Some time ago, I quit my safe, cool, corporate job to pursue a freelance career as a life coach. This meant that I completely changed not only my lifestyle (9-5 vs. Who knows?) but also my area of expertise. Many people around me were shocked. But the ones who knew me a little bit better know that even though my switch seemed to happen overnight, in reality, it had been a longer process.
I’m getting a lot of questions from enthusiastic people who would like to make a transition in their life – How did I make the change? How did I start my own business? – And these questions are usually not about the operational side of starting one’s own business – they are more about How to make the step towards the unknown? How can I be sure it is the right thing for me to do?
I will reveal the spoilers right away: There is no universal recipe and you will not be sure. But the good part is that if you overcome your fears and find the way to do it, it will be a huge test of your commitment and resilience. You will learn a lot about yourself. And as a bonus, when you get old, you will not keep telling yourself you should have done it back then!
To me, personally, this sounds like a fair deal. Does it strike a chord with you, too? Here are some of my “ingredients” you might find useful to incorporate into your recipe for starting your own business or simply making a radical change in your career or life.
- Know your values
We all have dreams. If I could have a goat farm! My dream is to run my own cafe and bakery! I would like to be promoted to become a manager! All dreams are beautiful and if you feel that this is what you want. But do you know what is behind your dreams? What would you like about your own cafe or a goat farm or being a manager? How would your day look like? What would you like your impact to be?
The thing is, many people dream about the idea of their dream, but not really about the day-to-day living of that dream. That’s why it is important to know what is really driving you as a person, what matters to you. Be honest with yourself:
- Do you want to run your goat farm because you are tired of people or do you really love taking care of goats and selling healthy goat milk products (surprise: to people!)?
- Do you love the idea of entering your own cafe, sitting around and chatting with people or do you like coffee, managing people and working hard to deliver quality?
- Do you think you “deserve” to be promoted to a managing position after 3 years of hard work in an operational role or do you find fulfillment in helping the growth of other people?
To make it clear: There is nothing wrong with whatever your answer is. What is important is whether your future choice is based on what REALLY matters to you – otherwise you might be disappointed.
2. Know your losses and gains
There is this amazing book by therapist, Lori Gottlieb, and this is my favorite quote from the book:
“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want to change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”
Yes, don’t we all want to have it all? But it is not always possible. What is possible, though, is to make conscious choices. Is the part that we don’t want to lose truly important to us or is it just the fear of the unknown that is holding us back?
Even not changing anything is a choice. If you would like my tips about how to make conscious choices, check my previous article.
3. Know your strengths and weaknesses
Perhaps you hate accounting. Or making phone calls. Just because you love what you do, the resistance towards some things might not go away. Are you ready to deal with that?
If you love socializing in an open-space or making presentations in front of big crowds, you might miss it after you become a freelance writer. How are you going to take care of yourself and incorporate the things you will miss into your new lifestyle?
4. Make a “dry” try-out
Quitting your stable job can be super-frightening if you only have an idea of what you want to do, but don’t really know how it would look like and whether you can attract customers. That’s why it can be very helpful if you start working on your business idea on the side. It does not necessarily mean that you have to invest a lot of your time and money into this beginning – maybe you can start doing a course related to your desired area and/or find one or two clients, offer them lower rates as a compensation for your limited time flexibility and in return for their honest feedback and your first client testimonials?
This way you get hands-on experience on how your life would look like and you will not feel as a rookie once you start running your business full-time (should you decide to do so).
5. Be creative in creating your path
Are you sure you want to start working on your business idea but you think you simply can’t, because you don’t have the time, resources, and energy or you think it is not possible in the place where you live?
Get creative! You know what is important for you about your new path and what are the attributes that you don’t want to let go of. What is the part which you are willing to be flexible with? What part can you let go of and what could you do instead?
- Maybe you want to start working 4 days a week instead of 5 to get one day a week focused on your business?
