Entrepreneurship is frequently portrayed as exciting, amusing, or even lavish (especially after a company has become successful), but the truth is, there’s a dark side to entrepreneurship that isn’t as frequently publicized.
Most entrepreneurs in the public eye are ones who have become very successful, while the majority of business owners endure a silent struggle — whether they’re making a consistent profit or not.
It’s rewarding to start and manage your own business even if you fail, but before you take the plunge, you need to be ready for these psychological burdens that entrepreneurs have to bear:
1. Accountability. Everything that goes wrong is going to be your fault — or at least, that’s how it’s going to seem. As the leader of your organization, you’re the one making the final call on most decisions, and you’re the one who will be most affected (whether positive or negative) by those decisions’ outcomes. Making too many decisions can increase your levels of stress, and increased stress can lead to poor decision making, according to the CDC, so you may get caught in a relentless cycle of stress and decisions.
2. Financial Stress and Uncertainty. There’s no such thing as a “typical” startup; some are able to get off the ground with almost no investment, while others expend millions of dollars before they even go live. Still, the SBA estimates the average startup to require at least $30,000 to get going, and for that, you may have to dip into your savings or accumulate debt you’re personally liable for. On top of that, you’ll probably quit your day job to commit full-time to your new business, and it’s unlikely that you’ll generate revenue right away. You’ll need to survive at least a few months without any income, based on a model that you’re only marginally confident will eventually yield enough value to produce a steady stream of revenue. If you have a family, or are investing significant personal savings, the financial stress can be nightmarish.
3. Trust. No entrepreneur builds a business alone, but even if you surround yourself with the best employees you can find, it can be hard to trust them to take care of your baby. Still, you’re going to have to if you want the business to grow. You’ll need to delegate tasks, entrust entire departments to other people, and depend on your partners and vendors to have your back. On top of that, you’ll need to listen to the advice of mentors and other entrepreneurs if you want a fuller perspective on the issues you’ll face — and they aren’t always going to tell you what you want to hear. Ultimately, the decisions and direction are up to you, but you’ll still need to relinquish some control over what may be the most important project of your life.
4. Work-Life Balance. When you take on the role of an entrepreneur, everything else takes a backseat. You’re passionate and genuinely excited about your idea, and for the first few months, the long hours and weekends of work are satisfying. But then, even though you can set your own hours, you fall deeper into the demands of the entrepreneurial lifestyle. You see your family and friends less, you only get a few hours of sleep every night, and you end up skipping meals, eating junk food, and falling back on some bad habits to keep yourself going. To make matters worse, as your health declines, it becomes even harder to resist problems like depression and burnout.
5. Loneliness. It’s not often talked about, but entrepreneurship is incredibly lonely. On top of working long hours and being away from your friends and family members, you won’t feel connected to the people around you. You’ll have to be a boss and a professional to all the coworkers you consider a kind of family, and you won’t be able to show a moment of weakness — even if the company is on the brink of collapse. You won’t have many, if any peers, and regardless of whether you’re successful or not, you won’t make a lot of friends along the way. Professional contacts, perhaps, but not friends. That deep loneliness complicates all the other psychological burdens even further.
If you’re an entrepreneur struggling with these psychological burdens, you need to get help. You’re dedicated to your company, I know, and you may either be in denial that you’re experiencing these burdens or feel like you’re too busy to address them.
I implore you to make the time. Take time off. Go on vacation. Spend more time with your friends and loved ones. Talk to your peers. Hire a therapist. Whatever you have to do, prioritize your own self-care, or both you and your business will suffer the consequences.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!