The 5 Realities of Entrepreneurship

This article originally appeared on the Ellevate Network, a global professional women’s network committed to elevating each other through education, inspiration, and opportunity. Its mission is to close the gender achievement gap in business by providing women with a community to lean on and learn from.


Becoming an entrepreneur can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It means that you get to pursue your dreams, set your own hours and call your own shots. The wealth you build is generally yours and the amount of that wealth is largely controlled by your own hustle and planning.

Here are five realities that most entrepreneurs wish they were told when starting their own business.

Number 1. Working for Yourself Means That You Still Have a Boss

Sure, you can dream that you get to set your own hours and call your own shots, but in reality, you have a new boss.

If you start a consultancy or other services-based business, your clients and workload will set your schedule. Go ahead and set a rule that you don't take meetings before 10 a.m. If you have a startup that is bootstrapped, you are your own boss, but that boss can be the toughest manager you have ever encountered. Your deadlines and milestones are incredibly demanding. If you are a funded startup, your investors call the shots. They will hold you to your goals and milestones more strenuously than any manager you've ever had. A brick-and-mortar shop will not only demand storefront hours from you, but also require plenty of after-hours work.

Number 2. You Have to Account for Administrative and Operational Hours When Budgeting Your Time

All of the things you didn't have to do when working for someone else are now your responsibility, especially if you can't afford to hire a team of people to do it for you. Everything from accounting (receivable and payable and taxes and more) to paperwork to web hosting to business development and more is now part of your job description. If you want to hire people to do it for you, you need to make enough of an income to justify it.

Entrepreneurship means you wear many hats until you can afford to pass them off to others. The upside is that you'll get to know the 360-degree running of your business, which is an incredible hands-on MBA.

Number 3. Talent is Both the Most Rewarding and Most Frustrating Part of Your Business

When you do get to the point that you can hire people, you will discover that good people are hard to find and even harder to keep. You may be the best boss in the world, but talented and driven employees are in high demand. We met a CEO once that learned how to rock climb in order to build a relationship with a fantastic mobile developer he wanted to hire. After weeks of the CEO acquiring blisters and bruises, the mobile developer went with a better offer from a more established firm and the CEO was back to square one (except that he now knows how to “boulder.”)

Companies also hire “B-grade” employees who hurt productivity and produce lackluster results. One of the best rules comes from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh who adheres to the adage, “Hire slow, fire fast.”

Number 4. There is No Work-Life Balance When You’re an Entrepreneur

The ability to have a work-life balance as a senior employee is already difficult enough, but it gets even worse when you are running your own show. The hours are longer and there is no checking out at 6 p.m. Gone are the days of checking out of work early on a Friday because your work is done. Your work is never done!

Entrepreneurs tell us that they stop planning ahead with friends because they can never predict when there will be a crisis.

Number 5. But There Are Some Upsides to Entrepreneurship

Sure, numbers one through four sound horrific and 90 percent of startups fail, but the benefits and rewards of the 10 percent that work are:

  • Professional growth — you will learn more in six months running your own business than you could learn in a four-year business degree.
  • Pushing your creative limits — when it is your livelihood on the line, you get incredibly creative.
  • Realizing you are incredibly resilient — when the going gets tough, you realize you get tougher than you ever imagined.
  • The high points are higher — yes, there will be many down days, but they only make the victories seem that much sweeter.
  • Being part of the club — there was a time when telling people you are an entrepreneur was met with looks of concern. No longer. Today, being an entrepreneur is celebrated. It's a proud badge to wear.

Although being an entrepreneur is anything but glamorous, it can also be the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Are there any harsh or helpful realities that you have encountered as an entrepreneur?