So long, entrepreneurship, it’s been real.
Actually, it’s been awful.
It’s time to admit that I’m not going to make it as someone who starts a business and makes millions. The fact is, despite my best efforts, I am not suited to the entrepreneur lifestyle, the mindset, or the risk that is involved.
And frankly, you probably aren’t, either.
Let me explain.
I have been involved in several entrepreneurial ventures for the past seven years. During that time, I’ve experienced mediocre successes, survived two failed business ventures, and avoided getting ripped off by two business partners.
I also managed to eke out a shaky income of $50K per year for most of that time, telling myself that the lavish rewards of entrepreneurship were just around the corner.
(Spoiler alert: they weren’t.)
Honestly, the past seven years of my life have been some of the worst regarding career success and feeling like I am making progress. Just when I thought I was starting to make some progress, I would lose a client, a partnership would crumble, or something would fall apart with the business itself.
Every time I would convince myself that ‘next time would be different’ and that I would finally ‘make it as an entrepreneur.’
(Spoiler alert: I didn’t.)
Well, enough is enough. It’s time to accept that not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur. It’s time to admit that I don’t have the energy or enthusiasm for it anymore.
If that means I get labeled as a failed entrepreneur, I am willing to accept that.
My Dark, Twisted, Entrepreneurial Fantasy
I remember about seven years ago when I first had the idea that maybe I could be an entrepreneur.
At the time, I was working as a business consultant for a company that did dental practice management workshops and coaching. I was very good at what I did and got paid over $100K per year. I also had the chance to travel and practice the skill of speaking, which was my true passion.
One morning, I was at a networking event and met someone who started talking to me about their startup they had just kicked off. They were brimming with excitement and self-belief, and, honestly, I envied them.
For whatever reason, my career as a consultant had started to become droll. Even though I had the chance to speak in front of audiences, help clients with my coaching skills, and travel around the world at times, I was starting to lose my love for it.
When I met this person (who would later become my business partner), I started to think that maybe they had actually figured out the secret. Maybe they were on the path that all of us should be pursuing instead of a career in a company or a steady job.
Just like millions of other people, I fell headfirst into the fantasy of being an entrepreneur.
I thought that maybe I too could find a way to ‘make it big. That I could buck the system, escape the 9-to-5, and become rich and successful.
(Spoiler alert: I was a delusional idiot.)
The Road to Financial Hell
Over the next three years, I invested money in a startup and proceeded to siphon another $60,000 in personal savings attempting to keep myself afloat while we tried to get investors.
The more time that passed, the more I started to feel desperate. I took part-time jobs and kept trying to find ways to cut corners financially.
My business partner became more and more delusional as the years went on. Instead of admitting we were sinking financially, he was convinced our company would change the world.
It took me almost four years to reach the point where I had to escape that first business. I was exhausted emotionally from the constant hope and was struggling to pay rent most months. I was ashamed to admit to anyone close to me that my entrepreneurial dreams weren’t materializing.
Eventually, I sold my share of the business to my delusional partner, and we parted ways. It was a relief to be free of his constant hyperbole, but I still couldn’t escape from the fantasy that maybe I could make it as an entrepreneur.
An Agency of One
It took me about another six months before I launched my second venture, this time, it was a content marketing agency.
I was a half-decent writer and had learned SEO tactics during my first attempt to grow a business, so now I turned my focus to helping others do the same.
Despite the fact I was really a freelance content writer and SEO, I would still tell people I ran my own business.
Why? Because it sounded cool.
Thankfully by then, I’d stopped calling myself an entrepreneur and was now just content being the ‘founder’ of a content marketing agency.
I started my second business in mid-2019, and at the start of 2020, it all came crashing down. I lost almost 75%of my clients in the first months of that year during the pandemic. And my income went from around $5,000 a month down to about $1,000.
Somehow, I managed to stay afloat during the next few months until I picked up a side-gig managing sales for another larger content writing agency. I didn’t really want to work for someone else, but at the time, I needed the money, and I couldn’t sustain myself as a solopreneur.
Today in 2022, I have started the process of moving back into the consulting world as an employee.
I’ve finally realized that my skills and passions are in writing, speaking, and sharing personal development ideas with the world. But the truth is, my passions don’t pay rent.
So, to make sure I have some sense of sanity and stability, I have accepted that having a ‘normal’ career is part of my life journey.
I have finally realized that all this fantasy of entrepreneurship has brought me is frustration, uncertainty, and occasionally a small boost in income.
There is a sense of relief for me in saying goodbye to being an entrepreneur. It’s cathartic to admit that I don’t have the tolerance for the risk and that no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t make it.
In the rest of this article, I want to share some ideas about the truth of being an entrepreneur.
I want to bust the myth that being an entrepreneur is worth the effort and that if you keep persisting, you will succeed.
In reality, you will waste time, lose money, and regret listening to your own bullshit.
It’s harsh but honest: it’s time to stop saying you’re an entrepreneur.
Why Does Everyone Want to Be an Entrepreneur?
Have you noticed that more and more people are calling themselves entrepreneurs on social media, on dating apps, and at networking events?
