You can call yourself an Entrepreneur when…

Its not really such a great thing to be an entrepreneur. There’s no real “freedom” in it. People think that starting your own business gives you freedom. It doesn’t. When you work a corporate job where you only, realistically, work for 1-2 hours a day and you can leave your work at the office, then you have freedom.

Entrepreneurship == slavery. You are a slave to employees, partners, investors, a board, clients, potential buyers, reporters, landlords, random people off the street who try to come into your office and rob you, etc

On quora recently someone asked “When can I call myself an entrepreneur”. I’m happy to share some general guidelines:

If someone hasn't had this experience, they shouldn't call themselves an entrepreneur:

Lying awake at 3 in the morning wondering about:

A) I think I have to kiss a lot of ass tomorrow. Note to self: bring up with therapist that I never really feel like "the real me" anymore.

B) how am I going to make payroll next week

C) how do i solve the fact that Wade (employee #6) now has a bad attitude that is spreading to the others (i.e. they smoke cigarettes in stairwell discussing reasons they hate me. I know this because I tape-recorded it).

D) How do I deal with the complaints from client #1 about employee #3?

E) How quickly can I package this company up to sell the damn thing so I can sleep again

F) The site is too slow. How can i find a programmer who knows what he's doing.

G) I have 8 new features in my head. Can I get them up on the site within 24 hours

H) I missed the insurance payment. I hope to god none of my employees get hit by a car this month.

I) Why won’t Client #2 pay his bills on time. Should I hire someone to break his legs?

J) Is it me? Do I need to improve my sales technique? Do I need to donate to someone’s charity again?

K) Why do I feel every pulse of my blood running through my whole body right now?

L) Is it 6am yet? Oh shoot, its only 3:05am. I've been thinking about all this stuff for only 5 minutes. Should I get up and work or try to sleep. I'll try to sleep. I'll count sheep. But only after I figure out how to make payroll.

M) My competitors are all better than me. And they all go to parties where they meet clients and make money.

N) Can I introduce my potential client to a potential girlfriend?

O) How come we didn’t get enough publicity for our launch? Is it because I’m not cool enough?

Oh, and if you have never used these phrases you shouldn't call yourself an entrepreneur:

- "I don't like to say anything bad about my competitors. They are all good guys and I respect their work. After all, this is a big enough field that we’ve all become friends. But perhaps the one difference we have with them is..." (to potential client)

- "The pay is not a lot right now but this is only temporary while we look at putting you into more of a management position." (to potential employee)

- "This particular job is not fun but we have some fun stuff coming up that we can put you on." (potential employee again. He is about to get screwed).

- "I can get that done by end of the week, no problem" (thinking: by end of month or two, no problem)

- "of course you have insurance" (to employee. Please dont get sick that week)

- "we have plans to open offices in various parts of the world" (to potential buyer, in front of map with pins in China, Paris, London, NYC, LA).

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- "just come inside and sit at a desk" - to random people walking in street right before potential buyer of company visits

- "we want to work with you. Just tell us what you can pay and we'll be happy." (to get client to say 'yes' before you start telling him about add-ons)

- “of course its legal”

- (to secretary when taking prospective client out to lunch, in front of prospective client) "HOLD ALL CALLS. I don't want to be bothered at all for the next two to four hours. This is a very important lunch!"

- "We can do that" (to anyone who asks you about anything)

- "I'm going to be personally involved in this project." (me, to anyone)

- “your sales should triple after this” (to client who hires us)

- “I agree with you completely. I’m going to improve that.” (to client who tells you why he doesn’t like you)

- “chances are electricity in NYC will keep running on Jan 1, 2000 if you hire us” (I said to Con Ed, when hiring us for a Y2K project)

Oh, and you can’t call yourself an entrepreneur until:

-       You’ve logged at least 60,000+ useless air miles (in a 3 month period)

-       You cry with hands over your head thinking, ‘what the hell did I just do’ (remind me to tell you about the time I met Tupac’s mom)

-       You get a crush on at least one employee

-       You’ve gotten a 4 page email from an ex-employee listing all of the reasons they don’t like you anymore (now friends with that ex-employee)

-       You realize you’ve suddenly been defriended on facebook by a reasonable chunk of ex employees)

-       You think of four new businesses you’d rather be starting than this stupid one.

Howard Lindzon called me while I was writing this to see how I was liking the new blog design his guys did for me. I figured I’d add to the  53 things I’ve learned from Howard Lindzon so I asked him, “Howard, how do you know when you can call yourself an entrepreneur?”

I was sort of disappointed in his answer:

“You can call yourself an entrepreneur when you wake up at 3am and you are super excited to get to the office and begin the day.”

Related posts:

-       How to exploit your employer

-       What to do after you make a ZILLION dollars?

-       My best corporate job ever

-       How to turn your 12 year old into an entrepreneur

-       How to succeed in LA without really trying

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  • I’d like to add:


    You build a devoted following (okay maybe just one or two) of insecure sadist haters who are desperately hoping for you to crash and burn.

