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6 things you should know about becoming an entrepreneur

6 things you should know about becoming an entrepreneur

I quit my full-time job 12 months ago.

The 9-5 was never for me. I had this terrible but common tendency where every time I started a new job I started slowly detesting it until it got to the point where I’d dread going to work every day.

The constant repetitive tasks for jobs that I didn’t give two shits about drove me insane.

While I was working full-time, I’d also set up my online shop. It had been live for almost a year and was only making a few hundred bucks a month, but I knew that working for someone else was no longer an option, especially if I had the ability to make money doing what I was passionate about – design and travel. So I made the switch.

Over 12 months later I can say that it’s been one hell of a year, with a million ups and downs and a learning curve steeper than Mt Everest. A few of you showed interest in finding out about making the switch after my post on 10 reasons why travel is better than your office job, so here are 6 things about my current life as an entrepreneur that might have been nice to know beforehand.


1. I work harder now than I did when I worked full-time

Most entrepreneurs hope to create a job where they can work less, not more, but setting up a business… lets just say the time and hard work it takes is significantly higher.

Did you know that I currently work 3 jobs? On top of running this blog, I do graphic design for my other business Polkadot Stationery, and I spend 1-2 days per week in a local print shop.

The average working week in Australia is about 38-40 hours. My average week is about 50 hours which is scattered between business hours, evenings, and weekends. Right now I’m finishing off this post at 10:30PM on a Thursday night. What kind of crazy person am I?

Even though I work so much now, it’s mostly doing things I enjoy so my happiness level has gone way up since I quit working full-time!

6 things you should know about becoming an entrepreneur

2. I’ve spent a lot time of time working for free

I started Polkadot Stationery in late 2011 and spent an entire year getting it set up before I made a dime. This was all outside of business hours as I had other full-time work. My weeknights and weekends were often spent working on my business.

As I’m sure you know, blogs don’t just pop up and start raking in the money – most blogs take years to get to a point where they can be monetized, so the past 5 months of hypothetical sweat and tears on AGWT has been completely unpaid.

I do it all in the hopes that one day in the not too distant future, I’ll be able to make enough money to live off and not have to work for someone else.

3. I didn’t need to be rich to start my business

When I first started Polkadot Stationery, I made the mistake of thinking that starting a business would cost money. I purchased advertising through wedding websites and put money into printing samples, and it got me… a big load of nothing.

When I made that first dollar, it was not a result of me spending money on promotion. It was a result of trial and error with my products, descriptions, and photography until I hit a sweet spot and made my product into something that people wanted to buy.

If you don’t count my initial mistakes, then both of my businesses cost under $100 to start. Polkadot Stationery cost only .20c per item I added on Etsy. The costs of setting up AGWT were only a domain name, a WordPress theme (of which there are free options), and hosting.

Man, it sounds easy to start a business when I say it like that.

4. It’s nice to have a financial safeguard

While the point above states that you don’t have to be rich, it sure is nice having some money aside in case you need it.

I saved up a few thousand dollars while I was working full-time, to use as a safeguard once I started working for myself. It mostly sits in an account reasonably untouched, but it gives me confidence that I can keep doing what I’m doing without worrying about going broke.

In a worst-case scenario in which I was making no money, I could still have a roof over my head and food in my belly for 6 months. This is unlikely to happen as I am actually making some money, but if I have a slow month or need to purchase something in order to move forward, I have a backup.

Coffee

5. I live on almost nothing

As mentioned on my about page, I live a minimalist lifestyle, scraping by on the basics so that I can work for myself, and any extra dollars I earn go towards travel.

I’ve kept a few guilty pleasures (no way am I giving up coffee!) but every other luxury is gone. We don’t own a tv and we gave up car ownership, we sleep on a mattress propped up on milk crates, we live in a share house with 4 people… there are no frills in this household.

In the interest of full disclosure – my income this year has been under $18,000 AUD. The average income in Australia is just under $58,000. That’s right, at the moment I’m earning $40,000 less than the national average, and not even close to minimum wage!

Living off almost nothing is a sacrifice I have to make, but in my opinion, giving up a few luxuries is entirely worth the benefit of working for myself.

