It’s been an exciting few months indeed. Terrifying, awesome, stressful and interesting. But exciting nonetheless.
After years of a relatively risk averse career, my hand was forced and I found myself in a position of becoming responsible for creating my own income.
It’s been quite a learning curve and I thought I’d share some valuable lessons I’ve absorbed along the way to help anyone who may currently be toying with a similar idea.
Here are 5 things I think are critical to cement in place before taking your first step to the world of owning your own business.
Of course, without an idea you don’t have much, do you?
Don’t think you have to reinvent the wheel either. You don’t have to be the “next big thing”; you just have to be able to offer a select audience something of high value.
“Everything begins with an idea.”– Earl Nightengale
Since the age of 16 I have had some form of employment. From working in the kitchen of a takeaway joint and teaching karate to call-centre agent at an airline and most recently, product manager of international travel at a large corporate company. I have done and tried a lot of things, picking up valuable skills along the way, with each job teaching me something new.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but you need something to look back on in order to rely on it. Turns out that I’m pretty damn good at marketing-related writing.
I never thought I would ever end up in an office job and yet here I am, spending more hours than ever glued to my computer screen – because it’s what I’m good at and people are willing to pay me to do it.
Top tip: Look back over your life. What were you good at? What did you enjoy doing? Where those 2 things intersect is what someone might be happy to pay you for!
If you’re the kind of person who spends all day cruising the internet, doing the bare minimum and then making excuses for missed deadlines, starting a business is probably not the best idea.
Doing your own thing means there is no one to pass the buck to if things go wrong. You are 100% responsible for everything, from marketing your company, staying on top of your accounting and myriad other random business tasks, all while juggling job deadlines.
Every decision is yours and yours alone. It’s stressful, but liberating!
Top tip: No one likes a slacker. Make sure you under-promise and over-deliver at all times.
Discipline & Focus
There is a lot of temptation that comes with deciding to quit the corporate world in exchange for doing your own thing.
You can snooze until 10am. Binge watch something on Netflix before switching on your computer. Nap on the couch. Day-drink…
Being responsible for your own income requires a massive time commitment, requiring ironclad discipline and focus. You’ll inevitably end up needing to put in more hours on your own business than you did at your corporate job – especially as you’re trying to establish your reputation.
Of course, work / life balance is still important and you need to ensure you don’t slip into neglecting other important aspects of your life. You need to still take care of yourself, tend to relationships and feed the dog.
As such, you may decide that a 2 hour gym session at 11am on a random Wednesday is needed (you’re now the boss now, after all). Just realise this means you will need to catch up on your admin at 8pm tonight or Sunday afternoon.
Top tip: Get up in the morning as you would if you were going to an office job. Get dressed (!) and get working as soon as possible.
Overcome your fear of speaking to people
I’m a natural introvert and quite happy to wile away my hours pottering away at a task without needing to interact with another human being.
Unfortunately in the business world (as in life), no one realises that you exist if you don’t make yourself known. The easiest way to do this is to pick up the phone and speak directly to something with a heartbeat.
Emails are easy for the shy sender to hide behind. They’re just as easy for the receiver to delete, ignore or mark as “junk”. A phone call is more likely to get someone’s attention and make them remember you.
Speaking to someone is not only a lot faster but usually rewards you with an immediate reply to queries – no more checking your inbox every 5 minutes to see if they’ve replied.
Top tip: Stop emailing people for random crap. Pick up the phone and ask them directly. If it’s someone in your office, get up and speak to them! You can always follow up afterwards with an email if required.
Too many people (myself included) seem to be waiting for the “right time” or some sort of sign before taking the first step towards something. This applies to more than just business too.
Ernest Hemingway once mused that “you make your own luck“. Weigh up your options and take a calculated risk. If that still sounds too scary, check out Tim Ferris’s process of “fear setting“. It’s a great way to dismantle a lot of the worst case scenarios we convince ourselves of.
Top tip: Freelancing in your spare time (even if you help someone out without them paying you for the work) is a great way to test the waters before committing to a full time plan. It builds experience along with a portfolio of projects you can refer potential clients to.
In case you’re wondering what my opportunity was, I was retrenched from what I thought was a forever-safe, decently paid job with great benefits at a major corporate company. A tragedy for some, I chose to see this as the push I needed to follow my current path.
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way, becomes the way.”– Marcus Aurelis
Starting a business is stressful and difficult. It requires hard work, commitment and a complete belief that it’s going to work out. While by all means not the only advice you need before deciding to take the plunge, I think that the 5 items listed above are decent place to start your journey!
Do you own your own business? If you have any tips or advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, please feel free to share in the comments below!
6 thoughts on “Thinking of starting your own business? Read this!”
Great post Megan and so very true!! My new business is very new and I’m finding that networking is the key. Get out there, meet with people and connect. While loyalty might be a thing of the past, building solid relationships ensures that you gain support in return for the support you give – it’s a two way street!
LikeLiked by 1 person
For sure, Chantelle! As the old adage goes, it’s not WHAT you know (although I guess that does come into it), but WHO you know. The whats don’t matter if there aren’t any who’s!
This is excellent advice Megan! Thank you for sharing. One is either an entrepreneur or an employee, and they are worlds apart. You work harder, you network more, you do very different activities, you speak to a wider audience. It’s insane, it’s stressful but so exciting building ones own empire!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Too true, Christeen! Being “the boss” has been quite eye opening for me. There is so much that happens behind the scenes and you only truly start understanding what goes into it once you’re doing it yourself!
Spot-on, Megan. We’ve tried our hand at a few businesses and either did not have sufficient resources, the right investors/partners (NEVER EVER go into a business partnership with family – it will end disastrously!), or even the right idea. We learnt some very hard lessons along the way.
For Clinton starting out again after 6 years ‘safely’ employed in a large company was the scariest moment of his life because of the previous business failures. But deeply unhappy at work and at a breaking point mentally, the catalyst for him taking that step was actually me writing up his notice letter and making him hand it in. It was the best thing he did.
He’s loving his new career as a driving instructor now (in spite of some stressful moments along the way) and the freedom it has given him. Yes he works hard at it, sometimes too hard, and he’s got me to help with the admin and the social media marketing, and you to write the content for that (and no, you and Clinton are not business partners. You provide a valuable service as a copywriter and he is your customer – totally different!)
Clinton also readily picks up the phone to talk to people (unlike me who prefers to email) and has finally found his ideal business.
So, don’t be afraid of failure. Learn from the mistakes made. Sure it’s a really awful feeling and takes time to come to terms with and to recover from, but when you’re ready, take a deep breath and try again. There’s no reward without taking the risk.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks so much for the extra advice, Laureen. You’re quite right – no risk, no reward… and as the saying goes, “fortune favours the brave”!