    You forget to eat breakfast and lunch, and run to the washroom when you’ve held it for too long.

    You buy too many domains that you never use.

    You have at least one client who thinks they paid too much and got too little.

    You have ONE bad month and fear your entire business crumbling to the ground, only to be proven sorely wrong the very next month when things return to normal.

    You spend a large portion of the day with your face two inches from your screen, when you suddenly realize that you have a meeting in ten minutes and you haven’t showered or brushed your teeth.

    You have a ridiculously expensive and irrational phone bill from a business trip out of the country (you forgot to turn off data roaming again didn’t you?!)

    You get super happy looking at your bank account one month, and gasp in horror the very next month.

    And finally…

    You’ve had at least 2 or 3 failed projects and continue to create and launch new ones, because you know that it is all just a part of the process, a process that you have become comfortable and familiar with. You are undeterred by adversity and are a serial entrepreneur, even despite your best efforts not to be!

  • Sweet Jesus this was an awesome read. It’s refreshing to feel part of a collective group of sado-masochists aka entrepreneurs.

  • does howard still pronounce your last name wrong? you’re killing it over here!

  • great stuff …..

  • great stuff …..

  • great stuff

  • Man this is on the mark! What I would give for a job as a slave to someone that actually has money to pay me.

    I would also include …you can call yourself an entrepreneur when you call bailing on 5 land leases and selling your equipment on Craigslist to pay the pending cellphone and travel bill ‘selling the company’ (most of my friends think that means I sold for millions)

    from a stupid sucker of an entrepreneur who keeps lying to himself every morning at 4am (I get an extra hour of sleep)

  • Annette Carnow

    You know what your talking about. How about paying your employees triple what their worth, while you pay yourself nothing. And turning yourself into a walking doormat.

  • Anonymous

    Love it!

  • +1 … fortunately in my case it’s the father-in-law!

  • Aprilnaction

    An entrepreneurial masterpiece. Refreshing and humorously true!

  • i was feeling abit low.. struggling with ideas… start up.. you know everything.. and i m feeling much much better.. after reading all this.. thanks alot..

  • Just found you a couple hours ago. One two year degree. One four year degree. Failed once. In a cube. Almost ready to fail again.

  • Just found you a couple hours ago. One two year degree. One four year degree. Failed once. In a cube. Almost ready to fail again.

  • Oh god, this struck me as hilarious yet painfully familiar… “Do I need to donate to someone’s charity again?” 

  • P Jaunne

    Great read. Found myself kept nodding as I went through the list.  Also good to know I am not the only masochist in town.

  • I’m going on 33 next month, and I have been in business for myself since I was 21. I had to count on my hand the number of my own failed businesses. Grand total of 7 thus far.

    I could and should write some war stories.

    One thing that could be added to the list above is…………”do I pay the utilities or my employee”? Or, “Why won’t they answer the phone call or email?” or “No, I can’t pay you, but I can barter with you.” :)

    I lived in the back of one of my businesses, no shower, as I would take my showers at my grandmother’s or mother’s place, or at the local YMCA. My car was so junky and beat down that I would park 1 or 2 blocks away before I would go to pitch someone sales wise.

    None of the above is even a blip on the radar. Just a few of a thousand inconveniences (change that, “blessings”) of being an entrepreneur. Especially, if you start with no money, no resources, no rich friends, no credit, and nothing but passion.

    (Note: It’s probably the best way to start actually. I’m thankful I didn’t find success at a young age. If I did, I would feel entitled, rather than knowing it’s something that should be earned and not given.)

    Of course, I owe people I care about, and don’t care about, thousands of dollars. In one way or another they paid for my screwups and my current real world education. It’s not pretty. It never is. You can press on or give up.

    If you don’t have the passion, if you can’t handle the word “no”, then you should still be an entrepreneur. Because the best part……….is when you provide awesome value to someone…………it motivates you to do it more.

    That’s the only trick, but it’s a hard one. Provide awesome value and customer service. You can sell socks door to door. You can make rice crispy treats and sell them on the street. You can scoop dog poop, delivery groceries to old ladies, or start a flyer service for local businesses. The possibilities are endless. The only limit is truly yourself and the endless boggle of your own mind and your influences.

    Be bold. You don’t want to be the old codger or codgette who always wonders………….”What if”.

  • Alex Pospekhoff

    Siting in my office, at the center of Moscow, I’m so proud that my problems of the early time are problems of entrepreneurs all over the world. Believe, in Moscow,Russia I’ve got to solve the same sh*t you mentioned! The world is truly ONE.

  • This is awesome. Lol.

  • ScoopingOprahDotCom

    My Oxford Concise dictionary defines entrepreneur this way: Person in effective control of commercial undertaking; one who undertakes a business or enterprise, with chance of profit or loss; contractor acting as intermediary. [French, entreprendre undertake]. It doesn’t say anything about employees.

