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!