Anyone with entrepreneurial spirit will feel their cubical walls closing in after a few years of working for someone else. At the same time, spirit or no, the thought of stepping out on your own can be overwhelming. A nice dream, you think, but just a dream.
It’s time to make sure your dream is lived – just keep reading to learn how to quit your job and work for yourself.
Make a Business Plan
Unless you’re thinking about a bank loan, don’t write a book, but do outline your goals, how you can achieve them and the steps you need to take. A full business plan is pretty detailed, and you should definitely take the time to research your prospective business. Look at start-up costs, the product market and — if needed — any legal steps that you might need to take to establish a business entity.
To Partner or Not to Partner
Two heads isn’t always better than one. A decision to team up with a partner shouldn’t be made spontaneously, even if your best friend/brother/spouse is the best — insert amazing job — in the world. That doesn’t mean they’re good with money, clients or managing a company. Plus, mixing your work life with your personal life often leads to other difficulties.
On the other hand, if you know someone who would make a good partner, someone that’s detail-oriented and brings a different skill set to the table — it might be a good idea. Just remember to have a serious discussion about your financial status’ before you start signing paperwork, and look closely at LLCs and other business models.
Establish a Brand
Branding is important for every business, but if you’re going to market yourself online — and I’d hope you would — establishing a recognizable brand is crucial. Many small businesses thrive by word of mouth.
Don’t necessarily choose a business name because you think it sounds cool. Pick something easy to remember and easy for the average person to run a Google search on. Calling your Pennsylvania web design business Conococheague Web Design might pay homage to your favorite Potomac River tributary, but trying to find you online will drive your customers away.
They say to just dive in, but sometimes good advice and reality don’t coincide. Don’t quit your day job before you get your freelance business on your feet. Your transition to working as a full-time entrepreneur will be much less stressful if you already have enough clients to generate any sort of stable paycheck.
Create Your Workspace
Your workspace depends on your type of business, but if at all possible work from home. At least for the first year. This will cut back on major overhead costs and free up funds for other projects. In the meantime, make sure you treat your at-home workspace like you would any other office.
Set up a desk, reliable internet and a door. If you have roommate, a spouse or overly-loving cat, a door will save you from interruptions that will affect your productivity. Productivity equates to a bigger paycheck.
Build a Savings Fund
You’ve hit a point where you just can’t handle working for someone else anymore. You can build a website with the monitor off, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to put in your notice. Whatever your potential business, make sure you’ve established a heavy financial cushion.
When you leave your current position, you’ll be leaving a steady paycheck behind. In particular, the first six months can be rocky if you haven’t already established your clientele. Make sure that you can afford to live without a paycheck for at least 6 months — just in case work is slow.
Build Your Network
Extend your reach by marketing to potential clients. Sure, you think, that’ll be easy. Wait, how do I do that?
Just like finding your dream job, your first clients won’t wander to your door serendipitously. You’ll have to go out and find them.
Network within the business community by attending mixers at community centers. Set up a booth at local business fairs or pass out fliers. Utilize social media, ask friends to hand out your business cards and, of course, build a web site to help drive traffic to your inbox.
Talk to SCORE
If you’re starting a small business, contacting a local chapter of SCORE can be extremely helpful. SCORE is a nonprofit association composed of business persons willing to donate their time to mentor the next wave of entrepreneurs. They’re actually looking to help people just like you start a successful business.
Yes, you need to set up an office, whether you’re working from home or not. However, that doesn’t means you should install LED track lights and a rock wall. Keep things simple. Don’t spend your money on major expenses you can live without.
When work hits a lull, you’ll appreciate the ability to keep up with your bills over the $1,500 massaging chair.
Pay and Get Paid
Research product prices carefully. Low prices don’t always drive traffic your way. It’s one thing to run a marketing promotion, but if your prices are constantly half the price of established, respected businesses, consumers might think your product is only worth half as much.
Once a client is acquired, make sure that invoices are sent out immediately and that payment is promptly collected. You might have to follow up on this, but it’s your money. Depending on the type of service, it might be wise to establish a half payment upfront and half when the project is complete policy. Make sure this is clear in advance and use contracts.
Turn In Your Notice
When you’ve had at least six months of success, take a step back and see if it’s time to quit your day job. The foundation you build in your first year needs to be strong. You can do this. You’re ready.