Startup tip 56: Don’t become a wantrepreneur – Take Action

Wantrepreneur: n: someone who thinks about being an entrepreneur or starting a business but never gets started. Urban Dictionary


There’s a lot of people in love with the idea of being an entrepreneur at the moment. It’s seen by some as being a twenty-first century rock star. However, these people can be more talk than action.

Talking about entrepreneurship is fun and exciting, however entrepreneurship is a practice. Ideas are important, but without taking action, you are not building a business, just dreaming about it.

The most disappointing thing for me as a University lecturer is seeing students who come up with great ideas but then don’t put them into practice. They may be studying entrepreneurship, but they are wantrepreneurs. On the other hand, when I see students using what I have taught them and having a go, even if they fail – that is the greatest reward I could ask for. That is true entrepreneurship.

Action: Make sure you don’t become a wantrepreneur

Here’s some tips to make sure you don’t become an wantrepreneur.

  • Do stuff – don’t talk about it – Entrepreneurs take action – Wantrepreneurs don’t. Get into the habit when you have an idea that you think has merit of immediately taking some simple action to test, research or implement it.
  • Find a simple way to test your idea. Thinking and planning are good – up to a point. At some point (preferably sooner rather than later), you need to take some action to validate your idea. If the validation is positive, continue to take action. If not, move on to the next idea. You don’t want to keep talking about it if it sucks. (That would definitely be being a wantrepreneur!).
  • The more you talk – the less likely you are to execute. Research has shown that our brains can’t tell the difference between talking about & visualising an idea, and actually doing it. Because our imaginations are so amazing, we can plan and visualise the whole process in our heads from product design to shipping and the more vividly we do it, the more our brains believe we have already accomplished it. While that’s great for our confidence, it is bad for our motivation to take action because our brains are telling us it’s already accomplished. So don’t be someone who only talks.
  • Set some specific goals & deadlines (so your brain can see you haven’t done it!)
  • It’s not going to be easy. It takes effort. But have a go. You’ll learn something and feel like you have accomplished something. And you will no longer be a wantrepreneur!

Join the conversation:

If you agree, disagree or have something to add please share with us in the comments. That way we all learn – and I can see that there are real people out there reading this! 🙂 And I would love you to join me on Twitter or Facebook.

 Image based on a photo used courtesy of en-shahdi under Creative Commons license.



  1. so true!! have been thinking about a few ideas that I would love to see happen but again, being a student, I ve less time, hence have to manage alot of stuff. But still trying my best to get stuff done!!

    And thanks for such an inspiring post!

    • Virendra, I learnt a great hack for that from Darren Rowse at the Problogger event.

      He suggested doing 15 minutes a day on your project. All those minutes consistently, every day, add up and create momentum and you end up taking action and doing something.

      I am using the idea. I have 3 things I do for half an hour each every day: creating a new idea generation course for the blog here, learning about SEO and writing. Even if I have done nothing else, they move Ready Set Startup forward.

  2. Elizabeth Bakewell says:

    Thanks Susan for the timely reminder. I have had so many ‘fantastic’ ideas that remained just that because I always hit a point in the planning stage that kept me stuck in fear. I’ve recently changed that by getting myself a business mentor who is pushing me through the decision making process and making me accountable. I have homework and set deadlines , which is helping to combat my habit of procrastination . Finally I will get something up and running and if it turns out to be not viable , at least I’ve broken the wantrepreneur habit and have a framework for next time.

    • Awesome Elizabeth! Good for you.
      I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. It’s the thing that holds most of us back. But when you take action as you are doing, you quickly see that there is actually very little to be afraid of and lots to gain.
      I think there’s a blog post coming up there! 🙂

  3. Naomi says:

    I could not agree more. Your article has made me want to move a project of mine along. Thanks.

