5 Things No One Tells You About Working at a Startup

Are you ready to embrace the unknown and face failure on a daily basis -- all on a few hours of sleep a day?

learn more about Victoria Cairl

By Victoria Cairl

Hero Images | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I've been working at a startup now for nearly 10 months. This is a long enough span of time to carry and birth a child, and in many ways, it feels just like that. You are creating and co-parenting a company and that's both amazing and terrifying.

I never experienced anything like working at a startup. There is a certain rush you get in this world and I can understand how people may get addicted to it. But there are things I wish someone had told me before I jumped in, so now I am here to tell you the inside scoop:

Related: 10 Books Every Leader Should Read to Be Successful

1. Say goodbye to sleep.

I don't sleep anymore. Well, I do engage in the act of sleeping but I dream about work and I have nightmares about work. I now keep a notebook by my bed in case I wake up with a great idea or think of a way to solve a problem. I think the only thing that keeps me on my feet during the day is pure adrenaline.

2. Get ready to be a nomad.

Our office is small and cramped, and we share an open space with some other startups. I gave up my desk about a month ago. I am "free range," which at first is frustrating when you must carry your laptop and bag around all day, but then is oddly freeing when you suddenly realize anywhere can be your office. I've embraced it.

Related: 50 Rules for Being a Great Leader

3. Learn to fail fast and move on.

I am afraid of failure, but I am learning quickly to get over that. We launch a thousand ships daily, and sadly many will sink. I am the type of person to obsess over my mistakes, but here in startup land, I don't have the time to dwell. A boss once told me, "May all of your mistakes be little mistakes you can learn from." That's what I am trying to do now. Make sure my mistakes don't cost the company too much money and make sure the solutions I find are invaluable.

4. Ever ride a roller coaster? It's like that emotionally.

No day is the same and every day has its ups and downs. You learn to weather the storm, but like New England weather, my mood or outlook can change in a minute. As soon as we work on one idea, we suddenly need to learn to pivot. The speed and intensity can take a toll. There's rarely time to rest and reflect. We just keep moving and if you don't figure out self-care, you will crash.

Related: Inspirational Quotes From 100 Famous Business Leaders (Infographic)

5. In a minute, you can move mountains.

I have never accomplished more in such a short time span in my life. From idea to execution, it's been amazing what we have been able to do. Despite all the exhaustion and frustration, I know we are onto something.

If you are to be successful, you need to know yourself. Can you live with such constant influx and uncertainty?

Startup life may not be for everyone. It's been a challenge for me to adjust to it. But, for now, I can't imagine life any other way.

Working at a startup isn't about knowing the future, it's about creating it.

Related video: How to Go From Starving Side Hustler to Success

Victoria Cairl

VP of Business Development at Show-Score

Victoria Cairl writes about women and work. She's is the VP of Business Development at Show-Score, having previously worked at Lincoln Center, The Met Museum and Disney Theatrical.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

The Dark Side of Pay Transparency — And What to Do If You Find Out You're Being Underpaid
Thinking of a Career Change? Here Are 4 Steps You Can Take to Get There.
A Founder Who Bootstrapped Her Jewelry Business With Just $1,000 Now Sees 7-Figure Revenue Because She Knew Something About Her Customers Nobody Else Did
Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Law
Business News

A Scammer Posing as Elon Musk Tricked a Florida Principal into Sending $100K in School Funds: 'I Fell for a Scam'

Dr. Jan McGee has since resigned as principal of Burns Science and Technology Charter in Oak Hill, Florida.


Streaming TV Is the Future of Advertising — Without Breaking the Bank

Today's consumers expect personal, impactful ads. There's an advertising method that can get you there for half the price, making it the next frontier in digital advertising.

Business News

'Crying Northwestern Kid' Turned His Viral Fan Moment Into a Successful Harvard Admissions Essay. He Says the Experience Taught Him About Empathy.

Six years ago, Phillips was watching No. 8 Northwestern take on No. 1 Gonzaga during March Madness when he became a meme.

Starting a Business

90% of Online Businesses Fail in Just 4 Months. You Can Avoid the Same Fate By Using These Strategies.

It's not catastrophizing when we think about potential failure; it's in fact a chance for any business to precisely see any outcome and prepare in advance.