Nowadays, pursuing the dream of becoming self-employed can seem much more doable than ever. If you’re in a field in which you can work from home, you can embark on your own business, often with minimal start-up overhead costs. Yet, at the same time, if you’re like most people, when push comes to shove and you’re faced with the thought of really leaving the safety of a regular-paying nine-to-five in order to chase the much less predictable path of being your own boss, you might be feeling a lot more hesitant.
If you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not to go after your dream, I totally understand where you’re coming from. About seven years ago, I was working for a firm and had yearnings to move on to start my own business. I had a vision of the sort of firm I wanted to create, and a lot of energy and enthusiasm about shaping my work in a way that was a perfect match for my personal and professional interests. Yet, I was nervous. Would it work? What if it didn’t? Would I look silly? Would I end up homeless?
At the same time, I felt as though if I didn’t at least give it a try, I would regret it. Would I be selling myself short? Would I always wonder, “what if?”
After a lot of reflection, I finally mustered up the courage to do it, and it’s been wonderful. Admittedly, life as an entrepreneur is not at all stress-free. It has its ups and downs, and different pressures that you don’t have to deal with when you work for someone else. However, it’s been incredibly rewarding and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I often have people reaching out to me, asking about what it’s like as an entrepreneur, and seeking guidance about what their next step should be. If you’re trying to figure out whether to take the leap into self-employment, obviously, only you can make that decision. But, as you weigh your options, here are a few things you might want to think about.
1. What steps can you take right now to move towards your dream in a practical way?
In most cases, you don’t have to wait to get started making tangible steps towards your dream. If you’re still employed, you can begin to work on your business idea on the side. You could start by doing research. Come up with a business plan. Reach out to resources in the community that are devoted to encouraging entrepreneurship. Write blog posts. Start developing your website (you don’t have to publish it yet). Doing this will not only help you to make progress towards your goals, it will also give you a small taste of what entrepreneurship is like.
As you prepare for potentially making a move, you’ll likely also want to make sure that you’re saving money, making contacts, and developing the skills that you will need to have to pursue your entrepreneurial dream. If this is a solo-type of endeavor, then make sure that you’re learning all that you can about sales and marketing, which will be critical for success. Also, to get a better sense of what your lifestyle might be like, it can be helpful to talk to other entrepreneurs about lessons learned, and what they wish they had known before they made the leap. (Facebook also has many groups in which you can make contacts and learn from others).
If your vision is one in which you would need a team of people, it might be helpful to talk with like-minded others to learn more about what you would need to know to be successful (after creating non-disclosure agreements, of course, if applicable). And, make sure that you’re learning all that you can about leadership, so that if you take the leap, you’ll be able to guide your company effectively. After all, even if you decide to stay put, these are all skills that will likely assist you regardless of what you decide to do.
2. Learn as much about yourself as possible.
The truth is, life as an entrepreneur is not for everyone, so it can be really helpful to do some personality testing or self-reflection so that you can learn about your strengths and areas for growth. By being intentional about leveraging your strengths, you’ll put yourself in a position to be able to maximize your odds for success. Further, by knowing your developmental opportunities, you can start working on them in advance. Or, if they’re too much of a liability, then you’ll know that you’ll need to shore yourself up with someone else who possesses the qualities you need to work on.
3. Make sure your stress management skills are top notch.
Emotional resilience makes the ride as an entrepreneur, a lot easier. Things won’t always go as planned. You’re likely to experience some failure along the way. You’ll likely have to put yourself out there in ways that you may not be accustomed to. To be able to navigate setbacks effectively, you’ll need to be able to deal with negative self-talk, doubt, pressure, and rejection. However, rest assured that if you struggle in one of these areas, these are skills that can be built. Be intentional about developing a self-care routine and building your confidence. (If you need some help in that regard, click here).
4. Reflect on the job you do have
Sometimes, when people think about becoming self-employed, it can be as a result of feeling dissatisfied on their current job. However, as you weigh becoming an entrepreneur and bide your time in your current job, it can be helpful to try to make the most of your current situation.
Consider some of the following:
- What do you like about your job? What do you dislike?
- Are there projects you could ask for that would make it more interesting?
- Are there things you could be doing on the job or in your current company that would help you to develop the skills you need to be successful as an entrepreneur?
By being purposeful about developing in the job you have now, and making it as enjoyable as possible, you might find that you feel better about staying put.
5. Determine Your Level of Commitment
When you’re the boss, you’ve got to be committed to making it work. Have you made the decision to be willing to work hard, be persistent, and put in your best effort? That will increase your odds for success. Or, are you half-hearted about it? Until you’re feeling “all in” with your decision, you might want to give yourself a bit more time. As I mentioned, being an entrepreneur can have its ups and downs, so you’ll need a healthy dose of determination to accomplish your goals. Figure out how you might need to show up differently to make your dreams a reality. Then, start becoming that person now.
Uber successful entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, said, “You just got to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own ability and judgment.” Follow those wise words, and you’ll be well on your way, regardless of what you decide to do.
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