Do you dream about working for yourself? Becoming an entrepreneur might be the right option for you. Entrepreneurship allows you the flexibility to create your own schedule, be your own boss, produce meaningful work, and get hands-on experience in a field you love. As you consider your next career move, learn more about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and the necessary steps involved in starting your own business.
Definition: What is an ‘Entrepreneur’?
An entrepreneur is an individual who organizes and operates his or her own business. As opposed to working as an employee at a company, an entrepreneur takes a risk, typically financial, in creating a new company or pursuing a business venture. Forbes distinguishes an entrepreneur as an individual who can function as both a leader and a manager (1). As leaders, entrepreneurs are hardworking and get the job done, fueled by the belief and investment they have in the job they are working on. As managers, entrepreneurs are similarly committed to their work but know when to move on and pursue a better offer.
Existing across multiple industries and niches, entrepreneurs are known to be innovators. They often identify “new ideas, goods, [and] services” and turn them into a business opportunity (2). While it's not an easy road, being an entrepreneur can be filled with great rewards, including profits and growth opportunities. As an entrepreneur, you can work solo or hire a team to work with or for you. It all depends on your company and vision; you have the freedom to create the work environment that is necessary for you to reach your professional goals.
Whatever your field or area of expertise, the entrepreneurial lifestyle requires persistence and dedication. Even though you might be working for yourself, hard times will emerge, and you need the skill set to push through. While every individual has his own set of unique character traits, there are key characteristics to develop that can help you start and maintain a successful business.
- Passionate - If you’ve ever worked a job you didn’t like, you know that your attitude often shapes your productivity. Doing what you enjoy will fuel you professionally, as you will be naturally motivated to learn and continue the work you involve yourself in. It gives you a sense of purpose, which is the driving force behind every business--especially when stress hits. Entrepreneur Magazine states, “...if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, chances are you won’t succeed” (3).
- Creative - You don’t necessarily have to be Picasso for this one. Being creative means that you are able to create solutions even when they are not apparent. As an entrepreneur, you should learn how to think outside the box and shift ideas into results. You can make opportunities when they don’t exist and see possibilities when others may not.
- Planner - Taking time to plan first is essential, especially when you’re building a career. A business plan serves as a foundation and blueprint for an entrepreneur. It should involve both analysis and goal-setting (3). In terms of analysis, a business plan will involve conducting research, compiling data, and finding answers based on facts. Goal-wise, a business plan should outline steps you need to take in order to achieve certain results.
- Learner - No matter how many degrees you have or don’t have, learning is vital when running a business. Every success and failure provides opportunities to learn--to acknowledge what is working and what is not. Learning how to better collaborate with your team and how to better meet your clients’ needs is essential in a professional environment. Keep your eyes open and remain flexible. The more you use every opportunity to learn and educate yourself, the closer you’ll be to reaching your goals.
A successful entrepreneurial lifestyle is built on investing in yourself and obtaining skills. From being a communicator to a money manager, building on essential skills will help you transition into a business owner. The skills you should build are endless, varying from field to field, but these skills below can help you get started.
- Expertise - Become an expert in your field. Building skills for your field increases your credibility. This could mean going back to school to get another degree or taking a few courses to build a specific skillset. As an expert, you should be able to accurately answer questions, provide high-quality service, and have confidence in what you do. Also, expertise is necessary for growth, as it can result in referrals from satisfied clients.
- Money Management - Two financial elements that entrepreneurs must consider are income, the money your clients pay you, and expenses, the money you spend to operate your business (3). From spending money on inventory, marketing your services, maintaining your equipment, to paying yourself and your team, cash will allow your business to work. Take time to research and read resources to build money management skills. This way, you can appropriately price your services, divide your expenses, and estimate income before you run your business full-time.
- Tech and Media - While you don’t have to be tech-savvy, knowing your way around technology and media platforms can not only improve your efficiency but showcase your talents. There are many online resources that provide tutorials on how to build your own website and portfolio. Also, having a solid presence on social media is a way to boost your reputation and market your brand. If you’re not able to get your tech skills down, you can hire professionals like a web designer or social media manager to help design or run these platforms.
- Communication - In a team setting, you will need to know how to lead others effectively and communicate your vision. Create an environment in which all team members are heard and ideas are put into action. If you’re working on your own, communication will be involved as you need to remain accessible to your clients, available to answer questions and hear any concerns. Effective communication will teach you to pitch yourself and your work to others, opening future opportunities--be it with future clients, collaborators, or investors.