  4. The title is really catchy and the topic is definitely agreeable. Good work! 🙂

  5. Great post as usual. I didn’t know the term “wantrepreneur”.

    I like to keep a list of business ideas in order of “doability” — most financially and technically feasible. This way, I’m never out of idea for what to do next and & can test a new idea to push its “doability” index to the top of the list.

    Also, sometime two ideas/products can be pivoted into one another, so the knowledge used for one failed business can be reused as intellectual asset for a new one.

  6. “WANTREPRENEUR” this is what I was doing for almost two years ago. Through my own experience this thing called ‘Comfort-zone’ is the one that turns most of us into wantrepreneurs and other factor that contribute a lot on this is the fear of failing, this one top my list of turning upcoming entrepreneurs into Wantrepreneur.

    • Great points Thabo! I agree that getting out of our comfort zones and overcoming the fear of failure are two biggies for aspiring entrepreneurs. And the thing is, they seem so huge, but when we actually take action despite the fear, we find that they are not so big after all. 🙂

  7. Hi Susan,

    My question is gonna be along one so please reply when you have time,

    From the last 2 years I was a Wantrepreneur, but lately when I got something new in mind I thought that It’s one of the best idea I have came across till now, So I started working on it on Full weekends and Partially on weekdays (1-2 hours), I am a full time Software Programmer with a U.S. based MNC in India with 5 years of experience so I can’t work full time on my personal project ,now my problem is I can’t quit my job as my parents will not let me do it, next thing which is stopping me to leave my current job is that I will be getting married this April and after that I needs a financial security for my family as well, Now If i quit my job and go somewhere in other Company then I know that the my pay check will be double, but I don’t want money my Aim is not earning lots of Money (Not primarily) but to work for myself, earn respect in market and do what I always wanted, unfortunately I don’t have any mentor or Consultant available In Noida, India nor a Friend.
    In office most of my time spent researching about my project or silently working on my project in my office as well, I can’t concentrate on office work, please suggest something for me, as I feel this routine is killing my productivity and creativity.

    • Hi Akhil,
      Apologies for the delayed reply. I only just saw your post.

      The dilemma you describe is a common one for entrepreneurs. Balancing the need for cash now and the time to work on your idea is always hard.

      How you deal with this needs to be your own decision but here are couple of thoughts from me:

      * You can’t keep everyone happy all of the time. So if you really want to start a venture, then sometimes you have to do it in the face of other’s criticism – even if they are your parents.

      * It’s really important that your future wife supports you in this and that you talk through the implications, risks and rewards of both staying at your current job, leaving to start a venture or doing both at the same time. Doing a startup can put a lot of pressure on relationships and so you both need to be committed to it.

      *Doing something now is a lot easier than trying to take the same path once you have kids.

      *Don’t quit your job till you have been through the customer validation phase and have an MVP out there. – That is, you have tested your idea in the market and have some hard data that it is something people want, (or even better, paying customers). If you think it is hard working a job and working on your idea, wait till you try working hard with no money coming in!!

      Good luck. Keep thinking through it, plan an approach and I’m sure you will figure it out.

  8. “don’t become wantrepreneur” = don’t become one who wants to become entrepreneur, it is a tautology. Also, can you cite the research for “The more you talk – the less likely you are to execute”.

  9. My problem is I have so many idea’s, I end up getting overloaded with them.

    • You sound like a typical entrepreneur Scott!

      I don’t have the complete answer for you as I am prone to this myself. I am always juggling 2 or more ideas/projects and for ages was really frustrated because I felt I just couldn’t focus – understandably!!

      This changed when I decided I would focus only on ideas that were in my areas of passion and strength. There’s lots of great ideas, but not all of them are for me. Now I still have 2 main ideas, but they are related and I have committed to getting the first of them up as a priority.

      I think the other tip that is useful in your case is to find a way to test ideas as quickly and cheaply as possible. That way you can quickly discard those that aren’t going to work for you and spend more time on those that look promising.

      And give yourself time. You don’t have to change the world (or earn $1mil) tomorrow. 🙂


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