The moment you step off the ledge and actually dive into the world of entrepreneurship is breathtaking. Anxiety, excitement and potential all come together to form a unique mental buzz. But, once the dust settles, the reality that 90 percent of startups fail begins to settle in. You’re up against it. And the biggest obstacle to financial freedom and success is the person staring back at you in the mirror.
Below are five challenges I’ve personally faced -- and overcome. The struggle is ongoing, but the tactics I outline will help you improve the odds of success.
1. Personal accountability.
When you leave the corporate world, you’re leaving behind the annoying boss and coworkers. But, there’s one problem. They did something, whether by design or by accident, that helped you become the best version of yourself. Other people held you accountable.
As an entrepreneur, you have to hold yourself accountable. That’s easier said than done. To hold myself accountable, I:
- Track my time spent on every major task I complete throughout the day. Knowing there’s a clock ticking forces me to be more efficient.
- Communicate my goals to friends and family. When I see or talk to them, there’s always the dreaded question: How did you do on making XYZ happen?
- Create prioritized task lists. If something takes less than 5 minutes, I just take care of it. But, if it requires more of a time commitment, it goes on a list.
2. Finding time to stay fit and healthy.
Every day, no matter what, I prioritize time to workout and eat healthily. An hour of cardio in the morning, with coffee and oatmeal (fruit mixed in) for breakfast sets the foundation for a productive, stress-busting day. I’ve found that the more physically fit I am, the more mental endurance I have. Josh Steimle wrote about this in a fantastic article covering the importance of making exercise a priority.
3. Getting that first client.
Creating a fine-tuned entrepreneurial machine involves eating healthy, working out and prioritizing your assignments effectively. But, the most critical ingredient is a client. To launch my freelancing business, I started by:
- Creating a verifiable track-record on UpWork. Client reviews and third-party endorsements on a public profile gave me credibility.
- Accepting low-quality work in return for building a track-record.
- Optimizing my LinkedIn and other social media profiles to highlight the skills and expertise I could offer the marketplace.
- Attending local networking events. Warning -- if the “organization” behind the event is difficult to verify online, it might be a multi-level marketing pitch. Avoid these time sucks at all costs.
4. Avoiding or treating substance abuse.
Another thing to avoid at all costs is the temptation to socially isolate yourself so you can focus on your business. This might sound like a great way to work longer hours and earn extra money, but it’s a dangerous lifestyle.
Isolation is the breeding ground for mental health issues, like depression. I had a colleague that countered the effects of depression by self-medicating -- usually with alcohol, Adderall or prescription pain meds. His journey to beat alcoholism took a major toll on his business.
If you find yourself beginning to rely on alcohol or other mood-altering substances to get through the day, find a treatment program. Nobody has to know, and you’ll avoid the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Going “cold turkey” didn’t work for my friend. Instead, admitting he had a problem (first, by sharing it with me) and seeking treatment allowed him to keep his business and regain a functional lifestyle.
5. Developing quality client relationships.
Finally, as you figure out the formula for success that works best for you, it’s time to focus your efforts on building quality client relationships. This means finding customers that really value what they do, both monetarily and in the way they interact with you. My favorite clients are people I can turn to for mentorship. They usually know more than me about their field, and every conversation has a takeaway that allows me to expand my horizons.
The best clients:
- Pay their bill on time.
- Pay a fair wage.
- Provide ongoing work.
- Have the heart of a teacher; because if they can help you grow, they get a better quality product without having to find another source.
Everyone’s journey into entrepreneurship is different. But, if you can focus your efforts on the things that really matter, you’ll enjoy a higher chance of success. And if you fail -- I have many times -- get back up and keep moving. Learn from the failures of the past and apply those lessons in your future.
The only person that can truly stop you from achieving your dreams is staring back at you in the mirror.