Confucius said “if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life”. “Confucius said “if you do something you love you will never work a day in your life”. Are you doing something you love right now, or is it a means to an end? Is it just a way of paying the bills, doing something that you are good at but not passionate about? Perhaps you are bored, not creatively challenged, think you are capable of doing more but don’t have the opportunity to use your full range of skills and expertise? Do you dream of running your own business, working to your own schedule, when and where you like, choosing with whom you work? If that’s the case, what is it that’s stopping you? Perhaps it’s time, money, fear, a lack of confidence or skills, or you haven’t yet found the thing that will give you the drive and passion to succeed?
In the past I found myself in exactly this position, however I have been fortunate to not only grow a business that I am hugely passionate about but I have managed to eliminate lots of risk to enable the business to grow safely and for me to maintain my sanity at the same time.
Making the leap from employee to entrepreneur can be daunting. Whether it’s a complete change in direction or to simply go freelance doing what you already do, perhaps from PA to VA, the change will impact all areas of your life. I hope by sharing some of my own learnings and tips I can inspire you to follow your dreams.
1 Choose a business in something that you are passionate about. Running a business can be very lonely, even the smallest rejection from a potential client can knock your confidence and your only source of motivation may be yourself, so working on something that is a pleasure rather than a chore will keep you fuelled to succeed.
2 Transition rather than take a leap of faith. John Burroughs famously said “jump and the net will appear”, but it makes sense to have a least a little safety net of cash before you make the leap. This may come from personal savings or an annual bonus. I was extremely fortunate previously to have the option to take voluntary redundancy. Gone are the days when people had a “job for life”, people move around much more frequently these days and redundancy is a fact of life. Either compulsory or voluntary redundancy can be an opportunity, a rare gift of time and money and is for some the kick-start they need to make the leap. Redundancy outplacement schemes are not only designed to help you find your next role, they are also there to help you explore alternatives such as starting your own business.
3 Consider part-time working. In my last corporate role, I negotiated a couple of days extra unpaid leave per month to work on my own venture. Being open and honest with your employer and giving them peace of mind that you will keep the two things separate and remain 100% committed to your job whilst you are there creates an environment of trust. If you are more passionate about your own venture than your current role, remember to “tone-down” your enthusiasm when talking about it inside the corporate environment. The more open-minded employers will see your drive and entrepreneurial flair in a positive light and it may lead to you being asked to participate in projects outside of your normal remit. You may need to lodge a “non conflict of interest declaration” with your HR Department.
4 Take your employer as a client. Many people have successfully transitioned their employers into customers. If you find that there is simply not enough work to do, it could make good business sense for both you and your manager for you to go freelance and only bill her for the hours she uses your services. This gives you the freedom to work for other clients too and build your business with a guaranteed safety net.
5 If you are building a business alongside your existing role you will need to be an outstanding time manager. I’ve done this myself and feel it’s important to remember to look after yourself, build in some relaxation and down-time into your schedule, keep topped up on vitamins, exercise and sleep. Use the technology wisely, perhaps scheduling your emails, newsletters and social media (for which there are many tools available) to go out in office hours, this will create a perception of a more professional organisation and potential clients are more likely to take you seriously than if you send prospecting emails late at night.
Things to consider before you make the leap
You have to be able to sell. Whether that’s yourself, your product or your service. We are not all natural born sales people, I for one have found this aspect of business extremely challenging. Remember, without sales, cash coming in, you don’t have a business. Losing the stability of a salary without a pipeline of sales and a decent safety net can be hugely stressful.
Do everything within your power to build a robust sales and marketing strategy, learn from those who sell well, remember it’s all about relationships: people buy people. Get some formal training and, most of all, get out there, practice and do it, perhaps starting with a piece of business that won’t matter if you lose it.
You have less time rather than more. The stark reality is that those who run their own businesses often find themselves working longer hours than they ever did when working for somebody else and it’s hard to switch off at evenings, weekends and even on holiday. With the technology available today, it often means we are always connected especially when it comes to email.
You can’t do everything yourself. In the early days when cashflow is tight you can easily fall into “busy fool” syndrome, doing the easy or fun things and avoiding the more challenging activities such as business development or getting intimate with your finances. Consider what is the best use of your time to create maximum value and look to outsource those tasks that you don’t need to do yourself. You might wish to consider the services of your own VA who can also help to keep you away from your emails whilst on holiday. Other help can come from interns or students looking for work experience or the many freelancer networks such as www.peopleperhour.com and www.elance.com.
Is this the right environment for you? We often take the benefits of corporate life for granted, besides the stability of a salary, paid holidays and sickness periods, there is also the support network you have with your colleagues. If you are a sociable creature, consider how isolating it can be working in a home office: will you miss the team banter, structure and processes that you currently have around you not to mention the heated office, staff restaurant and team outings.