Note: This post was written in collaboration with Victoria Greene, an ecommerce brand marketing consultant, freelance writer, and small business owner with a pulse on the future of online selling.
Have you ever thought about running your own business? If you have, you’re not alone; 99.7% of businesses in the United States are small businesses. Still, starting your own business is no small feat.
When you’re planning on starting a business, you need to have a business plan, secure the right talent to fill any gaps you have, have a proper space to work, and of course, money. You may have heard that running a business is nearly impossible, but rest assured, there’s hope! You can even recession proof your business.
My book series Why Leadership Sucks, now with two volumes, will make you laugh and cry as I share the challenges of running a business and managing teams of people.
First things first, let’s make sure you’re the right candidate for running a small business.
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8 Warnings Not to Start Your Own Business (Yet)
Modern technology has made it possible to set up and run a business with no office space, no full-time staff, and minimal funding — indeed, some of the world’s biggest businesses were started as side projects on shoestring budgets. Starting your own business is an attractive idea, and being your own boss and working at something you truly love is the dream for many.
However, if you aren’t ready for it, the challenges that come with striking out on your own could sink your new business before it’s had a chance to get off the ground. With 20% of small businesses failing in their first year, it’s crucial that you are prepared for the blood, sweat and tears involved before you take the leap. But don’t be discouraged; for many the hard work is worth it when you consider the freedom over your own time and finances. Here are 8 signs that you might not be ready for it (yet).
1. You Have No Relevant Work Experience
Though there are no rules about how much experience you need to start a business, having sound knowledge of the field you intend to work in will be invaluable in making your business a success.
Experience of working in that industry will give you a much greater understanding of the way that your chosen market works, and will help you identify potential customers, growth opportunities and marketing strategies. If you have no relevant work experience, it’s worth spending time gaining some in the following ways:
- Take a part-time job in your target industry. For example, if you want to open a café and have never worked in the catering industry before, it would make sense to try working in one first. This will help you assess whether you like the industry before taking the leap.
- Get some new qualifications. If you’re making a big career change, gaining new qualifications or re-training will help to support your new business.
- Do your research. One of the best ways to find out what a new industry is like and what you can expect from your new role is to talk to people who already work in that area.
2. You Fear Failure (Too Much)
A survey by Towergate Insurance found that 39% of people are so fed up of their jobs that they are thinking of leaving them to start their own businesses, with the top three reasons being wanting to make their own money, no longer wanting to answer to others, and wanting to turn their passions into careers. However, 56% say that the thing that’s keeping them from turning their dream into reality is fear of failure.
As mentioned above, a large proportion of businesses fail within a year, so it’s a rational worry — but it’s something that you’ll have to deal with. The successful entrepreneur knows how to manage those fears, and understands that failure can just be another step on the road to success.
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” -Samuel Beckett
3. You Aren’t 100% Sold Out to Your Idea
As described above, starting your own business is going to take a lot of hard work, so if you don’t fully believe in what you’re doing, you’re unlikely to stick with it for the long haul. If you want your business to be a success, you need to make a long-term commitment to it, so you’d better make sure it’s something that you truly feel passionate about.
Ask yourself the following questions to make sure your heart is really in it:
- Am I willing to make sacrifices? You’ll have to sacrifice time, money and financial security to get your business off the ground.
- Am I willing to persevere through tough times? If you think you might give in as soon as the going gets tough, you’re not ready yet.
- Am I willing to make this business my number one priority? If you want your business to succeed, it has to come ahead of everything else.
4. Misjudging the Criticality of Networking
Social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent tools for building business relationships, but personal interactions are key to building trust, with 68% of entry-level professionals saying they value face-to-face networking over online. Networking can lead to future opportunities in terms of help, advice and business, as well as creating a supportive network of like-minded individuals.
If you’re not willing to get out there and present your company to the world, you probably aren’t ready to start your own business. However, networking is a skill that can be learned like any other, so begin practicing in your current role until you feel confident enough to network for yourself.
5. You Tend to Shy Away From Responsibility
If you want to be your own boss, then you have to be prepared for the buck to stop with you; you’ll be the top dog now so there’s no one else to blame if things go wrong. While this amount of responsibility might feel scary, there is evidence to suggest that being prepared to own up to your mistakes can be beneficial to you and your business.
Research by the Stanford Graduate School of Business found that people who blame others for their blunders learn less, lose status, and perform worse compared to those who are prepared to admit they messed up. As the leader of your business, you need to be prepared to take full responsibility for your failures as well as your successes.
6. You Struggle to Embrace Change
Whether you’re starting a business within the field you’re currently working in or making the move into an entirely new arena, one thing is certain: things are going to change. If you’re working for a web design company and decide to strike out on your own, you might think that the only thing that will change is that you’ll be designing websites from the comfort of your kitchen table, but you’d be wrong.
