How to Make It on Your Own

What Makes a Good Entrepreneur?

By Jaron Serven, Staff Writer

Like many of you, when I graduated with my Master’s, I was at an almost complete loss as to what to do.

What was more, with the economy the way it is, it seemed like the world didn’t have many options for me.  Instead of sifting through offers, I was sending out resumes, discontent gnawing at me the whole way.

Wasn’t I supposed to be doing what I loved?  Wasn’t I supposed to be cultivating my career… my future… my life?

What I didn’t realize was that I was making a very big mistake with regard to my outlook: I was letting other people define who and what I should be.

Instead of telling people what they needed to hear, I was asking people what they wanted to hear.  The difference appears small, but that gap is very large indeed.

What I hadn’t considered, and what turned out to be the most obvious path for me going forward, was a life of entrepreneurship.  I thought a steady career would give me stability, a sense of direction–but as a writer, I would first need to create that stability and direction on my own.

While I am, against my will, socially designated as a “freelancer”, I consider myself to be an entrepreneur.  Like all entrepreneurs, I’m building a business, cultivating a brand.  With writing, it is just a less expensive start-up. It is a more personal and internalized commodity being put to market.

This was my first lesson in entrepreneurship: “The nature of being an entrepreneur means that you fully embrace ambiguity and are comfortable with being challenged regularly,” says Tanya Prive, a contributor to Forbes online.  “Choosing [entrepreneurship] is completely irrational because the odds of succeeding are dismal…”

Yet, when considering what it takes to be a good, or even great, entrepreneur, what do we consider to be the attributes of “success”?  Is success a billion dollar company and world-renowned fame like some of our greatest entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs?  Sure, of course.

But what about the millions of others who have found success on their own, who have created their own small businesses and have thrived in their own, non-world-domineering way?

For more and more Americans, especially the new-graduates and young people, entrepreneurship is a foot in the door for working in business, a way to gain better experience outside of the sterile setting of higher education and get our hands dirty in the real world.

In a world where jobs are scarce and big businesses are looking for people with more real-world experience than ever before, starting along the path of entrepreneurship doesn’t seem like such a bad idea as Tanya Prive would have us believe.

“Success” for us, then, would be the experience of embracing the challenges of staking a new path, of doing instead of listening, of creating instead of waiting.

But the specific challenges of entrepreneurship remain, and must be overcome as the economy struggles to recover.  I have been lucky in my own endeavors in that freelance writing and editing do not require that much finances to start-up–not so for those of us who plan to create a full-fledged small business.

A primary focus of my work as a freelancer has been making sure all of the proper tax work is done and all regulations are followed, which speaks of a larger issue in small business creation.

In a study recently published by the New York Times and conducted by Ernst and Young, the United States came up lacking in the fields of tax and business regulation.

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