The Problems with Entrepreneurship

eyelashes
Photo courtesy fabiogiolito

So here we are, late at night working away. I’m a 30 year old entrepreneur/hacker/business man. I write code because it helps me to do business deals. We’ve rehashed this conversation over and over again.

“You just sit here and work,” she says.

“It’s what I do.” I tell her. “It’s like playing tennis or singing. This is what I enjoy doing.”

And again, we are both hurt by the other person. Not because we’re intentionally hurting each other, but because it’s hard when an extrovert web programmer gets together with an introvert normal person.

The problems with entrepreneurship – freedom

Most of the time, I love being an entrepreneur. Most of the time. Other times, I hate that I enjoy it so much. Entrepreneurs struggle with time management – our biggest enemy. We struggle with balance because most of us have 40-60 hour work weeks already. Many of us work for startups who need more time than a typical corporate job. But we can’t help it. We can’t work for larger businesses. They’re stifling, stuffy, restrictive. We need freedom.

So, we start our own things in basements, spare bedrooms, garages and kitchen tables. We carve out just a few more hours out of the week to work on something that could give us that freedom. We crave that freedom. We need the air to be our air, the land we walk on to be our land, and the time we live to be our time.

But by carving out just a few more hours a week we strain our relationships with those who aren’t involved in our adventures – our internal hopes and escapades. We lose touch sometimes. We forget often.

That freedom we’re driving forward for so badly, is it worth it? Sometimes, I think it’s not.

I once took a job at a larger organization with the intention of staying the course and simply doing my duty – providing for my family, coming home at 5:00, not having those side projects take up my time.

It didn’t work. I felt like I was a rat in a cage. I lasted 2 months.

The joys of entrepreneurship – the hope

So, here’s my question. Is it worth it?

When we finally get to the destination we’re hoping to make it to, is it worth the effort? I want your stories. I want to hear about your pain, and your joy. What is it that makes you tick? How do you handle the problems of entrepreneurship? And, in the end, is it worth it?

[tags]entrepreneurship, small business, startup[/tags]


Nate Ritter lives in San Diego, CA who popularized the #hashtag and creates scaleable web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

26 Comments on "The Problems with Entrepreneurship"

  1. Carl says:

    I can sympathize with your comment about time. Most often people who are jazzed up about something just can work for hours. I find I can go several hours, skip lunch because of being wrapped up in some project or idea. Those that don’t share the same interest can’t always relate. I don’t think that is really bad, just different. Thanks.

  2. Nate,

    Great post…I couldn’t have said it better.

    I have had a lot of small successes with entrepreneurship. Every one just leaves me wanting more. It gets to the point where I ask, will it ever end? Will I ever be satisified? Is this good or bad?

    I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that the thought of working for a large corporation for a number of years bores me to tears.

  3. nate says:

    Carl and Brian,

    Absolutely! When I used to freelance as my singular source of income, I actually had to set timers to remind myself to eat or take a walk or something. But, I found that while I was freelancing, I actually spent more time with my wife and friends because I was spending those 40+ hours a week doing _exactly_ what I wanted to do.

    Now, with a full time job — even one I enjoy — it’s not _exactly_ what I want to do, but it’s close. So, I spend so much time attempting to my thing that it sometimes gets in the way of other priorities, but I do it just to feel “normal”. Many people don’t understand that.

    Have you guys found yourselves spending more or less time with other people when you are an employee for someone else? Or vice versa for when you’re the boss of your own thing?

  4. drawkbox says:

    When you are in the zone, you are in the zone. Programming or design takes a dedicated period of time before all the project tentacles are organized into your mind memory space. Those times are needed and yes sometimes they can run well thorugh the night, 10+ hours etc. Its very important to succeed or work heavily to make it there. The worst is to not fulfill your dreams for other people, you will end up despising them. Better case is bring them into your world. Creativity is pretty addicting to anyone.

  5. nate says:

    outstanding point drawkbox.

