Two events have prompted me to write this blog post. First, my friend and owner of this blog site, Jessica Miller-Merrill, has announced that she is joining a firm that made her a great offer. Secondly, I am reading the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth. The book is about what it takes to be good at what you do. In addition I get asked all the time what it takes to be a consultant. This combination of factors got me thinking about the differences between self-employment and being an entrepreneur and how hard both of them are.
There are a lot of people that are self-employed. My neighbor the plumber is self-employed. My friend the private eye is self-employed. Many millennials who work “gigs” are self-employed. For some people it is a matter of choice, for others it is a matter of circumstance. For some people it is a short-term proposition, for others, such as me, it is a long-term way of working. Regardless of the situation being self-employed is not an easy way to live. It takes hard work, and often requires skill sets not possessed by the person who has become self-employed.
When I started out as a consultant I first had to discover what that meant. After 25 years I am still figuring that out. I had to learn how to prospect, write a proposal, sell and then close the sale. Then I had to figure out how to deliver and market at the same time. That is not as easy as it sounds. You have to continually be improving your skills so you have something current to offer to potential customers. My friend the plumber had to do the same thing for his business and my friend the private eye as well. You stumble a lot, you pick yourself up and brush yourself off and learn. If you don’t you fail to get a paycheck. Many people decide they like the security of working for someone else.
Being an Entrepreneur
Being an entrepreneur is a different form of self-employment, in my mind. To me, it involves creating something, not just doing something you know you are good at. Entrepreneurs are creators. They create products or services, build companies and provide opportunities for people who do not want to be self-employed. Many times they create things for the challenge of building and the reward of then selling their creation. Some, like Jessica, do a bit of both. To me being an entrepreneur is the penultimate of being self-employed. There is a great deal of responsibility in being an entrepreneur that does not exist in being self-employed.
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Grit is the measure of success that Angela Duckworth has developed. It expresses the chances of how successful you may be in any endeavor you start. It is a necessary component of both self-employment and entrepreneurship, but it is not something everyone has, even with the self-employed. Entrepreneurs, by their definition, have more grit than most and the ones who are very successful probably have more than most. I put Jessica in that class. She will go on to be successful with her new employer, but I will not be surprised to see her in another startup venture in the future.
Grit is that stick-to-it attitude and work ethic that successful people in all walks of life have, whether business, sports, academia, animal rescue or whatever. It is what makes people successful beyond their smarts and native abilities. We all know someone who exhibits grit. The good news according to Duckworth is that you can develop it.
I will offer you some unsolicited advice. If you wonder whether you have the make up to be self-employed do the GRIT assessment. You may find that you are not yet ready to make that leap. Or then again you may find you are well suited to that world. If you are much success to you.