Independent entrepreneurship is awesome, but is is not all 🌈s and 🦄s. This is a realistic look at the disadvantages of entrepreneurship.
Great leadership is rare. In 20 years of corporate work environment, I can only recall two managers that were great to work with. Both stood out because of their emotional intelligence and ability to seriously challenge a team while making them feel good about themselves. Most other managers were ok (although often unclear why they were there in the first place) and I have worked with three that were downright bad leaders.
So, having no boss can be a huge relief if you decide become independent. However, that requires you to be your own leader. Now, you need the emotional intelligence to lead yourself.
Now it is you who needs to decide what is important. You have to come with the relevant metrics. Now you are the one who gets to decide what is good for the business.
Especially in the early stages, when everything is new, it is so easy to indulge in your new found freedom and forget what it is the business needs. Scrolling on twitter, posting on instagram, browsing WordPress themes for your website, are all ways to spend your time (and money). But, you have to be your leader now. You are your own boss and you know your employee best 😉
No employees or colleagues
That means you don’t have to deal with the annoying employee who is always late for meetings. You don’t have to listen to ramblings of that one person who just cannot shut up. You don’t have to deal with that overly-positive team mate that tries to lift your mood when you don’t want to. And no more exposure to that guy who oozes negativity while you came in pretty happy.
You are on your own now. So you have to do it all. Or you hire someone to do it for you, which means finding someone to work with, which means spending time and money.
Also, no other people to talk to about your business. Sure, you can find other entrepreneurs or bore your friends and family, but they have no skin in the game. Employees and colleagues, no matter how annoying they may be, are on the same team as you. Flying solo means, there is no team to speak off.
No permission needed
Ah, the horror when you have a great idea and your boss tells you no. This one is especially enticing if you are (very) sensitive (read: allergic) to hierarchy, or you are blessed with a “because I say so” boss.
Especially if your manager cannot be accused of possessing any leadership skills or the company values do not align with yours, the willingness to adhere to rules and processes is very low. You will no longer bring your best self to work. You’ll slowly grow numb if you are not careful.
What a relief to be independent then. Now there is absolutely nobody you need permission from. It’s all on you! Work on whatever you want. You determine your services, your products, your marketing. You have to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You have to decide if the time and money you spend on your idea will benefit your business. Again, you can talk it over with others, but they have no skin in your game. You are the sole bearer of the responsibility for your actions. Nobody to ask for permission. Nobody to blame.
One of the disadvantages of entrepreneurship is the temptation to try flying solo without taking lessons. In my experience, the best thing you can do is to not go at it alone. Even though it is your business, surrounding yourself with like-minded people that are on similar learning curves, is invaluable for your growth as a person and a business. Joining a relevant community is one of the best decisions I made when I started my journey.
No fixed work location
After the pandemic, almost everybody can relate to one of the disadvantages of entrepreneurship. Many working people experienced what it is like to have to work from a location that is not your normal work environment. The couch, the kitchen table, the bedroom, all can be makeshift workplaces. But workplaces with kids around. Doorbells that ring, cats demanding attention, dogs that need walking.
Now consider doing that indefinitely. Seriously! The Laptop Business Lifestyle allows you to work from anywhere. You’ve seen the pictures of a guy or girl on the beach with a cocktail in hand, while typing away on the keyboard.
The truth for most creators is that they sit at a desk at home everyday. While it may provide a place to work, it also means it requires more effort to leave the house. Because work and non-work happen at the same place, it gets a lot harder to leave work alone.
Even when you are not working, your head still is. It can be so hard to be present with the family, the children, the dog, your friends, because you literally have no place to leave work.
If possible: have a fixed place to do (most of) your work and leave it there. Even through a laptop is portable, it doesn’t mean you have to work everywhere. Associating a dedicated space for work, even if it is only a small desk in the corner of a room, helps to prevent “spill over” into the rest of your living space. (Backup with science link from “On how to change”?)
