Entrepreneurship is often painted as a glamorous line of work. Instagram is full of “want-repreneurs” posing in front of luxury cars or expensive homes in designer clothing (none of which they actually own). #Hustle #BeYourOwnBoss #Inspire
But that public persona does not reflect the dark reality of the entrepreneurial journey. Being an entrepreneur can be incredibly lonely, especially in the early days.
I say this not to discourage or rain on your parade. In fact, if you want to embark on the entrepreneurial journey, I’ll be right there rooting for you. However, it’s important to know what you’re up against and how to combat it. I had to learn for myself that the world is not always kind to those who are driven and dare to take an nontraditional path. I had to find ways to make sure I didn’t let myself be completely consumed with loneliness while I fought like hell to do what I loved.
The entrepreneurial journey is long and lumpy and lonely, but, hell if it’s not rewarding.
5 Causes of Entrepreneurial Loneliness
1. No one works as hard as you.
It isn’t enough to simply have a great idea. Hell, you don’t even have to be all that original to start a business. You just need to be willing to work harder than everyone else. Easy, right?
There’s a common misconception that being an entrepreneur is easier than a traditional 9–5 job. That simply isn’t true. Sure, you make your own hours, but those hours are long and difficult. You will be awake past when everyone else is tucked in for the night, and you’ll be up before everyone’s first alarm rings in the morning.
That mindset will isolate you from 99% of the population, but it’s a necessary sacrifice, especially when you love what you do.
2. Your friends make way more money than you.
You’ll probably be broke for a long time before you’ll make a living. To start a new business venture, you need to be willing to invest your savings and give up material comforts. You might be a CEO, but it will take a while before you actually start taking home a CEO-sized paycheck. Until then, you might be eating ramen noodles and living in a crappy apartment.
In fact, many entrepreneurs continue living a minimal life even after they start to turn a sizable profit because a.) their employees’ pay comes before their own, b.) there’s no such thing as guaranteed job security when you’re running your own business, or c.) they’re always looking for ways to expand their business, even at the cost of a temporary pay-cut.
While your friends may be getting married or buying their first house, your money is tied up in your business.
3. You don’t have as much time for socializing.
Because you’re probably working harder and making less money than all your friends, you will miss out on a lot of social opportunities.
Can you take off early to come to beach with us next weekend? Wanna grab a drink tonight? Are you coming to Beth and David’s destination wedding? Nope. I can’t. And absolutely not.
Unlike traditional employees, entrepreneurs rarely get vacations. Karen in accounting can take a week-long trip to Hawaii while she collects vacation pay and her coworkers pick up the slack, but, as an entrepreneur, you don’t have that luxury.
You’ll need to learn to say “no” even when you desperately want to say “yes.”
4. Nearly all your attention is focused on your business.
No, you didn’t catch the game last night, and you haven’t seen the new season of Game of Thrones.
You can never “turn off” the entrepreneurial mindset, and even your free time will often be spent daydreaming new ideas for your business. Since most of your waking thoughts are dedicated to your business, you might find that you have trouble talking with people who don’t share the same lifestyle as you.
You’ll need to make more of an effort to carve out time and attention to devote to the people who matter, but, even then, your friends and family won’t fully know what it’s like to work in this type of environment. You’ll need to learn to be okay with that.
5. The buck stops with you.
The good, the bad: it all falls on you. Ultimately, you are responsible for everything your team does.
Did one of your team members miss a deadline? Did someone else turn in substandard work? You’ll need to bear the repercussions because your clients, your customers, or your investors aren’t interested in finger-pointing.
You might need to be more assertive to make sure things get done to your standards, and that won’t always be easy. As they say, it’s lonely at the top.
How to Cope with Entrepreneurial Loneliness
For your own sanity, you need to find ways to mitigate loneliness as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey. Luckily, with modern technology, there are more ways to connect with people than ever before.
1. Document your journey.
Start a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, whatever you’re most comfortable with, and start creating content. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Sometimes I’ll just turn on my camera and start talking. My kids might wander into the frame, or I might just want to rant about something mundane, like my frustration with internet outages. But guess what? That’s the sort of thing that resonates with people.
So, don’t just show the triumphs. Show the real story of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. Let other people know they aren’t alone in facing these challenges.
2. Reach out to other entrepreneurs.
At this moment, there are countless people around the world who are trying to make the entrepreneurial journey, just like you. Reach out and say “hello.”
Don’t get me wrong, your friends and family can also be a great source of support, but sometimes you just need to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through.
No one else really understands this lifestyle like the other people who are crazy enough to live with it. So who better to turn to for advice and encouragement? Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, whatever — when you stumble upon someone with a similar mindset, take a chance, and shoot them a message. You never know if you may make a new friend, learn something new, or even come across a new business partner.
If you’re getting ready to take your entrepreneurial journey, be prepared for loneliness, but don’t resign yourself to it. Learn to say “no,” but recognize when it’s okay to say “yes.” And finally, be willing to sacrifice some things for your business, but don’t ever sacrifice everything.