When I was young, I never had a clear vision as to what my career would look like. I took courses in Anthropology, Sociology, Economics, Marketing, Art History, Religion, and Mythology – and if I look back on the last 12 years, I have had at least 8 different careers:
- Book Publicist
- Event Coordinator
- Public Relations Consultant
- Marketing Consultant
- Advertising Executive
- Community Development Coordinator
- Strategic Storyteller / Cultural Mythologist / Story Writer
What I didn’t realize at the time is that all of those branches were actually part of a larger tree. Each contract I took, each person I met, each place that I lived, has helped define who I am, both as a person and as an entrepreneur. There is something exciting and magical about being able to build your own business and define not only who you are and what you do, but also why you do it.
My career and my personal life have always been intertwined. I did not thrive in a 9-5 environment, nor did I relish sitting behind a desk all day. My parents are entrepreneurs, my brothers are entrepreneurs, heck most of my friends are, or at least would like to be, entrepreneurs. So that leads me to the question of the day: What exactly is an entrepreneur?
I have recently been confronted with the question: Are you an entrepreneur? A consultant? An adviser? A freelancer? What exactly are you?
I am all of the above, and none of the above. Confused yet? Entrepreneurs seem to do it all, that is until they can find someone better suited to hand the reigns over to. At times, I am a adviser, helping businesses build a strategic plan. Other times I am a consultant, coming on board to help with a project or campaign. I am also a freelancer, offering specific skills and services. I believe the entrepreneur is ingrained in me, directing all that I do. I also think that in order to understand the question we need to better understand the role of an entrepreneur and the myths we often associate with this precarious position.
Myth #1: An Entrepreneur doesn’t have a boss.
What I have learned is that while an entrepreneur may not appear to have a boss, we in fact report to more people than most. From shareholders to clients, consultants to contractors – the list of people that hold us accountable seems to keep growing.
Myth #2: An Entrepreneur gets lots of time off.
There is a common misconception, or rather a romantic idealism, that an entrepreneur could be sitting on a beach in Tahiti, laptop and cell phone in hand, and bill for their time. While I know this is not impossible (case in point: my parents), I am realizing that in order to hold onto this dream one must live in a world of hope, faith and above all else, delusion. Starting a business takes every ounce of energy that you have, and its addictive! I find myself working at 11pm on a Thursday, or 1pm on a Sunday. If I am not working, I am thinking about work, or trying to drum up new work. And I love it!
Myth #3: An Entrepreneur runs a business.
Coming back to this idea of addiction – an entrepreneur, by nature, may not want to run a single business but rather start up lots of businesses! Hence why the Tahitian Dream never actualizes. As soon as you achieve success with one business, you are already knee deep in the next.
Myth #4: Anyone can be an Entrepreneur.
This is a little tricky, since I believe that many people could be entrepreneurs but are held back by fear. They enjoy the life they lead and don’t want to rock the boat for fear of tipping over. I too fall victim to this but remind myself daily that even if the ship sinks, I know how to swim! Being an entrepreneur means letting go of the conventional lifestyle and embracing the roller coaster. I think the most amazing part of my career is that it is ever-evolving; with each new project, new client, and new day, possibility presents itself. It is up to the entrepreneur to embrace the opportunities that reveal themselves.
Myth #5: Entrepreneurs are out for themselves.
In Vancouver, British Columbia, an amazing thing is happening. More and more people are not only taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, they are looking for opportunities that also benefit their community. From social entrepreneurs, to venture philanthropists, to social enterprises and community investment corporations, social change is becoming a necessary component for many start ups.
The Entrepreneur is a rare breed, but in this ever-shifting economy and social landscape, the Entrepreneur, defined by characteristics like adaptability and perseverance, may just be the best equipped. I think the key is to educate and empower people so that they can learn how to incorporate entrepreneurial elements into their business and capitalize on opportunities that might normally pass them by.