Starting a small business is exhilarating, fun, and exciting, and the payoffs can be tremendous. But it’s also scary, risky, and hard. Today I decided to share with you why I think starting a small business is almost always the right choice, but also when it’s not.
Starting a Small Business Means Scheduling Freedom
While, as a business owner, you do have to schedule some time to actually, you know, work, you have a great deal more flexibility in your schedule. I schedule most of my client sessions on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday mornings, leaving me free Mondays, Tuesdays, and Friday afternoons for most everything else.
It’s not that I’m out having fun those two and a half days, mind you. Any time outside of client meetings is time for writing, responding to client emails, meeting with prospective clients, conducting research, managing staff, networking with other CEOs and executives, writing reports, etc. But my “schedule clumping” means I also get errands and household tasks done, with plenty of time for everything.
Having said that, when you start a business, you should plan to devote a lot of time to the business. A startup isn’t something where you work 20 hours a week and see success quickly. No way. And you should immediately disabuse yourself of any notion of a “4-hour work week,” because even the guy who started that phenomenon doesn’t really work a four hour work week.
In fact, most entrepreneurs and small business owners work far more than a regular work week. So just because you may be able to work the hours you choose, it doesn’t mean you won’t still work a ton of hours. It just means that, within reason, you may get to decide when you’re “in the office” and when you’re not. This is one of my favorite things about running a small business! But if you’re not ready to put a lot of work in, you probably shouldn’t start a business.
Starting a Small Business Means Personal Achievement
Starting a small business is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do, and when you start seeing money come in, you’ll feel a sense of personal achievement like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You’ll be recognized for what you’re best at and what you’re good at, and that feels great!
Being an entrepreneur and starting a small business also means that you will be on the biggest roller coaster of your life.
Some days you’ll feel like a million bucks. You’ll think, “I’ve got this!” And then the next day (or an hour later) you’ll think, “I’m horrible at this.” Being an entrepreneur and starting a business is emotionally challenging. You’ll find yourself riding a wave of success…all the way to finding out that you didn’t get that contract after all. And then you’ll have a string of setbacks…all the way to getting the biggest client of your life.
How do you ride this roller coaster without losing your mind? Knowing that it’s there and anticipating that you’ll be on this roller coaster will help a lot. Being prepared for anxiety, stress, and fear and having strategies in place for managing these emotions can ward off some of the ups and downs.
And having a coach who understands the ins and outs of starting a small business – someone who can keep you on-track and working on the right things (versus wasting time on common activities that startups engage in, but that won’t grow your business) and who will help you calibrate your emotional reactions – can make a huge difference in your level of success. But if you’re super risk-averse and hate uncertainty, then starting a business may not be right for you.
Starting a Small Business Means Unlimited Income Potential
One of my favorite reasons why starting a small business is such a fantastic choice is that owning your business means you control how much money you make. If you have an unanticipated expense, you can take on another client to get the bill paid quickly.
That sounds easy, right? Just “get another client” to pay off a bill! It’s easy! Uh…right?
Wrong. When you’re starting a business, getting new clients is hard. And later, getting new clients is still hard. But the great thing about owning your business is that, unlike a job, you really can give yourself a raise by taking on additional clients.
The fact remains, though, that often, getting a new client for a small business isn’t that different from getting a second job. You still have to find the job (in small business jargon, the “client”) and you still have to “apply” (or, in small business jargon, “pitch”), and you still have to do the work.
And while every entrepreneur occasionally wonders, “Should I just go get a “real” job?” the difference just isn’t that big. Except…with a job, you usually apply and get the job once. When you own a business, it can be a lot like applying for the job over and over and over again. So if working hard to keep getting clients and stay on-track with growing the business isn’t for you, you may not want to start a business.
A Few Important Notes
Growing a business takes time, effort, and energy. Don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t. Profitable, successful business doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t happen overnight.
One of the hardest lessons that small business owners learn is that once you’ve started the business and all the shiny newness of it all has faded, once the visual branding and web site are set up and everything is ready…you actually have to settle in and get to work. It’s hard. No, it’s brutal. It’s scary. It’s wonderful. It’s exciting. And it’s hard. But in the end, it’s completely worth it.
Why Starting a Small Business Is Really Worth It
Ultimately, at the end of the day, when you own the business, you’re in control. You get to schedule your time (read: self-discipline required) and you get to make decisions. You know what’s going on in the books and behind the scenes. Will market forces intervene? Sometimes, sure. But if you stay nimble, prepare to adapt, work hard, and embrace the roller coaster, it’ll be a whole lot easier. And if you know what you’re doing, you can grow your income to exactly where you want it to be. It’s all up to you.
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