7 Bits of Wise Career Advice That Don't Apply to Entrepreneurs

What makes sense when you're climbing the ladder doesn't apply when you're building your own ladder.

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By John Rampton • Jan 13, 2017

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Even in this changing workforce, being an entrepreneur -- for better or for worse -- just isn't like other jobs. When you are your own boss, and your work is your dream idea, expecting a work-life balance or a stable paycheck is a far-off fantasy.

I've been an entrepreneur for years and found that the "typical work day" is not an option. I have to out-work, out-think and out-perform everyone else to have success. This comes with many perks but also many drawbacks.

If you are considering starting your own company, expect these standard rules of business and work to go right out the door when you start.

1. Strive for a healthy work-life balance.

A 2013 report from the American Psychological Association reveals that a little more than half of employed adults check work-related messages over the weekend, after work hours on weekdays, on sick leave, and even over vacation. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 34 percent of employed persons work at least one weekend day, no matter the job.

However, these statistics don't consider the average experience of entrepreneurs, who hold no such set work hours because the expectation is that they are constantly working. Entrepreneurs are working when they are completing tasks that look like work, like filing grants and meeting with investors; they are working at events (after all, playtime shouldn't require a pocketful of business cards, no matter how many cocktails are involved).

Even when entrepreneurs are reclining on the couch, seemingly doing nothing at all, they are generating ideas or worrying about how to fix the mountain of problems that come with starting a new venture.

2. Don't waste company time on social media.

While many of us sneak some time from our lunch hours to zen out to cat videos, for the average entrepreneur, social networking is still networking. Whether it's connecting with VC's on LinkedIn, posting questions on Facebook groups for entrepreneurs, reaching out to industry thought-leaders and respected bloggers, setting up meet-up events or philosophizing on the current climate of entrepreneurship through hashtag-laden tweets, social media has, for better or for worse, become another tool through which one can get their product out.

Related: Stop Wasting Time, Especially When It Comes to Social Media

3. Just do the job you're good at.

A decreasing number of jobs these days actually reflect the job description: while accountants will forever be valued as accountants, content editors have to make adjustments to their skills to encompass social media managing, some video-editing and light programming.

But entrepreneurs simply don't have one job: they are office managers, business writers, PR reps, social media mavens, innovators, consultants and everything else that might come up. Nobody is ever going to tell an entrepreneur that they have "one job to do" - they have to do almost every job.

Currently there are 53 million freelancers in the US. Most of them are earning extra income on the side and doing what they are good at. Some are building and starting bigger businesses. What they all have in common is they all are doing what they are good at (and hopefully enjoy). This doesn't mean that you'll enjoy all aspects of your business, cause when you're a smaller business owner there will be many things you don't enjoy doing but have to do.

4. The boss is always right.

Most people work for a supervisor under the assumption that their job is secure and the boss has all the answers to keeping the company afloat. However, no one (except maybe investors) is more aware of a leader's fallibility than an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs, especially in the early stages of a company, are not only totally susceptible to failure, but they are lauded for failing they get back up and trying new things. "Move fast and break things", "Fail Harder", "Failure is just another stepping stone to success" and "If you haven't failed, you're not trying hard enough" are common mantras among those in the tech community.

As an entrepreneur, a supervisor and a leader, the key is to not pressure yourself to be right all the time, it's to make measured mistakes that help you get to where you need to go.

5. Keep your head down and don't make waves.

Entrepreneurship these days is all about making waves, striking out on your own, and taking on the industry. The best ideas are the ones that take a pre-existing task and make it easier, more efficient or cheaper. An idea that doesn't challenge the former gatekeepers of an industry is unlikely to achieve liftoff.

Maybe employees are reluctant to step outside the box and create a scene, but entrepreneurs have to be willing to step up their game, roll out some big ideas and make some waves.

6. Chase the money.

Those who are climbing the corporate ladder naturally measure their professional progress by the size of their pay check. After all, common sense dictates that our incomes should be commensurate to our success. And for the most part, this is also true for entrepreneurs.

However, it's still an industry where one has to put up a huge amount of personal capital to fund their companies, hustle for VC attention, but then really think over what they're willing to compromise in order to get funded. Unless you are able to make a stable return on your own by selling your services right away, you'll be finding that your piece of the proverbial pie (that is, equity of the company you founded) will shrink the more money you have, even if that pie is much bigger than what you started with. As an entrepreneur, you have to remember that you're not necessarily chasing the money, you're chasing your dream.

7. Hard work equals job security.

Entrepreneurs will work hard, but if they were after job security, they would have picked another industry. Unlike most workers, for an entrepreneur what matters is results, not how much hard work they put in. Sometimes all the best intentions and hard work can't save a company, and that is just the way it goes. However, that also makes success that much sweeter.

Entrepreneurs are used to working hard. They don't play by the same rules as other workers, which can make transitioning between being a corporate bee and a business owner/freelancer difficult.

Related: Leaving a Long-Term Job Takes Courage, Especially If You're a Woman

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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