Following my dream and starting my own business has been by far the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life. It’s opened up opportunities I would never have dreamed of, and I feel constantly grateful for the experiences my career provides; the things I learn, places I visit, and people I meet.
However, no entrepreneur would ever advertise what they do as ‘the easy option’. This path comes with risks and also sacrifices. But it also comes with a huge amount of freedom—the freedom to make your own choices, run your business in your own way, travel, attend networking events, manage your own time as you see fit. This balance of risk and freedom is what inspires the title of this article—being an entrepreneur. In fact, gives us ‘a slightly terrifying freedom’.
Nobody Else Is Doing It, So Why Should I?
The first hurdle in our minds is often when we look around us and see friends and family in ‘secure, stable employment’. We are often advised to seek jobs with ‘well-established companies’, and longevity of service for one particular employer is seen favorably. Add this to the benefits which come with full-time employment, such as regular salary, sick pay, paid holidays, company pension schemes, etc., and it is not difficult to see why entrepreneurship is not for everyone.
However, self-employment has risen dramatically among women in recent years, and the number of successful female entrepreneurs is higher than ever. If you look around, you will find vibrant communities such as this one, full of successful women in business – they just aren’t always on your doorstep!
Everyone Thinks I’m Crazy!
Given the above, it is understandable that friends and family may not be sure about your ideas and may even actively dissuade you from ‘going it alone’. It’s important to understand that this is often not a reflection of their faith in you, or in your business idea, but in fact tends to be based on a genuine concern regarding the instability and risk factors of self-employment. Sometimes this may even be down to jealousy in relation to unresolved personal dreams.
This is when your self-belief will be tested to the limit—but that’s okay, because you’ll need it further down the line! It’s very important to appreciate the people in your life who believe in you at this time. If you feel short on support, there are plenty of communities online for emerging entrepreneurs, and there may even be one specific for your field. This is certainly something I have found useful for myself in the past.
What if It All Goes Wrong?
This is a question you’re likely to face pretty frequently, especially during the initial stages of starting your business. There is always an associated risk, whatever your business. You may not sell as many products as forecasted, clients may not call, etc. Unforeseen business expenses, sickness, personal issues, etc. can all have a potentially devastating effect on your business if you allow them to.
There are ways to minimize these risks, but it is important to realize that you cannot completely eradicate the element of risk, and it is very important that you learn the practical techniques necessary to analyze business risks.
We’ve discussed the lack of a stable salary and company benefits, the impact of risk, etc. However, for many entrepreneurs these issues, although real and present, somewhat pale in comparison to the benefits of self-employment. Rather than a stable salary, we are in control of our own income. In many countries, excellent pension and sickness options are now available for entrepreneurs. In terms of startup costs and business expenses, there are now a variety of low-interest business loan options for both startups and established companies available on the market.
But, most importantly, there is the benefit of freedom. Personally, for example, I have traveled to incredible networking events in Rotterdam and Dublin this year. I have made my own decisions on marketing and the direction of my business and seen some of my lifelong dreams come to fruition. This is an amazing feeling, and I don’t think any stable salary would convince me to give it up.
The issue of a ‘work-life balance’ is often discussed alongside self-employment. There is no question that running your own business requires a significant time commitment. Without an employer to tell them when to work, the entrepreneur must develop their own strategies of managing their time. Especially in the initial stages, the time you put into developing your business may be quite significant, and it is important to learn to manage this in order to remain happy, healthy, and productive.
Some sacrifices are likely to be necessary in order to free up the time required, but it is important to look after yourself. Exercise is recommended by a huge majority of entrepreneurs as a way to reduce stress and remain focused and productive. A strong support network can also be very helpful—from personal experience, running your own business can really show you who your true friends are. Many of the people I am closest to now are fellow entrepreneurs, who have been a great support to me over the past few years.
The ‘Scary Future’
From my own personal experience and discussions with other women in business, it appears to be acceptable in society for women in business to be questioned about their ‘future plans’. It’s possible, if you’re single, that you will constantly be asked when you plan to ‘settle down’, and you may even be accused of things such as ‘choosing your career over a family’.
I am 27 and single, and I have faced this kind of thing more than a few times since setting up my business! I’ve also been accused of wanting it all, but my reply to that is that if I’m crazy enough to ‘want it all’, why shouldn’t I go for it? There are incredibly successful women in business with families, able to do things for their children that they would have been unlikely to be able to do in full-time employment—such as home-school their children or take them traveling for the summer. And as for ‘finding a man’… I’m sure there are men out there who would be attracted to a successful businesswoman!
In conclusion, no, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. There are definitely risks to consider, and it’s certainly not the easy option. However, if this article got you thinking, then maybe it’s for you! I’ve never regretted following my dreams, even on the tough days. I’d love to see more women who are brave enough to follow theirs!
About the Author
Laura Hargreaves is originally from Lancashire, England and currently lives in Northern France. She provides literary and commercial translation, writing, editing and other language services, as well as maintaining a blog at LanguagebyLaura.com. You can also catch her on Twitter @LanguagebyLaura.