Is Entrepreneurship For You?

I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I was in grade school. I grew up in a family-owned business so the notion of “working for myself” was both familiar and appealing. For years I dabbled in various entrepreneurial ventures, primarily freelance writing which provided a very nice “second income” while I worked in traditional corporate environments. And, for the past 5.5 years I’ve been “on my own” and I can’t imagine ever going back to a “real job.”

Entrepreneurship is freeing primarily due to the sense of personal control it offers.  While I have certainly found that I work more hours than I did before (and I have always worked a lot of hours, even while traditionally employed), my time can be more flexible. So, if I choose to work the weekend and take a day off during the week I can–it’s up to me. If I choose to get up early and quite early, I can, etc. I’ve also been able, as my business has matured and become more successful, to be selective in terms of the clients and projects I take on, which can be freeing.

I’ve also come to experience and observe the potential impact of entrepreneurship on society as a whole. After all, wasn’t every business once an entrepreneurial venture?  I love the new Dell Beginnings commercial that shows the settings where some major companies got their beginnings — garages, diners, etc. Entrepreneurship is very much about making a difference and that is certainly appealing.

In my case, while I expect my business to continue to grow in terms of clients, projects, revenue, etc., I don’t envision a time (although I could be wrong…) where I need to move out of my beginnings — my loft office in my home — to another office setting.  Many of my clients are regional and national and I meet with those that are local at their offices or other locations. I work with freelancers, interns and contractors remotely.

What do you need to be a successful entrepreneur? I think the most important things you need are a product and/or service that addresses some need that a target audience either currently has, or that you can readily convince them they should have. And, you need to maintain an ongoing awareness of the needs of your target audience–it’s not about what you have to sell, but about what they want to buy! Beyond that I think you need to have a clear focus about your mission/vision — what it is you exist to do, who you will serve, and how, and enough humility to recognize that you can’t/shouldn’t do it all and when you should turn to others to assist you so that you can focus on your core competencies.

There’s stress, of course. Not all projects go as expected. Not all clients are easy to deal with. Business development is–or should be–a constant. But, frankly, even “traditional jobs” often fail to meet expectations, can be unpredictable, and often involve working with challenging people. So, at least to me, the benefits of being on my own far outweigh working full-time for a single organization. In fact, someone asked me recently what I liked most about running my own business and my answer was: the variety.

More than the freedom, more than the flexibility, I really like that I’m not tied down to any one organization or client and that I have the ability to learn about a wide range of business practices  that I can then, of course, apply to my work with other clients.

All in all, it’s not a bad gig!


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