How To Start A One-Person Business Without Fear
One of the biggest obstacles for many would-be business owners is overcoming their apprehension about getting started. What many of us learned in school or in traditional jobs does not prepare us for self-employment. Making the transition to being your own boss can be very daunting, even if you yearn for the freedom and independence that comes with flying solo.
So how can you break through any fears you have and make the leap successfully?
Know your risk tolerance. There’s no way around the fact that starting a business involves taking some chances. Although many new firms do quite well and thrive, not all of them succeed right out of the starting gate—and it’s important to go into your business mentally prepared.
“As an entrepreneur, you are faced with daily, weekly, monthly and yearly challenges that have to do with uncertainty,” says Siege. “You can have the best intentions, and things still don’t go as planned. And you don’t have anyone to fall back on. The check won’t come unless you make it happen. That can be very overwhelming. You have to be willing to accept the fact that all of your choices may or may not work.”
Fortunately, if you have safety net such as your own savings, a side job or a spouse’s income to fall back on, it’s very possible to ride through those challenges, he has found.
Test your ideas. No matter how great you think your idea is, it won’t fly unless customers love it, too—and are willing to pay for it. You can take some of the risk out of a new business by testing the appeal of what you plan to sell ahead of time.
“You have to be super clear about whether the product or service you want to sell has value to someone,” says Siege. “A lot of people discover their great idea or product doesn’t have a market. If no one wants it, no matter what you think, that’s a bad place to be. You can’t be wed to a particular idea if it really does not have legs.”
So how do you know if people want it? “To some degree you have to put it out there a little bit,” says Siege. “You can do surveys or try a limited run of something. You have to float it out there to prospective buyers in the market you think would be interested.”
Ask potential customers some key questions, he advises: “If I built this, would you buy it? If I introduced this, would it be a valuable service to you?”
When you put your idea out there, it’s important to listen carefully to the market if it does not work. “Some of your assumptions may not be correct,” says Siege. “You might have to rethink the thing you wanted to do. That’s part of the process of building a business.
Set “smart goals.” It takes time to build a successful business. Set goals and break them down into a step-by-step process, to make them more manageable, advises Siege. One way to do that is to set “smart goals”—those that are measurable, achievable and time-sensitive, he says. For instance, you might quantify how many widgets you need to sell by the third quarter of 2020 to be successful.
The more specific the goal, the better, he says. That way, it is easier to ask yourself “What is required to do it?” and plan accordingly.
Learn how to work both on the business and in the business. In a new business, it’s essential to learn how to balance doing the work of the business with working “on” the business to grow it. That means being disciplined about how you allocate your time. If you only spend your time on serving clients in a service business, for instance, you may find yourself with a shortage of new projects in the future unless you devote time to marketing, too.
“You’re responsible for both things at the same time,” says Siege.
Know when to ask for advice. “Entrepreneurs are not gamblers,” says Siege. Although they’re willing to spend time experimenting, they also recognize when they can save time by turning to contacts who’ve already done what they’re attempting.
“They are open to getting advice and support from other people,” says Siege. “The smartest people I know are people who know what they don’t know.”