10 Things You Must Learn To be Successful As a New Entrepreneur
You’ve heard it before: Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Whether you’re starting or running a side hustle, or involved full-time in your business, the process of becoming an entrepreneur is far from easy. I know it certainly wasn’t for me. When I started blogging while still working in the corporate world, I initially thought of it as a hobby. I started multiple blogs, freelanced as a copywriter and accountant, yet it took me a while to see myself as an entrepreneur and grasp what it really was about.
Despite all the buzz around entrepreneurship, not enough is being said about how challenging it truly is. The well-curated Instagram images and picture-perfect headshots of #bosses fail to describe the reality of it, and as such, fail to warn a generation of hopeful yet un-prepared entrepreneurs-to-be.
I admit to falling victim of this myself. Between all the #girlboss hashtags and the motivational posts more filled with fluff than reality, it’s easy to under-estimate the mountain that the entrepreneurial journey really is. There are so many things that very few are willing to admit about this journey. Many will tell you that yes, it is hard and uncomfortable, that it may even bring you to your knees. Yet, most will keep that part of it secret, making it instead seem like the overnight success phenomenon is real and reserved to only a lucky few.
Here’s the thing. As you may already have suspected, there is no overnight success, as most breakthroughs, especially in business, take at least a decade. Here’s another thing: there are tools you can use and re-use as you climb this huge mountain called entrepreneurship. And no, these tools are not reserved to a lucky few, but are accessible to each and everyone of us, granted you are committed to do the work.
From my own experience and speaking to many first-time entrepreneurs, here are a few tools to deal with your first few months as an entrepreneur:
- Cultivate mental strength
Entrepreneurship, as I found out, is first and foremost a mental game. It’s more about your mindset than your stamina and how hard you can work. Working for yourself also means keeping yourself accountable day in and day out, and not relying on a boss or co-workers to steer you in the right direction. This in turn can play serious mind games with you, as you may struggle with self-discipline and lack of gratification at first.
One of the biggest mistakes I made was to think that working hard on the outside would make up for the inner work that needed to happen on the inside. I’ve learnt that the opposite is true. You must prepare mentally first, and sharpen your mindset before even throwing yourself in the work. This means taking the time to attend to your own mental health, through practices like meditation, quiet, exercise, prayer and other personal ways to maintain your mental balance.
- Organize yourself
As a new entrepreneur, one of the first shocks you will experience to your system has everything to do with organization. If you’ve transitioned from the corporate world to being in business for yourself, you’ll be amazed at how challenging it can be to organize yourself now that all your work revolves around you.
In the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, it may be challenging to hire or outsource some assistance. You will be the administrative person, as well as the strategist, writer, and tech support. Both big and small tasks will crowd your schedule, threatening to make you totally unproductive most days.
The trick here is to prioritize your tasks in terms of what is most important (see below tip#6). It’s also a matter of keeping a strict account of your activities and being ruthless with what and who you allow in your schedule.
- Guard your time
As a new entrepreneur, time is your most precious commodity. There are so many things to attend to in your business that you will need every second you can get. In addition, there will be many more time-wasters than you’ve ever experienced. From people who just want to grab a coffee and pick your brain, to technical snafus in the middle of the day, interruptions are par for the course.
You will also be tempted to lump in as much as possible into your daily schedule, forgetting that there are only so many hours in the day, and yes, you are only a human being. As you step into entrepreneurship, remember to keep a ruthless watch about how you spend your time and what this time is really translating into. If your time is not creating opportunities or revenue, whether in tangible form (money) or learning, then you must re-evaluate.
- Build a strategy
You can’t do everything, and everything doesn’t belong in your business. This also means that you must devise and be clear about a strategy to follow, especially in your first few months as an entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong, strategies can change, and it can take a long time to refine and finalize your ultimate business model.
However, you can begin to trace the outline of a strategy to follow in order to be clearer about what you must do, and what you need to leave alone. As a “writerpreneur”, content is key to me, and is at the center of my strategy. Whether I blog or consult, it’s built around content. In the same way, you must identify your strategy’s pillar(s) and build around it, so you’re not tempted to be all over the place at all times.
- Fail fast and fail forward
Let me say it as gently as I can: “You will fail as a new entrepreneur.” It’s simply par for the course. Whereas most see failure as a sad occurrence to delete from their memories, it is actually, especially in entrepreneurship, a blessing. That is, if you can leverage it by failing fast and failing forward.
