How would you like to be your own boss? If you shudder to think of spending years working your way up a corporate hierarchy, you might want to consider starting your own business. Instead of being at someone else’s beck and call, you can exercise real leadership from day one. As an entrepreneur, you can shape your own vision of success.
Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of perks, but it also requires a ton of work and an ability to withstand risk and failure. So how do you know if this path is right for you? To help you make an informed decision, we turned to the experts—a variety of rising entrepreneurs who have experienced all the pros and cons of running a business firsthand.
What are the pros?
You are the key decision-maker. People who are independent spirits are often drawn to an entrepreneurial lifestyle because it allows them to be the key decision maker. Rather than following someone else’s instructions, you get to create your own pathway to success. When it comes to your business, you can choose everything from the marketing strategy to the product design.
“As an entrepreneur, your autonomy is nearly unbounded,” says Aaron K. Harris, 26, co-founder and CEO of Tutorspree, a website that helps parents find private tutors. “At the end of the day, no one will tell us what to do. That can be scary, but it’s also unbelievably liberating and exciting.”
Plus, when you’re the boss, you have the power to alter plans if they’re not working for you anymore. “There’s no one forcing me to do things I don’t love,” Harris says.
You have freedom and flexibility. Another major benefit is the freedom and flexibility to set your own hours and work from a location of your choice. “When you own your own business, you are typically able to choose your own hours and, often times, work from anywhere,” says Brittini Mehlhoff, 27, the founder of Papernstitch, an online gallery showcasing handmade and vintage art.
Avoiding a long commute and a rigid 9-to-5 schedule can be a big bonus for many people. As an entrepreneur, you can say goodbye to a cookie-cutter lifestyle and choose your own style.
You get a huge sense of accomplishment. Taking an idea and turning it into a viable business is no small feat. Building a company from the ground up can lead to an incredible sense of accomplishment.
“Knowing that you created something yourself and being able to see that through, outside of an umbrella of a larger company, is so rewarding,” Mehlhoff says. “You will rarely feel that sense of accomplishment and ownership working for someone else.”
What are the cons?
You need serious self-discipline. Although there are plenty of benefits to being an entrepreneur, it’s not all fun and games. You have to be ready for some significant challenges.
“I’ve found that a lot of the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur are two sides of the same coin,” Harris says. “For instance, you are your own boss and set your own schedule. That is great because you have freedom, but it also means that you have to be incredibly focused and disciplined.”
When you are self-employed, no one else is there to hold you accountable. If you have problems with procrastination or staying self-motivated, you could run into trouble.
You will deal with added stress. As an employee, you can rely on a steady paycheck, but as an entrepreneur, you have to hustle to make a profit. “When you own a business, you have to rely on your own skills to get you by,” Mehlhoff says. “If you want to pay the bills, you’ll need to figure out a way to do it. The bills aren’t going to pay themselves.”
The financial burden you take on as an entrepreneur can be very stressful at times. “The responsibility and uncertainty can be somewhat overwhelming,” says Alex Andon, 27, the founder and president of Jellyfish Art, a supplier in pet jellyfish and jellyfish aquariums.
Although Andon does get stressed out on occasion, he enjoys the thrill of a good challenge. “The stress is what keeps us on track,” Andon says. “I would prefer this to a desk job any day.”
You shoulder all the risk. There is no guarantee of success. Many entrepreneurs start companies with the best of intentions, only to see them fall apart in the end. There is a very real possibility that you could go broke. “The risk of failure is high for any startup company,” Andon says.
In order to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to handle risk and stay resilient in the face of failure and disappointment. Inevitably, things will go wrong, and you will make mistakes along the way. You have to be able to bounce back from mistakes, stay optimistic and believe in your own capabilities.
So where do you fit in?
It’s important to figure out what your strengths and weakness are. If you enjoy taking risks and are self-motivated, disciplined and resilient, becoming an entrepreneur might be a great choice. On the flip side, if you are the kind of person who values structure and stability, and you shy away from risk, you might prefer working as an employee.
As you look to the future, keep an open mind about the path your career may take. You could find fulfilling work as an employee at an existing company or you could start your own business and blaze your own trail. So many options are open to you! It’s OK to be a little unsure and excited all at the same time.
Sarah Nagel is lucky to live in beautiful Boulder, Colo. She works as an editor by day and a freelance writer by night.