As freelancers, we are translators and/or interpreters first, and many of us fall into being a business owner for no other reason than the fact that our industry is generally set up in favor of hiring freelancers to do work on a contract basis instead of hiring full-time employees. In other words, instead of having the idea that we want to be an entrepreneur and business owner, and then figuring out what business to run, many of us instead feel forced into it without much alternative. The good news is, running a business means you’re the boss, you make the rules and the decisions and you alone are responsible for your success. The bad news is running a business means you’re the boss, you make the rules and the decisions and you alone are responsible for your success. Either way, here we are and we need to figure out how to unleash the entrepreneur within us so we can step up and achieve success. If your mouse is hovering above the X right now because you think entrepreneurship just isn’t for you and you just weren’t made to be a business owner, I bet if you give me a few more minutes, I can show you that you’re wrong.
I never wanted to run a business…EVER
First, I’m not sure I’ve been convincing enough in explaining the degree to which I never wanted to be self-employed so let me give you a little background. I was raised by two parents who owned a business and for most of my early childhood, I assumed all adults had businesses and I’d have one too when I grew up. Then again, I also thought I would fly to the moon and be president at some point, so let’s not put too much stake in 5-year-old Jenae’s life plans. In my early teenage years, my parents went bankrupt and my entire viewpoint of what it meant to run a business shifted. I no longer saw it as freedom but instead as a burden. It seemed like nothing more than a flimsy glass floor that might crack at any moment sending those it supported into an abyss of unknown financial difficulties. The stakes were just too high and I was running in the other direction…fast.
I went on to graduate with my degree in translation from MIIS and I was freelancing to make a little money as I looked for stable employment. Being a full-time freelancer couldn’t have been further from my mind. I pursued and secured a full-time job in Boston as an in-house translator/project manager with health insurance, a 401k and paid vacation. I felt like I had found the holy grail. The pay wasn’t high, but I figured I could supplement with a little freelancing but there was a glitch. Hardly 12 months later I was miserable. I was working well over full time some weeks and then part time the next, which meant there was very little time to freelance or do much else with such an erratic schedule. I was burning out at record pace and I no longer felt like employment was the holy grail I had made it out to be. I didn’t know what I wanted exactly or how to get it, but I knew that THIS wasn’t it. But what now?
I became self-employed out of desperation
Some of us become freelancers because we need the flexibility, for me it was desperation and suddenly, that fear of the glass floor breaking and sending me to an abyss of financial difficulties didn’t seem so scary if this was the alternative. To be clear, I still didn’t have any desire to run my own business, I just had a strong desire to not be where I was and this was the only alternative I could see.
I pulled the rip cord and quit my full-time job and threw myself into freelancing. If you attended my latest webinar, you heard my freelancing story and the above is essentially the prequel to that. I won’t go through everything in the webinar (you can watch it for free here) but the short version is that I went from doing OK, to losing it all, to being a fully successful freelancer. The lessons I learned ultimately enabled me to create the system and techniques I use now and am sharing as part of my program, which you can check out here. In any case, I definitely feel like I ended up self-employed by accident and it took me longer than I’d like to admit to finally be able to look back and say it was a good one.
Successful entrepreneurs don’t know any more than you do
If I could go back and change one thing, it would be to embrace self-employment FULLY much earlier on. If I had actually looked for and seen the entrepreneur inside of me at the beginning, I know my journey would have gone much differently. Unfortunately, I spent too long looking at successful entrepreneurs as a different species. It was simply not something I would ever be and I really didn’t even look at freelancers as entrepreneurs in any case. I realize now that in the same way a child looks at her parents thinking they have it all figured out only to find out later they never did, often times struggling freelancers look at successful freelancers or business owners and think they must have it all figured out. Well guess what? It’s all a lie.
So, I want to share some things I learned about successful entrepreneurs on my journey. If they sound like you, then you’re already among good company.
“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” – Estée Lauder
Successful entrepreneurs don’t have it all figured out, they’re just willing to put forth the effort to learn what they don’t know.
“It is important for young entrepreneurs to be adequately self-aware to know what they do not know.” – Mark Zuckberberg
They don’t know how to do all of the jobs in the businesses they run. But they have the self-awareness to know what things they aren’t good at, and they ask for help to get those things done. No matter how much you know, I promise it’s never enough.
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford
They aren’t sure they will succeed. They just choose to believe they will, because they know that their chances of achieving success are ZERO if they don’t.
“Being an entrepreneur is all about fear: Fear of failing, fear of making the wrong decision, even fear of success. The difference between succeeding and failing is how you choose to confront your fears.” – Chris Savage
They get scared…scared they will let down their clients or their employees, scared someone will find out they have no idea how to do X or Y. But instead of giving up, they turn it into determination to succeed.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
They fail constantly. But they see failure as an opportunity for growth instead of validation of their fears.
“Perfection is the enemy of progress.” – Voltaire
They don’t strive for perfection; they strive for progress.
“Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are ableto turn both to their advantage.” – Niccolo Machiavelli
The difference between an unsuccessful entrepreneur and a successful one is being prepared for the challenges and having the willingness to overcome them.
If you’re not where you want to be now, it’s not because entrepreneurship just isn’t for you, it’s just the opposite actually. How do I know that? Well, because you’re reading this. That already means that you’re out there looking for the things that work and getting rid of what doesn’t. That’s the true mindset of successful entrepreneurs…being willing to try things, fail, and try different things. So, I know if you’ve made it this far, I can honestly say, welcome to the club!