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Wrestling with Entrepreneurship and Identity

Several dark light bulbs and one bright light bulb

I'd posted a version of the following to LinkedIn on July 10, 2018, after author and marketing pro Amber Naslund shared thoughts on the platform about entrepreneurism.


"But it wasn’t the failure that made me realize I didn’t want to be an entrepreneur. It was the very simple fact that owning a business and doing the work that inspired me were often at odds.I loved the client work. I hated the operational stuff. I loved the projects that challenged my brain. I hated constantly having to fret about keeping the business development pipeline full while also paying attention to the project work. I loved the flexibility. I hated the pressure." -- Amber Naslund, "It's Okay If You're Not An Entrepreneur," July 9, 2018.

So much of this rings true, Amber.

I've been in the business of marketing myself and my work in some form for more than six years now. After more than a decade of traditional employment, I jumped in 2012 because I love creating, I love interviewing, I love content planning and I love editing. I thought that if I did all of that on my own, life would be perfect.

Narrator: Life was not perfect.

I'm a nosy writer who's good at connecting with folks and seeing the bigger content picture.

I'm not an accountant.

Or a lawyer.

Or a project manager.

Or a business developer.

I'm a creative and a coach.

And while all jobs have plenty of duties that are on the fringe of someone's expertise, dealing with everything above as a business owner and manager severely lessens the time I have available to create. Being on my own means that I spend half of every week under pressure with the business aspects instead of doing what people actually hire me for. It kills my inspiration and momentum, to be honest. It's a lot easier -- and more enjoyable! -- to create when you're teamed up with people who are really good at the things you're not.

But the pressure to claim entrepreneurship in the current climate is huge, and I've wrestled with what ditching it might mean to my identity. Would I forfeit something special if I returned to a more traditional role, even with an organization with a mission that matches my passions? Would I lose my independence, both in practice and in heart, if I had a position with similar clients and focus every day? Would I suddenly sport a brown bob and birth 2.2 children if I claimed that I like working for and with others?

Over the years, I've curated wonderful relationships with agencies and publications, doing work that has challenged me. I'm proud that I've been able to take on the projects I've wanted and could say no to ones that haven't quite fit. I've built a reputation as someone who can communicate both brand and personal narratives and knows how to think through content mapping. I'm the woman with pink hair who writes about weird things.

In this town, an identity is important -- especially when you're working independently.

Saying that you don't fully enjoy entrepreneurship feels like a no-no. But I'm saying it.

And I don't know what that means.

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