The 8 hard things about entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship has a lot of appeal. You’re your own boss, you can work whenever you want and the hourly rates seem outrageously high.
However, when you dive in, you’ll soon realise, that some things aren’t as rosy.
1. Getting great at the craft.
You might think that what you offer now is a good product. That your work is top notch. Or that the industry standard you employ is the only way you can offer it and aren’t a problem.
But does the client agree? Does she absolutely love it? Is she fork over the money to allow you to spend the time? Is she talking about it to her friends?
And getting better requires you to constantly admit that you’re not perfect yet. Doubt might creep in. “Who are you to claim that you can deliver?”
Is the work at a 10? Imagine what a 10 would look like when your current level is actually only at 40% at what it could be. Imagine how good it could become. Isn’t that exciting?
As an entrepreneur, you wear two hats. The hat of the craftsman, and the hat of the businessman. It’s tempting to look for success in smarter tactics, shortcuts, the latest tool. But the secret to success is not there.
Sure, try to find the right words and timing for your social media posts, try the new marketing tactics. BUT, it’s can’t replace the work! The work needs to always be top notch for the clients you serve.
And, improving the product and your craft is also the easiest place to hide from the next hard things.
2. Getting ok with selling your work
You might feel weird charging money for your work. It’s something you enjoy doing. You’d do it for free if they let you.
You take your craft for granted. “Well everybody could do it.” But, it’s not normal to be that good at it! You’re a freak, in a good way!
You’d never pay that much for it yourself. But, remember you’re not selling to yourself. Your story about money is different from theirs. If you’ve picked your clients right and do good work for them, your work is worth more to them. It’s a bargain for the value you deliver.
In marketing your work, you might feel obnoxious, spammy, begging, asking.
However, it’s not them doing you a favor by hiring you. When you deliver more value than you charge, it’s the other way around. You’re a bargain! You’re doing your potential clients a favor by letting them know about the opportunity!
What’s holding you back in throwing your name out there? To say what you’re about, what it is you offer. To own your skills and to say what you really believe the effect of your work can be? Remember that you miss any time you don’t shoot.
3. Being ok with not being for everyone
It feels scary because it seems to limit your business. But it’s the other way around. Something that’s meant for everyone becomes mediocre. To suit everyone’s needs, it becomes suitable. So, how can you make something remarkable when it’s for everyone?
And how can you possibly share a message and build up your marketing in a way that it’s understood well by everyone? It needs to hit home for your potential clients. Everything that you include for different people muddies that message. It compromises it by making it unnecessarily convoluted.
And, you only need a few a few clients to get enough business for yourself. When that’s the case, why on earth would you try to make it harder on yourself by pleasing everyone?
The luxury of only doing projects for a small number of companies has one potential downside: small numbers are volatile.
Big numbers are predictable. But, for you, small changes have a big impact. You get a project or you don’t. One more or less makes a big difference.
Or, all projects fall at the same time, you work like crazy to get everything finished. And when you’ve finished your work, you need to start up your marketing machine again. And because it takes a while for projects to start up, you have a period of little revenue. That can be stressful.
You either need to have saved enough during the highs, that a dry spell is ok and an opportunity to take it easy again.
Or, you need to constantly and always work a little bit on marketing and sales. Not just, after your projects have run out. But, a little bit every day. You can ramp up your shorter term tactics when your need for new projects become more pressing.
5. Empathy with your client group.
Empathy is hard work. It’s hard emotional work. To understand another person. See the world through their eyes. To experience that their worldview and wants are different from yours. It’s hard enough to understand yourself. Now there are two people to understand?
But, understanding their wants is what you need to do in order to figure out what to offer them. And understanding the way they look at the world is necessary to figure out how to match the packaging, promise, and story so it has a chance to reach them.
And, if you don’t watch out, this might even make you a better person.
Artists, designers, trainers, etc. For everyone who does creative work, it’s inevitable that your work feels personal. It wasn’t simply ‘paint by numbers’, following a few predetermined steps, or done from a distance. It’s personal. You are your tool. You’re the one showing up.
So, when someone doesn’t like it, it feels like they’re saying they don’t like you.
But! You are not your work. You are much greater. Your work is simply what you were able to produce at this moment, given the amount of time.
And, when you have overcome the hard thing of not being for everyone, it’s entirely ok if someone who it isn’t for doesn’t like your work. “I didn’t make it for you.” Shun the non-believers. It’s not for them.
Now, can you view the feedback from the ones who it is for as advice? And use it to create something better for them. Process it through the lens that they want you to succeed. They want you to help them.
7. Surviving the dip
Anything that’s valuable has been hard to make. If it were easy, many people would have made it.
Mastery of the craft. Creating a successful business that has gained escape velocity. Creating good art that touches people.
The bigger arc of your entrepreneurship is a long and slow road. It consists of all the hard things I’ve already mentioned. The excitement of the beginning wears off. While walking it, there are plenty of moments when you don’t seem to see the results of your work. It’s hard.
Hardly anyone survives. The ones who see it coming, understand what it takes, and commit to it even after dipping their toes in the water, have a chance.
8. Doing it alone
Lastly, entrepreneurship is a lonely road.
Sure you have people around you. Friends want to help you. But do they know enough about it? No one understands what it is really like or can see it from your point of view.
When you have space where your work from where other entrepreneurs are, you have like-minded friends around you. These “colleagues” know what it’s like. But can you ask them for hours or days of their time to go deep to completely focus on you? Nobody is truly there with you in the trenches.
There is so much to do, to learn, to understand, to keep track of. Advice comes from everywhere but all seems to contradict each other. All for you to make sense of. The weight of making decisions is all on you.
And, through all the ups and downs, you have to energise yourself again and again.
So find mates, masterminds, smart guidance and the right people around you.
This is why I create my trainings. To guide you to figure out what is important to you, to show you a model of entrepreneurship that makes sense, and to find mates to go through it together.
Give yourself this gift to be helped. By someone who understands what you’re going through.