The entrepreneurial spirit has always been one of invention, necessity, and progress. We associate entrepreneurs with A-type personalities who were able to escape the shackles of the daily grind and forge new paths to success. Where in their old life, their out-of-the-box thinking and drive were perhaps looked down on, in their new life, the entrepreneur flourishes and experiences a life of constant positivity and freedom.
Well, not exactly.
The truth of the matter is that the entrepreneurial life, while freeing in many ways, can be an emotional rollercoaster that may not always hit those high points. There are very few things that are harder in life than starting your own business, and there can be quite a few moments of demotivation, self-doubt, and even depression that come about from the process.
But don’t fret.
Not only are these kinds of negative feelings normal—most people do tend to get discouraged, even just a little bit, when they encounter obstacles—there are various preemptive coping strategies that will not only improve your mood and mindset but also provide benefits to your business.
In this guide, we’ll be covering some good practices to keep your entrepreneurial spirit up and your business booming. It’s a 2-for-1 ultimate guide.
It All Begins with the Right Name
While there’s something to be said about a unique sounding business name, the last kind of reaction you want from it is, “Huh? What now?”
And then you have to spell out your company name, or show them a card with it in writing, and suddenly however clever you thought your business name was has been washed away by embarrassment.
Okay, maybe a little extreme, but nothing kills the momentum of a conversation and your own confidence faster than having to explain or even spell out your business name. This is why it’s important to pick not only a business name you’re proud of but also one that people react well to. And a good business name doesn’t necessarily have to be that creative: it just needs to be clear, catchy, and dot com-able.
Before you can even start doing business, you need to register your business name. So picking the right name is incredibly important to starting out on the right foot.
Let’s say you’re starting a painting company that focuses on painting the exteriors and interiors of residential houses. Your business name can be as straightforward as Ray’s Reliable House Painting or as creative as Ace of Paints.
What you probably don’t want to go with is, say, a name like House Arrest, where you have to explain that your painters’ overalls vaguely resemble police uniforms and it’s a reference to an obscure buddy cop movie from the ‘70s where the main character and his partner disguised themselves as painters and ended up winning a painting contest through a series of hilarious events.
And for many entrepreneurs, especially in the digital marketing industry, you can simply create your business and brand around your name. After all, it’s who you are and it’s something to be proud of.
Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is all about focus and value. It concentrates everything you and your business are into a punchy pitch that gets people interested and asking for your business card before those proverbial (and sometimes literal) elevator doors open back up.
And the only way to get there is to know your business inside and out.
A concise elevator pitch is going to be your lighthouse in the fog, so to speak. Whenever you start to feel like you’ve lost your way or you haven’t made progress, your elevator pitch can reaffirm your mission statement and provide valuable insight into how much you’ve achieved, who you’re focusing on, and what can be done to better pivot the ship that is your business.
Elevator pitches also have the benefit of helping you stay in your niche. If your elevator pitch is about providing water-efficient landscaping designs during a drought, then you know that your goals as a business will focus on sustainability and water-efficiency, from the types of plants and watering equipment used to even creating elevation changes. It might even inspire you to run water-efficiency workshops are part of your value to your clients. What you probably don’t want to do is leave your niche, where your business’s specialty isn’t as much of a competitive advantage.
Be Proud of Your Awesome Product/Service
If you’ve ever watched a restaurant makeover show like Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Impossible, then you know that one of the major downfalls of these restaurants is apathy: either the owners or chefs just stop caring about their product and service. Don’t be an apathetic, failing restaurant.
Whatever you’re selling, from social media advertisement to rubber door stoppers, take pride in your product or service. Even if you’re focusing on affordability, the value of your product is in its bang for the customer’s buck. You’re not out to proprovide a mediocre product or service and charge less for it because it’s not the best: you’re offering the best product or service that money can buy at the price point you have your business at.
To put it another way, you can improve your confidence as an entrepreneur by focusing on the value of your product or service rather than its price point.
A Fresh and Clean Website
You know that feeling of freedom and energy you get after a long overdue haircut? Well, your website can experience the same thing.
Oftentimes when starting a business, your website ends up being more of a “We need this up now” thing rather than a “We need this perfect” thing. So maybe it’s time for a complete overhaul or makeover of your site. Maybe it’s time to give your website a little TLC.
A clean website with a professional polish is a must now, given the multitude of web building tools and services available that are as simple to use as drag and drop, but now might also be the time to think about adding in some functionality. Maybe it’s time to add e-commerce directly to your site or to think about adding a chatbot.
A respectable website will not only boost your own confidence but also the confidence of your clients in you.
Set Clear Parameters with Your Co-Founders
If you’re doing a joint venture with colleagues, one of the quickest ways to get burnt out and overwhelmed is to start picking up the slack of your co-founders. We’ve all been burned by those group projects in school where not everyone is doing their fair share of work.
When starting a business with others, it’s important to be with good accountability partners as well as good business partners. The sooner you can set productivity guidelines and expectations and the sooner you can get that in writing, the more smoothly your business will run. Having a yardstick by which to measure contribution will mean that everyone can pivot and adjust their efforts before things get too out of hand.
Pick Your Employees and Freelancers Carefully
The chances that an employee or freelancer is going to be as excited and invested in your business as you are are slim. Very slim. Everyone has their own dreams and ambitions, and it is entirely possible that the main thing they’re interested in from you is a paycheck.
That being said, an employee’s or freelancer’s work reflects on your business, so it’s incredibly important to both your business and your own mental wellbeing that you do your due diligence in picking the right person for the job.
When possible, do your interviews in-person, and at the very least on an audio or video call. Don’t shy away from contacting references, verifying qualifications, or starting someone on a trial basis. Doing your due diligence during the interview process will save you headaches down the line.
