Wondering whether you're ready to go out on your own and start a business? I did a little research to see what entrepreneurs had to say on the topic. Then I combined it with my own experience and got a little creative.
Here's a flowchart that walks you through all the questions you need to ask yourself when deciding whether you're ready to take the leap:
Your "why" is just as important as the "what" and the "how". Entrepreneurs tend to work long hours for little reward in the beginning, so this job takes conviction. You have to know why you're doing it. Maybe it's to change the world, or to help people, or to provide for your family. Whatever it is, know your "why". And let that reason fuel you to the degree that starting your own business doesn't even feel optional anymore.
If you’re a goal-oriented person, you’ll have an easier time as an entrepreneur. It’s incredibly valuable to have a long-term vision with SMART goals. Without goals, and a way to track your progress, you're in the wilderness without a map. And your business may suffer as a result.
Lots of people are, and some of them are able to cash out. But on the whole, entrepreneurship is a long-game. You'll probably be building and growing your business for years to come. And the most important assets, like your audience, usually take time.
It’s pretty difficult to start a successful business if you’re unwilling to spread the word. But I get it. I know many introverted founders who really struggle with marketing — myself included. If talking about your product isn’t for you, then you’ll need to find an extroverted cofounder or hire a freelancer to do it for you. Better yet, you may have to push yourself and learn how to do it. Oh, and if you don't have an idea yet, check out this article.
According to research, 21% of startups fail in the first year, 50% in the fifth year, and 70% in the tenth year. And that's including companies with lots of investment and resources. Needless to say, the odds aren't great and it's very possible that you'll fail. Are you okay with that? While you're at it, check in about succeeding too. It might seem odd, but a lot of us are afraid to succeed, so we sabotage ourselves. It's important to get comfortable with both winning and losing.
Family, friends, cofounders, neighbors, even acquaintances online (I see you, IH community) — it's incredibly helpful to have people there to support you if things get tough. If you don't have that yet, try to find it where you can. Reach out to people. And if you just can't find support, maybe you can at least find some comfort in stories about what other entrepreneurs went through (or are going through).
If you're considering being an entrepreneur, then I assume you are. Going out on your own requires a huge amount of motivation. No one is telling you what to do or patting you on the back for doing it right. It's up to you to get up and go.
Before you quit your job, most experts advise saving a minimum of 6 months worth of runway. A year is better. And you also need to have the time and energy to do it.
Business experience is not required to start a business — you'll learn as you go. But the more experience and knowledge you have in your chosen industry, the better. Marketing know-how is huge too, as is any technical experience.
I know you've seen people do it, so you know it's possible. But do you really, truly believe it's possible for you? If you don't, you'll probably prove that it isn't. Immerse yourself in the world of entrepreneurship until this crazy lifestyle is just plain old ordinary.
The time, money, and energy that I mentioned earlier need to be used efficiently, and that takes discipline. Can you make the most of your time? How far can you stretch your money? Do you know how to prioritize where you put your energy? These skills are vital for entrepreneurs.
You can start a company at any time. But if your life is in flux, it might be best to wait until things settle down. It's important to give yourself the best chance of success. Of course, if your life always seems a little crazy, then you might just have to go ahead and get started anyway.
Like I said, a lot of new businesses fail. And failing means a lot of time, energy, and money down the drain. Are you aware of the risks? My advice is to take a page from the book of Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) and set things up so that even when you fail, you win. The easiest way to do that is to start a project that will help you learn what you need to know, regardless of the outcome. And get good comfy with the idea of taking (calculated) risks.
As an entrepreneur, you've gotta be open to learning from others. But you also need to be 100% okay disregarding what everyone else has to say. It's a balancing act. So if you didn't make it all the way through the flowchart, but you're undeterred, then hats off to you. Good luck!
These are the questions you may want to ask yourself when you’re considering whether you have what it takes to wear the many hats of an entrepreneur. If you make it through the flow chart, it doesn’t mean that your idea is ready. It means that you (probably) have what it takes. Before you actually start, you’ll want to validate your idea, and that’s a whole other ball of wax. For more on that, check out my post on validation.
Anything I missed?