Words of Wisdom from a Newbie Entrepreneur

So you want to be an entrepreneur? You want to leave the day job and start your own business? You want to work from home, sitting at home in your PJs watching Mrs. Doubtfire for the 37th time? More and more people are leaving the daily grind in pursuit of doing their own thing – call it Gen Y entitlement, call it a product of the recession and a rise in employee-layoffs, call it the new American Dream. Entrepreneurship is on the rise – the question is – are you ready to walk down that path? Do you even want to?

I get a lot of e-mails from folks asking how I ended up where I am today. 24 years old and running my own business. I tell them that…

1) I got fired and was thrown toward this path, so maybe it’s best not to follow in my footsteps…

2) I am by no means an expert or any sort of ‘model of success’. Each day is an exciting and often times stressful challenge, but each day I’m focused and driven by making today great and tomorrow even better for me and my family. I’ve been doing this (full-time) for 4 months. That hardly makes me an expert.

With that air cleared (because I truly don’t want anyone to think I’m an expert at giving any of this advice) here are some nuggets of wisdom I share with folks who are considering starting their own business:

Identify and Understand Your Worst Case Scenario

This point is huge. So many people I see aren’t “ready” for entrepreneurship because they’re not willing to accept the fact that things might not work out perfectly. You may not find yourself swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck. If things don’t go according to plan – do you have a backup plan? Regardless of how much you’re bringing in, the bills don’t stop coming – they don’t care if you can afford to pay them or not.

Are you willing to take a step back to move forward? Are you willing to work retail or wait tables to make ends meat? Are you above going BACK to a nine to five if your freelance life isn’t panning out?

What I did, and what I tell other people to do, is to figure out what your ABSOLUTE worst case scenario is. Let’s say you quit your job today and start your own business. If it doesn’t work and you’re out of money – what happens next? What’s YOUR worst case scenario?

Is it moving home? Is it cutting the cable and phone bill? Is it waiting tables to make ends meat? So many are afraid to take the leap because they THINK their worst case scenario is much worse than it actually is.

Don’t Be (too) Proud

This goes hand in hand with my first point. If you’re not willing to take a step back and accept that things may not be perfect – if you’re telling yourself you absolutely will not ever go back to ‘corporate America’ – you may not be cut out for life as an entrepreneur. Scratch that, you’re NOT ready to run your own business. Unexpected things can and will happen – often times things that will be completely out of your control. If you’re business isn’t going as planned, are you willing to work at Best Buy to pay the bills while you work nights and weekends to get your business off the ground? Are you willing to suck it up and go back into an office? Something to think about before you take the leap.

Offer Something Tangible

It’s extremely hard to transition from a job with steady pay to the unexpected path of an entrepreneur without having something tangible to offer. ‘Consulting’ is something that is thrown around my world a ton these days – everyone calling themselves a consultant (even me). The problem with consulting is it’s somewhat intangible – you may not be giving a client something they can ‘touch and feel’.

So maybe your tangible something is web design – maybe it’s an info product you develop – maybe you write and self publish a book. You need that foot in the door to pair with other things you may offer. That tangible something may not be your focus down the line, but having something to help you get off the runway is the easiest way to get your plane up in the air at 30,000 feet.

Don’t Chase Money

If you’re thinking about going at it alone just to ‘make a lot of money’, you have the wrong attitude. You should only break away if it’s truly what you want to do. Don’t chase after the almighty dollar. Becoming money-hungry will almost always lead to disaster (I’ve seen some people around me fall into this trap). It’s going to be easy to say ‘YES’ to everyone – but you can’t be everything to everyone, you can’t take it all on. You’ll run yourself ragged and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Go into your own business because you have a passion for what you do, the paycheck will follow.

It’s OK to go back to a nine to five

When I decided to go full force with my own business four months ago, I didn’t tell myself that I’d “never go back to a nine to five” – and I’m still not opposed to it. There are many things to LOVE about the office environment, and great opportunities to be had in that world. I know MANY people who are much older and more experienced than I who have run their own successful startups, have gone back to a ‘corporate’ job – and vice versa.

There is NO right or wrong. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone – and even if it does make sense for you right now, it might not 5 years from now, and that’s OK. I see a lot of ‘either/or’ arguments happening out there and it doesn’t make any sense to me.

Go do what you want to do – or if it comes down to it – what you NEED to do. That’s the ONLY thing that matters.