Navigating Yourself to Self-Employment: Your 10 Critical Steps to Going Out on Your Own
CASE HISTORY: For over twelve years, Diana had been employed in the executive recruitment field. She found the work both challenging and rewarding. By a combination of perspiration and perseverance, she'd worked herself from entry-level researcher to become a highly-respected and well-connected recruiter with a specialty in the placement of healthcare executives. No matter how hard Diana worked, though, no matter how much revenue she brought into the company, and no matter how she tried to negotiate for herself, when it came to getting her fair share of compensation and the security of a partnership, every year she was told "maybe next year." Diana felt that, eventually, she'd run out of "next years."
More and more, Diana began to resent the way she was treated. More and more, she found herself wondering if she could simply "go out on her own." In her own business, Diana felt, she would be able to do things the way she wanted to do them. In her own business, Diana felt, she'd enjoy the rewards she deserved. And in her own business, she felt she'd be building up some lifetime security, something that she might one day sell, or even give to her children. Diana's determination grew until, one day, she simply decided: she'd do it.
But "how" was the problem: there seemed to be a million things to do. And she wasn't at all sure if she had the savings to get her through the months - or even years - until "Diana, Inc." would turn profitable. And there were many questions she couldn't possibly answer: Would any of her clients follow her "out the door?" Would her bosses try to enforce the "non-competition" agreement she signed? She'd always been a great employee; would she be a good-enough boss to her own employees?
Drawing on our own experience, and the experience of our clients we've helped navigate the process, we counseled Diana to divide her "essential things to do" into a 10-step plan, to consider her 10-step plan very carefully and soberly, and eventually to follow her 10-step plan for an initial one-year commitment period. By breaking down the seemingly endless tasks, problems and worries into ten distinct steps, the process seemed less overwhelming and more manageable. Less frightening and more friendly.
Well, she did it, and it's now been three years. It really didn't take long to become profitable, but Diana's probably worked more hours, had less days off, and more sleepless nights, than she did as an employee. Overall, though, Diana's doing exactly what she'd hoped: doing things the way she wants to do them, getting the rewards she actually earns, and building up some real security. Finally, she's not waiting until "next year" to get what she's due.
LESSONS TO LEARN: With today's rampant job insecurity and increasingly difficult relations between employers and employees, more and more people are considering going into business for themselves. It's a daunting task, full of more risks and potential crises than you can imagine. But the rewards - financial, emotional and otherwise - may be great, as well. For those who can turn frustration into determination, anger into personal "rocket fuel," and an idea into a reality, anything's possible, even untold success. But make no mistake: for success in business, sober and careful planning are an absolute necessity.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Planning is essential. In addition to preparing a business plan, consider these to be part of your navigation plan to Self-Employment, "Your 10 Critical Steps to Going Out on Your Own."
1. Introspect: Are You Really Ready for This Life and Lifestyle? - Being your own boss also means being your own employee, and at times it seems like your own slave. It really calls for a very serious, and long-view commitment. There really are no "paid" vacations, and there are no vacations from thinking about what needs to get done tomorrow, next week and next year. Look yourself "in the mirror": are you really ready for the change in lifestyle?
2. Determine Your Product: What, Precisely, Are You Going to "Sell?" If you're contemplating go