No fixed work hours
Very similar to the previous one. A regular 9 to 5 may not be for you. But that does not mean you should aim to always work 16 hour days.
A regular job expects you to work a certain number of hours a week in exchange for a certain amount of money. Many creators and independent entrepreneurs, chase the mythical ‘passive income’ goal. While it is definitely possible, it often requires a significant amount of effort up front, without guaranteed success.
That makes it very easy to into a work mode that will wear you out. It is easy to think that working more, will eventually result in mode income or more success of any kind. While not putting in any effort will guarantee failure, the opposite is not automatically true.
The best thing about no fixed work hours for me, is that I am able to work whenever I am at my best. I seem to get bouts of extreme, obsessive focus for days, weeks, sometimes months at a time, followed by a mini burn-out.
This also happened in my regular jobs. The problem is that while nobody objected if I worked long days and spent evenings working, to give in to the obsessive focus. Regularly having to stay in bed with massive migraines did not always go over well.
To be able to do this long-term, you must not burn yourself out and balance your efforts well. That said: it is a blessing to be able to work the way you work best. For me that means weeks or months of obsessive focus followed by a few days of downtime. Can’t always predict when the downtime is required though.
No predictable income
Internet, and social media especially, are filled with stories of succesful product launches, income reports and “X step plans to making money online”. Assuming everybody is telling the truth online (right?), it is definitely not the whole truth.
The (whole) truth is that most don’t make $200k in 2 months on their first time out. Nor should that be your goal. Becoming independent is the easy bit, staying independent is the real challenge. You need to keep making money in an enjoyable way, to keep your independent work life going.
If you are a born businessman or -woman, you do not need to hear this. But many creators are creative first and businessperson second. You started this journey to live life on your own terms. Do meaningful work, but also have the freedom to spend your time as you see fit.
I have said it before (sorry Sharon 😉): Money is to life, what fuel is to a car. So it is up to you to determine how much fuel you need, and then find ways to reduce your fuel consumption and/or increase the amount of fuel available.
Where do you sit on the scale between “Starving Artist” and “Overnight Millionaire”?
No limit on the number of days off
Ok, I am not going to lie: this one is pretty great. Most Americans get two weeks vacation a year. In Holland, where I live, 5 weeks a year is the legal minimum for most people. Being independent means there are no limits on the number of days you take time off.
Not only does that mean you can take as much vacation as you want. You can also be spontenous about when you take it. If it is a beautiful day, you can take a day off. If you are a care-giver, you are much more flexible with your time. Sure, an employer that is half-human, will try to facilitate you if. you are giving care to someone else. But it always brings some tension.
Not working probably means no/less income, but you get to decide what is more important to you.
To me and my family, travelling together is important. Over the past year, we were able to travel as a family, roughly every 7 or 8 weeks for about a week, and much longer during the summer break. That would not have been possible in any of my corporate jobs at the time. I hardly work while travelling, although I do read books, listen to podcasts and occassionally write, just because I enjoy that so much.
Working independently will be difficult. It is supposed to be! Especially if you are also a parent and need to pay bills and mortgage or rent. But it can also be one of the most rewarding steps to take in your working life. Do not let the disadvantages of entrepreneurship discourage you from trying!
Having a sense of direction for both your life and your business is essential to deal with the stresses and insecurities that are inevitable with independent entrepreneurship. It provides you with intrinsic motivation and helps you to remember why you started in the first place.
Define your One Major Goal and start from there. There is no way to predict what the future will throw at you, instead you will figure it out as you go. That’s what entrepreneurship is really all about.
Man these are awesome. I have absolutely talked about each one of these over the last week with my friends! The biggest one right now is no fixed work hours. I’ve been working weird hours and “investing time” in some projects that won’t pay off for a while. It’s hard to know when to just hit pause because it’ll be better for me, my progress (come back with a fresh mind and eyes!) and really everyone else. SUCH good points!!!