Making the shift from employee to entrepreneur requires a fundamental change in how you prioritize your time. While anybody can theoretically become an entrepreneur, the mindset required is vastly different than the limited scope that comes with being an employee. Oftentimes, just expertise in a particular industry isn’t enough to be successful when striking out on your own. The good news is that, by recognizing these shortcomings, anybody can shed their prior outlooks and embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship.
As an employee, it’s easy to feel as if you’re grinding at the day-to-day in hopes of a promotion or pay raise. Really, the grind without any ownership is what drives some to become entrepreneurs to begin with. Shifting into entrepreneurship means recognizing that any sort of reward will take a long time to achieve. Creating a startup or similar may require the entrepreneur to suspend their own needs for a time, working to foster the company before themselves. Entrepreneurs that set out hoping for their companies to be piggy banks to be exploited are sorely disappointed as they realize that a hefty commitment is necessary.
Startups require the creation of an entirely new market space or, barring that, carving out a niche in an existing market. It’s often said that nothing is truly original, but entrepreneurs are forced to be creative and consider how to craft a unique value proposition. This is not something that most employees are trained to handle; often, success means following company regulations or standards.
A new entrepreneur may be overwhelmed at the prospect of having to build something innovative from the ground-up. However, the beauty of entrepreneurship is the freedom to collaborate. The founder of a new startup might find a business partner that complements their skill set or hire consultants from an industry to suss out its strengths and shortcomings.
Innovation comes by finding out what customers want. Some of the most successful startups have excelled at discovering common problems or limitations in an industry. Others have simply found a way to offer a sought-after product or service for cheaper than their competitors. Still more eschew the established markets entirely, discovering a need that is not being adequately addressed by any existing company. Regardless of the approach, a smart entrepreneur keeps tabs on emerging markets in a way that an employee might not be able to prioritize.
Trying to play it too safe as an entrepreneur will result in a venture floundering and falling flat. While risk aversion is an important survival instinct, all entrepreneurs should recognize that they’ll need to depart their own comfort zones to find success. Even in a startup that performs well, a founder will have to abandon benefits such as retirement contributions as their company gets off the ground. It can feel much like a safety net is being removed when making the shift from employee to entrepreneur—but for those that have a vision for themselves or their work, they might find their commitment rewarded.