10 Things to Do Before You Start Your Own Business

BlogHer Original Post

So, you're sitting in your cubicle feeling trapped and thinking, "I just want to get the heck outta here and start my own business." That can be a liberating feeling. I've been there. That said, just hating your job is not a strategy, and you really do want to get some things in order -- on the inside (of you) and the outside -- before you make the leap. So, if you only do 10 things before you make the career transition from employee to entrepreneur ... do these.

1) Get Clear on "It"
A life plan always comes before a business plan.  Otherwise you'll find yourself at the whims of everything else feeling just as awful as you did in your cubicle.  Know what you want and why you want it.  An excellent resource for making the leap consciously is the book and the blog of Pamela Slim at Escape from Cubicle Nation. I was a disciple of her blog when I was still in the cube, and I continue to learn from her excellent wisdom.  I am also a HUGE fan of using Laura Berman Fortgang's work "Now What?® 90 Days to a New Life Direction" as a means for defining your life purpose (sounds hefty, and it is, but the process doesn't have to FEEL heavy), getting clear on "it," and then moving forward fast in that direction. (On the disclaimer side, I am an authorized facilitator of her work -- but I truly wouldn't mention it if it hadn't changed my life and those of my clients.)

2) Determine If Self-Employment Is for You
It can feel great to say you're going to be your own boss when you're in the grips of a bad job.  And, being your own boss can be a most satisfying and successful journey.  That said, it all looks and feels a little different than that fantasy moment by the corporate water cooler when you're figuring out your billing system, creating a marketing plan, handling client relations, and running to Staples for office supplies at the last minute. Check out "Are You Cut Out To Be Your Own Boss?" and "Self Employment: The Hardest Way to Make Easy Money" by Karyn Greenstreet. It'll get you thinking deeply about your own situation.

3) Have THE Conversation
If there's more than just you (and your furry friends) in your household, you truly need to have the conversation BEFORE you make the leap.  Truly get others on board. A drastic change in schedule and income (yes, both do happen when you start a business!) are inevitable at least for the short-term.  Ensure that you have the support of those you love who live with and depend on you.   Talk about their concerns and fears, as well.  You want to be on the same page before you hang out your shingle so you can work out expectations, relationship, and financial concerns.

4) Get Your Finances in Order
You need a cash cushion to start a business.  Most businesses fail because they run out of cash.  I recently interviewed Melinda Emerson, the "SmallbizLady." (Listen to our conversation.) Her opinion was to have at least 12-24 months of cash on hand to pay all your personal expenses.  That is a lot of money for most folks.  You want to have all your debt and fixed expenses pared down to the bare minimum to give yourself time and opportunity to succeed.  The Money Coach gives some great advice on starting your own business, as well. Remember you want your business to serve you, not sink you.  Get your own finances in order before you start a business.  This includes any legal or financial documents and records you need to have in place but keep putting off.

5) Get Your Personal Life in Order
Starting a business is challenging enough, but if you don't have a strong personal foundation in place, you are doomed to failure.  Much like you cleaned up your financial life, do the same with your personal life.  Get organized, clear clutter, nurture relationships (including with yourself), and take fine care of yourself and your surroundings.  Consider these "5 Strategies for Life Success - Alanis Morissette" or the excellent books Take Time for Your Life and The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson as a place to start.

6) Start Networking Now
Your network is your net worth.  Regardless of whether you make the leap ultimately or not, you need to network for professional success.  Get started networking today and meet people. Get in touch with old colleagues and friends.  Attend business meetings and conferences.  Strike up conversations with people you meet.  Now is the time to get comfortable with it.  Enjoy this post "Networking: It's all the Rage" for a personal look into the art of networking.

7) Start Your Business "on the Side"
Starting your business while you're still employed is a wonderful way to get started, test the waters, and actually immerse yourself into being a business owner without leaving the paycheck behind.  It takes time for a business to get off the ground, so why not till the soil early, while you're still in the discovery phase?  Do a little freelancing. Dabble in the different things you're considering. There is no way to truly know what it is like than to do it.

8) Feed a Voracious Appetite for Learning
Learn as much as you can.  As an entrepreneur, constant learning is your constant companion.  Read books -- there are a myriad of excellent business books out there.  Conduct informational interviews. That's right, interview people who are doing what you want to be doing and learn from them what it is like.  Ask if you can shadow them for a day, if appropriate.  People love to share their experiences and lessons learned.  It is the best way to learn the ropes before you jump in.

9) Set Strong Boundaries
You'll need them at your current job and you'll certainly need them once you own your business.  As the Chief Everything Officer, you could literally work 24X7.  However that is the direct route to failure and burnout.  Honor yourself, your work, and others by setting and enforcing healthy boundaries. Mom Works at Home has 8 Tips on How to Be More Effective Working From Home and Walking Barefoot talks about "Re-Establishing Boundaries".  Setting your boundaries is about self-respect. Remember you teach others how to treat you. 

10) Have Fun and Enjoy the Adventure
By all means enjoy the journey.  Take time away from your pursuit.  Bask in today.  Whether your choose to leap or choose to stay, change jobs, or start your own business, you will still be you.  Your business may flourish right away, or it might take years.  Or, you might fail.  No matter what happens your life is meant to be lived in the here and now.  Don't forget that and be sure to take a sense of curiosity, fun, and adventure on your way.


Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, offers life and career coaching for women to help you break through your limitations so you can re-ignite freedom and a sense of adventure in your life. Get the free eCourse "5 Steps to Move from Fear to Freedom & Experience Greater Confidence" at her website.

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