Who is an “entrepreneur”?
An entrepreneur is a term we hear a lot in our country, but when we think of entrepreneurs, we think of business owners of all types. Restauranteurs, auto shop owners, digital startups, self-employed photographers; all of these would count as entrepreneur careers.
The word entrepreneur comes from the French word “to undertake.” No, not a grave-digging undertaker, but a person who undertakes risk and initiative with the end goal of financial profit. Entrepreneurs are defined as anyone who takes a risk with the goal of financial profit. Obviously making money is not the only motivator for entrepreneurs, but risk-taking, usually in the form of financial investments, is the underlying theme of all entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are also working to build something that will last. One of the defining factors for an entrepreneur is to take the necessary steps to create a business that will, when managed properly, continue making them money while they are not working. A cafe owner, for example, will make money while the cafe is doing business, even if she’s picking up kids from school.
Freelancers vs. Entrepreneurs
In today’s digitally-connected world, millions of people have taken their skills mentioned online and become freelancers. They take jobs as they come and work on their own terms, usually in writing, design, or as a consultant of some type.
Freelancers carry many of the same characteristics as entrepreneurs but they aren’t building something that will eventually make a profit while they sleep, take a vacation, or leave for the day. While the two terms are fairly ambiguous, they are distinct. By most definitions, a freelancer is not an entrepreneur.
How to Become an Entrepreneur?
So, what can you do to become an entrepreneur? What are the steps to becoming an entrepreneur? Because of the many types of entrepreneurs, there are many different paths you can take. For example, the owner of a delivery company wouldn’t take the exact same path as an interior decorator. But there are some similar steps all of them should take.
In general, these are the steps you will take to become an entrepreneur:
Step 1: Find Your Industry or Niche
Step 2: Research Your Market
Step 3: Educate Yourself
Step 4: Build Your Business Slowly
Personality traits that make you a great entrepreneur:
Taking a stand for yourself and your vision is an important factor, if you believe in yourself then it will make others believe in you too. If you are dissatisfied with your current circumstances, admit that no one can fix them except for you. It doesn’t do any good to blame the economy, your boss, your spouse or your family. Change can only occur when you make a conscious decision to make it happen.
Give yourself permission to explore. Be willing to look at different facets of yourself (your personality, social styles, age) and listen to your intuition. We tend to ignore intuition even though deep down we often know the truth.
How do you know what business is “right” for you? There are three common approaches to entrepreneurship:
Do What You Know: Have you been laid off or want a change? Look at work you have done for others in the past and think about how you could package those skills and offer them as your own services or products.
Do What Others Do: Learn about other businesses that interest you. Once you have identified a business you like, emulate it.
Solve a Common Problem: Is there a gap in the market? Is there a service or product you would like to bring to market?. If you choose to do this, make sure that you become a student and gain knowledge first before you spend any money.
Most people don’t plan, but it will help you get to market faster. A business plan will help you gain clarity, focus,and confidence. A plan does not need to be more than one page. As you write down your goals, strategies and action steps, your business becomes real.
Ask yourself the following questions:
– What am I building?
– Who will I serve?
– What is the promise I am making to my customers/clients and to myself?
– What are my objectives, strategies and action plans (steps) to achieve my goals?
Before you spend your money, find out if people will actually buy your products or services. This may be the most important thing you do. You can do this by validating your market. In other words, who, exactly, will buy your products or services other than your family or friends?
There is industry research available that you can uncover for free. Read industry articles with data and read Census data to learn more. However, the most important way to get this information is to ask your target market/customers directly and then listen.
As an entrepreneur, your personal life and business life are interconnected. You are likely to be your first–and possibly only–investor. Therefore, having a detailed understanding of your personal finances, and the ability to track them, is an essential first step before seeking outside funding for your business.
As you are creating your business plan, you will need to consider what type of business you are building–a lifestyle business (smaller amount of startup funds), a franchise (moderate investment depending on the franchise), or a high-tech business (will require significant capital investment). Depending on where you fall on the continuum, you will need a different amount of money to launch and grow your business, and it does matter what kind of money you accept.
You’ve made the internal commitment to your business. Now you need to cultivate a network of supporters, advisors, partners, allies,and vendors. If you believe in your business, others will, too.
Network locally, nationally & via social networks. Join networks like NAPW.com, your local chamber of commerce, or other relevant business groups. Here are some networking basics:
– When attending networking events, ask others what they do and think about how you can help them. The key is to listen more than touting yourself.
– No matter what group you join, be generous, help others and make introductions without charging them.
– By becoming a generous leader, you will be the first person that comes to mind when someone you’ve helped needs your service or hears of someone else who needs your service.
Even though we purchase products and services every day, people don’t want to be “sold.” Focus on serving others. The more people you serve, the more money you will make. When considering your customers or clients, ask yourself:
– What can I give them?
– How can I make them successful in their own pursuits?
– This approach can help lead you to new ways to hone your product or service and deliver more value, which your customers will appreciate.
Be willing to say who you are and what you do with conviction and without apology. Embrace and use the most effective online tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) available to broadcast your business. Use social networks as “pointer” sites; i.e., to point to anything you think will be of interest to your fans and followers.
Even though social networks are essential today, don’t underestimate the power of other methods to get the word out: e.g., word-of-mouth marketing, website and internet marketing tools, public relations, blog posts, columns and articles, speeches, e-mail, newsletters, and the old-fashioned but still essential telephone.
If you take these steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming your own boss. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. If you want to “be your own boss” but you still feel stuck, reach out and connect with other entrepreneurs in a variety of ways. You may be surprised by the invaluable contacts that are right at your fingertips.