Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy, I should know. A lot of people ask me how I was able to start my own business and become self-employed, how I landed enough clients to make a full-time income for myself, and what my struggles were along the way. Is being your own boss and relying solely on your own self-motivation for your livelihood scary at first? Yes. But all the risks are definitely worth the reward. The juice is worth the squeeze. These 9 lessons were learned by almost every successful entrepreneur I know, including myself:

1. Use and promote whatever you’re truly gifted at

It’s crucial to be extremely familiar with what you’re gifted at, and to use your gift as much as you can in your professional endeavors. Know what your talent is. Remember what you’re complimented on. What are you better at doing than most of your competition? Once you’re aware of your gift, you can promote it and demonstrate it to clients to impress them. Usually, what you’re truly passionate about is your gift, and you need to use it, foster it and inspire others with it as often as you can. That’s one of the most important keys to success in entrepreneurship.

2. Take risks

They say “the practical person never prospers.” Okay, I just made that saying up, but it’s still true. The point is, if you’re a practical person, that’s great. You’ll be just fine in life. But do you want to be just fine? Those who take risks – those are the ones who prosper, succeed and win at life. If you’re too sensible to take risks, you’ll sit back and watch others reap all the rewards.

3. Jump on the bandwagon, but be different.

When I started The Babe Report a few years ago, it was because I paid attention to the growing trend of reading and sharing dating advice online. I noticed that a huge percentage of the articles people were sharing on social media were articles about dating that hit some sort of emotional trigger for them. I realized that this whole dating blogging thing was getting big, so I jumped on it.

You need to pay attention to what your generation is all about, because if you start a business that already has a large market you’re on the right path. The next step is figuring out a way to jump on that bandwagon in a way that’s new, different, unique and exciting.

4. Figure out your working ‘ecosystem’

Whether you have a beautiful, neat and organized desk in your home facing a window with a nice view or you have a favourite coffee shop that you enjoy working from, loving your work station and your work environment is extremely important. Your surroundings matter more than you think.

Entrepreneurs often have a working “ecosystem” they need for optimal productivity. For us, it’s a complex, interconnected system that just works. We’re happy when everything in that ecosystem is in place, and we get the most work done when we’re in that specific environment. Some of us love sipping on banana smoothies while classical music plays in the background, and some of us enjoy working where other entrepreneurs are also working so that we can feed off of their hard-working energies. Some entrepreneurs can’t focus if they’re cold, and others can only focus behind closed doors in total silence. Personally, I need some sort of background noise (a ‘buzz’ if you will) to get work done. And an iced coffee to sip on doesn’t hurt either.

5. Let people underestimate you

If you’ve got it, you don’t necessarily need to flaunt it. It’s extremely common for entrepreneurs to be underestimated by their peers, which often drives them to succeed even more, in their mission to prove those underrating them wrong. When someone’s perception of you motivates you, that’s great, but letting someone’s perception of you get into your head too much can derail you. Let haters drive you towards success rather than letting them drive you crazy. As Rihanna would say, don’t let the bastards get you down.

If someone underestimates you, just let them. Don’t waste time trying to address those who are in opposition of you. Keeping a low profile and allowing others to be unclear on how successful or how talented you are can be a great thing because you’ll under-promise and over-deliver. You’ll manage the expectations of others and pleasantly surprise those who mistakenly had low expectations. Plus, being underestimated is better than being taken advantage of by those who see how successful you are and want to ride your coat tails. Just saying.

6. Get rid of dead weight, and open your arms to those who inspire you

Dead weight is anyone who doesn’t support you, doesn’t believe in you, has a negative attitude about your path or keeps you second-guessing yourself. Get rid of dead weight. Make room for the people who will uplift you, motivate you, celebrate your achievements and inspire you to keep going. Remember that while some people will enjoy rocking the boat, others get their enjoyment from watching the sails pick up the strength of the wind.

7. Don’t try to do too much too soon

If you want to be an entrepreneur, don’t quit your nine-to-five just yet. Work on starting a business on the side at first – see if you can get some clients. Work out the kinks during your free time. Once you’re ready, yes – quit your job. Change is scary, but you’ll be the envy of all those coworkers you leave behind who are still sitting at that desk every day.

Some entrepreneurs try to do too much too soon, and I don’t just mean that they quit their job too early or jump the gun when it comes to launching their business. I mean that they get so excited about entrepreneurship that they start a ton of little businesses, spreading their focus way too thin. It’s awesome if you have lots of ideas, but stay focused on one or two of them rather than putting too much on your plate and risking the success of all your ideas.

8. Find out where your target market hangs out

When it comes to promoting your brand or your business, or networking with the right people, you need to find out where your people hang out. Knowing where to find them is the first step, and knowing what to do once you’ve found them is the second step.

The right people (your target market) will bite. I promise. You just need to know what to say, and how to present yourself.

9. Invest in yourself

If you’re passionate about a great idea you have, run with it. Yes, splurge on that fancy logo re-design. Hire the website developer with more experience who’s a bit more expensive. Buy tickets to that social media conference. Invest in yourself. If you don’t think you’re worth the investment, how can you expect anyone else to think you’re worth it? If you believe in yourself, others will follow suit.

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