6. my sanity is constantly questioned

My friends and family question my life choices when I have to say no to expensive dinners, or when they realise I’m living in a tiny share house, or when I work over entire weekends.

My readers question the opinions I put out there by occasionally telling me how wrong I am and how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

And I’m always questioning my own sanity, doubting whether all this work will eventuate into something that was worth spending all this time on.

One thing you need as an entrepreneur is the ability to take the opinions of others with a grain of salt, and understand that your own fears will need to be put aside in order to move forward.


6 things you should know about becoming an entrepreneur

Has it been worth it?

Absolutely. Working for yourself is as freeing as running through a field of flowers with sunshine glistening in your hair. With no one around to tell you what to do, you feel as though anything is possible.

It takes a buttload of self-discipline, but the flexibility to have a mid afternoon nap or to take the day off when you want to is pretty damn great. If you want to work in your underwear, ain’t nobody gonna stop you!

While I can’t exactly say that I’ve “made it” working as entrepreneur just yet, I’m certainly well on my way and there’s no way I’m giving up now.

I’m sure many other entrepreneurs would agree that once you’ve worked for yourself, you can never go back to working full-time for someone else. It’s just not in our nature.

You have to be one tough cookie to take the leap into working for yourself. It will take a lot of hard work and determination, but the satisfaction of creating your own success doing something you love makes every second worth it.


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Ashlea Wheeler

This post was written by Ashlea, a colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

49 Responses to “6 things you should know about becoming an entrepreneur”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I hope so too Jorinde! I can see that I’ll get there eventually, it just takes a lot of time 😛

      I’m really glad that you enjoyed my post. Best of luck after college – I hope you find something you love doing!

      Reply
  1. Chelsea & Kinsey

    Working in our underwear sounds pretty sweet! Thanks for the reality check! Worked with a few start ups and that was when we really understood what it means. Great post! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I know, right! It’s definitely hard to know what it means to be an entrepreneur until you’ve actually done it or know someone who has. It’s one of those things that sounds like the best job in the world but is actually a whole lot of hard work. I’m glad you can relate!

      Reply
  2. Petra

    Great post, Ashlea! I totally agree when you say it sounds easy when you put it on paper – the blogging part, I mean. I’ve been seriously blogging for about 5 months now (after having the free wordpress.com version for about 8 months) and it’s hard work! I’d love to get to the point where we’re making some money from it (aside from the comps that we’ve started getting, which is awesome!). Friends and family just don’t seem to ‘get’ that it can be a career of sorts! Keep on going, it’s an exciting journey for sure!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I know what you mean, it’s definitely harder work than you would ever realise before actually going ahead with it! I think you and I are on the same page with trying to get our blogs to the point of monetisation, but that takes an incredible amount of time and effort. Lucky it’s a lot of fun too 😉 Thanks Petra!

      Reply
  3. Ruthie @ All Things Meraki

    You have given me a glimmer of hope with this post. I was made redundant in August from a job I hated. I haven’t found another job, because I’m at a similar point in my life to you. Not wanting to work doing a job I have no interest in, stresses me endlessly! I want to discover the real me, my passions and start a business of my own… just have to find the idea first! So thank you for writing this post and proving that I’m not completely mad or alone in my quest for happiness and getting me back! Good Luck for 2015. I am sure you’ll smash every goal.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re definitely not alone in this situation! I’ve also been made redundant once, and have been pressured into quitting once, on top of just being unhappy in most jobs where I’m working for other people. For some of us, this lifestyle just doesn’t work which is why I worked towards starting my own business. It took a while to get started but my persistence is definitely starting to pay off! Thanks Ruthie, and best of luck for your 2015 too!

      Reply
  4. Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    This was such an inspiring read! I’d love to quite my day job and blog full time, but I’m fully aware that it may potentially take a couple of years before this is possible. I’ll be referring back to this post if that day ever comes!

