After close to thirty years of working for other people, I have finally decided to hang out a shingle on my own. For some people, self-employment is a natural extension of who they are. For me, as I insist on the possibility of great success in anything I undertake, the decision to go into business for myself took a lot of soul searching, discussion and research.
In the current economic climate, a lot of us are faced with the need to create opportunity for ourselves. Until quite recently, I was a senior executive at a division of a large, publicly traded company. When my company merged out of existence, I took some time off in order to regenerate and to pursue new business opportunities. When those opportunities failed to materialize, I began looking for the security of new employment. Unfortunately, the past twelve months have not been the best of times for job seekers, even for well qualified job seekers.
Although I did not find work in the past twelve months, I did find that I was turning away a large number of opportunities to work as a contractor. Last week, after turning away a fellow I know for the fourth time this year, it dawned on me that I needed to take a deep breath and explore self-employment. After all, I reasoned, my Dad was self-employed before he retired. My wife’s parents were self-employed. Indeed, the busiest people I know in today’s workforce are self-employed. Why shouldn’t I just open a business on my own?
Having at least opened the door to self-employment, I made a plan so that I could assess the viability of such a venture. I determined that I did not need a business plan, at least initially, but that I did need to know that there was a need for my services and that I could afford to work on my own. With that in mind, I determined that I needed to explore the following:
Will I Have Clients? It does not matter how highly skilled you are if you do not truly believe that you can attract clients. One fellow I know is doing minimal marketing for his business and relies only on traffic generated by his website, which is completely passive. I called a few of my business contacts to discuss their need for my services and found that they were far more receptive to paying me directly than they would have been if I had taken a job with a bigger company. They all quickly recognized that the value that they would get from me at my personal hourly rate was far better than the value that they would get if they had to pay the “going rate” charged by any company that would employ me. (For me, the “going rate” for my services would be between $300 and $600 per hour. One of the business people I contacted is paying close to $1000 per hour for services comparable to those that I would provide. I will likely charge about $200 per hour.)
Will my Spouse be Supportive of My Decision? In going into business for oneself, it is important that the decision be made with the full support of one’s spouse, especially for people who will be working from home. After I established that I think I will quickly have clients, I then approached my wife to make sure that she agreed that my decision was a good one. That allowed me to turn “My Decision” into “Our Decision.” That will do wonders for my piece of mind!
What Do I Need To Do To Start a Business? Having decided that I would start a business, I then needed to establish what that means. For people in regulated industries, there will be regulations that require compliance. Most people will also have to obtain local licenses. There is also the issue of forming an appropriate business entity and determining the best way to deal with tax issues. I suggest consulting with an attorney, an accountant and an insurance provider, at the very least in order to ensure that you have all of the necessary data on which to base a business. If you are part of a professional organization or association, you should also check with the organization or association to determine whether it offers any guidance.
Those are the three steps that I have taken so far. My goal is to establish my business within the next week and to start generating revenue within the next month. I shall periodically write about my experience as a small business owner on these pages and I hope that we can have a good dialogue about the pros and cons of business ownership.
How many of my readers are exploring business ownership as a way to stay ahead, or even just to catch up, in our current economy? Have you ever started your own business? What experiences can you share with us? What have you learned from your experiences?