Learning how to be an entrepreneur is simple – all you have to do is start a business!
Then why does it feel so damn intimidating?
Because most businesses don’t succeed. In fact, they fail.
It takes a combination of mindset, skill, hard work, and sometimes luck.
The good news is you can change your thinking, learn new skills, and choose the right business idea to improve your odds drastically.
Follow these 9 steps to becoming an entrepreneur, and you’ll be well on your way to being your own boss.
Step 1. Think like an entrepreneur
How to be an entrepreneur: change your mindset.
Waking up one day to $20k in recurring monthly revenue is usually the result of months (or years) of trial and error.
Successful entrepreneurs stick with their vision through the ups and downs, from one project to another. Their mentality enables action, growth, and quick recovery from setbacks.
Many entrepreneurs start side hustles while working full-time and slowly transition to being their own boss.
Cultivate these entrepreneurial mindset characteristics to think like an entrepreneur:
Making a decision when you’re not 100% ready is still better than making no decision at all.
Entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls of procrastination with decisiveness — both in starting a business and daily operations.
Without decisiveness, you can research your potential business for years without ever deciding on one idea. You can delay launching your website while you deliberate over choosing a hosting service.
It’s easy to put decisions off indefinitely under the guise of learning more, while we’re actually just spinning in circles.
Get to work as soon as you know just enough to decide.
Learning as you go is key is learning how to be an entrepreneur. So even if you’re not feeling confident, you have to keep going.
Every entrepreneur knows they’re not perfect, and they certainly don’t know everything there is to know.
But just because they haven’t perfected a new skill, doesn’t mean they’re unfit to get out there and start using it.
As you improve, confidence will come naturally. Until then, feel free to download and print some motivational quotes for your wall.
Becoming an entrepreneur means forgetting about blaming the system or the people around you for your situation.
When things go wrong, it’s not always your fault. But it’s always your responsibility.
Accountability means showing up and doing the work, knowing that you can only rely on yourself.
There are many obstacles on the path to becoming an entrepreneur, but if you really want to become one – you can’t let them stop you.
You will make mistakes, and that’s ok. Resilience means you don’t let your failures define you.
Learn to handle failing as an inevitable part of life — and building a successful business. Even if you fall a hundred times, stand up the hundred and first.
It takes a certain amount of vulnerability to admit when you don’t know how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to change the world or just make money online, entrepreneurs have to be willing to admit when they need help.
Life-long entrepreneurs also understand that they must keep learning and growing to stay relevant. The world is changing fast, and there are always new things that are going to help them do business even better.
Humility means understanding that you don’t know always know the answers, and you can’t always do everything by yourself.
Step 2. Act like an entrepreneur
Some people are born entrepreneurs, but most of us had to learn and practice.
Once you start thinking like an entrepreneur, it’s important to act like it. Emulating characteristics will help you change your old mindset.
Practice acting like an entrepreneur in your everyday life, even if you’re not starting a business right now.
For example, make decisions quickly, whether it’s choosing a restaurant or asking for a raise.
Act with confidence by trying that new workout class, even if you’re worried about looking stupid.
When you catch yourself blaming someone else (a busy schedule, a sick child, a mean boss) for your lack of progress, stop. Practice accountability by finding ways to move forward, instead of fixating on what’s keeping you stuck.
Facing a setback with your health, your personal life, or your job? Resilience asks that you shake it off, and try again.
To act with humility, address your weak spots. Ask for help, take a mindset course, or find a mentor to point you in the right direction on your entrepreneurial journey.
All of these things will help you prepare to start your first business. But nothing happens if you’re not taking action on your ideas.
That’s why the first principle of successful entrepreneurs is:
None of this works without action
So take the first steps.
Let’s say you’ve thoroughly researched your business. You know the ins and outs of your market. If someone woke you up at 5 am and asked you to recite your business plan, you’d nail it.
But if your plan is still on paper – you don’t have a business.
Nothing is happening. Things just seem like they could work out.
So, how can you become an entrepreneur?
By taking action.
Taking action is the only thing that can tell you if you’re right. As James Altucher says, “without action, your business is still a dream.”
Building a successful business is a process of testing your ideas in the real world, and adjusting course as you go.
Step 3. Choose your market
Once you’re thinking and acting like an entrepreneur, it’s time to put your entrepreneurial mindset to good use.
The next few steps will guide you in deciding what kind of business you should start.
What are your skills?
Chances are, you already have some valuable knowledge, skills, and experience. To make an impact with a successful business, first consider what you can do.