Create SMART Goals
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Ambiguous and abstract goals (like, “I’m going to be the best business at X”) are the highway to disappointment and demotivation
And the best way to combat them is to create SMART goals.
By being Specific, you’ll more easily be able create a to-do list to help you accomplish your goal.
By being Achievable, you ensure that you’re being realistic. While making a million dollars your first year of business is an admirable goal, if it’s not realistic for you, then it’s only going to end in disappointment.
By being Time-bound, you set a deadline for success that will help you pace yourself and ward away burn out, not to mention being able to create milestone deadlines by which you can also measure success.
Just like your elevator pitch, your goals for your business need to include lots of value (for you) and be as sleek and polished as a stand-up comedian’s tight five. Goal setting is a skill just like anything else, and it’s one that will benefit both your business and your own mental health.
Your Body Is a Temple: Don’t Neglect It
Your mind may be what makes you an entrepreneur, but your mind resides within your body—and if your temple is crumbling, the altar is going down with it. Taking care of your body is a crucial prerequisite to both productivity and positivity and ends up being a two-for-one win: not only do you end up feeling better physically from taking care of yourself, mentally you feel better for making good, healthy decisions.
We won’t preach any particular diet here when it comes to food, but a good general guideline is to stay hydrated and eat as few processed foods as possible. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” If you’re finding yourself strapped for time, avoid the pre-packaged frozen dinners or bags of junk food and invest in a crock pot. As an entrepreneur, you need to seize the reins of not just your professional life but your home life as well.
As for vitamins, it may be a good idea to pick up a Vitamin D3 and B12 (methylcobalamin is the version your body absorbs best) supplement, as these two vitamins can have a strong impact on productivity and positivity.
Make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you. While 8 hours a night is the average, some people need more, and some people need less. Don’t just assume you can function on less because you want to be productive: getting an inadequate amount of sleep will harm you in the long run.
If you have trouble getting to sleep, be sure to abstain from using electronics around an hour before bedtime: settle in with a book, podcast, or even a meditation session. You should even consider what you’re sleeping on: an uncomfortable mattress, whether it’s too firm or too soft, will cause you to toss and turn all night and not have as restful of a sleep (not to mention potential back problems).
Don’t slouch. If you’re an entrepreneur, there’s a good chance that a large portion of your work needs to be done from a computer. Be sure you’ve got good posture, and if you start developing some pains or soreness, don’t shy away from getting a massage to loosen things up.
Your Heart Rate
Exercise, but don’t think of it as exercise. For some people, powering through an hour-long gym session a few times a week feels great, but for many others, the thought of having to exercise in a lame, boring gym fills them with disgust.
And for those very relatable entrepreneurs, we recommend not thinking of exercise as exercise: pick physical activities that you can enjoy. Go hiking or rock climbing. Play intramural tennis, soccer, basketball, or football. Feel free to to join that dance class you’d never admit to publically. The important thing is to get your body moving, as it can have a positive effect on mental performance.
Be the Eternal Student
It can be tempting to run into a problem and blame yourself for not being smart enough, good enough, or savvy enough, but if you focus your mindset on that of the eternal student, you absolve yourself of the responsibility of having to immediately know the solution to every problem you face.
As the eternal student, you’re always learning, and problems or obstacles you come across are just an opportunity to learn. Instead of thinking to yourself, “I have to overcome this problem,” instead think, “I have to learn what I can about this problem.”
As a corollary to this, don’t be afraid to say to yourself, “I don’t know.” Your greatest strength as an entrepreneur is to grow, so focus on growing (smarter, savvier, more proficient, etc.) rather than being.
Aim For Good, Not Perfect
You want to be the best in your niche. That’s understandable. But don’t get obsessed with the idea of perfection.
Allow yourself to have small failures and view these as learning opportunities. Chances are, what you see as glaring flaws may not even register to someone not proficient in your industry.
Remember, students are allowed to make mistakes. In fact, in some ways it can be encouraged because by having these accidents, and getting through them, you’re giving yourself the tools to approach and conquer larger problems.
There’s a reason that a lot of negative emotions are associated with things like pits, voids, and abysses: it’s because those are dark and lonely places.
Every entrepreneur faces moments of self-doubt and demotivation.
Staying connected to your fellow entrepreneurs and sharing your journey—not just the highlights but the lowlights as well—can be both a cathartic and therapeutic activity. Every entrepreneur has been where you’ve been, and many are willing to offer words of encouragement and share their own stories of hardship and doubt.
The Show Must Go On
As a word of caution, don’t judge other entrepreneurs’ lives by what they post on social media. Social media is a stage, and there’s a certain amount of manufacture and production that goes in to what people choose to broadcast on that platform.
Even your colleagues who only post good news, inspirational anecdotes, and overall positivity know what it’s like to feel self-doubt and take a hit to that entrepreneurial spirit. After all, we’re all only human.
Take a Calculated Risk
Once you’ve adopted the eternal student mindset and acknowledged that perfection can be counterproductive, it’s time to take a calculated risk.
If you always stay within your comfort zone, you’re missing out on opportunities to learn and opportunities to branch out with your business. It’s good to have a solid foundation, but at some point, you’re going to have to go out on a limb in order to climb.
We became entrepreneurs to get away from the daily grind, so try to stay out of that mindset. You’re blazing your own trail, making connections, and helping people. That’s what it’s all about. Each day is an opportunity to do good and have fun while doing it, and if you’re having fun, chances are it’s going to rub off on your colleagues, coworkers, and clients too.
So what do you do to stay positive as an entrepreneur? What hardships have you faced?
Let me know in the comments!