Most business books and experts will tell you it takes a certain type of person to be an entrepreneur. They might say you have to be outgoing, risk-taking, and able to make sales.

It's just not true. Look around: You may know someone who's successful but is a grouch, hates to take a risk, or doesn't get up before noon. They can be an entrepreneur -- a successful entrepreneur at that -- if they find a business that suits their entrepreneurial type.

What do I mean by "entrepreneurial type"?

Most people think about their interests when they first consider being in business for themselves. But that's just a starting point. Let's say you're interested in antiques. Does that mean you should sell antiques, appraise them, or refinish them? Even if you want to sell antiques, does that mean owning a retail store, selling them on eBay, or finding bargains at flea markets and marking them up for sale to retail stores? Your interest is clear -- antiques -- but you've got a number of different ways to build a business around that interest.

Based on my experience with thousands of entrepreneurs, I've come up with a number of entrepreneurial types. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Advisor. Lots of people would like to be paid just for giving advice; usually it takes a great deal of experience or education to be able to do so. Some kinds of advisors include attorneys, accountants, and financial planners. But many of the best salespeople also consider themselves -- and are considered by their customers -- as advisors. For instance, I look to my insurance salesperson to responsibly guide me in my choice and amount of coverage.
  • Broker. A "broker" is a go-between -- someone who helps others find the products or services they need. They may charge a percentage of the sales price of the item brokered, a flat fee, or an hourly fee. Real estate agents are perhaps the best-known type of broker, but you could be a broker for almost any kind of product or service (except those with very narrow profit margins). You could, for instance, be an auto, mortgage, business, even wine broker. If you've got a strong area of expertise or interest -- and enjoy shopping -- being a broker is a low-cost way to go into business.
  • Builder. One of the largest segments of entrepreneurs are self-employed contractors -- carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, etc. Whether you're building a whole housing development, or laying the floor in one apartment, if you enjoy seeing something be created from nothing and you have the necessary skills, being a builder may be for you.
  • Caretaker. Our society has a great need to have people and things taken care of, maintained, and assisted. That opens up lots of opportunities for those entrepreneurs who are patient and nurturing. If you're a person who can be consistent over time and see yourself as a helping personality, you may be the caretaking entrepreneurial type.
  • Creator. You may be a person with a vision -- whether it's in fashion, graphics, technology, or in any area of product or service. Creators include graphic or fashion designers, inventors, business builders, etc. Creators often need to team up with other entrepreneurs who are strong in sales or operations to help make their vision a financially viable reality.
  • Owner. If you've got money to invest, you might be able to put your capital to work for you. Whether you invest in stocks, real estate, vending machines, businesses, etc., being an active "owner" enables you to leverage your money into additional income without having to show up to work every day.
  • Seller. If you're good at sales, you should never have to go hungry. Great salespeople are always in demand. Many of them are self-employed, typically working on commission. If you're good at selling, and willing to work hard, you can earn a lot of money from sales.

These are just a few of the types of entrepreneurs I've identified. The key when thinking about running your own business is figuring out not only what business you're in, but what type of entrepreneur suits your personality and your skills.

Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2002

Rhonda Abrams writes the nation's most widely-read small business column and is the author of The Successful Business Organizer, Wear Clean Underwear, and The Successful Business Plan. To receive Rhonda's free business tips newsletter, register at