As well as doing your main role, you’ll have to quickly learn to do every other role that a company needs as well, such as admin, accounting, marketing, and finances. You need to be willing to embrace a lot of new skills in a short space of time, or your business will likely falter.
7. You Often Delay Doing the Hard Work
Overnight success rarely happens, so you need to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work if you want your business to survive and flourish. If you start your business before you leave your current job, you will be working incredibly long days, but even when your business is doing well enough for you to quit your job, you’ll still have to put in some serious time.
When you work 9 to 5, all you have to do is your contracted hours, but when you’re your own boss you will have to work more because you are the only person you can rely on.
You can’t coast along and expect someone else to pick up the slack — you need to maximize your productivity. If the thought of working long hours on your project fills you with excitement, then you’re ready to start your business. If it fills you with dread and boredom, then it’s too soon.
You might think that automation will let you skate by with minimal effort — indeed, aspiring entrepreneurs often pick up established Oberlo stores, hoping that dropshipping will handle all the work, only to realize that the key element is great marketing. You get out what you put in, and you need to be ready to give everything.
8. You Have Trouble Managing Stress
Running your own business, especially in the early days, is hard. You’ll work long hours, often alone, and be spending that time multi-tasking, making difficult decisions and probably fraying your nerves by worrying about money. Then, when the cash does start rolling in, you’ll have a whole new set of worries to deal with, such as the responsibility of taking on staff and continually growing your business.
According to the Gallup Wellbeing Index, 45% of entrepreneurs report feeling stressed, while another study by Bank of America found that running a small business is even more stressful than parenting. It’s crucial that you have some good strategies in place for dealing with stress before you start your own business, as there are bound to be some difficult times along the way.
If you identify with any of the above 8 warning signs, it’s probably too soon to start your own business. Give yourself another year or so to gain more experience, build your network, learn about the responsibilities of becoming an entrepreneur, and refine your business plan. Taking a step back to prepare more now will only make your business more likely to succeed once you’re sure you’re ready to launch.
How to Run a Business in 6 Simple Steps
If you’ve gotten this far and realize you’re still a great candidate for starting your own business, congratulations!
Now, it’s time to learn the basics of starting your own business. While starting and running a business is a complicated process, it can be distilled into 6 simple steps that will help you get started on the right foot, and stay there.
1. Fully Research Your Business & Industry
Once you’ve found an idea you’re truly passionate about, you need to take things into the research stage.
Find some trusted friends or family members and run your idea by them, but don’t stop there since your close circle may just tell you what you want to here. See if you can’t put a small focus group together, preferably strangers. While a focus group can’t fully represent how your idea will do in the wild, it will at least give you an idea of how it could be received by the public.
You’ll also want to research the industry and market to see if other ideas like yours have been attempted in the past. Look for what is/isn’t working, typical profit margins, and other commonalities you run across. Also, see if the market looks like it’s trending in the right direction for your idea. For example, you wouldn’t want to launch a product or service in the housing industry during the real estate crash of 2008/2009.
2. Draft a Solid Business Plan
With your idea tested to an extent, it’s time to start fleshing things out. A properly drafted business plan is key to starting any kind of business.
You can handle this in one of a few ways:
- Draft your own simple plan: A simple plan on a sheet of paper can be sufficient, depending on the type and scope of your business. Having anything down on paper is better than nothing, especially in the early stages. Obviously this isn’t ideal if you’re planning on investing a lot of money, hiring others, etc.
- Draft a full-length business plan: Creating your own full-length business plan is a lot of work. Not only this, it varies a lot by industry. What goes into creating a mobile app business plan versus a coffee shop business plan will be drastically different.
- Hire a Business Plan Writer: This is the most ideal of the three choices, but it can be costly. Depending on the scope of your business, you could be spending anywhere from several hundred to several thousand on a proper plan. Again, this will act as the foundation for your business and could play an instrumental role in attracting investors, so spending on one isn’t the worst idea.
3. Determine Funding Required to Start & Keep Things Running
Money’s only fun when you’re making it, but determining how much funding you need is a key part to any business.
If you have a professionally-drafted business plan, you should have a very clear idea of how much money you’ll need both in the short and long term. If not, do some additional market research and see if you can find stats on how much other startups in your industry needed, how much their expenses were each month, and so on. Check out this article if you are looking for some startup statistics.
If you don’t want to bootstrap it, consider crowdfunding or hunting for individual investors in your area. It’s important to remember that most crowdfunding sites will take a percentage of your funding or require a fee. This added overhead can be worthwhile if you manage to raise enough, but it’s still worth noting. Family and friends are another source of fundraising, but that can get tricky, especially if things don’t work out.
4. Register Your Business Properly
At this point you should be pretty sure of your business, its name, and branding which may even involve leveraging your personal brand. The next step is to register your business. In most states you need to register your business with the local government, a process that can vary depending on where you live.
It’s also a good idea to buy a web domain for your business. Even if you don’t plan on running an online store or site, owning the domain is great for planning ahead. Even local businesses should have a website, and having your domain taken by someone else first can be a costly process, as you’ll either need a different domain or you’ll have to buy it from them.
