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Dear Aspiring Entrepreneur

A letter to entrepreneurs, especially those that are just getting started.
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From the outside, it seems great to be an entrepreneur. You work for yourself. You have a lot of  free time. You have the ability to make boatloads of money that you don't have to share with others. You don't have any financial overhead. And you're the envy all of your friends. Well I'm sorry to burst your bubble, it's not all rainbows and sunshine.

Aspiring entrepreneur, here are a bunch of free lessons:

Being an entrepreneur is the single most stressful thing I've ever done in my life. Yeah, I'm only 32 years old, but the last five years have probably taken ten years off my life.

I've lost and alienated a bunch of friends. Some of my friends have become "enemies." Albeit, we don't have medieval sword battles or anything.

I've gone into debt, I've come out of debt, I've gone back into debt.

I've missed weddings and countless birthdays. The worst part is, for a few of those events I've missed them traveling or doing things that weren't the most fun or amazing, but were necessary for my business.

If you're getting into the client services business, expect customer service to be your number one priority. I don't kiss people's asses, but I do go out of my way to keep clients happy.

Customer service sucks and you will have to do it.

Hire an accountant and pay that person to make sure you file your taxes on time and correctly.

Hire a lawyer to set up your business correctly, get contracts written up front for employees/contractors/clients. DEFINITELY get contracts written and agreed upon up front when doing business with friends.

You get what you pay for in almost everything you do in this world. Remember that the next time you want to take the cheaper route.

Just because you have some success, doesn't mean it will last. Think about the long tail.

The likelihood of you creating the "next big thing" is about as likely as you winning the lottery. Maybe even less likely. So focus on doing something you want to do and play the lottery every once in awhile (just in case).

However...

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most gratifying things I've ever done in my life. And I guess it's less "being an entrepreneur"and more "owning my own business." Nonetheless, the harder I work, the more results I see.

I wrote a post about friendship a few months ago. I still believe what I wrote and I think we all have friendships that weigh us down because we're afraid to move on and focus on bigger things in our lives.

Going into debt has taught me so much about myself. Not only has it taught me to be way more frugal with my money, it's also realigned my life priorities and goals.

The ability to travel anywhere you want on a moment's notice is pretty amazing. You may miss out on a few things, but you also have the chance to create new memories and relationships.

Yes the client service business can suck, but if you have the right clients it can be great. Fire your bad clients and go out of your way for your good clients.

Customer service is great when you make a customer happy and they sing your praises. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing.

Accountants are worth whatever they charge, and for most new business owners (entrepreneurs), it's not as expensive as you think. In 2010 I think I paid my accountant $700 and he helped save me thousands of dollars.

Lawyers are worth whatever they charge, if you need them. Legal advice isn't a fun thing to need, but it's great to have someone in your corner just in case.

I don't advise entrepreneurs to spend much money when getting started, but things you shouldn't skimp on: Great design. Great development. Great people. Everything else you should be stingy about.

Success is measured in different ways for different people. I always equated success with money and now I don't. Yes I want to make lots of money, but I also want to be happy and love what I'm doing. The latter feels more like success to me.

Mark Cuban said it best: "Don't follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, how ever you define it."

Now is the time to get started.

Don't wait. Don't look for that perfect moment to land in your lap. Go out and make somethinghappen for yourself.

Last updated: Aug 21, 2014

JASON SURFRAPP | Columnist

Jason Surfrapp is the founder of IWearYourShirt.com. His new book, Creativity For Sale, is an in-depth look at how to turn passion into profit.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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