I used to be scared of launching new initiatives and products for fear they would fail. What I’ve learnt is that if you don’t allow for failure, you don’t learn. If you don’t learn, you don’t progress. As you start your entrepreneurial journey, don’t be afraid to try things and fail at them. Create the blog, start the podcast, write the book, do what you are inclined to do as an entrepreneur. If your first product doesn’t make you uncomfortable, you’ve waited too long. Go ahead and try, fail, learn and try again.
- Think in terms of impact
If there is a BIG lesson I’ve learnt in entrepreneurship, it’s to think in terms of impact. Not in terms of money, or even results, but impact. How will your business impact people? How will it impact your bottom line? How will it make a difference in your life and that of others? This is the big picture.
On a day-to-day basis, ask yourself how your tasks impact your business in terms of profitability, reach and growth. Rank your to-do list by order of most to least impactful. This will help you in knowing what to devote more time to, and what to let go of. Ideally, focus on tasks that are making you MONEY, and growing your REACH. While at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you may not be as monetarily profitable as you wish, you can still plant the seeds of monetization when you start thinking: “What should I do first to make my business more PROFITABLE and more GROWTH-ORIENTED?”
- Don’t isolate yourself
Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. Despite all the networking events, the coffee dates, and all the social media buzz, it’s still very much an unconventional path in society. This also means that since the majority of people, and probably most people in your direct environment, are not entrepreneurs, you will experience a heightened degree of loneliness in your work. It’s hard to explain what it means to throw everything you are and everything you have into a concept and a vision that only you really understand, to people who may not get it.
However, you must fight this loneliness and refrain from isolating yourself. Join entrepreneurs’ associations, be willing to attend meetups, and keep networking with like-minded individuals. This doesn’t mean that you should shut yourself to the rest of the world. Keep your friends as friends, and work with those who get what you do. Don’t blame your direct environment for their lack of support, as it is often a lack of knowledge. It will keep you balanced and happier.
- Focus on the WHO and not the WHAT
As a new entrepreneur, you will be tempted to set ambitious goals and milestones for yourself. There is nothing wrong with this. As a matter of fact, you should keep setting the bar higher and higher for yourself and those you choose to surround yourself with.
However, getting fixated on certain accomplishments and objectives can deter from the real benefit of entrepreneurship. It’s not so much about what you strive to achieve, although that is certainly important; but it is about who you become in the process. You see, the goals you set should be so that you can grow into the person who can and is worthy of meeting and exceeding them. Without this understanding and foundation, your breakthrough and success may be short-lived and leave you unfulfilled and miserable. The last thing you want is to get to the top finally, only to have lack of character, discipline and integrity not keep you there.
- Stop blaming others for not supporting you
Many, if not most entrepreneurs, complain at some point or another of not being supported by friends and family. It is true that in many instances, those who are closest to us, can seem the most removed from us when it comes to supporting our entrepreneurial endeavors.
I’ve come to understand that everyone grows differently, and that your vision was given to you because it would make more sense to you than anyone else. I’ve also made peace with the fact that this growth process will also help uncover those who are no longer in alignment with who you are becoming. This is crucial as your environment can make or break your dreams.
In this sense, there is no point in blaming others for their lack of support. There is only the understanding that you are responsible for your own success, whatever your definition of it is. And that ultimately what others think about you is truly none of your business.
- Stop and breathe
Due to the lack of imposed time boundaries on entrepreneurship, it can be easy to overwork yourself, especially at the beginning of your journey. After all, there are no set hours or schedules. You are your own boss, and can work as long, or as little, as you’d like. The result is overworked, over-tired and inefficient entrepreneurs who end up burning out too soon.
I’ve learnt to take the time to stop and breathe, by designating a time out from work. Your schedule should include a start time, but also a stop time. Refrain from the temptation to work yourself to the ground and burn the candle at both ends. Yes, you may need to put in longer hours. What you don’t need to do is create a lifestyle that will destroy you rather than build you up. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. You’re in it for the long run, and you’re in it to win it. It may take time, detours and pit stops, but you’re going to make it.
Now your turn: What have you learnt as a new entrepreneur?
To Your Success,
The Corporate Sister