Want To Be Your Own Boss? Steps To Take Before Going Solo

by Tisha K. on 2012-01-279

Be proactive before you make the switch to full time entrepreneurship.

It’s a statement often dished out and applied to people who attempt to do something they’re not very good at, a statement made to discourage those who are seeking out an alternative career path: “don’t quit your day job”.

In the entrepreneurial world, this saying couldn’t be any truer or more practical, especially if you’re about to journey out on your own to try your luck with self-employment. This may not be as much of a concern if you’re independently wealthy, but if you’re the average aspiring entrepreneur, it may be worth considering these words of wisdom offered by veteran business owners: keep your day job while jump-starting your business. Unless you are financially capable of living for 3 to 6 months on no income, stay put at your job and put in the work to get where you want to be.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that quitting your job before you have something else lined up (either a new job or a business that’s chugging along at a decent pace) is a recipe for disaster. Few people who have worked the 9 to 5 gig for a while really have a solid grasp of how life changes once you’re fully self-employed.

Building a business before going solo

Reality Checks For The Aspiring Entrepreneur

Becoming an independent business owner can be quite an exciting prospect, but don’t let your fantasies cloud your judgment. Life and financial transitions always require a great deal of serious thought, decision-making and thorough consideration. The biggest take-away I had from my own experience as someone who went from corporate lackey to liberated businesswoman is this: be prepared before jumping the gun.

While this premise may be obvious to you, there are still quite a good number of people who become overly enthusiastic and eager to get their independent projects going, without making the appropriate reality checks. Confidence in your endeavors is a plus, but over-confidence behind rose-tinted glasses can set you up for disappointment.

Here are some steps to take before going solo. Address these concerns as part of your plan to build your own business and to become your own boss:

#1 Address your money concerns first.

Starting out on your own brings a lot of anxieties and frustrations: worrying about where the heck the money is going to come from is a frightening concern. If you keep working a stable job until your business becomes more secure, you can at least rely on a steady income to get you through the rough spots. Even more importantly, have some money saved up before you take these risks.

My Mistake: When I first started, I had one steady client that paid well and gave me the opportunity to quit my full time job, but six months later that client didn’t need my services anymore. My source of income dried up and I had cause for worry.

#2 Don’t let your emotions dictate your decisions.

Keep your emotions in check as you set up your new venture. Becoming too idealistic or overly optimistic can cause you to take on greater risks than you normally would.

My Mistake: I was determined to leave my job because it was just something I couldn’t stand any longer, so my emotions and enthusiasm got the better of me. In my haste to leave, I didn’t think of tucking away three months worth of living expenses before moving on. The truth was that I couldn’t afford to save the necessary amount for an emergency fund. So when I secured my single client, I decided to wing it and go solo, believing that my business income would tide me over. But then my client flew the coop, and he did it with only a day’s notice. I had no time to prepare myself and I had nothing in the proverbial pipeline. It was then that I thought my whole business would go bust.

#3 Have a backup plan and be resourceful.

Unfortunately for me, I went solo before I was thoroughly prepared to run a business on my own. But with the challenges that unfolded, I learned to be more resourceful. To get through the tough periods as I worked to launch my business, I ended up searching for new employment once more, and checked out some things on Craigslist.com. There, I came across some freelance work which provided me the leads I needed to acquire new clients.

#4 Be proactive about your business.

For those who are ready to take the next step, be ready. Start promoting your business months before you quit your job (although you’ll need to be subtle about this with your employer). Get your business cards in circulation before you give up your steady paycheck. Don’t procrastinate or wait till after you leave your day job to get the ball rolling for your business. Ideally, your business should already be off and running by the time you turn in your resignation letter.

In Conclusion

Ultimately, I am glad I made the transition to full time business owner as I’ve made really great connections that turned my business around completely. While the end result was better than I could imagine, I know now that had I waited to quit my job and first made sure that I had a business in full swing with an established income before leaving, I would have had a less stressful, and much smoother transition into self-employment.

Image Credit: Squaw.com

Created April 25, 2008. Updated January 27, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

thewild1 April 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm

These are great points. I also always suggest to kids in college, who are fortunate enough to not have to worry about their current financial situation, to give it a go if entrepreneurship is something they are interested in.

You can still balance getting a college education and jump starting your career (or you can give it a try).

chris April 25, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Although I was not exactly in a similar situation, I was close. I left a high paying perfect job for another high paying job that turned out to be a disaster. I left my previous job because I couldn’t stand being there anymore. I was burned out; but instead of taking a vacation I decided to leave the job hastily. My new job has a much larger work load than my previous job, the learning curve is steep, and I have a bad manager. My absenteeism has gone through the roof and six months on I am already looking for another job and have an offer in hand.

Mr Credit Card April 25, 2008 at 8:56 pm

At least you have succeeded. I know many middle age folks with kids and are thinking of starting a new career (more like wanting to strike out on their own).

From my own observations, most 9 to 5 corporate folks who want to be their own boss do not really choose the right business to go into. Many that I observe get into business with

1. an old friend or college mate

2. gets into a mom and pop type business

3. get into a business which they have no real expertise.

Most fail the first time. So I totally second the idea of working on your business while you still have your job.

The Shark Investor April 26, 2008 at 1:49 pm

In general I agree with the “don’t quit your job” advice BUT sometimes the only way to get your butt out really doing something is to do a big change. And when you are in bad financial situation your mind and skills will work hard for your new business. Sometimes this is the thing which makes people successful.

But otherwise, great article again.

Loretta January 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm

The points you make here are timeless. It always surprises me how there are people who decide to quit their jobs without a plan or without thinking too far ahead. There are a lot who will “cross their fingers” and hoping something comes up “eventually”. I guess it’s the same thing with trying to get into a business undertaking. Why don’t we ease ourselves in slowly? What’s the rush?

Kennedi, Face & Fitness January 28, 2012 at 5:08 pm

It’s very hard to keep your emotions in check …. I think a lot of people get carried away by excitement or get stuck because they’re scared.

Tyler S. January 29, 2012 at 12:04 am

How long was it after that first client was gone that you started getting more business?

Silicon Valley Blogger January 29, 2012 at 12:17 am

Thanks for the question Tyler — but while I can’t speak for Tisha (who wrote this article), I can certainly agree with the premise that you shouldn’t rush into something new without a good plan, whether it’s a new job or a new business. There’s also what I’d call the “jump off” point when you realize it’s time to catch the next swinging vine just as you let go of the previous line. There’s always that element of risk there but you try to control it as much as you can so you reduce the possibility of things going wrong.

Having only one client to rely on is certainly a risk, unless that client is paying well enough so you can save up your income to help tide you over till the next gig. As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that it takes a lot of trial and error to move forward with a business.

Joey June 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

If you choose to be an entrepreneur, you’ll have to be willing to sacrifice a few things for the kind of freedom you only get by being your own boss. And if you happen to be highly motivated and a self-starter, then you’ll find that work on its own can be pretty addicting. If you happen to be well-rounded in the workplace, then you are fairly well equipped to strike it out on your own.

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