Entrepreneurs, Can We Finally Start Talking About Our Privilege?

They mean well. All the gurus, the influencers, the people selling courses and eBooks about how you, too, can have a life like theirs, have good intentions.

And they’re helpful. These folks provide guidance and ideas for many aspiring writers and entrepreneurs, including myself.

But there’s something, or in some cases, many somethings, these self-employed sherpas don’t mention. They walk you through what and how they’ve achieved, yet they leave out the invisible hands that helped them.

A woman holding a finger to her lips.
Photo by Sound On from Pexels

The Self-Made Person Is B.S.

“The whole concept of self-made man, or woman, is a myth,” Arnold Schwarzenegger told University of Houston graduates in 2017. “None of us can make it alone. None of us.”

It’s popular in entrepreneurial circles to talk up your accomplishments and highlight your determination and willingness to make sacrifices to grow your business. As a result, tales of eating instant noodles to save money or working 70-hour weeks proliferate. 

Writers also fall into this trap. We talk about the early mornings or late nights spent hammering out a draft. We promote our endurance of waiting through publisher rejection after publisher rejection before finally seeing our work released. 

And so it is with some entrepreneur writers. These self-employed freelancers and influencers are earning good money doing what they love, and they want to help you do it, too.

They publish Medium articles, social media posts, and newsletters about their writing habits, tips, and tricks. In addition, they sell eBooks and courses and give webinars showing you what they did to get where they are.

Many of these folks are helpful. I know because they’ve helped me. And I believe many of them are earnest in wanting to assist others. 

Sure, they charge for some of what they do. But there’s nothing wrong with receiving financial rewards for helping other people, as these influencers do.

But to me, in the stuff these gurus put out, there’s a glaring omission.

We’re Not All the Same

As the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said, “None of us can make it alone. None of us.”

And yet, many of the entrepreneurial writers sharing and selling their guidance to others fail to mention the societal factors that helped make their success possible.

For example, in the U.S., white people are more likely to go to college than Black and Latinx students. The net worth of a white family is almost ten times higher than a Black family’s net worth. And 65 percent of Black Americans say they’ve experienced people acting suspicious because of their race or ethnicity.

What does it do to your psyche to know is suspicious of you only because of your skin color? How does a potential employer, a guidance counselor, college admissions officer, law enforcement official, or client treat you if they’re dubious of you?

If you’re a white self-employed writer, can you say you’ve done it all independently?

The advantages some entrepreneurial gurus enjoy aren’t limited to race and ethnicity. Forty-two percent of U.S. women say they’ve faced workplace discrimination. And 23% of women say they’ve been treated differently because of their gender, versus just 6 percent of men. 

Many experts shelling advice and guidance to aspiring entrepreneurial writers enjoy innumerable privileges and benefits. They may work hard and make choices that lead to them climbing the ladder of success. Still, many do so with assists from everything from institutional racism to generational wealth and gender discrimination.

Each person’s background is unique. All of us have a different story.

But I know many self-employed writers enjoy advantages others do not because I am a self-employed writer who couldn’t do what I do without my privileges.

For starters, I’m a white man in the U.S. Plus, my husband’s salary comes with good health insurance, making it easier for me to take the entrepreneurial plunge. So while I don’t come from money, today, I enjoy some benefits of generational wealth that aren’t often available to people of color.

So, what are we entrepreneurial writers who benefit from privilege to do? Should we include a disclaimer in everything we write, every course we give, and eBooks we sell?

It’s Time to Acknowledge Our Advantages

If you visit my Medium profile, you’ll see a pinned story with a short bio about myself. And below that, you’ll see what I call a Privilege Disclosure.

The disclosure is a short, 185-word blurb in which I acknowledge some of the most prominent advantages that make my self-employed existence possible. But, of course, it’s impossible to list every bit of privilege, and I don’t even try.

Yet, I feel it’s important for others to know I did not get where I am alone, and I can’t keep doing what I do without assistance. 

No, I don’t think a disclaimer or a disclosure in every piece of self-improvement, and entrepreneurial content that self-employed writers such as myself produce is necessary. It’s impractical, won’t be an exhaustive list, and can make for poor writing.

But we shouldn’t pretend we’re self-made. We shouldn’t make it hard for others to see what advantages and privileges assisted us on our journey.

Doing so not only perpetuates the self-made person myth that Schwarzenegger talked about in his commencement speech. It also doesn’t help those we claim we’re trying to help. 

These folks need to know we didn’t do this alone. It’s not as simple for everyone as making the jump into entrepreneurship. Many factors can make self-employment difficult, from student loan debt to discrimination to having someone who can help out if you’re a little short on rent that month.

If we want to help aspiring freelance writers and authors, we’ll be honest about how we got where we are today. Not doing so is dishonest, at best, and not helpful, at worst.

A final word

Some people enjoy privileges not available to others. Money, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation are just a handful of ways some benefit from advantages that others do not have.

These privileges can make it easier for some of us to become entrepreneurs, and they can boost our chances of success. But, if we’re going to offer advice to others for how they can follow our lead, shouldn’t we acknowledge the assistance we received along the way? 

Not doing so plays into the myth of a self-made entrepreneur. Plus, it potentially harms those we say we’re trying to help by setting unrealistic expectations and making them feel less than for something they can’t control.

Instead, let’s openly acknowledge the privileges we enjoy that make it easier or possible for us to do what we do. Let’s be transparent about the invisible hands that helped us climb our ladder.

This story originally appeared on Medium.