Striking out on your own as an entrepreneur is exciting and, in equal parts, terrifying. For one thing, the "shackles" of the corporate world may now appear comforting in retrospect, especially when recalling the entire team of experts you once had at your disposal to pay your taxes, provide you with office supplies and fix the printer ... not to mention the support of your coworkers and relative stability of ongoing work.
After leaving the safety of the corporate net, all entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges -- chief among them stress, solitude and instability. In my experience, I’ve found that embracing these struggles as your new reality is the first step to overcoming them.
Here are just three of the countless -- yet conquerable -- challenges that lie ahead for all entrepreneurs:
1. Instability is the new norm. You hear it all the time from established business owners that having your own gig with dozens of paying clients is more secure than working for a single employer. And in an economy with high unemployment and a lot of competition, it's true. However, the viewpoint fails to acknowledge that building up your business to a place of monetary stability leaves you unstable in the interim.
For the entrepreneur that craves predictability, this fact is terrifying. After all, your one employer did so much work for you: bringing in clients, assigning them to team members, handling payments and still covering your paycheck if the money didn't arrive on time. Now, that's all on your shoulders.
I'm not telling you this to be Debbie Downer; in reality, most entrepreneurs scale up their business while working a full-time job or still in school. If you're already out on your own, then solid systems for marketing and sales are your best friend. Build up the business -- you may be excellent at what you do, but stability comes from having clients and leads in the pipeline.
2. Stress is a natural state. Not many people in the population understand the demands of an entrepreneur because they assume the career choice brings a lifestyle of relaxing on the beach while making the occasional conference call. Considering that the U.S. Small Business Administration reports that over 50 percent of small businesses will close within its first 5 years, most entrepreneurs are not sitting around relaxing. It’s natural then to experience periods of high stress when trying to figure out how to get enough clients, what rates to charge, how to market your product and figuring out all the things an employer once handled for you in the past.
Even more so, anyone who has had to navigate the waters of business insurance or employment law can tell you entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. This is because some people shy away from stressful situations by ignoring essential parts of owning a business, like paying taxes. Instead, accept stress as part of the learning process and get the support you need. There are thousands of coaches, teachers and mentors who work exclusively with entrepreneurs to help navigate the path you’ve chosen.
It's valuable to remind yourself of why you chose this path in the first place, and that the long-term benefits outweigh the temporary stresses. There may never be a time when everything subsides, for the challenges will continue as your business grows. Instead of fighting it, embrace the stress and develop coping and management techniques so it doesn't become so overwhelming.
3. Build a community to fight the solitude. Entrepreneurs are a special brand of people who buck tradition and work differently, so it can be very isolating to go at it alone. Because business owners need to project self-confidence so often, it can be difficult to admit our struggles, ask for help or admit defeat. Combine all of that with high-stress situations and a measure of instability, and you have created a circumstance where entrepreneurship can seem like an impossible dream!
Luckily for you, there are thousands of other entrepreneurs who also feel isolated and lonely. In periods of stress, knowing that others understand and support you makes all the difference. Whether you join a networking group, mastermind circle or mentorship, find a community of people who understand you and have faced your struggles. There’s something uniquely comforting to know that even though you may currently work alone, you don’t have to be alone on the journey.
Some entrepreneurs need a local community that includes coffee, handshakes and direct interaction, while others are more comfortable with an online group, video chats and roundtable calls. No matter which community you join, it’s important to give and take. Share your struggles, ask for help, resources and advise from others; at the same time, be willing to guide others, share your solutions and provide a listening ear.
The life and work of an entrepreneur isn't always easy, and it can be discouraging when it appears others do not face the struggles you do. Accept these universal challenges and embrace the supportive community -- though the monetary and emotional costs of entrepreneurship may be high, its rewards can also be immeasurable beyond belief!
Kelly Azevedo is the founder of She's Got Systems, a custom coaching program that leads clients to get support, documenting and dominating in their fields. She has worked in startup, successful six-figure and million-dollar online businesses, helping owners create the systems to serve their needs.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.