Things Entrepreneurs Won’t Say Out Loud
Like so many writers-to-be, I came into the content industry with an abundance of naive assumptions about what it really meant to work from home. Throughout social media especially, there is an inescapable narrative that working for yourself will magically set you free. You’ll suddenly become an “influencer,” flying around in your private jet, to your private island, doing super private rich people things.
I certainly never expected to own a jet within the first week, or ever really.
My idea of entrepreneurship wasn’t quite that glamorous in the first place. I just want what most people want, a comfortable life where my bills are paid. I want to be able to afford an MRI for the back pain that’s plagued my life since I was 22. I want to get this wisdom tooth yanked, I want to be able to spoil my loved ones. I want to rescue street dogs and pay for their medical bills.
Things didn’t quite turn out as I’d expected, and there are so many things I would’ve done differently in the beginning. You don’t have to learn the hard way though…you can just learn from my mistakes instead.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
I remember it so clearly.
I was working multiple positions in a sushi-train bar at the mall. The money was terrible, the hours sucked, and my red-faced, shiny bald-headed boss was going off.
Around this time, I was picking up writing jobs left and right.
I really couldn’t hear what he was saying, because all I could hear was…
“Do I REALLY need this job?”
“I could be at home. Writing.”
“I’m so sick of this place…”
“Man this guy’s an asshole.”
So, I took off my apron, let him know I’d be back Friday for my check, and I left.
Now, if you’ve got someone up in your face like I did, I’m all for quitting your job IF you have a fall-back plan. I mean, I certainly wasn’t the first employee to give that soul-sucking place the finger and I surely wouldn’t be the last.
Friends, I know you don’t want to hear this, but freelance writing is not a fall-back plan. It’s extremely risky, and if you’re unable to maintain steady clientele you’ll find yourself in a financial bind very quickly.
As a beginner freelancer with zero prior experience, I got lucky and pulled in some steady income for about a month. That quickly dissipated when projects dried up. With limited skills and limited knowledge, I was unable to reach the higher paying clients.
If you truly, truly hate where you are right now, get another part-time job at the very least. That way, when projects become scarce (you will have these days) you’re not burning through your savings account to make ends meet.
Seeing as how coronavirus has a lot of us stuck at home anyway, it’s a good time to look for remote opportunities. Once COVID-19 is no longer an issue, we may be competing for work against Artificial Intelligence sometime within the next 5 years.
Motivation Isn’t Enough
I’m glad that you’re determined to venture out and do your own thing, but motivation is a feeling that only lasts until circumstances become difficult. For example, I think we can all agree that athletes love their job. The money is obviously great, and they’ve grown up with love for the game itself.
Discipline is a muscle that weakens when neglected.
Athletes have their bad days too though, and there are plenty of times when the greatest bodybuilders, swimmers, and fighters have wanted to just chill. They get sick of waking up at 5AM, running everyday, and eating protein shakes for breakfast every damn morning just like we do.
The difference between the haves and the have-nots are those who keep pushing even when they don’t want to anymore. Discipline is a muscle that weakens when neglected. It is a habit that’s difficult to build and easy to break.
Writers like Shannon Ashley , Shaunta Grimes, Ryan Fan, and Aamir Kamal 🚀🚀🚀 are the athletes of our little world, Medium. No matter what kind of mood they’re in, they show up for work every day. Whether they publish daily or once a week, you can bet that there is an intentional, regular thought process happening behind closed doors. Each of these writers come from completely unique backgrounds, some single parents, some working part-time jobs, some with entire business ventures outside of Medium.
Entrepreneurship requires a lot of self-honesty, life isn’t always like the warm and fuzzy positivity memes that we like to see on Instagram. Sometimes you’ve just got to push yourself, whether you feel positive about it or not.
You Need a Valuable Fall-Back Skill
Before I dive into this, I want to make it clear that I am not devaluing or discouraging anyone from pursuing whatever it is that makes them happy. However, the value of a skill and the money that comes with it can decline based on market saturation and the overall health of our economy.
In other words, what does the competition look like? How many businesses or individuals are offering the same services, but for a cheaper price? How will the COVID-19 pandemic affect your ability to work?
What with some of us being “essential” and “non-essential” during this economically catastrophic time, it’s easy to see where work is and isn’t available.
I’ve lived in Houston for nearly a decade. No matter what part of this massive city you end up in, you can walk for 5 miles in any direction and find about 20 different nail or hair salons within radius. If you plan on being a nail tech out here, you better have a big list of friends who support you or have some amazing skills that’ll help you get hired in a shop.
Since Houston’s shutdown back in March, these types of businesses have lost a fortune. Things haven’t improved much, and to be honest, it’s scary to think that they’re only getting worse.
I’m not saying you need to go and blow the last of your savings on a certification. However, you should take whatever income you are able to set aside outside of savings and invest in some personal development.
I like blogging just like you do, but I haven’t been able to get anywhere near a full-time income with it just yet. It definitely helps to pick up a project here and there, but that’s not going to keep a roof over your head or food in your belly.
In the meantime, I’m looking into remote education for remote work, because we can’t rely on a “wait and see” method anymore. Get ahead of the game and look into skills like transcription, bookkeeping, and data entry. Hell, learn a second language. Now more than ever, you’ve got to set yourself apart from the competitor.
Coding and computer science are both valuable writing topics on Medium and valuable skills to have because technology is ever-evolving, and there will never be a time when a country-wide lock down prevents you from being able to code.
I know that’s a lot to digest, but I think you get the gist.
There’s a Learning Curve…A Tremendous Curve. YUGE.
To be 100% honest, I completely understand why people are satisfied with salary jobs within their company. Someone else determines their salary, their schedule, and the taxes are all done for them. All they’ve got to do is show up and do what’s asked. Working within an established business also means that you don’t have to go out and find the customers, they’re already coming to you.
Being an entrepreneur entails…
- Building an email list, or an audience at the very least. You have to go out and find clients, even in the less saturated markets if you’re just starting out.
- Figuring out taxes. GOOD LUCK, it’s a YUGE pain in the ass. All I can say is that you should hire someone, and I certainly wish I’d known how the hell all this worked in the first place. WHY aren’t taxes a high school course?!
- Establishing your value. When you get used to someone telling you you’re only worth $10, $13, $15, etc. your entire life, it’s easy to start believing it. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re worth. Some people may not be willing, or may not have the money to pay what you’re charging, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t.
- Forming a team. Once your business reaches a certain level, you’re going to need help. Finding trustworthy, accountable partners is a difficult thing to do and takes time. The solo-preneur life is not sustainable. Shit, do you really think Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Warren Buffet built an empire alone? Ha.
As easy as your favorite online influencer tries to make it appear, entrepreneurship is no walk in the park. That mini-clip of some dude who “invests in bitcoin” while he hangs out in a pool that overhangs the ocean with 2020’s National Twerk Team winners just doesn’t align with reality.
It takes practice.
Sometimes, it’s defeating.
Private islands are also very expensive.
But if you want one, honey…don’t let me stop you.