There comes a time in every side hustler‘s life when they must make an important decision: continue to balance my project with a traditional “9-5” or put in my notice and pursue entrepreneurship full-time? Unless an outside circumstance forces you into self-employment, it’s a decision that should be handled with the utmost care. Knowing how to transition from employee to business owner starts with knowing exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Who better to provide expert advice than someone who actually did it?
Fresh Chemistry CEO Nisha Dearborn spent almost ten years as a Johnson & Johnson executive before leaving the corporate world (and New York City) to build her skincare brand in Maine. It was there that she crafted her unique product: skincare sets that empower the customer to activate their products at home, thus ensuring that they get the most potent and effective version of their investment.
It was inevitable that Dearborn would get a crash course in the demands and rewards of entrepreneurship during her transition too. Now that she’s on the other side, here are some starter tips she wants budding solopreneurs to keep in mind, whether they’re weighing their options or have already taken the plunge.
Entrepreneurship and traditional work (the “9-5”) aren’t competing ideas.
One is definitely not better than the other! It depends on your risk appetite, both financially and in everyday decision-making. It also depends on your purpose and what is driving your work. For some, the impact they want to have can be achieved in a corporate environment, and some have to forge their own path.
I do see enough examples to say that entrepreneurial roles tend to stretch you in ways a corporate job would not. In my opinion, this is ultimately more fulfilling because of the risks taken and the lessons learned. But it certainly isn’t for everyone, and one is not better than the other.
Make sure you’re ready to supervise yourself.
What I tell aspiring entrepreneurs is that the difference between a corporate job and entrepreneurship parallels the difference between being in high school and going to college. In high school, your parents are there to set guidelines and expectations. As you mature, you gain more freedom and thus are able to make your own decisions. Yet, there is a baseline of security with this: your parents provide your home, your food, and even your laundry. This is like being in a corporate job. Senior management sets the guidelines, and your job is to exceed the given expectations. As long as you’re doing that, your autonomy increases, and your salary and other benefits are secure.
Making the jump to entrepreneurship is like going off to college. You’re entirely on your own. The expectations to meet academic requirements are the same, but now you also have to find food, forge relationships, and manage your finances independently. Entrepreneurship is what you make of it, and it’s all up to you. However, there is another similarity—once you experience the independence of college, you can’t imagine going back to high school, right? The same is true for entrepreneurship.
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You have to actually love what you’re selling.
When you set out to start a business, you have to truly believe in the mission of your company. You have to have passion around solving the problem for your consumers, and a belief that your solution is better than the competition. If you start with that, the confidence will come naturally, and even better, it will be authentic.
Knowing your why will make self-care easier.
Self-care is always important. Whether you are transitioning within your career or handling the challenges that inevitably come with any job, finding time for yourself is key. I’d like to say it’s as easy as finding some balance between time with friends and spoiling yourself that offsets the job stress. In reality, I have found the only thing that works is much harder than that: conscientiously identifying your purpose within your career and focusing only on what you can control to further that mission.
Oftentimes, the stress comes due to conflicting external demands with a lack of control that makes you feel like you’re the rope in a game of tug o’ war! Instead, you have to focus on what you can gain from this experience, which will help renew your energy to get through it.
Prepare before you plunge.
Truthfully, I don’t know if I ever would have left my corporate job for entrepreneurship on my own. In my case, a combination of being close to family and my husband’s job drew us to Maine. The time between first considering this move and actually moving was only a few months! So the transition out of my traditional job was pretty abrupt, but I’ve always been a believer in ripping the bandaid off quickly.
After deciding to move, working for myself was the next logical step. This is probably the only way I
would have done it since the thought had always scared me. If you’re in a traditional job and considering working for yourself, I think you should set aside three months’ time and spend your nights and weekends figuring out how you’d set up your business—while you’re still in your day job.
Do the research, talk to people, get some ideas down on paper. If you find something that really motivates you, it will give you the confidence to take the plunge. And if not, you can take the next three months and try again. Or, you can follow my lead—be open to life experiences that force you into entrepreneurship. It’s like being thrown in the deep end, but it is one way to get over your fear and learn to swim.
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