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Imagine this: You’re sitting at your desk at work, staring aimlessly out the small window above your desk that looks out into the parking lot. Just kidding, you don’t have a window! Anyways, you’re staring, still aimlessly, at the cats-in-sweaters calendar pinned to your cubicle (your mom bought it on clearance at an after-Christmas sale). In your peripheral vision, you see your manager making his usual mid-morning rounds. Why can’t he just understand that you don’t work well under the pressure of surveillance?
You’ve willed yourself not to look at the clock for five whole minutes. You’ve been working on the same small task for what feels like hours. You finally allow yourself to glance at the time: it’s 11:30 a.m. — still too early to meander toward the kitchen to microwave your leftovers.
You just can’t motivate yourself to keep working. You tell yourself that if you can just finish this one sentence, this one cell, this one report, you’ll reward yourself — because sometimes, self-bribery is the only thing that keeps you moving forward. When you get home, you can treat yourself to one hour of doing your favorite thing, the thing you’re really passionate about, the thing you wish you could get paid to do instead of your actual job. Then, you start to think, as you have so many times before this: why can’t I just get paid to do something I love?
Just living the dream
Sound familiar? If you have pipe dreams of quitting your day job to take your side hustle full time, you’re not alone.
A 2014 study found that over 50 percent of people would prefer to be their own boss.
Whether it’s the draw of independence, the freedom to dictate your schedule, or pursuing your passion that’s drawing you to entrepreneurship, you should know that while there are certainly perks to being your own boss, starting your own business is no walk in the park.
Don’t just take our word for it: below are some of the questions you should consider before jumping ship, peppered with advice from some of the real-life entrepreneurs who have gone before you.
Do you have what it takes?
Running your own business is a lot of work, but it’s even more work if you don’t have the skills, temperament and drive that it takes to follow through. Part of the reality of being a one-man or one-woman show is that there’s no one else to take the blame when things go awry.
That pressure can be exhausting and fraught with disappointment. A true entrepreneur isn’t in it for the short game, and a successful business owner will see tough challenges and missteps as necessary obstacles on the road to success. And if you don’t have that kind of foresight, well, you may want to reconsider handing in your notice.
If you’re dedicated, resilient and ready to take on the growing pains of becoming your own boss, proceed — but not without caution.
Is there an app for that?
Personal bias tells us that all of our ideas are good ones, but personal bias isn’t the opinion that really matters when it comes to making money. Before moving forward with your business venture, it’s important to objectively explore the validity of your ideas. Is there really a market of consumers out there that would be interested in your product or service? Is it something that would sustain for the long-term, or just a fad that will fade into the mist when some newer, shinier startup comes along?
On the flip side, it’s essential to consider the competition in your desired market. If your brilliant plan involves a recent hot trend (think customized meal services a la Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, etc.), you may want to stay out of the kitchen, so to speak.
Before making any rash decisions, be sure you’ve thoroughly flushed out your ideas and analyzed the market to ensure you have a legitimate audience that isn’t already being captured by similar products or services.
Are you ready to live the startup life?
While clocking in and out at your 9 to 5, Monday through Friday gig might not seem ideal, there’s something to be said for having a routine — and even more to be said for having a consistent paycheck. Starting your own business is very unpredictable, and the lifestyle change can feel daunting.
Before you go jumping to any conclusions about your occupational future, think seriously about whether you’re up for such a huge shift. Will working 80 hours a week — which is sort of the norm when you’re building a business — drive you insane? Will wondering where and when your next paycheck is coming from cause too much stress to bear? These are important considerations to keep top of mind.
What will it cost?
As with any good business plan, you need to figure out what it will cost you before you get started. Actual financial costs are important, sure, but so are the potential emotional and mental costs. What does the overhead look like? How much time will you have to spend away from your family while building your business? Can you afford to leave your job? Will it require you to take on a business loan?
Then there’s the tough reality that everything is always more expensive than it looks at the outset. Being an entrepreneur is filled with hidden costs that you couldn’t have seen coming, and ultimately, these costs could make or break your plans.
“It’s so expensive to keep a small business going,” Kaetlyn Miller-Hubbard, owner of Bryant Miller Salon, said. “That’s why you see those numbers like 3 percent of small businesses making it over five years. Which is understandable. If you’re commission-based, then you’re paying a fortune in payroll tax. If you’re 30 employees or under, you’re really squeaking by some months.”
One potential solution is to remain in your day job while dipping your toes into the entrepreneurial waters. This will allow you to explore your ideas without sacrificing the security of your reliable income. It might not sound like quite as much fun to do it this way, but you’ll be thanking yourself when you can still comfortably pay the bills.
Are you ready to go out on your own?
Our final piece of advice is to think about the why. Why do you want to start your own business?
If pursuing your passion is your ultimate plan and you have the drive, the time and the resources to do so, then you might be the perfect candidate for becoming your own boss. But, if your desire to start your own business is rooted in stress from your current job and you’re just searching for a quick getaway, you’d be wise to re-evaluate your motivation. Becoming a business owner is the road less traveled for a reason, and if you’re looking at it as an exit strategy from your current role, you’ll run the risk of simply replacing old stresses with new, potentially more overwhelming issues.
With all of these realities in mind, if your heart strings are still tugging toward the allure of entrepreneurship, it may be time to pursue your dream. There are tons of resources out there that can help you get started — from narrowing down what kind of business you want to own, to deciding if you want to start from scratch or purchase an existing business or franchise. Wherever your path takes you, being informed about the reality of owning a business is the best way to set yourself up for success in the long run.