Larry's a poet, but works for an advertising agency.
Sally's an actress, but works for a photographer.
Pat's a novelist, but works for an insurance company.
How come all your friends are on their way to being somebody else?
—NYPD Officer Frank Serpico as played by Al Pacino in Serpico (1973)
Sound familiar? Do you spend your days working for someone else, but your nights and weekends working on your venture? If so, you’re not alone. America has always been a nation of free-thinkers, but today’s innovation and entrepreneurship revival, both in the shadow of Steve Jobs and before, is unprecedented. From ABC’s Shark Tank, the hit TV show where entrepreneurs pitch investors such as Mark Cuban, to the newly launched Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at Cornell (Johnson) and almost every top business school, entrepreneurship is reaching bubble-like proportions.
Despite all the hype surrounding entrepreneurship, the harsh reality is that Instagrams (remember that?) are few and far between and 3 out of 4 VC backed start-ups fail to return investors’ capital. So what about the rest of us who don’t yet have backers and aren’t working on their venture full time? I’m talking about the Hobbyist Entrepreneur. How can these determined individuals and small teams “pull it off” and transform side projects into the main event? Here are eight tips for turning your passion into your profession:
1. Hold your horses. If you already have a paycheck and owe a landlord 40% of your pre-tax income (I’m talking to you New York City), you’re going to need to harness your inner Zen master to practice the art of patience. Remember, while we often hear of the get-rich-quick entrepreneur, most were honing their craft for years before they hit it big.
3. Set milestones. If this is your first start-up, then you are an amateur. This means that no matter how much you prepare, until you actually launch you won’t know what is going to happen. To avoid the pitfall of waiting for the “perfect” launch window, set milestones and stick to them.
4. Find a community. The word entrepreneur conjures up images of a bearded guy in a filthy plaid shirt working by a single incandescent light bulb in a garage filled with empty Fanta cans and cigarette butts. Hopefully this isn’t you, but regardless, grab yourself a beer once in a while with other like minded people. Thanks to the entrepreneurship bubble, finding a community isn’t hard. Note: this should complement hobbies and relationships outside of your obsession, err venture.
5. Nurture wingmen, aka advisors. With or without a partner, you need people who are not working on your project to act as your sounding board. Find those unbiased voices and listen. Bonus: wingmen can become angels.
6. Network, network, network. So you have the next really big idea? Great, but don’t assume for a second that the age old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” doesn’t apply to innovation the way it applies to every other aspect of the world.
7. Take the leap. A wise man once said: You can’t really love unless you fall and you can’t fall if you don’t jump. When your project finally crystallizes, it’s not just enough to jump for it; you also need to let yourself fall—to make that sacrifice. Every great entrepreneur has, at one point, bet the farm. If you can’t do this now and don’t think you’ll ever be able to, get out now. Entrepreneurship is hotter than ever, but if you’re afraid to get burned, there’s a corporation out there holding a desk with your name on it.
8. Smile, laugh, grow. Why do some entrepreneur’s persevere from failure to failure? What’s their secret? Perhaps the best part about being an entrepreneur is that, win or lose, everything you do is an investment in yourself and your future. So take heart in knowing that both means and ends will make you not only a better, wiser entrepreneur, but a better person in every aspect of your life.
Do you have a different Top 8, Top 10? Let me know and Good Luck!