10 Things You Should Know Before Uprooting Your Life To Become An Entrepreneur
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Through my line of work, whether at Sail, as a magazine and a publishing house, or through teaching at a university, I meet a lot of youngsters who tell me they want to become entrepreneurs. At times, I feel like they take that word rather lightly. I’ve heard this from some who haven’t yet graduated from their universities, and I’ve heard it from some who have worked a few years and now plan to quit their jobs for this new career trajectory- but at such instances, I often wonder: do they really know what they’re getting themselves into?
Of course, I did ask the ones that came my way about why they want to be entrepreneurs, and the answers were amusing at times, because some of them implied a utopian view of what entrepreneurship is. I say “some,” because there were the ones whom I could see excelling at being entrepreneurs, well, others who I felt were heading toward self-destruction. Here are a few of the responses I’ve got:
- “I want to be my own boss.”
- “I don’t want to wake up early every day.”
- “I want to make a lot of money.”
And the list goes on! In such scenarios, I always try my best to make time for them and advise them on what to actually expect as an entrepreneur, because as much as we like to believe sometimes that all of us can run businesses, but in reality, just like we have different personality traits, some of those traits as well define whether we’d be better off as a business owner, or as an employee. Of course, such definitions are not set in stone: it’s important to remember that different stages in your life can have you exhibiting different characteristics: you can be a better employee at some stage in your life, and you could be a better business owner in another stage in your life. Neither is strictly better than the other, but you have to know what you’re getting into.
So, here’s what I tell the youth when I discuss entrepreneurship with them:
1. Being your own boss is really not all that great You will be your own boss while running your business, but if you think this means you’ll work less because no one is bossing you around, then you’re sorely mistaken. You’ll end up working way beyond any working hours, and through weekends as well. At times, if you have suppliers who live in a different time zone, you’ll even put alarms in the middle of the night to wake up to be able to communicate with them and get quick responses. The only difference here is that you’ll be working on projects (and in an industry) that you love.
2. Entrepreneurship is not a joy ride No matter how much you like your business’ industry, don’t think it will all be pleasant. You will be doing some things that you won’t enjoy, whether clerical tasks, bookkeeping tasks, project pitching, meetings, and the list goes on. Yes, you’ll eventually hire people to do that for you, but while you’re not making enough money yet, you will be doing all that.
3. Revenue (often) takes a long time to come in Making money isn’t automatic while running a business, and it surely doesn’t happen immediately. While being an employee means you get a steady fixed salary on a monthly basis (even when you’ve been taking it slow and not bothered with the big projects), when running your business, you’ll be hustling for every dirham that comes to your account, and from whatever you make, there will be so many operational expenses you have to pay off before actually enjoying any of the remaining revenue.
4. Do remember to account for your existing lifestyle If you’re supporting your family, live on your own, or have loans, do not quit your job to become an entrepreneur without really, really thinking it through. Think a hundred times before you take that step. You can try to start your business on the side while you are still working, so as to ensure that you start making a little bit of money, before you take that leap of no steady salary for a while. At the same time, if you are going to take this leap soon, start cutting down on your lifestyle while you are still employed, and try to save as much money as possible to survive the early phase of your business.
Related: The Truth About Entrepreneurship
5. Research, and research some more You will be blind towards competitors at first, and you might like to believe that your business idea is so unheard of and unique. But chances are, there are other businesses who are doing it in other countries, or at least doing similar concepts but in different industries. Learn from their stories, mistakes, and business models. Don’t start from scratch when you can stand on a solid foundation by those who preceded you, whether it’s learning about how consumers behave towards a certain industry, business models that can’t work in this industry, new technologies that could save you some capital, or new services that can be used instead of investing in existing infrastructure. Benchmarking, research, and knowledge sharing are the keys here.
6. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid Don’t become an entrepreneur because it’s a cool trend. Become one because you’re so passionate about a certain industry that you just can’t get enough of it, or because you truly believe in this industry, and want to make a difference.
7. Find yourself Learn about yourself before you take the step. Do you have the self-discipline and self-motivation to continue doing a job no one is following up with you on, and one that no one is paying you directly for? And remember, you know yourself, no matter how much you might like to pretend otherwise. If you don’t think you have it in you, don’t do it. Or if you must, do it on the side of your job- don’t quit till your commitment to entrepreneurship is stronger.
8. Get help Make use of a life coach or a business coach to help you stay focused, face hurdles, and tell you what you might not want to hear at tough times. Coaches can do wonders!
9. Find your mentors Mentors don’t have to meet you regularly, nor do they have to be a single person. They are the people you look up to in your field who would answer your call or message when you are looking for advice, and they will share their experience and advice without any reservations. But the important thing here is: don’t wait for mentors to come to you. You need to articulate your questions, go up to them, and, well, ask.
10. Wanting to give up is part of the process You will want to quit a million times across the course of your business. Your project pitches will be rejected another million times. Don’t let that stop you. Learn why are the clients rejecting your pitch, adjust, and try again.