    Tessa / Bramble & Thorn

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s definitely a possibility Tessa! As long as you keep it in mind as a long term goal and take steps to move forward, you will eventually get there! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Camila

    Very inspiring! I’ve been juggling with the idea for a few years and you are definitely inspiring me to push myself toward working harder to start something on the side while I’m working to save some money up!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Camila! It’s a great idea have your idea as a side project while you save up some money before taking the leap, I’m glad I could inspire you to get started 🙂

      Reply
  6. Eden

    I feel like this is my life right now. I quit my job at the beginning of the year to go back to school. During that time I decided to start blogging about my frugal lifestyle and hacks on how to save money. Now I am so passionate about blogging that I prefer to do that rather than find an office job when my school program finishes. I am hoping to start an online fashion shop in the near future. I saved up enough money while working as a safety net, but it is A LOT of hard work. But the point is to keep on pursuing it if you’re happy. Good luck in your endeavors! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s great that you’ve found something you’re passionate about Eden, this is definitely the first step in working towards your ideal lifestyle. It’s hard work, but if it will make you happy then it’s definitely worth it in the end! Best of luck Eden! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Pauline

    Thanks for sharing. This is something I need to see. I’m feeling a bit lost right now, as in this post I just published this morning (http://prettycurious889.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/crafterpreneur-wannabe/ ).

    If I were to listen to my heart, I’ll quit my day job and start an online craft business, but I’m scared of giving up the stability in life… Reading your post gives me courage, maybe it’s wiser to follow your path – to start an online store on Etsy while not quit my job at this moment.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I just read your post Pauline, looks like you were in a very similar boat to mine! I definitely think you should open an Etsy store, you already have some great photography for your products and an interesting story behind them. It costs barely anything to set up and if you don’t try it out then you’ll forever wonder whether it would have worked. I’d suggest you follow the Etsy Success blog for some tips to get started, let me know how you go with it!

      Reply
      • Celia Yarwood

        So check out seanwes.com/podcast
        There are so many podcasts on different areas and a lot of it is to do with entrepreneurship. I joined the community a couple months back but am saving up money again. The community is basically like-minded people to do with entrepreneurship. If you don’t have loads of time for podcasts he does youtube channel now. seanwes.com/tv and its a lot of the podcast information broken down. (I’m not promoting by the way Sean is just great and everyone needs to know about him!)

        Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I think it’s better to have realistic expectations before going ahead with taking the leap, otherwise some things might come as a bit of a shock and derail your plans! A new business takes time but is very rewarding in the long run, you should definitely give some of your ideas a try Jessica! If they don’t work out then no big deal, at least you know what will and won’t work for next time 🙂

      Reply
  8. Annemarie

    Great article. Glad I am not the only one going crazy (in a good way) over launching a blog and working on it every single second of the day, doing free stuff for it etc. You covered the points well! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      We’re all in this together! Working on a new blog is hard (and unpaid) work but it will definitely be rewarding in the long run. Thanks Annemarie!

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I don’t think I could properly function without it! I also use my local cafe to work in sometimes, so purchasing coffee is basically essential for my job 😛

      Reply
  9. Gilles Barbier

    Thanks for sharing…
    Just was “rationalized” from my former job and decided to go that way… Currently taking the time to enjoy a little things (I have as well saved a bit of money 😉 but I will definitely want to go the way you did.
    I fully agree (though for me it’s an impression, you talk about experience, quite different) that most important is a lot of hard work (there is no free ride out there), lots of discipline and lots of determination (resilience).
    Wish you all the best! And many successes
    Cheers, Gilles

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re absolutely right about there being no free ride! Working for yourself doesn’t just magically happen, it’s always the result of a few good ideas and some hard work. Discipline and determination are also key factors in making your business a success. Thanks Gilles!

      Reply
  10. Miles of Happiness

    I quit my job in 2012 to travel for six months, then it was impossible to get a job after that. Crisis, classic. The people I met proposed me to hire me as a Freelance. I started to be an entrepreneur because I had no choice, and today I still think it was the best choice I ever made. It changed my life. In a good way!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I don’t think I’ve known of anyone who became an entrepreneur accidentally, it just proves that many situations that may seem bad can be made into something good. That’s fantastic for you!

      Reply
  11. Ailene - @ailz01 Twitter

    G’day,

    Was inspired by this and it’s good to know that there’s someone else out there (especially in Oz) who also quit an unfufilling 9to5 job to do something she loves. Kudos to you! Love your blog.

