Leaving the 9 to 5 hustle behind and becoming your own boss is an appealing idea to many, but few consider the implications of being an entrepreneur. Like any job, being an entrepreneur comes with its ups and downs and there will be problems you must overcome. What’s more, just like certain occupations aren’t suited for everyone, entrepreneurship isn’t a viable option for everyone.
“First off, it’s easy to buy the myth that entrepreneurs have joyous lives, and experiences incredible highs all the time – this is particularly the case if you’re stuck in a job where you have little control over your work, answer to a boss who seems intent on clipping your wings whenever possible, or your company makes a product that you don’t really care for,” career coach Vincent Tuckwood explains. “Beware of a mistaken belief that the grass is greener on the other side.”
Think you would like to become your own boss?
We asked our experts (all of which are entrepreneurs themselves) to share their biggest pros and cons of becoming an entrepreneur.
“I’d say the biggest pro of entrepreneurship is being in control. It begins with having full creative control; that doesn’t mean you don’t get outside perspectives or help, but it does mean not having to compromise if you don’t have to,” explains author and Inc. Magazine columnist Justin Bariso. “Of course, you still have to do things you don’t want at times. But once you’ve built a foundation, and you decide you don’t want to take on a client who’s a jerk, you don’t have to. Or if you want to take the afternoon off to spend time with the family, you can. For me, it’s all about defining priorities. Of course I’m happy to do what I love, but there are other things I love even more.”
“Being an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to guide your own life and truly impact others,” career coach Mary Kruger says. “As a coach I get the honour of inspiring others to reach their potential. With no boss – except me – I have the freedom to move my business into what ever direction I choose. Each day I have huge options as to what I want to do, who I want to impact and what my message will be. It’s amazing.”
“You own your life and you create the life you want. You get the opportunity to put your dream and idea into the world and watch it flourish.The best part about being an entrepreneur is my passion for my vision to connect people. I am creating what I want to see in the world,” career coach Marla J. Williams adds.
Nothing beats being first to the market with an idea. You are always ahead in all phases, your competition lags and the revenue/profit gains are exceptional,” career coach Deb Goldstein says. “So if you have a great idea, do your due diligence to research and market it to get it right and get out there are quickly as you can.”
“A new idea in the marketplace garners a great deal of free PR for your company so play it all. It’s really quite fun,” Deb says. You get a chance to network, growing awareness and creating more opportunities for your business,
“With all the free PR, being invited to present at events and conferences, writing about your idea development reflects highly on your company. If it’s your company – then you are the hero. If it’s within a company, it shines a very bright light on them as being a highly innovative organization,” she adds.
“As your own boss, you get to set the rules, the work schedule, the level of commitment. That can carry a lot of benefits,” explains career coach Kathleen Murray. “You can schedule your day so you can remain open to attend a daughter’s soccer game or volunteer with a favorite charity. Cool, right?”
Kathleen also notes that while creating your own schedule creates a ton of freedom, you must remember to consciously schedule your day and commit to a balance. You are growing a new business and it will need a lot of your time and energy at first, but you will be more productive if you also schedule some downtime to regenerate and regain your focus.
Becoming an entrepreneur means you have to dedicate a ton of time and energy into your business. That means working long, sometimes endless hours, according to Deb Goldstein.
“Sleep! Who needs sleep!?” Deb laughs.
Marla J. agrees. “You are ALWAYS working. There are no breaks. The 9-5 is out the door. If you are not willing to hustle for what you want don’t bother trying to be an entrepreneur. Your time is precious. You will have to say no to people.”
And while creating your own hours is one of the pros of becoming an entrepreneur, Kathleen agreed that it could also be considered a con.
“[Being an entrepreneur] can also leave you always available to work on the business,” Kathleen warns. “You attend the soccer game and then go home and work till midnight. Or you sneak back into your home office after dinner to check a couple things and before you know it, it’s 10pm. The biggest thing to remember is to consciously schedule your day and commit to maintaining balance in your life.”
Like any new product, it takes a while for consumers to trust it and for it to gain traction in the marketplace. Most consumers (a whopping 90% in the US!) rely on reviews to choose products and services, so having a customer base and reviews to back up what you offer is essential.