  • Emily

    When you get a new credit card to pay vendors so you’ll have enough cash in the bank for payroll to go through.

  • Didier M Delaval

    You need to review your definition of Freedom. Freedom is making things of your choice, it is not free, it is not easy, it is costly, but it allows you to be you

  • mayakirana

    I love these truths. They’re funny but oh god, so damn real. Granted, my husband and I run a small company and we don’t have that many employees that smoke in stairwells, but being responsible for others is always there, always staring at you in the face. I have clients who tell me payment is only ready by mid-month, or oops, I didn’t check my email and hence didn’t get your invoice and all that jazz. In Asia, one of the other truths is this: you always pretend you’re not the boss of the business (you have to be in Asia to understand this quirk). I’ve been in business for 12 years now but generally I enjoy my freedom and the freedom to call the shots. And maybe boss people around haha.

  • Guywithanopinion

    You are doing it wrong. You should be an entrepreneur, because you are passionate about something. You sound like the average 9-to-5-er, who hates his job.

  • Xavier Morin

    Or you hire a secretary you know your wife won’t be jealous when you have to stay at the office untill late at night in order to finish that tender document you have to deliver the next day.

  • Xavier Morin

    -When you know what it is to hit rock bottom and don’t want to go there again.
    -When you end up finding over 2M $ to help a client in less then 48 hours.
    -When you think you finally have found THE business with a purpose you believe in, only to have other great opportunities presented to you.
    -When you are spending 1 hour in your car parked in front of your house to learn new stuff on LinkedIn or Quora.
    -When your parents and girlfriend don’t understand why you don’t get a real job.
    -When you were involved in at least one business that went bad because of conflicting visions between you and your partners.
    -When you lost an 80M $ deal because of a misunderstanding with one of your suppliers.
    -When you always try to figure out what the business model is.
    -When you end up eating salad at the restaurant after gaining 10 pounds because you eat lunch 5 days a week with clients.
    -When the waitresses at the restaurant don’t ask you anymore what you want to order.
    -When you’re being cheap as fu*k with your suppliers and telling your clients they should be paying more.
    -When you end up renting your girlfriend’s car because you sold your own car to have the cash down for that new business.
    -When 48 hours after falling down 60 feet off a cliff and looking at death in the eyes, you get back to work on that big contract you were supposed to deliver months ago.
    -When you figure out that alone you can only do so much.
    -When you keep asking yourself why am I always sabotaging myself?
    -When you have had at least a mentor and a coach.
    -When your coach tells you you should stop trying to help everyone and get focused.
    -When all you listen to in your car is EO Fire and Eventual millionaire.
    -When you understand you have to give to recieve (On which board do I have to get involved to get these contracts?).
    -When you feel like hugging your clients when they pay you in time.
    -When you’ve truly understood what “the impostor syndrom” was.
    -When you find out you have ADHD (I’d be curious to know if any serious study found a correlation with ADHD and entrepreneurship).
    -When you could keep on going for hours like this but see the clock ticking and now have less then 5 hours of sleep left before you have to wake up…
    -When all of the above happened to you within a 3 years period.

  • Yurany

    “Why won’t Client #2 pay his bills on time. Should I hire someone to break his legs?” Totally me! :-p

  • Alisha Peck

    I thought they never went to sleep!

  • Brett

    Honestly most of these apply to being a leader at any company of any size. I think what really sets the entrepreneur apart are comments B and H…

  • Roxana Nasoi

    Oh I’ve got a few more. Not call yourself an entrepreneur until:
    – You hire a good friend to come work with you. Three months friend doesn’t do the job, tells you you’re a bad leader.
    – You tell your clients your colleagues in the office are your employees (when they’re actually each minding their own business, literally)
    – As a business woman, you sense your male employee is depressed and not happy and offer to take him out for dinner. He immediately tells you “he’s in a relationship”.
    – You decide to rent an office just for your employees, while you work from a cafe or from home or from a co-working space. Because if you go to the office, you won’t get stuff done, they all think you’re a jedi and ask every stupid question on this planet. Like there’s no Google search in your office.
    – You’re paying your employees a paycheck, but you can’t afford to pay yourself a paycheck from sales, so you do “freelancing work” to actually support yourself financially in the first few months/first year.
    – You haven’t had a decent vacation in 8 years. Since you started on this road. Because “vacation” means “has to have wifi, plugs, electricity”. You’ll at least take your smartphone or tablet with you as clients haven’t heard of auto-replies that say “out of office. vacation time, please contact X”
    – You’ve failed so many times and then you once actually had results. And tell yourself “time to retire”. And then at a networking event you meet someone who inspires you to launch another product, company, service.
    – People ask about you and your instant reply is “I’m an entrepreneur” – like that says anything about you personally.
    – When someone asks for your CV, it’s worse than getting spit in the face…
    – You’d clone yourself, in hope of finding someone who can actually follow your lead.

    And more…