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Those Things No One Tells You Before You Start a Business

One brave founder shares the things she'd wished she'd known before starting up.
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Sometimes the best gift others can give us is their mistakes and misconceptions. We're all hesitant to share our screw-ups and embarrassing moments, but if we can bring ourselves to be honest about what we failed to understand, we can help others avoid those pitfalls (though only, of course, to encounter a few unique ones of their own).

It's this willingness to share the less than spectacular aspects of starting up that sets a new post by entrepreneur Stephanie St.Claire apart. The super entertaining style in which it's written definitely recommends it too. In the Medium post she offers an unvarnished picture of the hurdles she faced starting her business and shares the things she didn't know at the outset but wishes someone had told her. The honest and funny post is worth a complete read, but here's a sampling of what St. Claire has learned.

1. You'll only spend 15% of your time doing what you love.

Starting a business because you love baking cupcakes or helping clients solve problems? Brace yourself, most of your day will not be spent doing those things.

"You will spend 15% of the time doing what you love (your gift... in my case coaching and writing) and 85% of the time marketing, administrating, selling, strategizing your business, and answering a sh**load of email. Survival will totally hinge on how quickly you adopt this role of Business Owner first, creator of pretty things, second," she writes, adding that "this sucked for me because I wanted nothing to do with running a business."

2. It won't happen faster for you than for everyone else. 

No matter how special you think you are, you won't beat the usual timeframe for starting a business. "I was confident I could do it in six months. I believed with every fiber of my glittery, go-gettin' heart that my work ethic (15-hour days/7 days a week), along with my talent, skills, and personal magic, I could rip a path to accelerated success because also, this was A Leap of Faith and I was Living in My Divine Authenticity and that was worth some express lane juju points from Heaven," St. Claire confesses. The reality: nope, it took just as long for her as for everybodys else.

3. You'll probably run out of money at some point. 

Yes, even if you are prepare sensibly, have a loan, or secure investment. "Running out of money is a common part of the journey. You won't expect it, because you prepared for the long haul," she writes, "but then all of the sudden, midst the puffy clouds and blue skies, your little twin engine Entreprenairplane will sputter, the needle on the gas gauge unexpectedly plummeting to zero, and you will have only one choice... land your plane on the wild, abandoned air strip called Bank Balance: Fourteen Dollars."

But fret not. It is possible to get through this experience and come out the other side much stronger for it, St. Claire insists: "This is a rite of passage that will launch you into the League of Business Badassery in which, once you are out of the money hellhole, you will be unstoppable," thanks to having confronted your fears and stuck to your dreams.

4. You will be your biggest challenge.

Sure, as we just discussed, cash flow is hard and so are things like acquiring customers and hiring, but not as hard as facing your own self-doubt, according to St. Claire. "The biggest challenge you will deal with in running a business is your own resistance. Period, end of story," she declares before recommending prospective entrepreneurs pick up a copy of Steven Pressfield's Do the Work to help them deal with this reality.

5. Marketing isn't optional. 

Not entirely comfortable with self-promotion? Tough, says St. Claire. There's no way to make it without marketing. None at all. "This was my biggest weakness when I started because I thought marketing = slimy sales letters with big arrows and opt-in boxes and I couldn't! I wouldn't! So I put my head in magical fairyland sand, stubbornly insisting that my customers would be tractor-beamed into my budding practice," she writes, "And then I ate canned food and spaghetti for a long, long time."

To avoid getting overly familiar with Chef Boyardee yourself, she recommends that you "learn what way you like to market and stick to that and do it consistently and often. Even if you hire a pro, you will be doing some marketing yourself. Keeping your website fresh and current is essential in your marketing, so learn how to work WordPress and learn some HTML code."

Any brave founders out there want to share what they wish they had known before starting out?

Last updated: Jul 23, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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