I spent 20 years in corporate and have now happily been working for myself for just over six years, two of which have been spent leaning more and more into entrepreneurial endeavours. This shift is what makes me sparkle, it is “what makes my bum itch” as my good friend Tabatha King would say.
But it has not always been like that. In fact, I distinctly remember these exact words coming out of my mouth, “I will never work for myself; I’m just not wired like that.”
Boy, was I wrong! I suspect those who know me well would probably say that it is no great surprise that I ventured out on my own and am loving it.
Though my dream is to build my own brands and get involved in growing great business ideas into profitable ventures, my main source of income is still freelancing my skills and services in the marketing and media space, a ‘bread and butter’ fall back strategy for which I am extremely grateful.
Wherever you are on your journey, the minute you step out of someone else giving you your job description and a salary, I believe you are an entrepreneur. The official definition of being an entrepreneur is: “A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”.
So, if you are doing this, you too are an entrepreneur.
Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and there are inherent qualities that make it easier to venture out on your own and make a success of yourself. These include being able to move out of your comfort zone, motivating yourself and taking action, solving problems, loving new ideas and connecting with people, even if you are more naturally an introvert. (Unless of course you are one of the lucky ones that invent an incredible product that everyone wants, and you sell it for millions – then you can stay in your bedroom in your pyjamas all day).
Having said that, so much about being an entrepreneur is a learning curve, one that should be be part of your DNA. I have just started my journey as an entrepreneur, but here are eight things I have learned and would like to share.
- Get up and show up – As Elizabeth Gilbert would say: “Your job is to just keep putting track down and trust the process”. Even when there is no work you need to make the calls, send the emails, and keep thinking about what your next steps are and something will eventually shift.
- Build and maintain your network – I am nothing without the people I have met along the way in my career, and the people I continue to meet each day. Every piece of work I have received, or every opportunity I have ever been able to unlock has been because of someone I know or someone they know and have introduced me to. I see this as my magic web that connects me to possibility.
- All you have is your reputation and integrity – It takes a whole lifetime to build and one bad decision or non-delivery to spoil it. If the people you know don’t recommend or trust you, you have no magic web.
- Don’t take other people’s opinions as truth – What people say is their truth, not yours. Learn to sift through what can help you and what makes you doubt yourself.
- Seek out your mentors – I was lucky enough to have some incredible mentors throughout my career such as Virginia Hollis, Harry Herber and Gordon Patterson who taught me so many of the lessons I employ to this day. I believe it is critical to have a mentor, and when I embarked on my new journey of entrepreneurship, I identified the people I wanted to learn from and asked them for their mentorship. You will be surprised how open people are to pass on their knowledge. The other gift I gave myself is a monthly session with a business coach who keeps me challenged, motivated and supported.
- Manage your ‘fear monster’ daily – Entrepreneurship means creating opportunities, and the biggest killer of my own creativity is fear! I try to consciously and actively manage my ‘Fear Monster’ each day. Some days it is huge, and some days it is barely there, but I combat it by setting aside the things I cannot control and addressing the things I can. After all, according to anxietcentre.com the majority of fear is not reality, it is just what is happening in your head.
- Continuously iterate – The beautiful thing about entrepreneurship is that you are always in Beta. Be flexible and agile, evaluate how you are doing things, and build on your successes. If you have tried one route and it is not working, try another way, or try something else entirely. The more adaptable you are, the more you will future proof yourself.
- Be curious – Seek out great ideas and interesting people to inspire you. Enjoy the act of creating and try not to be too attached to the outcome, because then the outcome will never disappoint you and you may have a bigger, better outcome than you ever imagined!
Each day I wake up excited to see what new opportunities I can create, and what opportunities will come knocking unexpectedly from something I did previously, or from someone I met.
I learn new lessons every day in my entrepreneurial journey, but I feel like it was always in me and only now am I peeling off the layers to discover my true self. I am grateful for all the lessons I learned when I was employed, and the network I have built up over the years, but having the ability to create my own opportunities, to work with the people I choose to work with, and to be involved in anything that inspires me, fills me with huge satisfaction.
I am working towards being completely unemployable, but very sought after.
Eve Pennington is a media industry veteran, working in both media independents, and full service advertising agencies. Now she’s an independent entrepreneur. Her driving principle is that consumer insights and strong relationships with creative agencies and media owners results in great work.
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