At the end of the day, isn’t the only life worth living one that you’re proud of? Of course, it sounds cliché, but life’s too short not to dream about the “what if” if the “what if” can make sense for you.
I hear from many people that feel they’d be better off braving it on their own vs. working for someone else, especially when the jobs picture can get so bleak. It makes sense, as our new normal is full of not-so-pretty things such as job uncertainty, financial uncertainty, pay cuts and furloughs.
So maybe it’s a conscious choice to become an entrepreneur, or maybe it’s the result of a layoff or other job loss that’s given you the itch. Whatever the impetus, I think we have all seen that the traditional American dream – 2.5 kids, a white picket fence and a pension fund – is dead. But your dream isn’t.
Small business resources online have democratized entrepreneurship, helping anyone create business cards, buy domain names and hire virtual assistants. It’s easier than ever to go into business for yourself, at a time when job frustration is at a fever pitch. So, if you’re thinking about striking out on your own …
1. Flirt first with being “fun-employed.”
Being fun-employed is not making the most of an unexpected “vacation” from work (thank you for the layoffs, Mr. Recession). Instead, fun-employed people can have seemingly oddball jobs that they love, like being an alpaca farmer or owning an artisanal chocolate shop. For others, it’s running a computer fix-it company, being a travel writer or a YouTube songstress or working as a manager for a touring metal band.
It’s about choosing your own adventure (I loved those books as a kid). Sure, with all of that fun comes uncertainty, but there is a ton of opportunity, too.
If you already have a job, try your passion as a part-time job first. Dip your toes in the entrepreneurial water before diving in. Going all in too early is like being a firework that is fantastically extravagant but quickly burns out – and is soon forgotten.
Take your time. Does alpaca farming sound awesome in theory but, in practice, you hate raking poop? Know that now, before you burn your corporate bra, so to speak, and dive in. Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as, or even more important than, knowing what you do want to do. Don’t go all in until you get your tootsies wet.
2. Ask if you are really ready.
To determine if you truly are ready to start your own business (or at least if you’re the ideal candidate to become an entrepreneur) ask yourself these eight questions:
- Do you have six to nine months of expenses saved up?
- Have you researched the profession? Have you studied the competition and talked to others who are already in the business?
- Have you come up with a business plan?
- Are you already established in the industry, with a good resume, complete with experience and references?
- If your grand plan fails, can you quickly get another job?
- Do you need extensive health coverage for you or your family?
- Have you recently become frustrated with work and want to pursue what seems like a cool idea?
- Do you have a new idea for a business, almost every day?
If you answered yes to questions one through five, it seems like you just might be the ideal candidate to pursue your grand scheme. If you answered no, well, you need to do more homework.
If you answered yes to six through eight, you might need to give your idea a reality check. That doesn’t mean that it’s destined to fail, it just means that you may want to give it a bit more thought.
3. Assume you are going to suck at starting your own business.
No matter how big your dreams are, how much you have researched your field, how many people you have spoken with, how many books you have read, how prepared you think you are – you are probably going to suck at it at first.
In the beginning, it’s better to have low expectations, then you can exceed them. Just because you’re a small-business owner doesn’t mean that you know how to be a boss. A great chef doesn’t necessarily know how to run the restaurant. An internet wiz doesn’t necessarily know the ins and outs of marketing. A celebrity personal trainer isn’t necessarily capable of attracting new members to the gym.
Know what you don’t know. You can learn what you need to know, or you can know a little about a lot and get to a point where you can hire people way smarter than you are for the rest. My manager always says, “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” Think about it.
Delegating is a must, but you still have to get your hands dirty. Don’t think that someone else is going to make you successful. This is your business, career, vision, technique, voice, style and flair – that can’t be hired out.