Saturday, October 24, 2015

7 things only an entrepreneur understands

I am an artist and I have been traveling around the country in an RV full time (full time, as in a sleep in the RV every single night and it’s parked in a different city or even state about every week. I do not currently have a house somewhere that I go back to).  I’ve been doing outdoor art shows for over a year and half.  It has been a fairly lucrative and invaluable learning experience, for the first time, I’ve been really immersed in running a business on my own. Artists, and all other business owners alike, we’re all on the same journey and even in my short venture with entrepreneurship (a little south of 5 years) I’ve found that there are 7 things, only entrepreneurs will understand.  

#1 How many people tell you that you’re living the dream
                If I had a quarter for every time someone said “you’re living the dream” I would have more quarters than I would have if I had a quarter for every time someone said “wow, your work is amazing” or “I’m so in love with your paintings” or “if I won the lottery I’d buy all of these” (what? So never) but doesn’t buy anything.  I get that my current lifestyle living in an RV sounds super appealing to most people trapped in a 9-5 working, mortgage paying, white picket fence painting, baby diaper changing world. And it really could be cool…. if it were vacation, which it’s not. I’m not traveling the national parks of America, I’m sleeping in walmart parking lots on the way to my next show in Oklahoma or Ohio or wherever trying to run my entire business out of basically a car.  We all have our misconceptions that people have of how we run our businesses,  and I’d be willing to bet that you’ve been told you’re living the dream more times than you can count by people who you know for sure would NEVER have the self discipline to do everything you do on a day to day basis. 
                I cant imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing, it’s perfect for me, but I somewhat feel that it’s my civic duty to bring all of these “you’re living the dream-ers” from fantasy land back to the realm of reality, and remind them of all the work behind the glamour of owning a business. 

#2 How much time actually goes into running a business
                 Before doing my first art show I had never contemplated how much work goes into them. I generally spend about 30 hours a week at shows. (Friday I set up for about 5 hours, Saturday and Sunday I’m outside talking to people, trying to convince folks to spend their hard earned money on something I made to hang on their wall from 8:30-6:30ish then for another 2-4 hours to pack everything back up into my RV Sunday night)  This 30 hours doesn’t include any time spent actually painting and creating art or running the online end of my business and marketing myself.  Putting in 70+ hour weeks is often the norm for an entrepreneur, but the 9 to 5 type who wouldn’t dare put in a 41st hour without being paid overtime, it’s probably a huge shock if they think we just sit around lazily all day, cashing checks and getting others to do all the work.

#3 How much of what you do is for free
                One of my business idols is Grant Cardone, and he mentioned in one of his audiobooks (that I listen to on repeat as I drive across the country because my radio doesn’t work) that 75% of what he does, he does for free.    I had never really thought about it before, but it is absolutely true. There is probably a decreasing trend as your business grows of how much you do for free, but in the beginning, everything I did was for free.  Everything I still do is for free if you want to look at it that way.  With the exception of commissions, everything I paint, I paint for free and hope someone buys it.  Now that I’m making pretty good money, it doesn’t seem so much like that anymore, but definitely as an artist, you have to get a cohesive body of work together before you even have a chance of selling something.  I couch-surfed with a young guy in Chicago a year ago who had just gotten some flashy job doing something intangible and getting paid really well for it.  In one of our conversations, he said he wouldn’t open an email for free, which is ludicrous and I’m sure he was some combination of joking and trying to exaggerate his feeling of self importance with his fancy new job.  I can imagine though, that many people who collect pay checks think that way, and maybe entrepreneurship isn’t for them. 

# 4 How rewarding it all is
            Even though I am an artist, I actually have an engineering degree.  It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned what being an engineer would really be like i.e. working as a part of a team designing a small portion of a bigger project.  Sounds pretty anticlimactic and it would be really hard for me to get excited about contributing such a seemingly tiny amount on something.  I assume things are done that way as somewhat of a system of checks and balances because a group is probably less likely allow something terrible to slip through the cracks, but with too many minds working on one thing, I think you’re less likely to come up with something brilliant and out of the box either.  That’s good for building bridges, but I’d rather totally bust on something every once in a while to create beautiful awe inspiring artwork that’s completely a product of my imagination than always stay safe.  In the entrepreneurial world, unlike most jobs, total failure is a very real possibility, so it is rewarding like nothing else when you and only you have created a successful product.

#5 How great it is to chose your own hours even when there are 80 of them
            There are definitely some things an entrepreneur has to do at certain times, but being able to do things whenever you want as long as they get done is such a great feeling.  I am in my 20s and was living in Hawaii before I embarked on this whole cross country RV adventure (and will be returning very very soon J) so most of my friends worked in the service industry and their schedules were all over the place.  Its hard for people to coordinate hikes or trips when everyone has a different schedule, but I could pretty much always make it work if I really wanted to go and just put in more hours somewhere else.  The double edge to this sword is #5

#6 Because you don’t clock in, people don’t take it seriously when you need to work
             Perhaps it's because most of the time I could move stuff around to be able to do the fun things I wanted to do, like  surfing/hiking/paddleboarding with the whales/etc, people wouldn’t take no for an answer when it was really crunch time and I needed to get stuff done.  Just because I don’t clock in doesn’t mean that I can blow off my career.  As an entrepreneur you trade results for money, not time, which often means putting in more time than expected to achieve said results. 

#7 When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re never clocked out
            Well maybe I could metaphorically clock out, but I can’t imagine telling someone who wants to buy something from me that I’ll get back to them 9 am Monday and can’t talk to them now just because its after hours.  I try to always be available for collectors or gallery owners who want something from me, and maybe it’s because I love what I do, I don’t need 128 hours a week away from it (that’s 168 total hours in a week less the typical 40 work hours if you didn’t want to navigate that math). As every day goes by, I am more of my business and my business is more of me, we are becoming the same entity, and I can’t clock out of being myself.  

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