  6. Helen Baxter says:

    It is always worth it. The ultimate freedom is to spend your life doing what you love with people you like.

  7. Jed says:

    I agree with Helen—key word being “always.” Yes, it’s always worth it.

    I often think in terms of destinations, but I try not to. I think the best barometer I can use to determine if it’s worth it, is how I feel right now.

    Why do I believe that? Because it’s always right now.

    For me, nothing’s worth feeling hopeless, or imprisoned, or like I have no say in my work—I become miserable and bored and boring. My loved ones wouldn’t have me that way.

    Still, yeah, it’s hard. But hard’s not always bad.

  8. “Have you guys found yourselves spending more or less time with other people when you are an employee for someone else? Or vice versa for when you’re the boss of your own thing?”

    Definitely spent more time with others when I worked for myself.

  9. My relationships were better when I was working for someone else because I was working exactly 40 hours a week at a low stress job. But I felt like I was going nowhere, and despite the laid back atmosphere, the job felt stifling. At least now I don’t feel stifled, but the stress and uncertainty definitely put a palpable strain on my relationships.

  10. nate says:

    Thanks guys! I think you’re all right on. I love that you’re all so honest about it all.

    Helen – “The ultimate freedom is to spend your life doing what you love with people you like.” 100% right on! I’m fully with that idea!

    Brian – I also find that I spent more time with others when I worked for myself.

    Flee the cube – What was it about working for yourself that made you stressed out? I’m curious because it seems that I’m exactly the opposite. Working for others seems to stress me out more than working for myself (except for the random paycheck thing. If it were more consistent, it would be cake for me).

  11. Berry says:

    I have nightmares about having a job. I sold my office supply business last March because just making good money was not enough for me… I wanted to make good money doing something fresh, cool, and helpful.

    Nate, if you need someone to do small coding projects for a small amount of money get in touch with me. I have a guy I work with that is great.

  12. Erin says:

    If I ever have a good enough idea, I might understand what you are on about. I do not begrudge any entrepreneur his time spent on good projects, provided there is some evidence the projects are, in fact, good.

    I don’t understand why anyone’s identity has to be so tied up with their job, which is what you communicate with that “rat in a cage” sentiment. But that’s really a separate issue from what you’re trying to talk about here.

    To me, work is work, and life is everything else. I like to spend my whoa-did-I-really-just-spend-that-many-hours-on-that project hours on art and craftwork.

  13. nate says:

    Berry – thanks for the offer, and I may, in fact, contact you as I do need someone to finish up a small project for me.

    Erin – I didn’t mean to communicate that my identity is tied up in my job with the “rat in a cage” comment. However, I can see how that came across now. Instead, I was hoping to convey that I felt like I was restricted in what my job duties entailed. I like the freedom to do cool things when I feel like it, and to do mundane things that need getting done when I feel like it. I don’t particularly like people giving me tasks to do that I don’t want to do. Something about it feels wrong to me, and I feel trapped under the “employer’s” finger rather than having some sort of autonomy, responsibility, and authority all at roughly the same levels, and reasonably high levels (since I feel reasonably confident in my abilities).

  14. Zach Braiker says:

    An entrepreneur is an artist. An entrepreneur must create. It has nothing to do with wealth. It has nothing to do with success. It is a compulsion to create, and if you can stop, then stop. But if you can’t stop, if you are driven to read one more article at 5 am, question how everything works even though you wish you could let your mind rest, and develop an idea because it must grow, then you are an entrepreneur.

    It’s hard for people who don’t experience what we experience to get it. 15-hour days aren’t 15-hour days. They are thrilling, alive and exciting. Because we are growing something that is ours, turning a thought into a reality.

  15. nate says:

    Aw, you guys make me want to weep. It’s a great thing to be surrounded by people who “get it.”

    I fully am with you Zach.

