Language is an interesting tool — it can relay our vision, mission and values, or lack thereof, in seconds. What we call our projects can either turn them into successful ventures, or keep them relegated to the nights and weekends. In the same vein, how we describe ourselves or our roles related to our work can help or hinder. Below are three words I’ve come to hate the past few years:
As a “multi-passionate entrepreneur” (thank you Marie Forleo), I consider none of my businesses to be “side hustles.” They were never side hustles, and they never will be — they consume my thoughts, energy, and time, and I maintain passion for each one. Calling your dream small business a “side-hustle” implies that you don’t give it the time it deserves to thrive, and maybe ensures that you don’t treat it like you should to nurture and grow it into something that could actually support you long-term. If you run a venture that brings you income, call it what it is: a business. You don’t have to have a million dollars in inventory and 30 employees to call your passion a business, and frankly, doing so will encourage you to take it more seriously.
GIRL BOSS/LADY BOSS/BOSS BABE
Hashtags are a beautiful thing, and I use them regularly, but we all need to move on from this clump of titles. Whether I’m a girl, lady or a babe has no bearing on the fact that in every business I own/manage/run, the buck stops with me. I’m the boss regardless of my genitalia. I totally understand that we need to support female bosses, but let’s just call them what they are: the ma’fuggin’ boss, an amazing leader, a visionary. Anything but something that points out their gender first, and their impact second.
This is another cutesy term that is used to describe people who make things (soap, clothes, craft beer, whatever). It’s catchy and I get it, but let’s not forget the other roles an entrepreneur shifts in and out of everyday: marketing executive, IT support, customer service rep, strategic thinker, financial guru, vendor relations specialist, photographer, writer, etc. Again, if you’re putting your heart and soul into a business concept or product, and doing the hard grind of getting it out into the world, you’re an entrepreneur. Period.
So, what should we say instead? I’m a big fan of “entrepreneur,” defined as someone who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so. This one pretty much sums up what I do everyday and who I am, based on the fact that I have three of these that I routinely manage and redefine as they grow.
The bottom line is that starting a business, quitting your consistent day job, taking monumental risks on an idea or product, giving your time, energy, and money into making something happen takes courage. Not just the run-of-the-mill courage that you muster to kill a spider or end a bad relationship, but the type that requires you to act quickly and persevere no matter what gets tossed your way. Let’s not diminish our impact on our local communities and our customers by calling our businesses or ourselves a watered down version of the truth.