Diving into Entrepreneurship? Start in the Shallow End
I talk with a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs who are interested in being their own boss but wonder if they “have what it takes.” I always answer the question the same way: Of course they do. Anyone can be an entrepreneur. Really, all it takes is perseverance and a willingness to learn.
Still, it can feel daunting to know where to get started—especially with hyped-up language like “leap of faith” and “take the plunge.” But guess what? Entrepreneurship has a shallow end, and it’s perfectly fine to wade in there as long as you’d like. There’s no need to incur a lot of risk or endure a lot of anxiety. There are plenty of ways to ease into the transition, experiment, and move slowly. In fact, doing so will likely help you gain the confidence, information, and resources you need to be even more successful.
So if you’re interested in running your own show at any point in the future, here are five easy, small, and safe things you can do (starting this week!) to stick a toe in the water.
1. Make a New Connection
How many entrepreneurs or small business owners do you know? Probably not enough. It’s easy to romanticize and exaggerate the realities (both good and bad) of entrepreneurship when you don’t get to see anyone doing it up close and personal. You can demystify the experience by connecting with someone new who will give you the scoop on what it’s really like. Even if you already know a few folks who are self-employed, widen your circle. Ask your friends or colleagues to introduce you to someone who has started a business in the last couple of years. Chances are, the more entrepreneurs you know, the more confident you’ll be about trying it yourself. After all, if they can do it, why can’t you?
2. Find Inspiration
All entrepreneurs, even aspiring ones, need idols—other business owners to look to for inspiration and motivation. It’s great to know about businesses similar to the one you want to start, but it’s even better to become a fan of companies outside your industry that can help you think about things a different way.
Once you’ve picked a few, think about what drew you to them in the first place. What’s their appeal? What do they do well? What do you admire and wish you could emulate? Challenge yourself to think about how you can apply some of those tactics and strategies to your own venture. It’ll help you think more broadly about business, and get away from only focusing on the particularities of your market. This kind of transferrable learning will give you an instant leg up once you decide to get going.
3. Write a Mini-Manifesto
Starting any kind of business requires a clear sense of purpose and a strong vision. Carve out a disruption-free half hour to do some brainstorming. Take out a blank piece of paper and finish the following sentences:
Going through this exercise will not only get you thinking about your goals—it will get you excited about acting on them, too.
4. Get Educated
There are dozens of wonderful entrepreneurial communities and opportunities for learning. But if you’re not ready to make an investment or long-term commitment just yet, then take advantage of some of the high-quality, free educational resources online.
Etsy has a whole slew of informative and inspiring videos and the blog Design*Sponge has a tremendously helpful Biz Ladies section full of detailed posts on a bevy of small business skills and topics. Pick a couple of blogs and websites that provide palatable, motivating, and unintimidating information and follow them. If you want to go one step further, find a fun live class to attend.
5. Take One Small Strong Step
Progress is all about taking small steps regularly. So this week, commit to taking doing one concrete thing to move yourself forward. Perhaps you want to register a domain name or Twitter account, draft a one paragraph business plan, or research a particular resource you may need. Action begets action, and momentum is powerful. The more you’ve done, the more “official” you will feel. And pretty soon, you’ll find yourself eager for deeper waters.
Photo courtesy of flattop341.
About The Author
Adelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, consultant, speaker, and co-author of The Big Enough Company: Creating a business that works for you (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center, and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and writes The Big Enough Company blog for Forbes.com. She lives in St. Louis, MO with her husband, daughter, and son. You can follow her on Twitter here and here and on Facebook too.