creamers (I suggest Coffee Mate’s Pumpkin Spice during the autumn). If not, fruit also helps me stay up.
When you work for yourself, you don’t get paid hourly. You take on a project with the assumption that it will take x-amount of hours and you base your rate on that. But then you find out that you must multiply that x by y because of unforeseen complications which you did not factor into your already-negotiated amount. So, I would recommend charging a rate that is fair but that you’ll be comfortable with if you have to put in a couple extra hours of unexpected work. At the onset of your entrepreneurial career, you’re likely low-balling your prices anyway so it is alright to inflate them a bit. You’ll still be far under where you should be for the quality of work you’ll be doing (I hope).
When you work for yourself, you are your support system. You can’t go to human resources and say “My boss is a pompus, incompotent nincompoop.” You know why? Because, once again, your bosses are your clients and to call them that would be to burn a bridge. Whether you like working with them or not, you have to give your all to the work you’re doing for them. Word of mouth always spreads. If it’s good, it spreads slow. But if it’s bad, sooner than later, you’ll know. (I’m trade marking that so don’t even try it). And, if you’re doing great work, eventually you’ll be able to turn bad business down. Not only are you HR, you’re the accounting, marketing, and adminstrative departments. Shoot, now that I think about it, I’m my own intern too. This means you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and wear many hats at all times. Sure, your family and friends will support you when they can (quick thank you to my best friend/girlfriend for being the proofreader of my blog and catching typos from time to time), but it’s not their responsibility to push your business. It’s yours and yours alone.
When you work for yourself, especially if you’re testing out the waters and haven’t put in your government paperwork yet, you are fully liable. Be sure that you are not putting out anything that will land you in a legal bind. Everything can be taken from you. For instance, if I were building someone’s résumé and lied on it, that lie could result in him losing his job. He could, in turn, take me to court, requesting that I pay 5 years of his projected salary. So, whereas I encourage you to act with integrity at all times, especially do so while your earnings are attached to your personal bank account.
When you work for yourself, you will fail. But know that failing does not make you a failure. The person who succeeded only succeeded because, after falling, he got back up. You may fall only once and, if that’s the case, I’m happy for you. But most of us fall over and over before we really get our bearings. And, really, what makes a great story: A kid who was born knowing he will inherit the rights to his family’s company at the age of 18 or the seemingly average Joe who broke through barriers to realize his dream?
I started this post out and, initially, it was titled “The Entrepreneur’s Boss,” because I wanted to focus in on the fact that your clients are truly your bosses. But there are so many other misconceptions that I had to redirect the focus. And I don’t want this to deter anyone from being an entrepreneur. Please keep going after your dreams. But know that it’s hard and that the character you’re building right now by enduring hardships are going to put you in a position to appreciate your successes.
And he was right. It did get a lot worse… until it got ten times better. Don’t give up.