Taking the first step to becoming an online entrepreneur, breaking the shackles of the 9 to 5 and forging your own way, both financially and personally, is a daunting task.
I for one struggled with it for years, always wanting to do my own thing, but never quite finding the momentum, or the right idea or if I’m truly honest, the courage.
Looking back though, I can say that not one of my excuses, including the lack of courage, was valid. Not one!
It isn’t an easy journey to be self-employed; in fact it’s tough, with plenty of difficult decisions, soul searching and risk taking involved.
I wanted to pay it forward and hopefully help you out, whether you are just toying with the idea of making it on your own, or have just started on your journey.
This three part series will cover different ideas, issues and considerations that you should take, learned from both my experience with becoming a self-employed online entrepreneur as well as drawing on the experiences of entrepreneurs in general.
Let me be honest though, I am no Bill Gates. My successes have been limited and I feel that I am very much still at the beginning of my journey. Hopefully some of what I can impart will resonate with you and help you make some of the choices that will occur before your start, when you start, and even after you’re well on your way to being a successful online business person.
Failing Before You Even Begin
While you may want to become self-employed, while you may want to change your life financially and personally, you won’t.
In fact most people who have this dream will do nothing about it; they will fail before they even begin.
Why do people fail without starting? The main reason is fear, specifically the fear of failure.
- I’m scared I will fail.
- My idea isn’t good enough.
- What if no one wants my product/service?
- I don’t know how to run a business!
- I need a secure wage to support my family
These are just a few of the more popular excuses you will hear if you ask a potential entrepreneur what is holding them back.
You yourself may have thought similar things, or maybe some other reason to stop you from taking the plunge, so let’s look at these fears.
I’m scared I will fail.
Well guess what? You will fail. You might only fail at minor things, every so often or you might fail spectacularly or somewhere in between. We all fail, even success entrepreneurs have had their setbacks and will have set backs in the future.
How do you know? Who have you asked? No idea is bad until you prove that it’s bad. This is where doing decent research prior to diving into the project is beneficial.
I, for one, have failed to do this a number of times and felt the consequences financially and mentally when the product failed to take off or sell.
There’s nothing worse than launching something and feeling the virtual dust balls blow by.
But it takes more than that asking your friends and family what they think; you need to get out there and ask your potential customers.
Survey potential businesses that might benefit from your product, just pick up the phone and call them!
If it’s something the general public might go for, get yourself to a mall and ask people.
You couldn’t pay for better feedback, and yes it will take some work and some guts, especially if you are not keen on talking to strangers. It will pay off in the long run.
If you find that 10 – 15 people or businesses give positive feedback, then you have something worthwhile to pursue.
I don’t know how to run a business!
Then learn! Getting started doesn’t take much; though it differs from place to place the basics are the same.
I can’t say enough that once you have some income coming in, get yourself a bookkeeper or Certified Public Accountant. It will save you a ton of headaches if you’re not minded towards accountancy stuff and, even if you are, it will free up some time.
There is a wide variety of business advice available, online, in book format, and in person via your local chamber of commerce and similar organizations.
I need a secure wage to support my family.
This is by far the hardest fear to settle, because if you have a family it’s becomes not just your risk, but your spouse’s risk, and your child’s risk.
The best advice I can give here is twofold: research and communication.
As mentioned, research your idea, test the market and make sure that you have mitigated the risks as best you can.
Talk to your spouse/partner/significant other, tell them about your ideas, and tell them about what research you have done. Listen to their fears and worries and their advice. Ideally, you need their support, and love because the road ahead won’t be easy. Having support from your nearest and dearest is vital.
No matter whether you’re single, married, have kids or don’t you need to take baby steps at first. Turn off the TV, use your time wisely and all of a sudden you have enough time to get started on your dream business while still slogging at the nine to five. It will be hard work, but it will mitigate your risks.
Perfection is Pointless
Have you ever planned something, drawn it out to almost perfection, but then started fiddling with it? Did it ever feel ready?
It doesn’t matter whether it is a piece of writing, a physical product or something you coded up, if you don’t release it to the world at large you will never know if it’s a success or not and whether you can really become your own boss.
Expanding on the previous point of doing your market research, if you are creating a product you need to create something called an MVP or Minimum Viable Product.
At its essence this just means make something that is basic but does what you had planned and release it!
It doesn’t need bells, whistles or shiny things. It needs people. It needs customers.
If your idea is good (and the research will help you decide if it is or not) then people will buy it, even if it is rough and ready. These “early adopters” are your paying beta testers. They will tell you what’s right and what’s wrong with it so that you can iterate and produce a better and better product.
While traditional product development has you getting it as right as possible before launching, using an MVP will help you get the product out faster and importantly learn what is right and wrong with it, enabling you to correct mistakes and add in desired elements or features.
It also has the benefit of helping you keep costs down, because you can see whether it has potential without sinking too much time and money into the project.
The moral of this is to make something to an OK or good standard and release it. Never keep hold of something because you are scared that it isn’t perfect. Nothing is and you will be surprised how customers can handle imperfection so long as the product or service meets a need.
Becoming an entrepreneur is a risk and scary, but risks can be managed and reduced through careful planning and research, and when risks are reduced fear goes down too.
You can’t completely eliminate risk. Hell, buying a new piece of technology is a risk (Betamax anyone? Laser discs?). You can most definitely limit its impact on your life and finances though.
Once you realize that risk and failure is just a part of trying to better the world and your life with the next big (or even just little) thing, then you will know that failure happens, and to bounce back from that failure and keep trying!
The bottom line is that if you want to be an entrepreneur then follow the mantra of JFDI – Just F*****g Do It!
Take action, do research, communicate with your family and take action again!