When thinking about your skills, consider everything. Not just professional skills attained from formal education, or work experience, but hobbies, as well.
After that, it’s important to see if your skills are in demand. Even if you’ve got obscure skills like crocheting, that doesn’t mean you can’t become a freelancer or turn them into a business.
For example, people spend money to learn crafts like crochet. They buy supplies, pattern books, and classes. Looking at existing businesses is a clue — it shows you if a market for your skills exists, no matter how unusual it may be.
Again, how can you become an entrepreneur? By being decisive and resilient. Even if you’re facing obstacles, find a way to overcome them – don’t mourn the fact that they’re there.
Why would someone come to you for help?
At this stage, it’s important to understand what your competitive advantage is.
Find something that differentiates you from everyone else in your niche.
Maybe it’s personality or style. For example, you could be a total badass who teaches leadership qualities.
Maybe it’s a unique set of skills. For example, a personal trainer who’s also a nutritionist has an edge in the health niche.
Or maybe, you have special insight into what a particular group of people needs, from lived experience. Overcoming a personal challenge or achieving a big goal gives you first-hand knowledge that could set you apart.
Find what makes you special, and let that guide you towards the market you can serve.
Step 4. Look for problems to solve
As an entrepreneur, customer research should be your first priority.
Once you’ve identified the people you want to help (your target market) you should find out what problems they have.
For example, if you want to get into the web development business, think beyond obvious needs, such as not having a website.
Think about the finer aspects of your prospects’ needs.
Maybe they don’t fully understand that they need your services, maybe their budgets are tight, maybe they want to work with someone who’ll understand them – even if they can’t tell the difference between a sidebar and a landing page.
Or if you wanted to teach people how to start a podcast, you would need to think beyond what kind of mic they need.
You can find out all of this (and more) by performing customer research:
- Take to social media and message boards. Explore your key terms and see what people need (and if they need what you can offer)
- Create and share a survey
- Check out competitors’ customer research
- Research in your area, talk to your neighbors and your friends. What problems do they have? How could you help?
Be a painkiller, not a vitamin
People who have their needs mostly satisfied are not very motivated to buy.
On the other hand, people who have a glaring problem are very motivated. They are looking for immediate help.
They are most likely to buy a product or service if it promises to ease their pain.
To help you generate business ideas in your market, think about what’s causing pain.
I’m not talking about profiting from people in physical pain. Being a painkiller also means solving an inconvenience, a frustration, or simply removing an obstacle.
Successful entrepreneurs lean towards creating painkiller products – delivering immediate solutions to alleviate customers’ pain.
They can become vitamins later with upsells and extra services, but being the painkiller – the immediate solution to pressing problems – is a priority.
Step 5. Decide what business to start
Once you understand your market and your advantages as an entrepreneur, it’s time to answer the big question:
What business should I start?
If you already have a promising business idea, that’s great. Congratulations!
If you don’t have the answer yet – don’t worry.
You can find the best business idea for you with the information you uncovered in Steps 3 and 4.
Basically, you need clarity on these three things:
- Who are you helping? Identify your ideal customer.
- How will you help them? What product or service will you provide to solve their problem?
- What makes your business different? Give people reasons to choose your business over the competition.
Your best business idea will leverage your skills and interests, and match them with a problem or need in your market.
Step 6. Execute on your idea
Remember: none of this works if you don’t take action.
By the time you reach this step, you’ve already done your research. You understand your market, understand your audience, and you know what your competition is doing.
It’s time to start creating fearlessly. This can mean putting up a website and creating content to build an audience. Or it could mean starting to build a product. It also means figuring out how to choose a business name that makes sense for your brand and your products.
No matter what you do, get started.
How to be an entrepreneur: Create something out of nothing
Why do people want to become entrepreneurs? Often, it’s out of a desire to create.
Entrepreneurs take ideas and turn them into communities of people making a change in the world. They take business plans jotted down on napkins and turn them into profits and delight.
Whether it’s a more fulfilling life, a thriving business, or selling online courses that help people, entrepreneurship is about creating.
That means entrepreneurs experience all of the ups and downs that come with creative work. Anxiety, fear of failure, and imposter syndrome are par for the course.
What if it’s a terrible idea? What if nobody likes it? What if I’m not cut out for running a business?
If you want to be an entrepreneur, put aside all that creative angst, and just do the work.
Start with the end in mind
Keep your end goal in mind at all times. If you are looking to start online, you need to choose an online business model before starting – and stick to it.
Many businesses don’t get off the ground because the scope of the project keeps getting bigger.
