All over the internet people talk about the joys of becoming an entrepreneur. The dreamy laptop lifestyle, freedom from corporate shackles, the flexibility of working your own hours and making your own decisions. But what about the reality?
I used to be one of the 10% of the female population thinking about starting their own business (Women in Business: key facts, Government Equalities Office 2008). I spent years dreaming about running my own business. Whenever I felt like I wasn’t being heard, wasn’t getting the recognition I deserved or wasn’t fulfilling my potential, I would think about all the business ideas swimming around my head.
But a dream was all it was for a long time…
To be honest, I was maybe a bit naïve when I set out, assuming having my own business would be just like working for someone else only with the freedom to make my own decisions.
The reality came as rather a shock because while moving from a corporate role to entrepreneurial one is incredibly exciting, it also contains unexpected challenges…
I discovered that having the skills, knowledge and experience to deliver what you’re selling is only part of what you need to run your own business, something easily overlooked when deciding to go it alone. So, what’s the truth about the transition? I’ll tell you…
1. IT’S ALIEN TERRITORY - The truth is when you’re starting out, the entrepreneurial world feels alien. The good news is everything (and I do mean everything) you need to know is available as a free resource online these days. The bad news is EVERYTHING you need to know is available as a free resource online these days. And knowing what you need, when you need it and what to do with it is like navigating a brave new world. It becomes really confusing because with such an overload of information, where on earth do you start…?
2. IT’S HARD WORK – Words like freedom, flexibility and fun are thrown around like candy to lure you out of corporate and into entrepreneurship. And yet, if you don’t choose the right support you may well end up working as hard, if not harder than you did in your corporate role. And that can come as a shock to many people who take the leap in the hope of winding down. That’s where having clarity around your purpose, passion and long term goals comes in. If you have a strong ‘why’ behind your business, you won’t care about pulling 15 hour days to get yourself established. If not, it’s all too easy to end up disillusioned and disappointed at having replaced your stressful, energy-sapping job with a stressful, energy-sapping business.
3. YOU’LL START HEARING VOICES - As new kid on the entrepreneurial block, you’ll feel a heady mix of passionate ambition and paralysing fear. You’ll want to tell the world who you are and what you do, but just as you open up the little voices will start talking in your ear. They’ll tell you things like ‘You’re an impostor and everyone knows it.’ Or ‘You’ve no idea how to do this.’ And ‘Isn’t it time you quit already?’ Suddenly, you become shy about asking for advice and guidance, support and friendship from other entrepreneurs for fear of being exposed as a hapless idiot. You look around and everyone else seems to have got it together, is better qualified than you or far more experienced. You start to doubt yourself and worry others will be judging you and what you have to say, and you start to wonder whether you can really do this (You can by the way, the doubt is all in your head!).
4. YOU WILL GET LONELY – As an entrepreneur you quickly realise how alone you are. Gone is the hustle and bustle of the office. Gone is the support, guidance and direction, having someone to hold you accountable and challenge you to keep stepping outside your comfort zone and grow and develop. There isn’t even anyone you can just chat to about it because your friends and family just don’t ‘get it’.
5. YOU WILL FORGET WHO YOU ARE – This one came as a real eye opener. Making the transition from corporate clone to entrepreneur was meant to help me be myself. Yet it actually left me feeling like I’d lost my identity and no longer knew who I was or what I was capable of. If you’re anything like me, as an employee you probably kept your work persona and home persona separate. In corporate it’s so easy to hide behind your knowledge, professionalism and job title and those at work very rarely get to see behind the scenes. Once you’re on your own you have to dig away until you uncover the core of who you are and what matters to you the most.
6. SAY GOODBYE TO HIDING IN THE CORNER OFFICE - As an entrepreneur, particularly an online entrepreneur, your clients want to see you warts and all. They want you to show up for them, whether you had an argument with your partner, slept in your clothes last night or just aren’t feeling it. They want to see more than whether or not you’ve the right solution for them. People buy from people, and they want to know if you’re their kind of people before they buy from you. When you’ve been used to slinking into the office and closing the door on everyone this can be a big adjustment. It’s hard enough to put yourself out there and be visible as it is, let alone start sharing glimpses into your life and show your personality. It can make you feel exposed and vulnerable. Suddenly you have to drop the corporate speak and find your own voice. And that can be overwhelming. However, in my experience, injecting your personality into your business makes it much easier for your clients to warm to and buy from you.
Still want to make the transition from corporate to entrepreneurial life? Of course you do. So, how do you make it easier and avoid the pitfalls? Get help now. Prepare the ground before you leap and you’ll have a much softer landing.
This is an important period of adjustment and transformation that is best navigated with support. Start gathering everything you need now. Grow your network, find your mentors, hire a coach, seek support from friends and family. Then, go for it!
Will it be easy? No. Will it be worth it? In my opinion…absolutely! I’ve grown so much, both personally and professionally since I started out and will continue to push myself outside my comfort zone and jump at new opportunities and experiences.