“At first, your customers will not touch your idea with a ten-foot pole which can cause negative backlash,” Deb explains. “You have to believe and persevere. It’s essential you convince early adopters to give it a try and this could take some time. Once they are in, they become the drivers and revenue will begin to exponentially take off.”
“Income is unstable, you have months where your income soars and months of scarcity,” Mary explains. “I offset this by working a part-time job that provides a steady, known income. Keeping a budget with what you anticipate is your minimum income can help in the harder times.”
Vincent agrees that being broke is something to take into consideration before moving into entrepreneurship. “When you’re your own research and development team, you’re going to have to invest in your own future (despite Silicon Valley lore, very few of us bump into VC firms on a day-to-day basis), and that means you’re going to be spending before money comes in. It takes time to build your audience/customer base, and you don’t make much money while you do. Be ready for it, it’ll take you completely by surprise.”
If you don’t have a business partner and are starting a business on your own, those long hours you spend getting it off the ground will mainly be alone. You only have yourself to rely on and when things don’t go as planned, the burden is your alone to carry.
“About 50% to 70% of small businesses fail in their first 18 months. This is an astounding statistic, largely underpinned by the fact that small business owners, entrepreneurs in our case, carry their burden largely alone—at least during start-up,” Vincent explains. “There is a peculiar attitude of thriving when going it alone that powers successful entrepreneurs.”
Mary agrees. “Isolation can be a reality if you work from home. Some good options to help with being on your own are co-working places where like minded entrepreneurs work in shared office space, getting out to networking groups, speaking engagements and meeting colleagues for lunch.”
“One of the biggest cons to being an entrepreneur is the lack of balance that you once had no longer exists,” explains Wendi Weiner, attorney, Forbes Career Coach and owner of The Writing Guru. “Many of your hobbies take a backseat for awhile as you have to put all of your energy into building your business. That means less time to shop, go to happy hours with friends, and do all of the fun things you take for granted when you are working a standard 9-5 job.
“For me, it was less workouts and more work hours. I gained 20 pounds in the past two years because I gave up running marathons and races, and instead, had to put in the early morning hours to grow my business and serve my clients. It was a tough sacrifice and one that took a great toll on me. The payoff was great in terms of financial gain and business growth, but I learned that it isn’t good for my personal health. So, I have learned the hard way, and I am now back to dedicating myself to workouts as I joined Orange Theory Fitness in the last month to get myself into shape again. You take for granted the ability to work from your pajamas as an entrepreneur rather than getting dressed up as I did daily in my legal career. I’m learning to stop working earlier in the evenings and taking a break on the weekends, and it is proving to work well.”
“If you lack self-discipline, being an entrepreneur is going to be particularly challenging for you. And the main reason for that is there is no one managing you but you,” Kathleen explains. “If you struggle with time management, procrastination or being organized, it can be tough to be running things yourself. The positives of being your own boss are obvious. You call the shots. You get to make the rules. So enjoy that freedom but practice the discipline you need to run a successful business. And understand where your “zone of genius” lies and focus on those things. The rest, contract it out, hire a team or get support.”
As mentioned, up to 70% of small business fail within the first 18 months, so the chance of your business succeeding (at least the first time around) are slim. That isn’t meant to discourage you—some of the most successful people in the world have failed at some point—but prepare you for the possibility. Being able to learn from yours mistakes when things don’t work and pick back up again is necessary when you become an entrepreneur.
“Believe it or not, when employed by a large company, it’s fairly easy to fail regularly and still get paid.,” Vincent explains. “When you’re out on your own, that just isn’t the case. Entrepreneurs know that the buck literally stops with them – so need to be ready for a strong dose of real-life accountability.”
Kristen is the editor and community manager at Noomii.com and the Noomii Career Blog. Kristen's desire to ask questions and share information with others led her to pursue journalism. While she has worked at various publications, covering everything from municipal politics to local restaurants, it was her love of self-improvement and sharing inspiration with others that made Noomii the perfect fit. Connect with Kristen on Twitter and LinkedIn.