While we often use the terms interchangeably, there are slight differences between entrepreneurs and small business owners. Most entrepreneurs are small business owners, but not all small business owners are entrepreneurs.

Most entrepreneurs (often in the tech world) innovate, create, and are excited about finding a revenue stream that's based largely on their passion. However, it can be easy for some entrepreneurs to be small business owners and follow a set scheme like franchising, which, although challenging and sometimes lucrative--isn't quite the innovative trajectory I mentioned above.

Do you dream of not just working for yourself, but blazing trails? There are quite a few characteristics that many successful entrepreneurs have in common. I'm not saying you *have* to have these traits to find success. However, in my travels these have jumped out at me as being particularly common:

1. They're not afraid to make well-planned leaps.

People who are dreamers through and through may not never take the calculated risks necessary to be successful entrepreneurs. Yes, dreaming is an important part of being an entrepreneur, but you need to be able to take it to the next level. If all you do is fantasize, but never plot and take actionable steps, you're stuck in idle.

Not all of these leaps have to be well-planned. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I have met bided their time until the industry, position or business opportunity they wanted came along. They knew at the right moment to seize an opportunity and jump. This course of events doesn't happen often.

2. They're usually morning people.

This doesn't mean night owls can't be successful entrepreneurs, but it's possibly more likely to happen if you're a morning person. I myself am a night owl. I, like Tim Ferris, work deep into the night at times. I generally write my posts in the evening and schedule them for early the next day.

I have noticed however that some of the sharpest entrepreneurs I know get up very early in the morning. If you work on the West Coast, this allows you to conduct business on a similar schedule as your East Coast colleagues. If you wish, you can train yourself to become one of these morning people (and I'll admit it usually comes with a side effect of better sleep routines).

3. They've got some Type-A in their blood.

Not the actual blood type, of course. People who are Type-A personalities obviously have their own obstacles, but they also often have the ambition and drive to push for more. Psychologists describe type-A folks as "ambitious, rigidly organized and highly status-conscious" (and even at greater risk for heart disease). I hate to say it, but people who are this driven do tend to experience a lot of success in their work lives. Everyone has a little Type-A in them, so if you can foster those habits somwhat, you may be on the fast track to entrepreneurship.

4. They're a people person (or can fake it).

No matter what industry you enter, you're going to have to work well with people. Fortunately, you can always work on better communication with those people. This can help in everything from getting your story heard to pitching investors. Constantly working on your communication skills will only serve you and your projects better.

5. They have a thick skin.

You're going to get rejected time and time again whether it's from investors, potential partners, or anyone you need to network with along the way. Inc. Columnist and all-around business expert John Rampton puts it just right when he says, "Think of rejection as a means of learning and that skin will toughen up in no time. There's very little room in entrepreneurship for oversensitivity. Make, 'no,' your friend, as well as a call to action of sorts."

6. They prioritize making money.

Passion projects have their own benefits, but if you don't prioritize making money, even in areas that aren't your passion, then you're not an entrepreneur--you're more of a hobbyist or artist. There's no shame in wanting to make a decent living, so dollar signs must be a part of your game plan as you do your daily work. If it's not, or if you let others shame you out of prioritizing money to some extent, then your entrepreneurial plans can head off course quickly.

7. They know their strengths and weaknesses.

Use what you've got, and constantly hone your strengths. Regularly address your weaknesses. Everyone can improve upon their shortcomings, especially when it comes to business. This is no time for avoiding the not-so-good.

8. They match their passions with the right industries.

English majors are constantly told that their degree is useless, and it certainly can be. However, utilizing your writing and English skills to become one of the industry's best search engine optimization (SEO) gurus and/or having your own firm can easily bring in half a million per year (or more). In other words, match what you can do with what makes money.

Want to be the next great entrepreneur? Be realistic, be ambitious, and make a plan (some luck helps too). Some of the greats have forged ahead for you, and given you a trajectory to emulate.

Published on: Jan 9, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.