Very often, the term entrepreneur seems to be a blanket statement for anyone who is self-employed, a freelancer, a franchisee, or a small business owner. It’s also used by people who have a side hustle of some type, such as selling on eBay, Etsy, or some other type of part-time money-making endeavor.
Why do so many people say they are an entrepreneur?
In a word, because it sounds cooler than saying you run a business or are self-employed.
Telling people you are an entrepreneur gives them the impression that you have big plans and that you’re on the path to achieving them.
Of course, it’s mostly smoke and mirrors.
Most people who say they are an entrepreneur are actually a wantrepreneur.
You might ask, what is the difference between an ‘entrepreneur’ and a ‘wantrepreneur’?
It’s honestly pretty simple:
An entrepreneur has built and runs (or has sold) a profitable business.
A wantrepreneur has a fantasy of doing it. (And probably talks a lot about doing it).
Most of the articles out there covering the topic of entrepreneur vs. wantrepreneur are heavily slanted towards the benefits of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Yet, the reality is that most people (including me) are actually wantrepreneurs, not entrepreneurs.
They are freelancers, part-time hustlers, and people looking to get some funding to try to keep themselves afloat instead of working a job.
The Rise of the Wantrepreneur
In my attempt to build a startup and then my own marketing agency, I met a lot of people who claimed to be successful entrepreneurs.
Most of them were what I would label as ‘wantrepreneurs’ – meaning, just like me, they were attempting to break free of the career they were in.
Some were trying to create software, and some wanted to sell a product; others had some coaching or consulting service they were peddling.
But every single one of them had made almost zero money and were doing more talking about being an entrepreneur than actually doing anything towards it.
The dictionary definition of a wantrepreneur is ‘a person who aspires to be an entrepreneur, especially one who never realizes this ambition.’
I hate to admit that for most of the seven years I attempted to be an entrepreneur, I was really just a wantrepreneur.
Very often, though, people who label themselves as entrepreneurs are in a state of constant uncertainty and struggle. They have no idea what they are doing, and their business idea or plan has little to no real profit potential.
How Much Do Entrepreneurs Make?
If you look at the average incomes of entrepreneurs, they are not showing an accurate picture.
Sure, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates are all doing pretty well. But there are also millions of other entrepreneurs who aren’t.
The majority people who say they are an entrepreneur are actually closer to being self-employed or a solopreneur. On top of this, many of them have part-time jobs, or work full time somewhere outside their own business. Yet, they neglect to mention that when explaining what they do for a living.
So how much money to people who call themselves entrepreneurs actually earn?
According to Comparably, the average earnings of solopreneurs in the US range from $16,920 to $92,110, with a median salary of $36,200.
Yes, most people will think that they will earn closer to $90K, but the truth is you are more likely to earn closer to $40K.
A report by Ziprecruiter showed that most entrepreneurs make about $45,000 per year on average.
Of course, this doesn’t sound like the amazing rewards that all of us believe that we will make once we ‘make it’. But it’s a lot closer to what your life will be like if you keep kidding yourself that you’re an entrepreneur.
Most people who say they are an entrepreneur actually
Is Being an Entrepreneur Worth It?
Most articles about ‘what it takes to be an entrepreneur will finish by saying it’s worth it.
They will glorify the struggle, loneliness, and uncertainty as someday, somehow resulting in a big payoff.
I want to buck that trend by saying that for the overwhelming majority of us, it is not worth being an entrepreneur.
Here’s the truth for almost 99% of us who want to be an entrepreneur:
- You will never make the kind of money you think you will.
- You will never get people to buy your product at scale.
- You will waste years of your life talking about how to make it.
- You will delude yourself because you think you’re somehow special or different.
By buying into the fantasy of being an entrepreneur, you are actually fooling yourself. You are using an entrepreneurial fantasy to fuel your sense of self-importance. You’re blinding yourself into believing that somehow things will turn around if only you keep going.
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely thinking I sound like a burned-out cynic.
But, let me be clear here and say that I am a big proponent of self-actualization and realizing your potential in life.
I believe that every person has intrinsic talents and should aim to develop them as much as they can.
I also live by the mantra that Earl Nightingale first shared ‘Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.’
But when it comes to wanting to be an entrepreneur, I strongly feel that for most people that it is not a worthy goal.
It’s a trendy, unquantifiable goal that we set for ourselves that ends up achieving nothing fulfilling.
It’s far better to devote your extra energy and time to a hobby or passion outside of your career that makes you feel alive. It’s more important to deepen your relationships with people you love. It’s better to learn to live within your means and realize that becoming a millionaire entrepreneur is not going to make you any happier.
I am writing this as a memo to myself as much as to anyone out there who is starting to doubt their own entrepreneurial ambitions.
Not all of us make it as entrepreneurs.
In fact, most of us don’t.
But that doesn’t mean our lives aren’t important or unique. We can still have a career or day job and become the best version of ourselves. We can still follow our bliss while we pay our bills.
Life is very rich when you choose to experience it as it is.
The fantasy and delusion of entrepreneurship is a cultural meme that has ruined many lives. It’s time to say farewell to entrepreneurship and start to actually live in the real world.
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