  16. Brad Fults says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the thoughts sparked by this post.

    It is, of course, more awesome to do exactly what you want to do for the “work” hours in a week. Whether it’s freelance work or taking a chance with your own startup, people like us can’t be pacified into mundanity for mere practical concerns.

    Not to sound too corny, but I think it’s the same motivating factor behind the Founding Fathers and the American Revolution — freedom is the ultimate goal, not comfortable living. Comfortable living would be nice to have, but without freedom it’s only a jail cell with padded walls.

    That emotional and creative freedom is of paramount importance not only to any single person’s life as a means to happiness, but also to humanity as a whole because true genius and historic accomplishments stem from a person’s raw creative power applied in new and eccentric ways.

  17. misha says:

    Interesting post, friend.

    I think ultimately you have to decide your values first and then choose your work. If they gel – you are one of the few and the lucky. But work and values and what we love to do won’t and can’t always match. Because we are here not just for ourselves.

    There will be years where they do – I had some and they were wonderful.
    But whether it’s by having children, sickness and coming to terms with our limitations, marriage, getting laid off…something, someday is going to teach us that life is not about doing what we are or having to do what we love. Life is about serving. Giving. Enjoying. Loving. Living. And doing all of that with healthy boundaries and honest feedback that we listen to and ask for.

    That’s maturity.

    And I’m not saying you aren’t (heck, we own stock in your fan club) – but I am saying that it’s probably asking the wrong question.

    Of course people will relate to this. I am an entrepeneur of a different ilk now. A mama who created a company of four. Do I love what I do? On the good days. Do I love to create, dream…I write code on hearts! In developing brains… But fredom is illusive. And costly. And sometimes we have to choose between that and deeper relationships. To have a deeper life.

    So entrepeneurship for the sake of freedom – is it worth it? Of course not. Not if you are sacrificing something or someone. Is it possible to have both? Of course. But not both, all the time.

    I still believe in loosing our lives we find them. So unpopular, but I think we do find them eventually. But we have to know when to choose to loose them, too.

    But then that is because relationship is more important to me than freedom. It wasn’t always, though.

  18. Helen Baxter says:

    It’s not about the amount of hours you put in. It’s about enjoying the processing and getting results. Like Zach says: “An entrepreneur is an artist. An entrepreneur must create. “

  19. Carl says:

    I find that my work time is so flexible I can usually fit “something” or “somebody” in. Often I work my schedule around family things or some need I have. I have wierd work situation where I do work for “the man” but I have a high degree of flexibility in that job ( I’m remote) and I work on a small startup team within the larger firm ( a big mega-jumbo multinational ).

    I find that I spend time in waves – working longer and traveling more in the fall – winter and early spring so I can have more time off in the summer.

    I have one hard and fast rule- I quit at 3PM on Fridays.

    Nice thread of discussion here. Thanks!

  20. Helen Baxter says:

    Even at start up when you put in all the hours you can, it’s important to take time out for fun & friends.

    I definitely works in chunks that fit round the seasons. I never mind working long hours in the winter, but in the summer I make sure I kick right back.

  21. ejoe says:

    I think the point isn’t to view it as an “end” but a journey where you enjoy the process.

    The time and workaholic tendencies of an entrepreneurship can be tough, but that is where yo have to leverage those entrepreneurship skills and find more efficient ways to automate things and offload work until you do feel like you have a good balance in life and work.

    the 4 hour work week is a good book that describes a lot of those techniques and is quite an inspirational book as well.

  22. nate says:

    Comfortable living would be nice to have, but without freedom it’s only a jail cell with padded walls.

    That quote is the truth! Well put, Brad.

    yo[u] have to leverage those entrepreneurship skills and find more efficient ways to automate things and offload work until you do feel like you have a good balance in life and work.

    And that is exactly where I start to find the balance again. Offloading work to others, or just simply doing triage on my projects is the beginning of sanity when I get overworked. And yes, if any of you haven’t read the 4-Hour Workweek, you should. That book is the culmination of 15 years of my thoughts. We’ll be using that book as a reference for years to come.

