Like anything else in life, business ownership comes with ups and downs. But an entrepreneurial spirit can help you see ways around obstacles and reduce downsides of owning your own business. Entrepreneurs see opportunity where others see risk — often because they take steps to manage risk or because they define risk in different ways. If you’re considering entrepreneurship, you can follow in the footsteps of other successful business owners and work to overcome obstacles in your path.
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Put together a marketing plan, budget, emergency fund and contingency fund before you start consulting. Consider moonlighting while you work at your day job or at least take on a second job while you’re ramping up your business. You can also plan for multiple streams of income.
Start with your end goals in mind. Define measurable SMART goals. People start businesses for a range of reasons — financial, independence, lifestyle and other reasons. If you know why you’re running a business, it will be easier to tell if you’re succeeding.
Although many businesses close up after a few years, keep in mind that many people simply transition to new opportunities. For example, some people choose to run a business during college, while their kids are small, while caring for an ill family member, as they move into retirement or until they realize they prefer working for someone else.
Others would rather have ups and downs in their business income than be at the whim of an employer who could fire them at will or issue a mass layoff in a bad economy.
Set Boundaries and Build a Business, Not a Job
Many self-employed people work during vacations, evenings and weekends — but so do many employees. Some self-employed people set strict boundaries around work time, so that they can still have a personal life. Doing so right from the start is healthy — no matter if you’re self employed or working for someone else. Most people know people with regular jobs who work too many hours, too! And, if you aim to build a business — something that can run without you working in the business full-time — you may find that you gain more control.
Surround Yourself with Good People
Running a business can be hard work. So build strong relationships with other professionals, such as accountants, lawyers, consultants, freelancers and even mentors. Tap into resources such as entrepreneur programs, books, online communities, mentorship programs, courses and trade associations.
Rather than keeping up with every topic, seek out expert advice. Focus on your core competencies and bring in others to help you. Document everything and create operating plans, so that you can capture the knowledge. Work on establishing procedures, processes and systems, so that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Celebrate Milestones and Create Traditions
Set goals — and celebrate them. Take time to cherish your successes, whether it’s that you landed your first customer or finally published a brochure on your services. One small IT firm used to ring a gong every time they got a new customer. Another toasted new sales with champagne. Still another saw the CEO ring a bell to draw everyone together so that they could let out three cheers.
There’s a reason humans celebrate holidays with rituals and traditions – it’s fun and builds community. Even if you’re working on your own, you can still celebrate successes with clients, partners, vendors, friends or family.
People start and run businesses for a variety of reasons. Figuring out your own goals and putting a plan in place can go a long way in building your success as an entrepreneur. Taking the time to work out solutions to possible problems can help you build a more successful enterprise. In the end, any path you choose involves risk, whether you stay in a nine to five job for 40 years or chuck it all for entrepreneurship. Not every risk is a risk for everyone.
Andréa Coutu has grown Trustmode Marketing from a freelance business to a strategic management consulting firm with multiple contractors. She blogs about her 15 years of entrepreneurship and consulting experience at Consultant Journal and has written an ebook on fees and pay for independent consultants.