This article is part of 4-part series on goal setting for 2012.
Here we are on week 3 of Goal Setting for 2012, and hopefully your brains are running in excited circles with creative ideas and New Year’s to-do’s for making your career the best it’s ever been! I hesitate to utilize the word “dream job” because I think it a way it carries this connotation of being just that – a dream, unattainable, or so far off that we’re too distracted by the constant flood of mental “what-if’s” to create our success in the right now.
Recent studies show that the average professional 20-something, or let’s go buzzword here- Gen Y, will change careers 4 times before the age of 30. I’ve already done that, and my 30th birthday is quickly approaching. So I have news for you – forget about dream jobs, because it’s relevant, and your idea of the ideal dream job will change over time in conjunction with your professional and personal interests and priorities.
Working for oneself often falls into this category. The eventual entrepreneur, the some-day small business owner, the person who wants to start a business, but feels they have to wait around for “the right time” to do it. Another news clip for you: there is no right time to start a business. There will always be risks, and it will likely always require a lot of time, money and resources which you may always feel that you lack. So maybe a better way to look at it, instead of telling yourself that “it’s bad timing”, is to start listing out the reasons why acting now could actually work in your favor (cheap labor, lower cost of materials, more resources available in a downturn economy, for instance). The right timing is what you make of it, and if you put your nose to the grindstone, do your homework, and really put a strategic plan in place, the risks you feel are stacked against you will be far easier to navigate and overcome.
I know this because I’m writing this post from my co-working space in New York City. I’m surrounded by a number of other young, creative entrepreneurs tapping away at their MacBooks to get their creative ideas and visions off the ground. And if any of them are like me, they didn’t just suddenly up and quit their jobs one day and say, “You know what? I’m going to start working for myself. I’m going to start a business.” That decision happens very early on in the process, and it’s the first step – committing. You have to make the decision first before you map out how you’re going to make it work.
Now I wish I could tell you in one post how to start, build, run and grow a sustainable startup, because that would just be a massive testament to how good I am at what I do. Unfortunately, that’s not realistic, and probably too much information for you to absorb effectively at this stage of the game. So if flying solo is truly your goal for 2012, whether it’s starting a business or going the full time freelancer route, here are a few things you can do right now to start making traction.
Your Goal for 2012: Work For Myself
Diagnose the Bug
Entrepreneurs always talk about how they agreeably work 80 hour weeks, never take a day off, deplete their savings accounts, and ruin their interpersonal relationships, all in the pursuit of success. But why? Certainly not everyone ends up in those scenarios, but entrepreneurs live each day with a constant fire burning within them to see their vision materialize. They possess a unique motivation that drives them to extremes because they are so damn passionate about “their baby”, their idea or creation that they’ve worked long and hard to develop. It is a condition, and it can be easily recognized and diagnosed. But one thing it can’t be is faked, and you have to go into it with the right intentions and motivations.
Successful entrepreneurs become such because they have talent, passion and dedication around what they do, and they love to be involved in their businesses and watch them grow. They’re often terrible at work-life balance, but it’s because they enjoy their work so much that it’s naturally engrained with who they are on a personal and creative level. And that’s amazing! But starting a business shouldn’t be your answer to unemployment, job dissatisfaction, or simply not knowing what to next. There’s a big difference between wanting to change jobs, and wanting to change careers. Know your own motivations for change, get completely clear on WHY you want to pursue this new career endeavor, and then…
Commit to the Entrepreneurial Lifestyle
The first step in starting a business is knowing 100% that it’s what you want to do, and I’m not talking about your idea so much as the commitment to living the lifestyle of an entrepreneur. Because you can change ideas quickly, but you have commit to a long, potentially hard period of long days, working weekends, living on a shoestring budget, turning down social engagements because you’re tired/broke/working, and being your own biggest fan if you’re going to see anything materialize. Sure, you can “give a try and see what happens”, but that attitude to me represents a mediocre level of commitment, and in my experience that almost always leads to giving up or burning out. You don’t “try” entrepreneurship. You live, eat, sleep and breath it, because you love your idea so hard, you absolutely refuse to fail.
Create an Exit Strategy
So you’re ready to make the jump and give it your all? Good for you! Now you just have to figure out how you’re going to get through the next 12-24 months, otherwise known as the typical startup cycle. When I talk about creating an exit strategy, it most resonates with those currently in full time jobs who want to leave to start their business, or scale back to work in their business part-time. You are essentially exiting one situation to transition into the next, and a lot of careful planning and consideration goes into this stage. This is where you take a good, hard look at your finances, your talents, your connections and what you truly want your business to be, because the exit strategy is about figuring out how you’re going to go from wherever you are, to creating a sustainable business venture that works for you financially, personally and professionally.
How much money will you need to save up? Where will that money come from? What are your initial one-time and recurring startup expenses that you need to plan for? Who do you have in your support network who will be there for you to help you through this transition, and support your goals? I talk more about the actual how-to of creating your exit strategy here.
Do a Little Role Playing
Via a recent poll conducted by the good folks at Under30CEO, one of the biggest roadblocks for young entrepreneurs in starting their businesses is feeling like they lack the appropriate knowledge to get started. While you will need to do all of the research later on as you formulate a formal business plan (and especially if you plan to seek out funding), the first thing you need to be sure of is that your idea even has market potential. You can research the hell out of your competition, target audience and marketing channels, but if your potential clients don’t see the value in your product or service, you’re dead out of the gate. We’ll talk more on this topic later, but put yourself smack in your potential customer’s shoes, and then ask yourself, “Would YOU want what you have to offer?” Why?
Starting with knowing your target audience is a good place to begin because by knowing who you want to sell to, you can determine why they need what you have to offer, and what would compel them to buy it. But be wary – even if there is an obvious need in the market, are there already a million other products out there catering to it? Is there already a monopoly in the market that’s going to be near impossible to break into? While the world appreciates the communication benefits of social media, we don’t need another Facebook. Understand the value proposition of what you plan to put out there. Some food for thought:
- What challenge, need, lack or opportunity exists out there to which my product or service speaks?
- If that challenge, need or lack is satisfied, how will my audience’s life be changed for the better?
- What’s unique about my product or service that my audience would find fresh and attractive?
One of the biggest perks of being an entrepreneur and working for yourself is having a business that allows you choose the type of work you enjoy doing, work with people you enjoy helping, and create a schedule and workflow that best supports you. Having the passion and commitment to be an entrepreneur is relatively easy… sustaining it is the hard part, but you can start to position yourself for success by taking it one strategic step at a time.
WHAT NEXT? We’re launching a brand new, super in-depth Small Biz Startup E-Course for aspiring and budding entrepreneurs designed to interactively walk you through each step of the startup process. This is your entrepreneurial bootcamp people, I’m your entrepreneurial wing woman, and together we’re making #@%$ happen!