Entrepreneurship is frequently portrayed as exciting, amusing or even lavish (especially after a company has become successful), but the truth is, there’s a dark side to entrepreneurship that isn’t frequently publicized.
Most entrepreneurs in the public eye are ones who have become very successful, while the majority of business owners endure a silent struggle -- whether they’re making a consistent profit or not.
It’s rewarding to start and manage your own business even if you fail, but before you take the plunge, be ready for these psychological burdens that entrepreneurs have to bear:
Everything that goes wrong is going to be your fault -- or at least, that’s how it’s going to seem. As the leader of your organization, you’re the one making the final call on most decisions, and you’re the one who will be most affected (whether positively or negatively) by those decisions’ outcomes. Making too many decisions can increase your levels of stress, and increased stress can lead to poor decision making, so you may get caught in a relentless cycle of stress and decisions, a study by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reported.
2. Financial stress and uncertainty
There’s no such thing as a “typical” startup; some of these businesses are able to get off the ground with almost no investment, while others spend millions of dollars before they go live. Still, the Small Business Administration estimates that the average startup requires at least $30,000 to get going, and if you're the entreprepreneur starting the business, you may have to dip into your savings or accumulate debt you’re personally liable for.
On top of that, you’ll probably have to quit your day job to commit full-time to your new business, and it’s unlikely that you’ll generate revenue right away. You’ll need to survive at least a few months without any income. And you'll have to do this based on a business plan you’re only marginally confident will eventually yield produce a steady stream of revenue.
If you have a family, or are investing significant personal savings, the financial stress can be nightmarish.
3. Reluctance to trust
No entrepreneur builds a business alone, but even if you surround yourself with the best employees you can find, you might find it hard to trust them to take care of your baby. Still, you’re going to have to if you want the business to grow.
You’ll need to delegate tasks, entrust entire departments to other people and depend on your partners and vendors to have your back. On top of that, you’ll need to listen to the advice of mentors and other entrepreneurs if you want a fuller perspective on the issues you’ll face -- and those people won't always going to tell you what you want to hear.
Ultimately, the decisions and direction will be up to you, but you’ll still need to relinquish some control over what may be the most important project of your life.
4. Work-life balance
When you take on the role of an entrepreneur, everything else takes a back seat. You'll be passionate and genuinely excited about your idea, and for the first few months, the long hours and weekends of work will be satisfying. But then, even though you can set your own hours, you'll fall deeper into the demands of the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
You'll see your family and friends less, you'll get only a few hours of sleep every night, and you'll end up skipping meals, eating junk food and falling back on some bad habits to keep yourself going. To make matters worse, as your health declines, you'll find it harder to resist problems like depression and burnout.
It’s not often talked about, but entrepreneurship is incredibly lonely. On top of working long hours and being away from friends and family members, you won’t feel connected to the people around you. You’ll have to be the "boss" and the consummate professional to all the coworkers you consider a kind of family. And you won’t be able to show a moment of weakness -- even if your company is on the brink of collapse.
You won’t have many, if any, peers, and regardless of whether you’re successful or not, you won’t make a lot of friends along the way. You'll have professional contacts, perhaps, but not friends. That deep loneliness will complicate all the other psychological burdens even further.
If you’re an entrepreneur struggling with these psychological burdens, you'll need to get help. You’re dedicated to your company, I know, and you may either be in denial that you’re experiencing these burdens, or feel that you’re too busy to address them.
But, make the time. Take time off. Go on vacation. Spend more time with your friends and loved ones. Talk to your peers. Engage a therapist. Whatever you have to do, prioritize your own self-care, or both you and your business will suffer the consequences.
Jayson DeMers is founder and CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based SEO agency. He's the author of the ebook, “The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.”