    Ailene
    rheacollections.com

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thank you Ailene! I think many of us don’t realise there are so many others out there that feel exactly the same way. Quitting the 9-5 is a big step but definitely a rewarding one and I’m so glad you’ve made that realisation and taken the leap! 🙂

      Reply
  12. Marissa

    Bookmarked! I will probably come back to this a few time for much needed inspiration. I have been thinking about quitting my job for months now, and I already work from home! That’s how you know it’s bad, when I work from home and dread working every day. I would love to solely focus on my blog and Etsy shop and I have been trying to build up the courage to take the leap and quit my day job. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s a very unique situation to be in Marissa, but I can definitely understand it. It’s great that you’ve already got your blog and Etsy shop up and running, and if you’re passionate about them, I say go for it!

      Reply
  13. Janelle

    Doing this right now! I could not agree with you more about what the freedom means to a person. I love your realness about the fact that you shared you work more and get paid less then what you do if you were working for someone. And who knows what the future will hold for you. Working for somebody else is harder to me then being able to do what I want, when I want to. That is much more appealing then answering and doing things for someones who is succeeding. Cheers ! and Merry Christmas

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I couldn’t agree more Janelle, the freedom of working for ourselves is so much better than working in a job we hate just for money. And the feeling of being proud of what I’ve achieved makes me unbelievably happy! Good luck with your transition, let me know how it goes for you!

      Reply
  14. Chalsie

    I relate to pretty much everything you’ve mentioned in this post! I currently work for myself, taking on any kind of job I can – from copywriting, to photography, to SEO, or design. On top of that, I work on my blog, out of the love of it. And at the end of the day, I take home about the same wage as you.

    It’s rough, sometimes I question why I’m doing it all. But I always take a moment each day to realise how lucky I am to be working for myself.

    Thanks for sharing Ashlea.

    Chalsie | The Workshop Co. x

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s great to know that other people are in the same boat as I am. It can definitely be tough, but I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives! Thanks for contributing your story Chalsie 🙂

      Reply
  15. Bibiana

    Thanks for sharing! I have vague dreams of being a full time travel blogger, and started my blog a few months ago just to see where it could lead. However, I’m one of the lucky few who actually love my desk job, which has actually given me plenty of opportunities to travel while I work, so am pretty happy with how things are at present. I used to think professional travel bloggers were “lucky”, and it wasn’t until I started blogging myself that it’s actually hard work, especially at the initial stages when you have to balance a paid job by day with blogging by night (what I’m doing at present) in order to make ends meet. Congrats on your successes so far and all the best in the coming year!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s fantastic for you! I don’t think I know many people who love their day job, so the fact that you’re doing something you enjoy is a huge achievement. And it’s great that you get to travel as part of your job. I think that’s why most travel bloggers start blogging, they always want to travel more 🙂 Thanks Bibiana!

      Reply
  16. Allison

    Wonderful post! I’m almost reaching graduation from university and I’m starting to question what I want to do in life and if an entrepreneurship direction is the right path for me. This post brought to light the real, less glamourous side of being your own boss and the sacrifices needed to be an entrepreneur. Thanks for this perspective!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Allison! It’s sometimes hard to visualise what your life will be like once you’ve made a significant lifestyle change, so I wanted to make known the things that could happen when you become an entrepreneur. I hope I haven’t scared you off it – working for yourself is very rewarding and if you’re the type that excels when you’re doing your own thing, then it will definitely be for you!

      Reply
  17. Megan

    I’ve been running my own business for 5 years now but 2015 will be my first year full-time. Woohoo! It’s a dream of mine to live in another country 1-2 months of every year. My partner lived in Sicily for 4 years and we’ve both traveled to Europe several times (going to Germany in March!) so we know that the traveling life is for us. Eventually, I’d love to become a European resident but that’s in the 5-10 year plan. Haha.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s fantastic Megan! I love your dream of living in another country a few months a year. I’m sure it would be a great way to have a working holiday and is absolutely achievable when you are working for yourself. Good luck with making the change in 2015 🙂

      Reply

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