5 Myths about starting a business

If you’re getting fed-up or bored at your current job, you’ve probably considered switching to freelance work or even starting your own business. Compared to reporting to the office for the daily grind, operating from home and controlling your work day can is a great alternative — but is it really? While working for yourself does offer many great benefits, the lifestyle isn’t for everyone. If you’re going to take the plunge, you must be realistic about your expectations and confront these 5 big myths about freelancing or starting your own business.

Working From Home Means Less Work

Whether you take on freelance work or start your own business, you will likely begin your new working career from home. A popular misconception about this lifestyle is you will not have to work as hard or as long as if you were to work in an office environment. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Especially when running your own business, you will often need to work longer hours than you would at an office.

Entrepreneurs-Journey, a blog dedicated to helping first-time entrepreneurs prepare for the lifestyle changes such a career brings, offers the same forewarning. “I am trapped to checking my email day in and day out, 24 hours a day,” the site owner admits. “Early on you will most likely carry the show and until you can justify hiring others.” Of course, this won’t be the case forever, and be sure to be discipline with your weekly time so you be as efficient as possible working from home.

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Working From Home Is Easier

The work-at-home fantasy often includes images of kicking back at the home PC, wearing pajamas all day and sipping coffee as the money rolls in. With no boss hawking over your shoulder, you can blast the music you want to hear and take breaks whenever the urge so strikes you. In some ways, this is true, but it is important to realize that there are many challenges to working at home that can make the setup just as torturous as cubicleville. As Harvard MBA John Reed points out, “self-employment equals self-discipline.”

Working from home means grappling with –and tuning out– all the distractions that your home life has to offer. It will always look much more attractive to put off work for a while and play your guitar, or fire up the XBOX for a round of Call Of Duty before really getting down to business. The problem is that the rest of the world will not wait for you to decide to take care of your assignments, and just because no one is checking in on you all day doesn’t mean that your clients won’t notice your negligence. If you’re going to take on the challenge of working from home, you must possess excellent self-motivation and a iron-clad will to put your leisure life aside all day and work as you would at a regular job.

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Freelancing Means Not Having A Boss

A big motivating factor behind getting into freelance work is not having a boss to hound you all day long. When you own your own business, this is technically true (although not necessarily ideal), however when you get into freelancing you absolutely will have a boss. In fact, if you’re good, you many have several. In the world of freelancing, these bosses are referred to as “clients,” and they’re the ones who provide you the work you must complete.

Just as you had to please your boss at your office job, you must please your clients if you hope to receive future freelance work from them. The work you turn in, be it design, programming, or written, will almost always need edits until it fully matches the clients vision. Since they are not looking at your screen all day as they would in a cubicle, you may fully complete a job and find that it needs several serious edits that make the work you just put in time wasted — but it doesn’t matter. If you don’t do it someone else will be happy to, and if you want to keep your income steady you must keep your clients happy.

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Starting A Business Is A Road To Fast Riches

The work-at-home start your own business world is ripe with snake oil salesman pitching dreams of quick riches, lavish vacations, sports cars, and all the finest possessions your heart desires. Unfortunately, this is all a clever rouse to sell instructional books and DVD courses that make the salesmen rich — not you. If you’re going to start a serious online business, you must understand that it is by no means a path to easy wealth. The reality of running your own business in the early days is that income is fickle, and paychecks are never guaranteed month-to-month as they were at your regular job.

Sure, no job is 100% secure, and any company could decide to lay-off its employees if it so chooses, but life in the pressure cooker of a start-up or early freelancing means accepting financial uncertainty. Clients could take advantage of you, sales could suddenly stop, things break, customers leave, and you have to press on regardless. Venture capitalist Paul Graham has had the chance to work with countless new start-ups, and he quotes one founder on his blog who described this very frightening reality. “One day, we’d think of ourselves as the next Google and dream of buying islands;” he recalls, “the next, we’d be pondering how to let our loved ones know of our utter failure; and on and on.” Be prepared for these swings.

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If You Build It, They Will Come

Perhaps you aren’t entirely motivated by the hype of no boss, lavish-living, but because of the great idea you have that you are certain will become the next big hit. You may be right, and your idea might be gold, but the only way you can know for sure is to do the necessary market research to determine if anyone out there is actually looking for what you’re preparing to sell. The truth is, months of time could be poured into tedious development of your product, and thousands of dollars could be burned upon the alter of its promotion, and not a single person might ever buy.

