You’ve met them, haven’t you? Those people who somehow inexplicably have escaped the grind, live in a nice house, seem to have time to socialize and take care of a family?
‘Self-employed’ you hear them say, and you picture them sitting on a sun-bed, sipping Margaritas and logging in on their laptops to do half an hour’s work for a gigantic fee before taking their third nap of the day.
What you perhaps don’t visualize are the steps they took to get to the point where they can retain financial stability and independence.
For most of us, the idea of self-employment seems distant and we settle for the daily slog of something that turned out not to be the dream job. We’re so concerned with the implications of saying goodbye to the 9 to 5, that we perhaps don’t even consider where we might start.
So. Here are a few questions your Margarita-sipping friend might ask you:
Just what is it that you want to do?
The first hurdle that many of us don’t get past is understanding what business we could conduct independently. In part, it is a confidence thing. We wonder whether that little idea we had at a house party nine years ago might have taken off, but shrug it off as a passing fancy.
But if you are serious about escaping the rat-race and finding independence, you have to interrogate each and every idea, each and every skill you possess and turn them into something tangible. This means organizing. It’s the little difference between idle daydreaming and actively seeking self-employment.
Make a list of those ideas, think about what people need and want that you have in your possession, whether it’s skills, knowledge or an innovative idea that strikes only you as obvious. Which takes us onto our next point.
What are you capable of?
There is no place to hide once you are self-employed. There are no other people in the office who will slow down the work and no-one to blame but yourself when things don’t go as planned. It’s not so easy to quit corporate career and launch your own gig, but it’s definitely possible and worth it!
It is therefore very important that you are honest with yourself on day one. Without emotion, identify the shortfalls you have experienced as a professional. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have had to face their demons at some point. The key is to either accept them or conquer them.
The first method is to find an industry you like which doesn’t require you to utilize the skills or capabilities that you are missing, and some can go their whole careers without having to address the issues they had at the start.
If you are feeling a little braver, you can go for the second method. Which is: skill up. If you are someone who is constantly struggling with, for example, getting to grips with social media marketing, then invest the time and resources to learn all you can.
What do you know about the industry?
Your business idea can come from many different sources. You may have an industry background which has given you a good grounding for your new endeavor or you might have always wondered about a particular subject but never really looked into it.
If it’s the former – well done! You’ve got practical experience and are off to a great start – this doesn’t mean you don’t need to any research. You’ll find that every industry is constantly moving and changing, so while you are starting your own business, you’ll need to work doubly hard to keep up with the latest trends.
If you’ve not worked in the industry before – well done! You’re off to a great and glorious adventure where you’ll be discovering new and hopefully exciting things every day. You are going to need work very hard and read copious amounts of literature in order to get to a level where you can talk with authority on your chosen profession.
Before you get anything set up, you’ll need to know why you’re doing it. Industry journals and websites can tell you a bit about who the industries target demographic is. Consider those customers, research them, and keep a library of key information and textbooks so you have the knowledge to draw from at any given point.
This reminds me:
Where are you going to work?
Part of the reason we tend to knuckle down better at work or school is the slight feeling of discomfort in the spaces we work in. There are whole sectors of the interior design industry which work specifically to create a formal, professional atmosphere in commercial offices and buildings of public service.
The trick is to maintain a studious, organized area for you to work in. Remember that it is work and not an extended lunch break. You, therefore, have a few options to choose from when considering your office.
If you have got a bit of capital, you can invest in hiring a workspace. If you live in or near a city, there are often office buildings that hire out spaces for business owners like yourself to work in. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people and potentially people you might collaborate with. You have the added incentive that you’ll be wasting your money if you let your productivity drop whilst you are there.
If you’re lucky enough to have public buildings that have workspaces then you should seriously consider utilizing them. Many public libraries these days have workspaces and, of course, a ready source of information if you should require it. It might be wise to consider how noisy your work might be though.
If you find that your work in not going to be suitable to any of these places, then you get to live the dream and work from home. But don’t celebrate just yet. Most people find it actually very difficult to work from home. It’s natural – you feel comfortable, all your nice things are around you and you can eat whenever you like. Remember – good workspaces are not entirely comfortable. So if you are going to work from home, find a space that is free from distraction and you can dedicate yourself wholly to your business. You can’t afford to lack self-discipline.
For this reason its worth discussing your prospective work routine with your friends and family. You might even give one or two of them the job of checking up on you, being your cheerleaders, or even spread the word about what it is you are doing.
Where are your clients?
Hopefully by the time you get to this point you have identified your target demographic. You’ve done the research so you know that your clients are crying out for your service or product and all you have to do now is answer the call.
Now all you have to do is find out where they are. This is where you have to be the social butterfly you were always meant to be. If you thought you were getting out of the 9 to 5 to be away from people, you are in for a shock. It is categorically impossible to get a business off the ground without doing some prospecting.
Your clients will abide in some unusual places, and like a bird of paradise, you will have to stand out in the middle of the clearing and show your colors. Most industries will have networking events and you will need to go to every single one if you can. If you’re the shy, retiring type, you’re going to need to come out of your shell, at least for as long as it will take to get allies who will flaunt your colors for you.
In addition, if you’ve not become social media savvy yet, now is the time. Online marketing is one of the most important aspects of growing a business and, if you gain the skills, can only cost the price of your internet bill each month. This cannot be stressed enough.
What will you do if it all goes wrong?
As many self-employed people will tell you, the stress of work does not go away when you start working for yourself. It merely transforms. You’re sick of working long hours? Well, at least you get holiday and/or sick pay. Your pension scheme is sub-par? You have a pension scheme. You haven’t had a pay rise in a year? You’ve got someone who can give you a pay rise.
What self-made business owners often ask themselves is what they will do if it doesn’t work out, which is why it’s important to have a backup plan.
If you were planning on leaving your job in a blaze of glory, telling Brian from accounting exactly what you thought of him, then, whilst I applaud your spirit, your lack of foresight says you might not be quite ready to strike out on your own. By all means, cross the bridge when you are ready, but leave it unburnt.