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If you’re thinking about going into business for yourself and you’re surrounded by good people cheering you on, you’re sure to hear many things.
You’ll hear that you can do anything you put your mind to. You’ll hear about the freedom of being your own boss. You’ll hear about the potential to scale up and build your business into an empire.
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In reality, many smart, ambitious people put their minds to opening businesses that went nowhere, the freedom of entrepreneurialism can become a prison and not only do most businesses not become empires, but around half will fail within their first five years.
No one is trying to talk you out of pursuing your dream, but the wisdom of founders who have been there before is bound to be more insightful than that of your mom, your husband or your kids.
Keep reading to hear what real-life founders in the trenches wish someone had told them going in.
No matter how much support they get from their friends, families, online groups or bankers, entrepreneurs are always on their own — and that solitude has forced many strong people to quit. 
“I wish people talked more about how lonely it can be setting up a business,” said Bethan Vincent, who founded her company, Open Velocity, during the already difficult times of the pandemic. “The very nature of entrepreneurship means you are attempting to do something nobody has done before. This in itself is very isolating, as there’s no trodden path to follow. The loneliness you feel is also further compounded by the fact that you and you alone are ultimately and often solely responsible for the success or failure of the business. This can be extremely mentally challenging.”
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For entrepreneurs, insufficient sleep is par for the course — and a constant state of grogginess only aggravates the stress that’s inherent to launching a business. If you’re really going for it, there will be little time for shuteye, but the worry can keep you up at night even when there is.
“Being an entrepreneur means long hours and little rest,” said Oscar Rodriguez, founder of OssieRodriguez.com. “There’s always something that needs to be done, whether it’s working on a new product or dealing with a difficult customer.”
All of that is hard enough when you’re fresh, but sleep deprivation only adds to the feeling of loneliness that Vincent spoke of earlier.
“Being an entrepreneur can be very isolating,” said Rodriguez. “You’re responsible for making all the decisions, and there’s nobody to bounce ideas off of or lean on when things get tough.”
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If you haven’t launched yet, you might imagine that you’ll start off small, then grow, grow and grow in an upward trajectory. But, in reality, steady and consistent growth is an entrepreneurial myth — expect a lot of highs and lows.
“People don’t realize that entrepreneurship is nonlinear,” said Jodi Soyars, a lawyer who runs the San Antonio firm Soyars and Morgan Law with her business partner. “One month can be amazing, while the next can be devastating. Succeeding long term requires you to smile through the bad times and the good times.”
As you can see, the life of an entrepreneur tends to be stressful, uncertain and sleep-deprived. If you don’t have the rigid discipline required to put some walls up between your business and your family or social life, you could wind up losing them all.
“A reality of being an entrepreneur that becomes clear very quickly is that you really have no set working hours,” said Yasmin Purnell, founder of The Wallet Moth. “That can all too easily mean that you’re always working, especially when you’re passionate about your business. Any successful entrepreneur needs to be an expert at time management, not only when it comes to meeting deadlines, but also in setting boundaries around your own time. No one will tell you that your shift is over, or suggest you have some holiday accrued to take some time off. You’re the boss, and the reality is, you’re now in complete control of drawing the line between your work life and personal line.”
From zoning laws and marketing to taxes and customer relationship management software, entrepreneurs always face a steep learning curve. Because you will invariably encounter unfamiliar challenges, you won’t always find the right solution — at least not right away. For most business owners, long-term success is built on many short-term failures.
“In the initial days of your business setup, you know nothing about the business culture, ongoing competition, monetary problems and legal issues,” said Dr. S.S. Nandal, CEO and director of M.G. Creations. “Being immature, you have to encounter many failures that will make you disappointed and can even convince you to quit. Failures create an environment of hopelessness and depression. Keeping yourself motivated in this environment is the hardest part. It takes a lot of mental strength to survive and become a successful entrepreneur.”
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