The best way to begin is to casually talk to those in your market. If your software is going to help the medical field, for example, talk to some medical professionals about their needs and the deficiencies of the current solutions. Do other market research as well, but if you’re convinced of potential success, constrain yourself and get your product or services to market as fast possible. You’ll know quickly what you need to change and if you (and others) can invest in your idea.

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  • http://www.societyofvirtualassistants.co.uk Caroline Wylie

    You missed one:
    “I’ll be able to look after the kids whilst working and save nursery fees”

    I get this one a LOT from WAHMs wanting to become virtual assistants – the sad fact is that even if you want to work at 2am, your clients almost certainly won’t and will demand at least partial office hours.

  • Julio

    To go along with point #4, “set and forget it” is a thing of the past. I hear this all the time from guys that think they can hire me to build them a web site to sell widgets and the money will just start rolling in, with no effort on their part. This is absolutely not going to happen anymore. When it did happen, it really wasn’t as cheap and easy as the stories tell it now. If you’ve got a designer, developer, strategist, a couple of mid level strategy people to do the grunt work and project manager, and of course a nice source of capital, then yes, it’s totally possible.

  • http://fundtimes.wordpress.com Tamar Cloyd

    First of all, let me say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this FreshThinking blog :) It’s so much more informative than the other “about freelancing” blogs I’ve come across. But anyway, great post! I found myself relating to a lot of these very misconceptions when I relaunched my own business. I’ll be sure to spread this far and wide for future freelancers 😉

  • http://www.pixmac.com Simon

    great article! I’ve been working from home for about 5 years here in Toronto – I wished I had read this 5 years ago!
    Simon at http://www.pixmac.com

  • Mike

    Nice one! There are a few more myths I can think of off the top of my head.

    When you work from home and or own your own business people like to think you do not work as hard or work less. “Yes I do not work a 9 to 5, some days I work a 9am to midnight and later”.

  • Richard

    I respectfully disagree with Mr. Coates. This reminds me of an elaborate propaganda post I read years ago and sadly, the ideas from that post are continuously posted again and again on various Websites.

    I have posted here before. I’ve commented on this blog post – http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/2007/01/09/how-long-is-your-work-week/

    Although I think my situation is somewhat unique, I know several entrepreneurs who are far more successful than I am.

    Before I provide my advice, I will say that one thing everyone should know is that most businesses fail within a year. If you decide to work from home or open a small business and work from a shop/office/warehouse, you should understand the risks involved. However, don’t let these types of blog posts stand in your way.

    If you think you would enjoy working from home then go for it! If possible, keep your job and work on your business part time for the first few months. This will give you a better idea about whether or not you will really like to work from home and for yourself.

    At first, starting a business does indeed demand a lot of hours but most of this involves planning and strategy. Working 40 hours a week at a job that’s not interesting is far more grueling than spending 40-50 hours a week planning and executing business strategies.

    Once your business is doing relatively well the hours that you need to put in will decrease. Once you get better at what you do you’ll also spend much less time planning.

    I could write a lot more but I’m actually pressed for time right now and no, it’s not business related. lol

    The bottom line is that although this blog post might have come from a good, albeit misguided, place, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who will discourage you from entering their market because they fear competition. Most entrepreneurs I know fear competition and whenever they meet someone who mentions that they’d to work from home or start a business, they do everything in their power to discourage them.

    Do not let these people persuade you into thinking you can’t succeed. You might not succeed and the odds might be against you, but you need to make this decision for yourself.

  • http://www.freshbooks.com/our-team.php#coates John Coates

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for the great comment – I agree with you 100%. I can confirm, we are not trying to discourage people from starting out on their own – that would shrink our market!

    FreshBooks is all for people doing what they love, which usually means starting their own business – I’m trying to get people started on the right foot so they can be organized from day 1 and be a success, not a failure. That’s why Fresh Thinking is all about tips to help people succeed.

  • Jourdan

    working from home and for one’s self means hard work and dedication like no other position you can imagine. i was extremely successful in telecom sales for 10 years but that meant having a boss and quota AND a salary and benefits. now i own a mobile marketing platform and trust me, i can go and come as i please, but if i don’t work there is no salary and definitely no benefits (here in the US).
    thanks guys for the myths…you hit the nail on the head!