It’s been a year now since I took a different path in my life.
I made the bold switch from employee to entrepreneur. From comfort, to struggle. From financial stability to financial insecurity.
A year of entrepreneurship has been incredibly rewarding as it has been challenging. But above all, it corrected my previously flawed perception of what it means to be “an entrepreneur” who’s striving to build a successful business.
If you’re considering starting your own business, I can tell you that this experience will make you much better equipped — mentally and emotionally — for future success in any aspect of life.
You will feel different. You will think differently. And you will see things from a different lens.
Here are four truths to help you succeed.
Truth #1: There is no such thing as passive.
The 4-hour work-week does not exist.
If you paint your dream with colors of laziness, then entrepreneurship — or any act of creation — is not for you.
If you want to take this path with the vision that soon enough you’ll be sitting by the beach with a mojito in one hand and a cigar in another, busting open a laptop 2–3 hours a day to tweak some numbers and reply to a few e-mails… you’d be a fool.
Entrepreneurship is hard work, and there is absolutely nothing passive about it.
The premise behind Tim Ferris’ book (The 4-Hour Work Week) is that you can build a lifestyle where you are in complete control of your time and financial freedom. And I agree, it is possible.
But that is a long-term vision. In the beginning, you’ll need to put in the work every single day. You’ll need to constantly tweak and edit and learn. You’ll need to prospect and sell, grow an audience, test out pricing models, experiment with different marketing strategies. The world changes quickly and you’ll need to keep up. You’ll need to be active more than you’ve ever been in any previous role because you are quite literally the pulse of the business. You are the business. And you need to hold yourself accountable.
There is no such thing as passive income.
And this applies to more than just entrepreneurship. It applies to any art that is shelved under a possible “passive income” stream.
Online courses? Sure, they can be “passive” in that any new sign-up translates into a transaction. But you’ll always need to do the active work of monitoring the feedback, keeping an eye out on the competition and refreshing the content to stay relevant. Writing online? Yes, articles can make you “passive” money with accumulating views, but you’ll need to put in the active daily work of building a library of content, staying in tune with writing best practices and building an engaged audience for yourself.
The point is this: there is no such thing as passive.
Truth #2: Sustainable growth is a game for the long-run — you need to build slowly, through stability and eventually, you’ll get there.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” — Bill Gates
The biggest mistake I did when I first started bootstrapped my business was that I focused on winning at large in such a short period of time — and I quickly realized that this is an amateur approach to building something sustainable.
I let my enthusiasm get the best of me.
I moved too quickly. I rapidly expanded into several product categories which spiked my packaging and marketing costs and diluted my manufacturing margins. Eventually, I spread my finances too thin.
I overdid it — too much, too soon.
And this happened because I didn’t understand the concept of 1%.
Focus on small, consistent, tiny wins. Focus on the 1% incremental gain. Focus on building slowly, through stability if you wish to see any sustainable future change.
One of your strengths as an entrepreneur is your vision. No one can take your vision of the future away from you. You do need to be a visionary to have the ability to see where and how far your project can go. You need that vision to inspire others to chime in your movement.
But vision and long-term thinking do not overlap. They’re two different skills.
I am a visionary. But I am not a long-term thinker. Or at least, I wasn’t.
I wanted things now. I wanted them to move fast. And I wanted to grow quickly. And I pushed too hard in the process to the point where I stopped enjoying the process. Which evidently led to a burnout — and everything slowed down afterward… Short-term thinking is the enemy of growth.
“Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: It uses his own enthusiasm against him. Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion. It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity. We will hit the wall. We will crash. The professional, on the other hand, understand delayed gratification.” — Steven Pressfield
As entrepreneurs — or doers, makers, creators, artists and anyone seeking a twist in the status quo — we are born rebels. Rebels dream of change. And change is faced with constant resistance. Our job is to overcome that resistance and keep marching onwards. And the only way to materialize sustainable change is to focus on small incremental wins over the long-run.
Focus on the 1% and improve a little every day. Greatness is achieved through the consistent work that’s put in the process.
So in any venture you undertake, understand that you’re in the game for the long-run — build slowly, through stability.
Don’t rush through the process or you’ll be destined to fail. Give the process the respect it demands. You’ll avoid burnout, and you’ll be more likely to create sustainable long-term change.
Truth #3: Begin building an audience before you launch a product.
“It will go viral.”
We all slip into this trap of believing people will immediately fall in love with our brand, book or product as deeply as we have over the course of building it. The honest truth is this: they won’t.
It’s becoming much more difficult to gain traction on social platforms like Instagram. And if you’re launching a brand with a bootstrapped budget you cannot rely on advertising as a means for building awareness. The big players own that channel and you simply cannot compete on overbidding — they’ll break you.
My advice — and this applies to any new project you’re about to launch that requires a significant sum of money, time or energy as an upfront investment — is this: build an audience before you build the product.
Whether it’s a book, or a clothing brand, or an online course, you want to introduce your product to an existing audience.
It’s drastically more efficient and effective to launch a $20 product to an existing audience of 10,000 than a $100 product to an audience of 100. If we assume 3% of your audience will convert, take a look at this:
- A: 3% conversion on $20 product with an audience of 10,000 = $6,000
- B: 3% conversion on $100 product with an audience of 100 = $300
Begin with building an audience immediately.
If you want to launch a book, begin with writing articles online and building an e-mail list first. Write every day for a year, and when you have a following over 5,000 people, put that book on the market. If you want to launch your yoga clothing line, begin with posting holistic lifestyle pictures on your Instagram account. Get involved within those online communities. Do it every day until you have a substantial audience, then introduce your line.
The keyword: do it every day.
An online audience elevates your game. It reflects credibility and gives you a market to speak to directly. An existing audience gives you a voice. It radiates influence — and people want to buy from influential people.
It also helps you validate the market’s interest in your product as you build it and saves you from allocating a hefty advertising budget when you launch.
Truth #4: You need to cultivate the right mindset.
Sometimes I wonder why I did this to myself.
Why did I invite so much worry, anxiety, doubt and uncertainty into my world? But then again, as humans, we tend to quickly forget the feelings that consumed us in the past.
When I’m riddled with doubt, I open my journal and read the scribbled notes that I had written back when I was tired of the repetitive nature of my day job. I remind myself of how hungry I was to learn and how badly I wanted to try and create something of my own. I remind myself that this is the path I’ve always wanted to walk, and I realize that today’s struggle is simply a normal rough patch through the journey.
Change is hard, but it’s necessary — especially if you want to grow.
There is no game in the comfort zone. There is only stagnation. If you want to experience growth, you need to move. You need to try things, break things, test things — fail.
Most importantly, you need to build a new mindset of steel that will carry you through the inevitable struggles of change.
- You need to believe that success is possible. Otherwise, why are you in this game? Think with abundance and learn to see the possibilities.
- You need to understand that sacrifice is part of the equation to get to where you want — the reward is on the other side of it. Sacrifice is necessary if you want to cross the path of entrepreneurship — read this to understand what I mean.
- You need to accept that good things take time. Don’t rush the process — focus on improving at a rate of 1%.
- You need to focus on what you can control. In any given situation, there will be factors that you can control and others that you can’t — which ones will you focus your energy on?
I really believe growth happens from the exploration of our creative ideas.
Entrepreneurship is just one of the many paths you can take on that journey to growth and self-discovery. If you’re thinking of taking a leap of faith and starting your own business, congratulations on this new adventure — you’re in for an incredible ride.
Just make sure you ask yourself these critical questions first — they will help you make the right decision.