Thinking of quitting your job to chase your dreams of entrepreneurship?
It’s often a tough call for many people of all ages.
Weighing up the pros and cons of self-employment or entrepreneurship seems an endless process and letting go of that ‘guaranteed’ salary is a decision not to be taken lightly.
In fact, it’s most likely one of the biggest decisions you will ever make!
Not so long ago, I made that very decision to launch my own digital marketing venture: OPTIM-EYEZ. Now I want to help others beat the rat race…
The time has to be right for you and you must be more than 80% confident it will work.
Why not less than 80%?
You need self belief — but also a fine balance between this and pragmatic perception.
Why not 100%?
Well, that is not pragmatic. It’s pretty unrealistic. If you are 100% sure of success, this life will 100% not suit you…
With such a mindset, you are not suitably prepared for rejection, setbacks and failure. This is nothing less than perilous when venturing into life as an entrepreneur.
Here are the top 7 most important learnings derived from my entrepreneurial journey so far:
1. Time (& Money) Is Precious
In the past, I never really gave time a second thought because I had plenty of it. Now, those days are long gone and I savour every spare second I manage to find!
You must make the most of your time. Before starting out, plan well ahead and try to get everything in place before actually making the leap. You will be glad you took these steps later on.
Ensure you own a slick, content-filled website which is exhaustively tested, user-friendly and optimized. My website wasn’t live when I started out — but I invested extensive time into generating leads through my social media channels.
That said, I still wish I'd had a website built and ready to go…
Get your house in order before you leave employment — structure your communication channels and collateral.
Think about all the little tasks that massively pile up: Your business phone number, diverts, voicemail, email signature, business cards, document templates and trademarks. The list really is endless!
Next, you have accountancy tasks to organize such as your business bank account, a reliable accountant, software, business insurances (yes, multiple!) and many other time-heavy tasks like networking and relationship building — before you've even started operating.
Now, about the money…
I highly recommend you allow for at least a 1.5 year gap without earning a penny — and that’s considering double the amount of expenses you have initially projected. It may sound a lot … But there are so many unexpected costs that pop up.
The 1.5+ year savings' allowance is your cushion.
If I hadn’t secured this as a fallback, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable taking ‘the big leap’.
It really allows you to think freely, take further calculated risks and spend on the little extras to make your business flourish — instead of worrying about the bills of basic personal needs like food and rent.
I worked very hard to immediately be ‘in the green’ on launch and I feel fortunate to be in such a position … But other types of business (i.e. those with stock), can put severe strain on bank accounts; increasing risk dramatically.
It’s not uncommon for such businesses to make a loss in the first 12 months. Are you prepared for that scenario?
Tax is another incredibly important consideration and there are so many facets to get your head around.
It's easy to take it for granted when employed because it's all calculated for you … The complexity can come as a shock.
For example, there are varying rates of dividend tax and PAYE deductions, then you have multiple filing duties to register and continuously monitor — including Self Assessment, Corporation Tax and the insanely complex VAT system (especially if you plan to sell globally).
This takes considerable amounts of time, money and energy!
I'm now using Xero which has saved me so much hassle. It consolidates everything you need to know about the status of your business accounts; including deadlines, invoices and accompanying alerts, while also automating otherwise painful time sinks and allowing you to swiftly accept payments from customers.
I started business using a simple spreadsheet which made it all extremely manual.
Then — I began to use FreeAgent, which was great software to get me started (and the team are very responsive) … But it massively lacks intelligent automation. As transaction volumes increased, I simply could not dedicate any more time to the management of endless numbers and accounts.
In hindsight, I would have definitely used this accounting software first!!!
Switching software is never fun.
My partner link to Xero (above) gives you a free 30-day trial if you wish to sign up.
You can then earn money when people use your affiliate link thereafter. Very nice!
2. Relationships Are Critical
I cannot emphasize this enough. Surround yourself with those who inspire you, those who can bring you on and invest time in you as mentors.
These people are the gatekeepers to another world. A world of success and compounded relationships you could never imagine becoming reality … Until it happens.
If you build relations instead of hard-selling your product or service, you won’t ever need a salesman!
I have always been a ‘people' person which has undoubtedly been a key factor in my success. I love to learn and engage. I'm never afraid to ask questions either…
3. Always Ask Questions
“A person's intelligence can be measured by the questions they ask, not by the statements they make.”
Don't try to be the brightest spark in the room if you're not. Learn from those who hold greater knowledge to enhance your own abilities.
4. Don't Get Blinded By The Dream
It is damn hard work to ‘make it'. We often get drip-fed glamorous stories of entrepreneur lifestyles by the media, filled to the brim with white sandy beaches, fast cars and flash houses.
Do you think these people got to where they are by chance?
95% of the time — nope.
Unless you inherited millions, be prepared to graft. If the thought of working extremely hard for many years makes you shudder (as your social life diminishes before your eyes), this journey isn't for you!
5. Love What You Do
Are you hungry for a quick buck? If you have dollar signs in your eyeballs but don't have a passion for your business, is it worth it? Are you really going to provide the best service for your customers?
It's not ideal to base your biz on household LED light bulbs, purely because there's some money to be made — if your real passion is car modification!
Balance capacity, opportunity and zeal.
6. Prepare For Pitfalls
Life as an entrepreneur isn't always peachy. Yes, you can become very successful but for every entrepreneur's success you can pretty much guarantee at least 1, 2 or 20 failures before they hit the jackpot!
I know people who have set up countless businesses – only 10% of those setups becoming profitable for longer durations.
Unless you are crazily spontaneous and can’t bear the thought of sitting still on one business idea — when bad times approach, roll with it. Quitting or flitting is not the answer. Stay strong and believe in yourself. You will get through and you will turn things around if you really want to.
Perseverance is a necessary trait.
There are some days you just want to shut yourself away and bang your head on the wall. The next day could turn out to be the best day ever, so much so; you run around outside shouting, “YES!!!!”
That’s just the life of an entrepreneur.
7. Spend Time With Loved Ones
Busy 24/7? For the first 12 months you may well be (and this is excusable).
But keep this up into year 2 onward and you'll not only unsettle those around you but exhaust yourself to the point where you simply can't be productive.
Make time for your loved ones — and stick to it.
You must also ensure they are prepared for what you are about to endure. You will not have the hours to simultaneously devote all your attention to both passions – there has to be a compromise at some stage. If you have children, this will be immensely more difficult.
I joined a gym and spa with my partner which is great for keeping fit. It also allows us space to talk about non-work related stuff, have a laugh and ‘just chill’. (Absolutely essential!)
Even when the work is piling up, I still make the effort to go. Find something similar and dedicate yourself to a healthy balance of work and ‘chill'. It's necessary for a productive mindset.
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