Thinking of changing your life and setting up your own business but not sure if you should or where to start? A little thinking and planning now can go a long way! Here are 5 tips to help you decide if entrepreneurship is the right path for you and how to chart your course.
Growth in entrepreneurship in the UK shows no signs of slowing down with 1 in 7 UK workers now self-employed(¹). For most people, setting up their own business can be both exhilarating and scary. It often involves a major change to the way you work, your lifestyle and your mindset.
Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent ready for a challenge, stuck in a corporate job you want to escape from or looking for a new way to fill your time after retirement or redundancy, the world of entrepreneurship has so many wonderful benefits: the freedom to chart your own path and be your own boss, the ability to express yourself creatively, a lifestyle which gives you more balance and the potential for a much greater sense of achievement and fulfilment, to name but a few.
But before you get too carried away, it’s good to do a little groundwork so that you can fully prepare yourself with a road map for this unchartered territory. Some of the key qualities you will need are:
Here are some ideas (and a handy little infographic) to help you develop those qualities and navigate the transition:
1. Choose work that you LOVE
Having worked with many clients going through this transition (and my own personal experience), I’ve observed that the key to unlocking the energy, the motivation and the resilience needed to see yourself through the challenges of setting up your own business lies at the outset and that is simply to choose work which you LOVE. Work which lights you up inside and stirs you so much you just have to share it with the world. If you can remember this and stay focused on your end goal and why this matters to you, it will keep you going when things get tough.
2. Be clear on what you want
You’ve heard the expression ‘you can’t find what you want if you don’t know what you’re looking for?’ Can you articulate what it is exactly that you want to create? Getting clarity on what you want from your business now can act as a powerful motivator and make it feel more real. Consider the types of product or service you’d love to sell, the types of customers you’d love to attract, how much money you want to earn etc. I’ve created a worksheet to help you capture all of this. It’s best if you can put an hour to one side to do this as a visualisation exercise and then keep it out in a prominent place where it can work its way into your sub-conscious.
3. Be confident in what you can offer
Setting up on your own can be a real test of self-belief. Spend some time taking an inventory on what your main strengths are and what skills you have that you can bring to your new business (even if they’re from a totally unrelated field). Developing a confident mindset is critical to your success in business, especially as you will need to start ‘selling yourself’. This is no place for false modesty – if you don’t believe in yourself then your customers won’t either! Start creating a story about your journey and what makes you different that you can share with people on your website on in-person which will help them connect with you. And be honest about the areas you feel you aren’t properly skilled in. It will either be a necessary red-flag to indicate this might not be the best path for you or else highlight the need to gain a new skill.
4. Do the research now
It’s never too soon to start doing the research into your new business and if you can spend some time before you take the leap it could go a long way in saving you time and money in the long run. If you’re currently in a full-time job or have children at home and a busy schedule, it might just mean taking a closer look at any time zappers or re-jigging your commitments at the weekend or in the evening. Research the market you’ll be operating in, who your customer is and what they really want, what other options are out there and what your point of difference is going to be. Keep your eyes and ears open for little soundbites, TV programmes, advertisements which can give you some insights. The most important question to answer is ‘Is there a customer for what I’m going to be offering’. A survival budget is another useful tool to understand how much you need to be earning to keep your head above water and maintain the lifestyle you want.
5. Find yourself a mentor
It’s also helpful to find yourself a mentor to inspire you – another entrepreneur who has not only got to where you want to get to, but has undoubtedly experienced similar challenges at the start and has found a way to overcome them. If you can’t find someone as a mentor, think of someone who is doing what you want to do and read their story. It’s important to find ways to connect with others so you feel less alone on your journey. There are lots of great resources available such as podcasts, networking groups, articles and workshops which will support you during this time and help you realise that fears and challenges are just a natural part of the journey.
¹ Source: CIPD, Megatrends: More selfies? Self-employment in the UK, 2018
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Case Study: My Story
Before I became a Coach, I spent 15 years in the corporate world in creative commercial roles for companies including Boots, Sainsbury’s and Woolworth. I enjoyed the work itself (buying and selling, managing brands and developing products) and learnt a huge amount but there was something about the environment that I didn’t fully connect with. I had this inner knowing that it was never going to truly fulfill me and that I was a bit of a square peg in a round hole.
In 2011, I took a 5 month career break in Sydney. After some deep soul-searching, I finally realised that changing to another similar job was not the answer and so I spent time getting clear about what I loved about my previous jobs, what skills and experience I had to offer and what I truly valued in life and how I could re-align with my values. And so it was that I took the plunge into entrepreneurship and set up my own business as a Consultant & Coach.
A couple of the tools I used included a vision board which set out what my business would look and feel like. I felt connected to it right from the off. It provided me with the drive to jump out of bed in the morning and the clarity to keep me focused on what was most important. That’s not to say that I didn’t stray from that at times, but I had something to anchor me and keep me on track with my purpose. Before I took my career break, I created a survival budget to start the financial planning for my career change. This gave me the freedom and security to explore my options and give my fledgling business some breathing space for me to get on its feet and for me to find my customers.
I was also lucky enough to have a couple of very inspiring mentors who had been there and done that to guide me and light the way in the world of entrepreneurship. They helped me believe in myself and pointed me in the right direction at times when I was about to stray. I found lots of comfort and support from local workshops and business breakfasts and made friends with other aspiring entrepreneurs.
From the moment I decided to take my career break, I have honestly never looked back. It hasn’t always been easy, but on those challenging days I remind myself why I am doing this work, how much more balanced my life is now and how much freedom I have to take my career where I want it to go.
There is a whole new world waiting for you too – one that will make it worth the initial struggle. A world where you will have the freedom to do work which matters to you, to make your own decisions, to see your dreams come to life and the positive impact that doing work which you love can have on everyone around you.