5. Promote & Build Hype
It’s important to get your brand out there, even if your business isn’t live yet. Set up social media pages for your brand and start attracting followers by posting great content about your business or industry. Build mystique and tease bits of your business to keep people interested.
You also want to make sure you have your unique selling proposition (USP) ironed out. This is essentially what makes your business different from the competition. Think of it as your elevator pitch.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you start building an email list from day one. This is where a website can be incredibly useful, as it gives you a place to direct people where they can then subscribe to your newsletter. Having access to email addresses gives you a great outlet for sending updates on products/services, discounts, and so on.
Also, referral software can help bring in leads and promote your new business via word of mouth.
6. Start a “Side Hustle” While Keeping Your Day Job
The importance of this one cannot be overstated; it is highly recommended to try things out while you still have a consistent income from a “day job” and make sure you can replace that revenue each month for 6-12 months before you quit your current job. This significantly reduces the financial risk and mental stress of leaping too soon.
5 Standout “Start Your Own Business” Ideas
Before you consider starting your own business, it’s important you have a solid business idea. If you want to run a business but don’t know what it is you want to do, here are 5 ideas to jumpstart your thinking!
1. Start a Digital Marketing Consultancy
Digital marketing is an easy way to get into the entrepreneurial world of running your own business without any of the costs that come with renting or owning a space.
As the name implies, digital marketing is all digital (online). Being such, many digital marketing firms are completely virtual, have no office space at all, and all workers are remote. This makes digital marketing a great candidate for those of you interested in running a business with a low overhead cost. There is of course the knowledge barrier, as a lot of knowledge and skill sets go into being a successful marketer. Fortunately, there are a number of great resources available online where you can learn the basics and grow your skills. You can also use digital marketing tools to help you learn the business.
Once you have a solid foundation of knowledge and experience, you can start off as a contractor or freelancer. Eventually, when you have the proper client roster, you can go the agency route and start bringing in outside talent if you wish. Check out this resource to learn more about digital marketing.
2. Become a Top Notch Virtual Assistant
Are you incredibly organized? Becoming a virtual assistant could be the perfect job for you.
If you’re knowledgeable on most major organizational programs and tools like the Microsoft and Google suite of office software, becoming a virtual assistant will have virtually no overhead cost for you to begin.
As a virtual assistant you’ll help execs stay organized, much like an in-office assistant, but using online communications and planners.
3. Crank Up a Lawn Care Company
Many think of mowing lawns as something younger people do for money on the weekend. Quite the contrary, you can quickly build a lawn care company if you put in enough work.
Educate yourself on gardening and lawn care basics, and put out an ad. Even better, start a Facebook page and help some friends or family members for free. This will get you some nice reviews. From there, start out small and help those in your immediate area for a low price. As time goes on you can look into buying more equipment like zero turn mowers and even bring on additional hands to work for you.
Ideally your company can grow to a point where you aren’t even mowing lawns or tending to landscaping projects, but only manage the workers and finances.
4. Facebook Ad Management
Much like becoming a digital marketer, learning how to manage FaceBook ads requires a certain amount of homework beforehand. Once again there are tons of free resources where you can learn how to do this.
Once you know how to manage FaceBook ads, turn to the usual suspects – Indeed, Upwork, FlexJobs, etc – and look for smaller clients. This will give you a better chance of landing them, as the bigger clients will be looking for seasoned ad experts.
After you’ve gotten sufficient experience, you can look into creating a full-blown brand for yourself and starting an online ad agency. Just like the digital marketing agency, you can hire others with complementary skills and scale your business.
5. Pet Sitting/Walking Company
Do you love animals? If so, this is the one for you!
The great thing about starting a pet sitting/walking company is that there’s virtually no cost upfront. If you want, run an ad. Otherwise, start a Facebook page and ask your friends if any of them need their pet watched? Once you’ve accrued some reviews, consider putting an ad out.
Look Before You Leap: Final Words of Wisdom
“Un-plan everything, and start it. Most of your plans won’t work in the first year of your business.” – Soumya Roy, Founder CEO of PromozSEO, a digital marketing course.
Life as a business owner is no walk in the park. There are countless struggles, incredibly difficult days, and uncertainty is certain in the beginning. Even still, there are countless perks, and it’s a lifestyle unlike any other. As you grow your business, think about protecting your online search history, finances, and identity with a VPN which hides your IP address and encrypts your network data so no one can see what you’re doing. One click, and you’re protected.
Starting your life as a business owner may be intimidating now, but the only way you’ll find out if you’re cut out for it is if you go for it. If there is only one piece of advice you remember from this article, start your business as a side hustle while you keep your day job. That way you can ramp up things and try it out before you make the leap.
One year from now, you could be looking back at the person you are right now, and be amazed at how far you’ve come. No matter the type of business you run, leadership is always essential to success.