Work to live or live to work? What it's like to be an entrepreneur.

I recently spoke at a conference where entrepreneurs were giving their advice on what it’s like to start a business, the entrepreneurial mindset, and what keeps them motivated. One thing that stood out to me is how many speakers offered the advice: “if it feels like work, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Then today, I see #StartupLife trending on LinkedIn with lots of commentary on what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur.

Let me be clear: being an entrepreneur is work. It feels like work. It feels like A LOT of work. It’s fun and exhilarating and an amazing, wild ride and I wouldn’t want to do anything else, but it’s a lot of work to build a good product, a healthy company, and a culture where the best people want to come - and stay - when things aren’t always easy. Suggesting that entrepreneurship feels like “a dream come true” creates doubt in the minds of CEOs and entrepreneurs when they are going through the very normal tough times of building a business, and may entice wantreprenuers to start something of their own so they can “live the dream”, build the next big thing, and never “work” again.  

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever tackled. Looking back at the start of YouEarnedIt, the hours were all day and all night, yet the resources were beyond scarce. I worked nights and weekends with many 3am worry sessions about how to close a deal or recruit a candidate as a lean startup or retain someone who might be disengaged because we are still “figuring it out”. It consumes you on the weekends and at family events; your social life isn’t a thing, and you get very good at coming up with positive, healthy answers to questions from your kids like, “why can’t you ever pick me up from school?”

Four plus years later, it’s still work building the business and serving global customers as their expectations grow as the business grows. You never grow out of problems to solve, but the problems scale to a whole new level. Yet, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I am living the dream. Yes, being an entrepreneur is like a dream come true. Just make sure this is the dream you had in mind before taking the plunge.