5 Myths about starting a business

January 20, 2011

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.

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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about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.