The big challenges usually come in the form of mental and emotional challenges. This is the part that sucks! There will be days when you wake up, feel you are at your lowest, with not a bone in your body encouraging you to get up and carry on. Your life will feel like an avalanche of unpaid bills, debts, failures and pressures plummeting downhill faster than you could ever have imagined and it’s taking you with it.
You sit there, wondering why is nobody recognising you? Why are people not bowled over by your ideas, imagination, products or services? You’ve done what they all told you to do. “Get a website, write a blog, do social media, join forums and discussions, market, market, market!”
The fact is, it takes time. Everybody underestimates the time it will take to get your business to a point where it can sustain itself. That is step one; being able to sustain you and your family comes at a much later stage.
There are no over night successes as the media would like to have us believe. When each entrepreneur is asked how long it took, there will always be long tales to be told, with many years of hard work and no return. Take Bill Gates for example: he has one failed start-up attempt, dropped out of university and he even considered becoming a lawyer at one point. (This will happen often, and I mean often, there will be numerous times when you are going to think corporate is the better choice.)
It took him 5 years of working; 16 hours a day until he finally opened Microsoft, but not the Microsoft that we know today, just opened it. He still continued to write code for IBM and Steve Jobs until eventually opening Windows, which came with its own set of complications.
On a smaller scale, as not everyone is setting out to be a Bill Gates, having spoken to many owners of start-ups, they all sing similar songs. One entrepreneur started an online shop and it took over a year before the first sale came in. That’s a year of paying for hosting, marketing and product expenses with no return on investment and no income. For others it has been 4 years of just making it through, some months being tighter than others. Others have sold homes to stay in business, rented out their flats and moved into backpackers’ accommodation to cover shop rentals. They have literally put everything into their businesses, because that’s what it takes. You have to be prepared to adapt, at what cost, depends on how badly you want your business to succeed and to what extent your circumstances will allow you to adapt.
There is a saying that states your first hurdle is to make 2 years, then 5 years. If you’re still open after 5 years good for you, however no one mentions that you still aren’t necessarily making it in terms of big profits or 100 employees. Your doors are just simply open; you will still have those months where you aren’t quite sure about the future.
The facts are scary! According to start-up data collected throughout America in 2013, it was found that 75% of all start-ups fail, while 90% of all products fail. 25% fail within the first year, 36% of the remaining fail within the second year, 44% of those remaining fail within the third and so on.
Sounds bleak doesn’t it, but it’s not meant to. It’s just the truth that I feel is often left out or candy coated by the media when they report on over night success stories. It was never over night; those poor souls have probably been working their hearts out for the last 5 years barely pulling through, while his mountain of debt has kept them up at night. It was never over night and for the blood, sweat and tears to be down played, I feel is unfair.
It’s those challenges that make entrepreneurs who they are. The struggle is part of it, we’ve worked hard for it and to suggest it came overnight is insulting and quite honestly degrading. We didn’t almost loose our sanity for the rest of the world to think we got it easy.
The only reality that I think every budding entrepreneur and freelancer alike should know about is the time it takes to get to where you want to be. Yes it is hard, frustrating, lonely and down right depressing at times, but we all coped, sucked it up and carried on, it’s human nature. We are fighters we don’t just quit at the first sign of trouble. The real question is … do you have the time to be an entrepreneur?
Do you have 2, 3, 4 years ahead of you where you won’t be making any money? Do you have time to sit on the side lines while your corporate friends and family climb their ladders of success, while you’re still sitting at the bottom of yours? Do you have the time for the endless roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship? If you have mouths to feed, mortgages to pay, school fees to pay – I suggest you build your start-up on the side because it won’t cover your bills, truth.
If you don’t have the time you will become a statistic. You will never have enough money at the beginning to see you through to the end, it will help but it is not your saviour. You will have your 5-year plans, your 10-year plans but life will happen and you will adapt. You just need to have the time, the time to grow, the time to carve out your place in the world and if you have the time, the rewards are worth it. The freedom is worth it, because lets face it, that is what it is inevitably about, the freedom.
So, this is not a letter about doom and gloom and all the hardships about entrepreneurship. I love being an entrepreneur; I just wanted people to know that it takes time, a lot of time. So make sure you acknowledge the time it takes and don’t ever underestimate it or it will be the straw that breaks you.