10 Signs Entrepreneurship May Not Be for You (and Why — Gasp — You Might Want to Be an Employee)

By the SMU Social Media Team

For every success story of rags-to-riches entrepreneurs who have made it big (think: Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey), there are a million more businessmen and women who have failed. Before you embark on making your pipe dream a reality, here are some quick questions for a reality check on whether you’re truly ready to be an entrepreneur.   

1. Are you a risk-taker?

While life is never free from risks, one of the riskiest things you could do in a lifetime is building your very own business. From an uncertain flow of income to the instability one faces in competing with the big players in the market, the entrepreneur’s life consists of a million stabs in the dark, to say the least. If you’re not prepared for huge losses (before scoring huge wins), then perhaps this gamble is not for you.

Low section view of a businessman standing by text Risk or Security with opposite arrow signs.

2. Do you seek career security?

While we’re on the topic of uncertainty, the employee’s life is one designed with stability in mind, one where most things have already been decided for you. From ensuring you at least have the infrastructure of a company to fall back upon, to having a role with clear boundaries, there is a greater structure in being an employee that the entrepreneurial life lacks. If you like knowing what your life looks like months or a year from now, then bite the bullet and take the job.

3. Is work-life balance a top priority?

As an entrepreneur, business and work always come first. Yet unlike the entrepreneur, employees usually have a set number of hours at work, and even if they do work overtime, they may get equally compensated. Unless you’re willing to sacrifice quality time with family and friends, entrepreneurship might not be the path for you. Although working in today’s corporate environment may not always guarantee work-life balance, working around the clock is the norm for any start-up.

business and leisure

4. Do you detest getting your hands dirty?

Most corporate jobs revolve around some scope of work; being an entrepreneur means you are an accountant, marketing executive, salesperson, designer, PR maven, janitor and odd job labourer rolled into one. There is no job too lowly because a new entrepreneur needs to do whatever it takes to get the job done.    

From planning to strategic decision-making, to crisis management and troubleshooting, being an entrepreneur requires you to wear more hats than you can ever imagine. Many entrepreneurs end up becoming a jack of all trades, and master of none. Employees, on the other hand, have clear responsibilities, a particular workflow to follow, a mentor to guide them, and the opportunity to hone their skills in a particular field.

5. Do you hate tightening purse-strings?

We all know that startups are not necessarily cash rich, and many operate on a shoestring budget. A tight budget is one of the biggest challenges that being an entrepreneur faces. From sourcing for only the cheapest materials to not being able to afford manpower to share your workload, money constraints what you can do as a business. It might take a long time for you to break even, and if you don’t have the patience or the knack to learn how to stretch your dollar, then forget being your own boss.


6. Do you mind forgoing perks?

When you become an entrepreneur, not only do you give up (most of) your free time, but your benefits as well. On top of having to pay company taxes, startup workers usually lack medical benefits, along with other perks. You have to learn to manage your own finances (both business and personal) to have enough savings in the bank for a rainy day.

7. Do you excel in a team environment?

They say it’s always lonely at the top. Unlike the camaraderie that an office environment and being part of a corporate team usually brings, the path of entrepreneurship is often a lonely one. While friends and family may commiserate in your challenges, and cheer you on in your successes, they may never fully understand your work, like your colleagues and teammates do.

Businessman looking at the city

8. Do you hate dealing with problems?

Putting out fires should be a skill listed on the resume of an entrepreneur. Being your own boss means you are the only person managing whatever crisis comes your way, instead of being able to call up HR when you need an intern or Finance when an invoice hasn’t been paid. And trust us, there are problems aplenty when you’re running your own biz. If dealing with stressful situations like angry customers or disgruntled partners triggers full-on anxiety attacks, then stick to a cubicle and start climbing the corporate ladder.

9. Do you have trouble motivating yourself?

They say “do what you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Well, entrepreneurs can tell you that that is not necessarily true. While entrepreneurship might lead to supporting a cause you love, being the driving force of your business also means you have to do all the work that you might not necessarily love (read: filing taxes and stock taking). You need the right amount of self-motivation and perseverance to get past the dull stuff, rather than take a rain check and risk running your business to the ground.


Self-motivation does not just stop at having to look beyond the monotony of the every day, but in one’s ability to overcome challenges as well. Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam also asserted in a recent speech that “this is especially true of new industries as they succeed not just by having good ideas, but by persisting in spite of failure.”

10. Do you prefer following instructions rather than taking the lead?

The entrepreneur works his way up through trial and error, figuring out the best methods and practices for his business to survive and achieve the goals he has set out. There’s no boss to give you a pep talk, no training manual to help navigate uncertain territories. More often than not, entrepreneurs work independently, observing trends, but not taking directions from anyone. If you are generally indecisive and hate taking the lead, that is one more reason to take the employee route instead.