Do you ever dream about how to start your own business and become your own boss? Years of staring at gray cubicle walls and commuting to the office is enough to drive most people to want a change, but few take the steps to make it happen.
After staring at my own grey cubicle walls for a decade, I knew I was ready to take the plunge. But it didn’t happen overnight. It tooks years of hard work to turn my side hustle into a full-time job. And I learned a lot along the way.
If you are looking for help and want to know how to start your own business, read on to learn how to work for yourself.
How to start your own business
1. Find an idea
In The $100 Startup, author Chris Guillebeau shares stories of people who started lifestyle-sustaining businesses for under $1,000 — sometimes as little as $100. Even though it doesn’t have to require a ton of capital up front, he does caution that aspiring entrepreneurs need the right elements in place for their businesses to really work.
When brainstorming a business idea, make sure it has the following:
- A product or service that fills a need
- A way to deliver that product or service to people who would really pay for it
Essentially, that’s all you really need to start a business: something to sell, someone to buy it, and a way to deliver the product or service.
But working for yourself takes more than an idea. It also requires initiative and some hard work.
2. Start small
My full-time freelance writing and website development business didn’t pay enough to cover my living expenses during the first year … or the second year. I didn’t even consider leaving my day job until about year five.
For most people with a full-time job, diving in and starting a new business full-time is too big of a financial risk, particularly if you are paying off student loans. Instead, you can do what I did and start small, working up to a full-time income.
Between evenings and weekends, most cubicle dwellers can find plenty of time to work on a small, growing business. If you focus and stick with it, you are also giving the business a good test to see if you enjoy it and whether or not it has the potential to succeed.
3. Focus on what works
In The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss discusses the 80/20 rule, also known as “The Pareto Principle.” The basic idea is simple: In most cases, 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. The remaining 20 percent of your results comes from 80 percent of the work you put in. This is an amazing and important concept for any side-hustler to understand.
When working on your business, you may find that one thing you do works really, really well. Other ideas, ones that you may find brilliant, could completely flop. If you want to work for yourself full-time, you need to take emotion out of the equation and look objectively at what is working and what isn’t.
Find what works, repeat. Find what doesn’t work, stop doing it.
4. Grow thoughtfully
Entrepreneur Pat Flynn earns well over a million dollars each year with his business, but that didn’t happen accidently. It took years of intentional effort, hustle, and a strategy.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is more than a cliche interview question. Really — ask yourself: Where do you see yourself in five years? If you already have an idea or growing side business, where do you see that in five years?
Just like Flynn, your business won’t grow if you stumble through it. While you’ll probably experience a serendipitous occasion from time to time, you still need a solid business plan to achieve your goals. It doesn’t have to be a traditional, long and boring business plan, either. Just do some specific goal setting and create a plan to get there.
5. Always be preparing for freedom day
Last year, I made $40,000 on the side. That was the milestone that helped make up my mind to take my side business full-time and work for myself. I spent about three years saving as much as possible, growing my business during every free moment, and hustling towards the day I could walk out of my cubicle and never return.
For me, that day was April 8, 2016. Six weeks before, I told my boss that I was going to leave the company to work for myself full-time.
Thanks to a big savings account, I knew I had room to stumble and fail a few times without worrying about paying the bills. Thanks to hard work and preparation, I had a few great clients already, so I wasn’t jumping into the unknown with no income prospects. Thanks to planning and strategy, I knew what was working and had grown my side income from beer money to rent money to a full living.
If you take the right steps, you will stop wondering how to start your own business and you can start focusing on how to make it grow. Over time, that side-hustle can become a full-time career.
Don’t sell yourself short. It all starts with the first dollar.
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