In January of 2016 I began an entrepreneurial journey. I entered this journey with some knowledge of business and how it worked from an academic level, but there are some basic items that a “solopreneur” or business owner will need beyond common knowledge that they may not have seen as a employed member of society.
I see people who say that they would like to quit their job and join the entrepreneurial ranks all the time. I speak to them and let them know that they are not ready based on a few items. I also let them know that being an entrepreneur is not “easier” than your job (clearly). People sometimes just do not want to work hard or work for someone else, that does not mean you are an entrepreneur. If you get fired a lot, you are not all of a sudden a business tycoon who works for themselves. People always ask, “What is the biggest difference to you from when you had a 9-5?” The answer is EVERYTHING!
There is nothing that is the same anymore in any element of my life. Owning a business, and beyond that, making a business continually profitable is way different than being a good worker at a simple 9-5 occupation. I was an amazing employee, but with a lot of what I learned there, it was simply just the tip of the iceberg when it came to being a true business owner.
Here are just a few things that are different and that you will have to have from my point of view when entering the entrepreneurial ranks from the “job” side of things:
- Name Recognition
- You are now a freshman again: you will not be able to really reference some of the items that you did with your last job. You were not “you” then, you were your company. Companies own their employees when it comes to this. A key to transitioning is asking your company you are departing from if you can use items for your own portfolio. I was a creative at my last company, so early in my career I asked if I may use items within the job for my own personal portfolio and they granted me access to all upon departure.
- You cannot use your big brother as a crutch: You have to take into consideration that no matter how great of an employee you were, some companies will now feel as if you may not be able to create outcomes at the same level simply as an individual. Though this is an obvious misconception, this does happen. Be prepared to showcase several examples of products you have created, money you have generated for past clients and more. You will have to prove yourself all over again to become the varsity star that you were before as everyone (people who do not know you) will see you as JV until you have an amazing portfolio.
- You will need capital to be successful, period: prepare to pay for things you may have not thought of upon entering entrepreneurship. This may be memberships, eqipment fees, certifications and many other things that will be needed to truly be successful within your field. Do not short change yourself. Make sure that you have the capital to get exactly what you need to create the top of the line products of your potential competitors. As I departed my last “job”, I began to purchase all of the top tier equipment to duplicate if not overtake the quality I could produce at my 9-5. Do not think that you can sacrifice when it comes to quality of items and purchases now that you are an entrepreneur. To compete with the best, you must be the best and have the best.
- Freebie accounts and items are usually not useful: I have heard entrepreneurs say, “I use the free account of…”. It is free for a reason. It does not do the things that are needed for a true professional. If you are looking to get a free website, a free accountant, a free post board to gain clients and more, then you are looking to get paid as if your work is only worth “free”. Get the top of the line software and the top of the line marketing materials for your business. You will need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk internally and externally, and that is having the right mechanisms to be the best. All of those items come at a price.
- Large contracts and items need capital and not being paid for long periods of time is common. If you are going to roll with the big dogs, then you will have to prepare like them. In my first year I had two large contracts with the city as well as one of the staple hospitals in the state, and payment is not always certain and cannot be accounted for. Your company must have the capital to absorb payroll and any other accumulated fees over time that lapses. There is no more “paycheck to paycheck” when being an entrepreneur or within your business. Your company will not survive without capital as there will be associated costs with running a company that truly competes with others for contracts.
- Capital is Key, make sure that you are financially stable to sustain and literally account for your business and evaluate with a 3-6 month forecast at the least. I would consider a 3-6 month forecast would be something that could be scary. You should certainly enter the day knowing that you will be fine operating your business for 6+ months.
- Sales & Organization
- Create a sales funnel: Make sure that you are creating a way to bring people in to your business and to create a stream of revenue. Make sure that you are creating and investing in marketing and sales as that is what is going to allow your company to function. There is a reason that companies spend 10-20% of their budget on marketing as it is one of the only functions of a business that is aimed to create revenue. Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of not marketing for fear of monetary loss. Invest in your business and your business will reap the benefits.
- Create sales mechanisms: Create a sales sheet to follow up on clients. Also create a way to retain information from potential clients and to then follow up once more. Do not go without some type of functional sales mechanism that allows you to have several touch points for clients and potential clients. This could be a sales force and a paid for leads generator or simply a cold calling list, but you must create a way for your company to reach out and always sell. Selling and marketing are the primary ways to generate revenue for your company. Be organized and keep record of everything that you do that can lead to sales as follow ups and retention will be your best sales method when it truly comes down to it.
- Tough skin: Have tougher skin than you have ever had during your 9-5. You may have been in sales before, but this time you are essentially selling people your dream and your own vision and how it can help them. You will be selling yourself this time, so getting no’s will feel a bit different. Continue to make those calls, continue to go to those networking events and let people know how enthusiastic you are about your business or idea. You will be your own coach for the most part during this endeavor, so the passion to keep it going will be the fuel to the fire that burns inside of you which leads to success of your amazing company or product.
- Focus on success: solely focus on how you are working towards something better. Even failures can be of help learning how to be more successful in your company. Do not focus on anything besides being a great business owner and doing the best you can to get your product or service into the hands of as many people as possible. Scaling and other items will happen and be something you can worry about later, initially you must focus on having a successful and useful service. Focus on that solely initially alongside selling that.
- Know that you will win: Just know that you will come out on top. Work plus an amazing product or service will equal sales. What you know is what will happen when it comes to the investment or hope into your own company.
- You must have the utmost faith in yourself and your company. This faith comes from having a great product and grows with having a great strategy. Have faith in the one above that with your preparation you will be successful and continue to push through hard times starting up.