When you start your journey with entrepreneurship or solopreneurship, almost everything is a challenge. Of course, no one said it would be easy. You’re working late nights and starting your days earlier than ever, working to make your business sustainable, and establishing yourself as an important new voice in your industry.
One challenge that you might not have anticipated is explaining your new career to your friends and family. But after two-and-a-half years of being a solopreneur, I’m here to tell you a very important lesson I’ve learned: not everyone will “get it.” You will find yourself explaining what it means to be an entrepreneur over and over. If you’re caught in this cycle, here are my tips for how to take on the most commonly believed myths.
Myth 1: Your friends and family understand you—so they will understand your business.
Let’s be clear: your friends and family usually have the best of intentions, and most of the time, they’re doing their best to support you in your new venture. Despite that, many people—and that can include your parents, your best friend, or your yoga buddies—don’t know what being an entrepreneur requires.
If you’ve left a job at a company to start your own business, you’ve made a huge life shift, and you’re now accountable only to yourself. Your schedule changes, your sense of responsibility skyrockets, and you have the freedom to design your business in exactly the way you want.
Many entrepreneurs are motivated to start businesses when they perceive a hole in an industry, which means that a lot of us are providing services or building models in ways that haven’t been done before. If you’re doing something new or different, it makes sense that your friends and family might not immediately see the value in what you do. They might even wonder, “How will you make a living doing that?”
It can feel draining and frustrating to constantly be dogged by questions about your worth and your business choices.
Remember, you felt so confident and passionate about your business idea that you upended your old life to take it on full-time. You could talk for hours about why you’ve chosen your new career, but don’t feel as though you need to explain yourself to every person who asks or doesn’t understand.
Come up with a three-sentence elevator pitch that summarizes your new job and why you love it. Chances are, your friends and family will be excited to hear more. If they’re still dismissive, you don’t need to explain further. It’s your career, not theirs.
Myth #2: You make your own schedule, so you’re always available.
Right now, every entrepreneur is nodding along as they read this. Your friends and family are thrilled that you make your own schedule, because it means you can join them for impromptu lunch dates, random getaways out of town, or even vacations. Right? Nope.
Again, this is a case of people having the best of intentions, but not fully understanding what it means to make your own schedule. As an entrepreneur, you don’t have to clock in and out or answer to a boss, but you answer to someone who can be even more demanding: yourself.
On any given day, you may have appointments with clients or phone calls or meetings with consultants. If not, you still probably have a daily routine that works for you, and it may not be possible to interrupt it.
You know what works for you and your day. Realize that it’s a compliment of sorts—your people want to see you. But don’t feel pressured to drop everything and make your schedule fit theirs.
If you can make a last-minute lunch date, that’s great. Taking an hour to chat with a friend or meet your mom for coffee can be just what you need during a busy week. But if you can’t make it, that’s fine too.
You know your own deadlines, limitations, and wants, and you’re the one who has to make the jigsaw puzzle of your schedule come together. When you decline, you don’t have to apologize or prove to your friends or family that you’re busy. Prioritize your needs and make a plan for another time that works for both of you.
Myth #3: Your entrepreneur gig is your side hustle, and you could go back to a “real job” anytime.
This is one of the most damaging myths out there because it’s so undermining. If you have transitioned into entrepreneurship, you’ve done so out of a desire to be in a career that lights you up and makes you excited to go to work each day. Whether you loved or hated your last job doesn’t matter—you’ve chosen to do something different now.
While some people do stay in another job part- or full-time while transitioning to entrepreneurship, many do so because it’s the only financially viable way to launch their business. This doesn’t mean that they’re not committed to their new path. It means that they’re so committed that they’re working double-time for it.
Even entrepreneurs who have been established for years have to contend with this myth of the side hustle, and the idea that they could easily leave their businesses to go back to the 9-5 grind (“a real job,” to some people). Of course, that’s simply not true.
When you consider the time, tenacity, and work required to launch a successful business, you realize it’s unreasonable to think that anyone could just wake up one morning and decide to walk away.
Don’t let this one get to you. Of course, not every business will succeed. Still, you can’t let this nay-saying attitude get under your skin.
You know how hard you’re working and what your career means to you. It’s not a side hustle and you don’t need a backup plan. This is your plan.
The best thing you can do is to find a community of people that does support you. Chat with other people in your co-working space, attend events geared towards entrepreneurs, and build a network of like-minded people who will cheer you on as you follow your gut and your dreams.
Myth #4: Being an entrepreneur is a lonely ride.
People assume that if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re in for a long and lonely journey. You don’t have coworkers to commiserate or celebrate with, you work long hours, and when it comes to big decision making for your business, you’re the only person you can turn to.
It’s easy to see why people assume that you’re in it alone—but in reality, the exact opposite is true. You chose to be an entrepreneur so you would have freedom in your business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enlist help.
Whether you need sound business advice, a referral for a service, or just some good old moral support, you’ll find that most entrepreneurs are eager and willing to connect, network, and collaborate. And don’t be afraid to make new connections or reach out to existing ones, whether they’re old friends, previous colleagues, or even someone you met at a networking brunch. Being an entrepreneur is only lonely if you choose to do it alone.
Reject the idea that owning your own business means flying solo, and embrace the fact that entrepreneurs are a passionate and supportive group of people. Make friends with people who are undertaking similar challenges, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people who can help you make your business a success. Network, support others, and let others support you.