Once upon a time, nobody could spell the word ‘entrepreneur.’ Business owners were the unicorns in the room of everyone else’s boring day. But then something happened online, and people started getting the idea that they could quit their corporate jobs and start a business on their own. It was awesome. Until these go-getters started writing blogs about it. Soon nobody was safe from being told to follow their dreams and build passionate businesses. The problem? Not many people tell the whole truth. If they do, it’s hidden in the archives of the beginning of their blogs, those amateur, pieced-together Dreamweaver hack jobs that were built on the tears of their night-time bar-tender gigs and broken relationships.
They didn’t mean to mislead us, they just forgot. Probably because starting a business is like giving birth: once it’s over and you have a beautiful new baby in your arms, you suddenly forget the pain of getting there.
After working with entrepreneurs all over the world, I’ve gotten a candid look at what it really takes to build a business. Most entrepreneurs will tell you, outside of their rock-star personal branding, that their success is no fairy tale.
Here Are 8 Myths to Stop Believing About Entrepreneurs:
1. They’re all making millions.
Truth: Most entrepreneurs I know started out making less than $1000/mo. Within the first three years of business, only a few were lucky enough to pay themselves. The most successful entrepreneurs I personally know make $20-40k annually…enough to make a modest, but happy and balanced living.
2. They do it by themselves.
Truth: Many entrepreneurs have angel funders; i.e.: their spouse or their parents. This came as a revelation to me. As a single woman learning from the hard knocks, I realized that a lot of people I admired had either gotten funding from their family and friends or had quite a bit of savings from a previous job to get going. They also had a lot of people helping them out. Whether it was a friend who knew how to code or a connection in a chamber of commerce, they have people pulling for them from everywhere.
3. They’re all really good at technology.
Truth: Smart business owners know when to pass on stuff they don’t know how to do. They’re also often visionaries, with a high-level view of what they want to do without really having the expertise to do all of it. Entrepreneurs must focus on what they’re really good at to build their dream. They hire (or trade services with) people who are excellent at finance, legal and tech so that they don’t miss a beat in constructing their future plans.
4. They didn’t go to college.
Truth: Currently there’s a backlash against higher education. As a person with a lot of educational loans and no end in sight, I get it. But we need to remove ourselves from the thinking that doing it on your own means no school. The successful entrepreneurs I know have a lot of education; with backgrounds in business development, marketing and research from schools all over the world. They’re so into education that they continually take post-grad classes and professional development to get better, get new ideas and to grow.
5. They can work from anywhere.
Truth: The self-starting blogger is a mythic creature that writes amazing posts from the beaches of Costa Rica, the hustle and bustle of the Philippines and the high rises of Dubai. Traveling that much sounds super fun, but smart entrepreneurs are also strategic about their location. The blogger I know in Costa Rica bought property there so that she can work from the coast, the man I read about works in the Philippines has a direct line to cheap labor and manufacturing, and people are just figuring out that Dubai is a hotbed of untapped social potential and funding. Yes, travel can be a big part of living the dream, but those making money doing it have a very specific reason they’re on the road.
6. They don’t have a 9-5.
Truth: Entrepreneurs don’t all hate offices, they just hate somebody else’s office. Some rent shared spaces, have a home office or (sigh) have a sweet room in a beach house somewhere. But that doesn’t mean they don’t keep regular hours. Most entrepreneurs find that organizing a routine, and sticking to it, is a key to success. They schedule meetings, workouts and time off so that they are as productive as possible when they are working. Many even work long hours so that they can take months off at a time. A lot of them work on vacation…which they don’t mind, because they love what they do.
7. It’s easy.
OK, I know you didn’t really believe this one. But with all of the self-help work out there, let’s set this straight. It’s REALLY HARD to start your own business. It’s EVEN HARDER to make money doing it.
8. Entrepreneurs are fearless.
Truth: Entrepreneurs are afraid, a lot of the time. But it’s not about what you’d think. Entrepreneurs vibe on a different level. They’re afraid that if they don’t build their dream, they’ll never be fulfilled. That if they don’t follow their passion, other people won’t get the help and services they need and deserve. That if they don’t take the road less traveled, somebody else will, and that somebody will write blogs from a beach somewhere about their success and will make us all jealous.
Because that kind of success is sweet, but the tears, the fears and the feel of really committing to something that you believe in is real and often painful. But the tasty revelation that you are living the life you want to live feels glorious, and it something you’re definitely allowed to brag about.