Are You an Entrepreneur? 4 Questions Will Help You Find Out. These criteria separate entrepreneurs from small-business owners, and yes, there is a difference.

By Allison Engel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everywhere you look, young, modern thought-leaders are cashing-in on the entrepreneurial lifestyle. They've got the flashy headlines, the lucrative funding -- even their own exclusive dating websites. Society is worshipping at the altar of venture capitalism and extolling open-concept office spaces. And "entrepreneur" has become a trendy buzzword.

Related: What Determines the Winners and Losers in Entrepreneurship?

But the problem is, once everyone embraces that buzzword, once everyone becomes an entrepreneur, will that once distinguished title lose its meaning?

Who qualifies?

The biggest thing that separates entrepreneurs from everyone else is that they tend to build new ideas in relatively unchartered territories, in order to target a big exit.

Looking deeper, you can drill down to three other main differences between entrepreneurs and mainstream small business owners:

  • Funding: Entrepreneurs tend to take on outside capital to grow their businesses. This may be in the form of VC funding, crowd-funding, microloans or angel investors.
  • Strategy: A major staple of entrepreneurship is having an exit strategy for your business. Entrepreneurs usually aren't in it for the long haul. They're trendsetters who cash-in on innovation, then move on to the next big thing.
  • Tech: Entrepreneurs tend to have inherently strong tech backbones. They're always searching for tech tools to make their ideas run more efficiently and lucratively.

These differences are far from comprehensive and still leave a lot of gray area in this discussion. If you're still unsure whether you're an entrepreneur, let's delve even deeper.

Still unclear? Ask yourself these questions.

The following four questions should help you sort this debate once and for all:

1. Are you a risk-taker?

One of the most distinguishing qualities of entrepreneurs is their tolerance to risk. Where other people see volatile, scary situations, entrepreneurs see opportunities and possibilities. Their clear-eyed vision of the future allows them to take what appear to be crazy risks without batting an eyelash.

2. How do you feel about personal development?

Entrepreneurs are highly focused on learning everything they can about their industries. They're always "on," consuming information and learning, just for the sake of learning.

3. What happens when someone tells you "no"?

"No" doesn't always mean "no" for entrepreneurs. To them, "no" means they need to more expertly hone their pitch and try again. This tireless, persistent approach of entrepreneurs is what brings them a network of doggedly supportive connections and billions of dollars in funding every year.

Related: What Young People Must Know About Entrepreneurship

4. How do you spend your downtime?

If you're an entrepreneur, this is actually a trick question because you don't have any downtime. There's no such thing as "work-life balance"; everything bleeds together because your entire life revolves around both your business and your industry.

The buzzword pendulum always swings back the other way, however. At some point soon, the term "entrepreneur" will become stigmatized, and a new word will emerge to take its place. But what a pity that will be for the hard-working wunderkinds who have based their entire professional pursuits around achieving "entrepreneurial status."

Related: 5 Key Characteristics Every Entrepreneur Should Have

Allison Engel

Head of Global Marketing and Operations for Dell for Entrepreneurs

Allison Conkright Engel leads global marketing and operations for Dell for Entrepreneurs. Prior to Dell, Allison worked for various startups, where she led their Southwest expansion efforts. She has more than 15 years of experience in media and marketing and has worked for several iconic brands. 

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