Don’t Be a Firecracker: Tips Toward Career Independence

With the Fourth of July just a couple of days away, it’s natural to think about fireworks. Beautiful and volatile things, those fireworks. But they’re quick to go off, which can be dangerous.

This analogy is headed toward those of you who are still working 9-to-5s but dream of starting your own businesses. Take it from me: the Firework Approach to leaving your job (jumping out of it sooner than you’re ready) is not one that will benefit you. Instead, use the Tortoise Approach: slow and steady wins the race.

1. Decide What You Want

If you’re sick of your boss, and spend your work hours daydreaming of the day you can bid him sayonara in favor of running your own business, dig deeper into that thought. Is business ownership really what you want, or is the fantasy of being able to be your own boss what’s pulling  you toward it?

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Should I Start or Buy a Business?

If you’re considering starting a business, you might be trying to decide between starting one from scratch or buying an existing business. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so let’s take a closer look.

Starting from Scratch: More Work and More Control

If the idea of starting your business with a blank canvas appeals to you, as well as the vast amount of work that’s required to establish and grow a new business, starting from scratch might be right for you. As the owner of a newbie business, you’ll have ultimate control over the direction you take your company. And while having a large marketing and operations budget would be nice, you can get along on a shoestring budget, since you’re the one setting the rules.

Want to work from home? Or Iceland? It’s your call. You can start or move your new business anywhere in the world you want, as you don’t yet have established employees in a specific location to worry about.

On the flip side, a lot more work goes into starting a business from scratch. You’ll have to do plenty of R&D if you’re going to sell products, and until you have the capital, you’ll be taking on a lot more than just the role of CEO. Speaking of money: if you don’t already have plenty of it, it may be hard to take out a loan for an unproven business.

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How to Start a Business

If you’ve already thought about the reasons you shouldn’t start a business, and haven’t been deterred, you’re probably mentally ready to take the plunge. But here are a few things to consider before going full-time as a small business owner.

1. Get Your Finances Straight

You know you need money to start a business, but have you calculated how much you’ll need? Ideally, you’ll have enough saved to pay for your first a year of expenses, which include:

  • Startup costs (equipment, rental, utilities)
  • Overhead (salaries, office rent)
  • Your salary

If you have a healthy bank account and can afford all of these, kudos to you. Otherwise, you’ll need to look at other financing options, like taking out a small business loan or finding investors. If you’re ready to start your business, but don’t have the capital, consider continuing to work at your day job while you slowly grow your business until you can quit to run it full time.

2. Identify Your Product or Services

To be an entrepreneur, you need to have passion for what you want to sell. That could be pools, or software, or consulting services. Whatever it is, be prepared to love it for the foreseeable future. And find a niche. The more you can differentiate yourself from your competition, the more likely you are to succeed. Ask yourself:

  • What makes my product better than the others?
  • What needs are not being addressed by my competitors?
  • How can I market this in a unique way?

3. Hire Smart People

Realistically, you may not be ready to hire employees for a while if you’re just starting out, but have it in your head from the start that you will hire smart people as soon as you can afford to, and you will delegate to them. You will inevitably try to do everything yourself to save money, but trust me: you’re better off having people more competent than you handling the tasks you’re not great at.

4. Learn. Every Single Day

The great thing about the Internet is that it gives you instant access to knowledge. With blogs, webinars and social media, you’ll never be able to complain that you didn’t know about an industry trend or new tool that could grow your business. But it’s up to you to dedicate time each day to learning. Attend industry conferences. Subscribe to blogs. Read. Watch videos. Learn.

5. Know that It’s a Long Road

If you want to start a business because you dream of wealth and lazy days by the pool, you’re in for a rude awakening. Entrepreneurship is about caring enough about something to take the time – often years – to see it culminate into your dream. It can’t be about the money, at least not initially. Running a business has to be about passion and dedication. The money will come later.

Photo: Stock.xchng user ambrosjo. Royalty free.