For some, the decision to start their own business comes from realising that their heart isn’t in their job. For others, it comes down to a desire for flexibility, autonomy, or to do something that matters to you. It’s personal. So how do you know whether this path is for you?
My own entrepreneurial journey began with freelancing. My passion was writing, and I lived for finding the perfect words to tell a compelling story. In my four years as a full-time freelancer, I have learned many lessons. The main one is that there’s more to running a business than doing what you love. I didn’t know that as an entrepreneur I would become my own marketing team, accountant, salesperson, coach, and more.
For this article, I spoke with several entrepreneurs to get an idea of what they wished they had known when they were starting out. The consensus? Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Here are five questions you may want to ask yourself before starting your own business.
1. Am I a ‘Doer’?
The word entrepreneur comes entreprendre, a French verb meaning ‘to begin; to undertake’. Harrison Doan, Director of Analytics at Loom & Leaf, explains that certain personality traits reveal an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Starting your own business takes a lot of willpower, perseverance, and grit. You need to ask yourself if you’re capable of working hard even when no one is making you and you can stop at any time,” says Doan.
Your desire to start a business says that you are an idealist, someone who wants to challenge the status quo. But what is your track record like?
“Have you had success in similar endeavours like sticking with a regular gym schedule or learning a new language to fluency? Having the ability to push through the obstacles without losing motivation is essential to success as an entrepreneur,” says Doan.
2. How can I minimise risk?
By its very nature, the life of an entrepreneur involves taking calculated risks. Before you strike out on your own, you should know where you’re vulnerable and think about how to face them. Ron Stefanski, internet marketing consultant, recommends starting slow.
“The best advice I can give to anyone is to understand that it’s possible to make your new endeavour a side hustle,” says Stefanski. “This is much less stressful and also enables you to spend money where it’s needed to grow the business without stressing about a dwindling bank account.”
Of course, an entrepreneur cannot be completely risk-averse, explains Kelly Wilkerson, Co-Founder of Decipher Media.
“If you aren’t a risk-taker, then entrepreneurship might not be the best sea to jump into,” she says. “You need to be willing to fail, evolve, change, and pivot in order to keep the company moving forward.”
3. Do I have a support network?
No business owner is an island. You’re foregoing the relative comfort and stability of working for someone else. That means one of the most powerful tools in your entrepreneurial arsenal is the collective experience of the people around you.
Aden Eyob, brain behind Mind Medication Ltd., explained that the community at The Collective Old Oak, where she lives in West London, has been instrumental to her journey as an entrepreneur.
“I would say being part of a positive, inspiring, and creative environment, coupled with having an abundant resource of talks, workshops, and activities got me thinking about my purpose and how I could use it,” explains Eyob.
No business owner is an island. One of the most powerful tools in your entrepreneurial arsenal is the collective experience of the people around you.
Not only did it inspire her to start the business, but The Collective has opened doors to opportunities she may not have encountered otherwise.
“Thanks to The Collective, I’ve had the opportunity to write an article on the loneliness epidemic in the UK, a feature in Waitrose Magazine, and found coaching clients,” says Eyob.
4. Who can help me?
When it comes to starting a business, the value of finding a willing mentor cannot be overstated. If you don’t know anyone with suitable business experience, it’s time to expand your network. Davis Lin, Founder of Client Acquisition Lab, wishes that he had found a mentor to guide him when he got started.
“Trying to figure things out all on my own not only cost me time, but money as well. And it was only when I decided to get a mentor that my business started to take,” says Lin.
If you’re smart and willing to learn, there are endless opportunities to draw upon the experience of those who have trodden the path before you. Get out, start networking, and ask people how they got where they are—and what they wish they knew along the way. Their wisdom and support will be incredibly valuable throughout your entrepreneurial journey.
5. What do I want from this?
Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to realize that when it comes to being a business owner, you’re playing the long game. Jane Scudder, Certified Personal Development and Career Transition Coach, explains that understanding your ‘why’ is imperative to success.
“So many intelligent people neglect to consider what their desires and true motivations are. Money? Social impact? Fame? Something to keep you busy?”
Becoming clear on what you want and why you’re doing it will help you push through the “inevitable moments of imposter syndrome, questions of time and resources spent, or gaps in motivation simply because it’s the first sunny day all week,” says Scudder.
There will be times where you will have to sacrifice; where you’ll barely scrape by; where you’ll doubt yourself and what you’re doing. A strong sense of purpose will get you past that and keep you on the road to success.
Embarking upon your first business venture is a huge step for any aspiring entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurship requires you to recognise opportunities which others have overlooked, and to commit to a course of action which might take you outside your comfort zone. Really, the only question that matters is: are you ready to wear all the hats?