  23. Vineet Joshi says:

    Being an entrepreneur often require loosing some precious relations….having your own space,working for your own success n the most important enjoying d freedom often come with high cost…you may loose touch,loved ones…was it worth it!!!
    stuck in the 9-5 job may gve you required funds to live life but ones you start questioning your own state things get tangy from there on…
    what about your pursuit of dreams…
    you think of striking balance but in reality you can only tilt on one side!!
    living life you wanted to live,doing what u desired to do often give a different sense of feeling…

  24. Cat says:

    ENTREPRENEURSHIP IS A NIGHTMARE & A SELF MADE DISASTER !! – I have to respectfully disagree with all of you. The only reason why people start their own business is to make a LOT OF MONEY & gain financial independance. so if your business is not making good money (much more than a job!), you should get back to a Job than justify with all intangible returns. The tried & tested way to have a SAFE & HAPPY LIFE is to get a Job + Invest wisely – Stocks/Real Estate etc.., + get married + have kids + have vacations + enjoy life. The small price for this good life is to work for someone else & put up with the issues that come up – not a bad thing when you consider millions of people doing this. The NIGHTMARE way to make money is being an ENTREPRENEUR where you lose your life + lose your Confidence + unbelievable stress + lose your health + lose your family + 99% LOSE a LOT of their OWN MONEY. By the time the 1% make a lot of money, they would have lost their family, health & life. This is NOT FREEDOM BUT SELF MADE PRISON !! Is it worth it – NEVER!!

    • nate says:

      Cat, I find it interesting that you’re so adamant about being pro-job. It’s an interesting opinion and perspective, and I have many friends who might agree with you. But, as most of life, what happens and whether or not working for someone else is worth it is 100% subjective. For you, it might not be worth it. But for me, most jobs are life-sucking and drain my creative spirit with bureaucracy, political maneuvering and the lack of equal authority + responsibility along with respect. If you’ve found that in a job, congratulations. I haven’t. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist for me or for others, but I’ve found being an entrepreneur much more fulfilling, much more creative, and gives me much more self confidence than I’ve ever been offered in a job.

      Yes, there’s stress. You’ll find that in a job too. But you don’t have to lose your health, family, money or life. How you deal with each (a job vs running your own business) is up to you. If you want your check handed to you whether or not you produce anything of value, take a job. If you want to make a difference every day and know that your business success/failure adds some sort of value to the world, be an entrepreneur and direct your own life. That of course is my subjective opinion. But hey, if we’re spouting off… there ya go. :)

      Cheers.

  25. ashfaq ansari ligad says:

    Problems of The Entrepreneur
    1. Political instability: This does not encourage an investor to invest in the economy even if he has invested, he might decide to fold up due to the prevailing hostile economic climate.
    2. Presence of inflation: Inflation is an economic condition characterized by a general and continuous rise in the price level coupled with a fall in the value of money. Hence inflation is economically harmful to suppliers because of unstable quoted market prices.
    3. Inadequacy of information: The collation and analysis of relatively dependable, reliable and authentic data that may facilitate and enhance forecasting and planning. It is pertinent to point out that the entrepreneur may not be conscious of the existing forces of law of demand and supply that directly or indirectly affects consumers’ behaviour.
    4. Capital: Capital is relatively inadequate to finance entrepreneurial business transactions in Nigeria. The initial capital for the take-off of the business may not be adequate or it may be non-existent. Due to lack of funds acquisition of entrepreneurial/managerial skills is not yardstick or prerequisite for establishing a small-scale business.
    5. Inadequate of infrastructural facilities: This may hamper or hinder the development of entrepreneurial activities.
    6. Inadequate of Government support or motivation: To aid in embarking on small-scale business by providing free consultancy services and making available soft loans.
    7. Type of business to establish: At the onset may pose and Herculean task for new entrepreneurs because of lack of experience in small-scale business transaction and management.

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