5 moves to make before becoming a full-time business owner

Quitting your day job and running your own business can be one of the most exciting things that you ever do — and there are many benefits that can come with it. Who hasn’t at least once or twice throughout their career considered being their own boss, setting their own schedule and being able to make a living doing something they’re truly passionate about? Sure, it’s great and important to be excited and hopeful, but even more so to be realistic. You might admire your friends or old co-workers/acquaintances who are full-time entrepreneurs and think that their days are dreamy, with time to work, run errands, go shopping and work out at the gym. Please know that there are many wonderful benefits to working solely for yourself — the flexibility and having control over vacation days — but there are also many serious things to take into consideration before you actually make the move to this new career path and lifestyle. These thoughts aren’t meant to scare you away, but they should make you think and help you to prepare for life as a full-time business owner (the dreaminess and reality of it.) The following are all important action steps that I took to becoming my own boss — and they will help you to do the same.

1) Be more than passionate about your work.

Sometimes passion is the only thing that you will have, when money is low and times get rough. And, they will. You will have good months and bad months. Many ups — and many downs. You will often wonder and question yourself, “did I make the right decision to quit my stable job?” Make sure that you absolutely love what you do, want to do it (at least for a while, we all change paths or our businesses grow and evolve with time) and that you’re doing it for the right reasons. People might think that you’re crazy for leaving behind the security and benefits of a full-time job, but only you know in your heart that running your own biz is the right choice for you. Entrepreneurship is NOT for everyone — and that’s okay, it’s not supposed to be.

 2) Setup a basic business plan or model.

You can’t just quit your day job, wake up the next morning and decide that you’re going to run a business. Yay, sunshine and flowers! You must have SOME kind of plan in place. Are you going to provide services or make and sell products? Are you going to open a storefront and be in need of foot traffic from the sidewalk or will you run your biz entirely online? Who is your audience? What social media platforms will best reach that audience? How will you determine pricing? What’s your trajectory 3 months from now, 6 months, 12 months? Do you have a small savings to help you get started or fall back on for security, a business checking account, credit card or are you going to need to take out a loan to afford expenses until you’re making consistent cash? These are all basic, but very important questions to ask and be prepared to answer before you take the plunge and self-operate.  

3) Put basic social media platforms, a website and/or a blog in place.

When you decide to start running a business, you should have a niche market in mind, or audience — and ways for those people to find and reach you, what you’re selling and how to purchase it. A basic website, an Etsy shop or at least a blog will give you a starter online presence that you can then design deeper, tweak later and grow overtime. Setting up a Facebook page for customers to “like,” a Twitter or Instagram account and Pinterest boards don’t cost a thing — they are FREE marketing tools, so use them, no question. Again, choose at least 1-3 digital platforms that make the most sense for your type of business or audience. You have to begin somewhere. If you don’t know how to code or really anything about websites, customize a Squarespace template! If you don’t have a big budget to start with, do all that you can for free. You can always hire a professional later to help you, or keep “DIY-ing” it until you have some systems and consistent branding in place that make you look legitimate.  

4) Have a small client base or hopeful prospects ready for you!

I was a freelance designer for 8 years, on the side of my full-time design jobs. I was always working, making contacts, taking on any and all projects that I could. I was working even when I was exhausted and couldn’t take on any more work. I did “all of the things” so that when I officially took the leap to full-time self-employment, I already had a client base in place that was ready and willing to keep sending me work. I never burned bridges because I was (and still am) a firm believer that every opportunity that crosses your path, no matter how big or small, will lead to other ones. You never know who you might meet or end up doing work for. It is hard to establish a client base ahead of time when you’re already working a full-time job for someone else, but it’s beneficial to have those 3-5 individuals or organizations that already know your work, want to hire you or will at least refer you to others, once you’re available and out on your own. These clients might be your bread and butter for a while, until you develop a larger following.

5) Be ready to work harder than you EVER have.

Being your own boss doesn’t mean that the work will be easy or that you’ll be working less. Although you have no one to answer to other than yourself and you will be setting up your own parameters, please be realistic and know that you will also have to hustle hard for a while, to get to a good place where you don’t have to work as much (one day — and hopefully that day comes sooner than you know!) One of my favorite quotes that I run my business by is “work smarter, not harder.” One of the reasons that you’re probably leaving your full-time job is that you’re ready to make your own rules and schedule, or not work as much or as hard. That is all good and wonderful and super realistic, but still be prepared. You will have to have nothing but self-discipline, knowing that it’s 100% up to you to make everything happen and bring the money in now. There is no one direct depositing that paycheck that you’re used to every two weeks anymore. If you don’t have a strong work ethic and drive, you will not last even one month as an entrepreneur.

There is no doubt that you will go through the sour to get to the sweet, but it will be totally worth it, once your business is thriving, you’re finding happiness and fulfillment in your decision to go at it full-time and you can see tangible results. Factors like happy clients, work that is making a difference and growing your credibility as an expert in your field will prove that entrepreneurship was the right route for you.

Are you scared to make the leap? Even after reading this, do you still have a lot of worries and questions about running your biz full-time? Tell me what you’re struggling with — let’s setup a time to chat!