For example, the cooking blog you want to start turns into an idea for a recipe app. Then you decide the recipe app has to include shopping lists and video tutorials, plus you can’t think of the perfect lead magnet to build your email list.
All of this before you’ve finished building the initial idea — learning how to start a blog.
If you keep the end in mind, you’ll avoid scope creep – uncontrolled growth or demands of your project.
Scope creep can derail your entire vision, so it’s important to keep your end goal in mind for each stage of building your business.
Don’t be afraid of the blank space – the nothingness. Your job as an entrepreneur is to make things happen in that space.
More importantly, don’t be afraid to launch.
Step 7. Launch and learn
One of the most critical steps to becoming an entrepreneur is launching and learning.
Most successful entrepreneurs have projects behind them that turned out less than stellar. But they don’t consider their early attempts failures.
Because every project that that doesn’t turn out right is not a failure — it’s a lesson.
If you aren’t embarrassed by your first version, you waited too long to launch.
The first version of any project or product is rarely perfect, but it has to be out there to become better.
Once there’s an existing version that customers can interact with, you have a chance to learn. You will find out what your market needs and doesn’t need.
Without that first imperfect version, you’d still be speculating. You might invest even more time (and money), on products or features that aren’t needed. Instead, you will get customer feedback that leads you towards a better product.
Entrepreneurs take action and launch before they’re ready, not because they’re risk-takers. They do it because they know that no research can replace the first-hand experience.
Your business will never be worse than it is today
Your project can’t get any worse by launching a version. It can only get better.
The same is true for you, as an entrepreneur. You will only get better at all of these steps by doing them. If your first idea doesn’t work out as planned, you’ll know more about choosing your next one.
Launch and iterate.
That’s when you really start growing.
Step 8. Start small, but think big
Customers today want to interact on a personal level with businesses.
Big corporations spend a lot of money trying to appear small and friendly.
Well, think about visiting your local small business. The owner knows you by name. They may even know some details of your life. They certainly know your order.
It’s such a delight to buy from them because they value each and every customer.
Then think about a big chain supermarket. It has low prices but it’s impersonal. It feels more like a warehouse than a family-owned shop.
If another big chain has lower prices, you’ll go there instead.
Small is irreplaceable. Small makes an impact and adds value.
So don’t worry about looking bigger than the competition. That’s a lot of pressure you can set aside as you launch your first business.
Start small, and focus on your customers.
Entrepreneurs have a reputation as visionary, and yes, we do make outrageous goals.
Conserving the essence of being small will help you get there.
Step 9. Develop the habits of successful entrepreneurs
I’m bringing you full circle, back to Steps 1 and 2 with this final, essential step.
That’s right, I’m talking about thinking and acting like an entrepreneur, by learning some next-level mindset hacks.
Here’s the truth: Being an entrepreneur is hard.
When you have no boss, you get to decide how much you want to work. The flip side is that you have to motivate yourself, and your team, even when you’re not feeling it.
Here’s what helps:
On my podcast, I’ve interviewed more than 400 entrepreneurs. They come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some have business degrees, and some never graduated high school.
The common thread is entrepreneurs tend to be lifelong learners. They read books, listen to podcasts, and take courses. They seek out mentors and hire business coaches.
Here’s how to develop your constant learning habit:
- Daily reading: Here’s a list of the best business books to learn new tactics and stay motivated.
- Upgrade your skills: This might sound obvious, but when you don’t know how to do something, seek out information and learn how. Many people struggle with a fixed mindset and believe they aren’t natural salespeople, or technology is beyond them. Whether it’s writing a sales page or taking your business online, you can learn.
- Learn enough to be dangerous: Make sure you know enough about every aspect of your business to make good decisions — especially deciding when to hire an expert and when to do it yourself.
Stay physically and mentally healthy
Do what it takes to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.
I’m no health guru, but I know that entrepreneurs perform much better with:
- Daily exercise and sleep: Make time for physical activity and get enough sleep.
- Connection: Running a business can be lonely, especially in the early days when it’s just you. Start a mastermind group, or join forums where you can talk to other entrepreneurs going through similar struggles.
- Support: Sometimes we all need a little help. That’s why it’s a good idea to hire advisors, coaches, and even therapists when you need them. Don’t wait for burnout.
How to be an entrepreneur: Your next steps
Now you know how entrepreneurs are made. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a risk-taker or have a ground-breaking idea.
Just follow the steps to change your mindset, clarify your business idea, and keep growing.
Your next step is to take our PROVEN course and learn to harness your entrepreneurial mindset.