- Maybe you could offer your services as your own project within your current job (and eventually let your employer pay for the courses related to your project)?
- Maybe you want to start working as a volunteer in your dream area to learn more about the subject?
And now forget all these examples and create you own 🙂
6. Stay connected
Ok, you have started your side hustle and shared it with your friends and family. Now starts the tough part: Some people will be very supportive but others may start questioning your idea: What if you are just wasting your time and money? What if it will not work out? What if you will miss out on opportunities in your “real” job when splitting your attention? These people usually mean well; they want to protect you from disappointment. How nice, right?
It is important to remember that you don’t need to be reminded of the risks you are taking. You are aware of them. You have thought about your idea for a long time and there were valid reasons why you started to think about it in the first place. In other words, you are aware of your losses and gains. And as long as you know your values behind your vision and your gains are bigger than your losses, don’t let others project their own fears onto you. Appreciate their concerns and move on.
7. Tell everyone else and start building your network
Spread the word about what you are up to. I know this might be a difficult one. You are just slowly starting. You don’t want to brag. You don’t even know if it will work out. But this part is important. It will help you to get your first clients, some constructive feedback and to start building your network of both like-minded people who are working on something similar, or people who will become your biggest cheerleaders and will promote you further.
Furthermore, it will help your business to become more “real”, it will enable you to start taking yourself and your vision really seriously. And that is equally important! So go ahead and print some business cards!
8. Get ready for failure
You will fail. That does not mean you are not supposed to run your own business. But it is important to be prepared that things will not go the way you expect them to go. You will get rejections from clients, your impostor syndrome might paralyze you at times, maybe you will invest in a marketing tool that will not work at all… This is all part of the process. It is important to stay open-minded and see those failures as learning opportunities, all of them! Even that random mean email from a complete stranger laughing at a typo on your website can be a great opportunity to exercise your muscle of “letting go” and give your inner perfectionist a nice break.
9. Keep going, step by step
In the beginning, it is not so important how much you achieve every month as it is whether you do at least something very small every week. It can be just sending one email, making an adjustment on your website, brainstorming on ideas or reading a book related to your field or entrepreneurship – just keep moving, one step at a time. It might feel like you are not doing anything, but you will be surprised how much you will see yourself grow in 6 months! It is a great way to stay motivated, connected to your vision and keep it alive.
10. Give yourself a green light!
You have been running your business on the side for a while and you really enjoy it! You have your first clients, your website has a couple of testimonials. You have a network in your area of expertise. You have confidence in your skills and commitment. You have decided that you want to do this full-time.
Important question: When is it the right time to actually quit your job?
Although it’s important to have a financial cushion at the beginning, don’t forget that there might never be the “right” moment to quit your job. There might never be “enough” money on your bank account to make you feel completely safe. You will never have the guarantee that you will have enough clients when you start. You might never feel ready, qualified enough, confident or good enough to be 100% sure you can do it. And that’s ok. It will be scary and it is supposed to be that way.
If you decide to give yourself some more time to get ready, make sure that this time is really used for getting closer to your vision, for example, building your website, finishing a certification, saving a little bit more money. Just waiting “for the right moment” will probably not help, in fact it might have the opposite effect as your self-sabotaging inner voice might get louder.
If your vision is to run your own business full-time and you are not getting anywhere closer to your vision by staying where you are, it is probably the right time for you to make the big step and celebrate it.
How does this sound to you? Does it sound scary and exciting in a good way? Don’t wait until the opportunity will knock on your door while you sleep. Create it. You don’t need to be the best, the most impressive and most experienced to deserve following your dream. What you need, though, is courage and self-awareness. If you are not sure where to start, a professional life or career coach (just like myself) can help you create your vision, get you on the right track and help you stick to your goal.
Now just let it sink in. A different life really is possible. It is never too late.
Do you have any additional questions or feedback for me? Please feel free to reach out!
This article was originally published on Medium.