Though you might invest in building a startup, having an entrepreneurial spirit will give you success that withstands time. You can easily develop the attitude of a business owner by following these mindset characteristics and tips.
- Believer - In order for others to take you seriously, you have to take yourself seriously. Again, having passion behind your idea will give you the confidence and push to keep going. Work hard and build your knowledge to execute a good product, so that you can have confidence in what you’re doing, even in a competitive atmosphere.
- Balanced - Enjoying the “journey” is part of the journey (4). Staying focused on your goals is important, but you should have a healthy work-life balance. There might be days you have to pull an all-nighter to meet a deadline, but keep an eye on time management. Maintaining a regular schedule and staying on top of your goals will help you handle a balanced lifestyle.
- Starter - Take opportunity when it knocks--after you’ve looked at the pros and cons, of course. You should be able to take initiative but also step back when necessary. Being a starter doesn’t mean running full force through every open door you see but being open to seeing possibility. Take advice, consider the results, and make tangible steps.
- People-minded - People play a major role in the life of an entrepreneur; make sure you can get along with them. When dealing with clients, consider how you are helping them. Showcasing what makes you unique from competitors will give you a competitive advantage. Don’t forget to value your team--whether that includes friends, employees, subcontractors, or a local community (3). When you’re genuinely interested in other people, they will be genuinely interested in you. You can’t do everything yourself--a team with complimentary traits and talents is there to help.
Now that you’ve read about the mindset and skills that an entrepreneur should have, you should consider these steps to start a business.
Identifying the Right Business for You
Entrepreneurship starts with an idea. Explore your interests and find an industry you are passionate about. You may be able to sell a new product or service. This can include diving into an existing industry and discovering a new method or process in a system (5). Starting with something you like--whether it's a hobby or field you are drawn to--will give you insight on ways you can provide innovation.
Consider the skills, interests, and knowledge you have. Look more into your field and the professional opportunities it offers. If you don’t have an interest in mind yet, research current job trends and profitable careers. Study other entrepreneurs and learn the paths they took to start a business. You might learn about job options you never knew were available and existing resources to support your efforts.
Starting a Small Business
Most entrepreneurs start with a small business. Nevertheless, starting small doesn’t mean you don’t have a big impact. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), 99.7% of the 6 million business that have employees are small business (6). The following tips are steps you can take at any time--even if you’re still a full-time employee--to get started on your business idea.
1. Setting Up Finances: Financial risk is a common risk in entrepreneurship (5). Most likely, you will be investing your own money or the money from investors interested in supporting your project. Open a separate business account and start putting aside money for expenses. If you lack the capital, there are alternatives available to fund small businesses. This includes online lenders (as opposed to traditional business loans), angel investors, factoring or invoice advances, crowdfunding, and grants (7). Learn more about each method to discover the option that is best for you.
2. Research and Development: Researching is essential, especially in the early stages of a startup. This will enable you to solidify your idea, learn the market, identify skills as well as find the tools and equipment you need. While it can involve scouring the web for information or reading books, research can also mean conducting surveys and getting to know your customers. You should be able to market to your clients effectively, identifying their interests, wants, and needs.
3. Networking: Going to professional mixers and networking events will introduce you to others in your field who can impact your future. These connections can include peers, who could be future business partners, team members, or employees, as well as experienced individuals who could serve as mentors. Additionally, find ways you can give back. You are in a position where you can inspire others from similar communities and backgrounds to reach their goals. Whether it's through charities, volunteer work, or presentations, you have a story to tell that can help someone else. Being involved in different organizations is a way to get your name out there, make meaningful connections, and meet potential clients who might be looking for something you offer.
Becoming an entrepreneur can be a long but rewarding journey. However, pursuing a longtime dream doesn’t have to remain an impossible goal. By developing the right characteristics, skills, and spirit for success as well as taking practical steps towards entrepreneurship, you can start to plan out the successful career you always wanted.
1. Krogue, Ken. “What Is An Entrepreneur?” Forbes. July 3, 2013.
2. “Entrepreneur.” Investopedia. October 04, 2017.
3. Stephenson, James. “25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs.” Entrepreneur. March 12, 2009.
4. Jain, Naveen. “10 Secrets of Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur.” Inc.com.
5. Wallener, Damir, and L. S. Wynn. “What is an Entrepreneur?” WiseGEEK. December 07, 2017.
6. “What’s a ‘Small Business’?” FactCheck.org. August 25, 2010.
7. Post, Jennifer. “Beyond the Bank Loan: 6 Alternative Financing Methods for Startups.” Business News Daily. September 29, 2016.