5 Steps Toward Self-Employment (Before You Leave Your Current Job)

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Most businesses start with an idea; then fear gets in the way.  Can you earn enough money to replace your current income? Is the business sustainable long term? Do you have what it takes to be self employed?

The reality is, you won't ever find absolute answers to these questions until you try. These are the inherent risks of entrepreneurship. However, before you put in your 2-week notice with your current employer, you can use your evenings and weekends to understand and evaluate these risks before you decide to jump.

1. Evaluate yourself. 

In this article, the SBA nicely summarizes what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I think it can be summarized even further by asking yourself, are you self motivated? Being an entrepreneur is often lonely in the beginning. You have to keep yourself motivated to push through the inevitable struggles. 

2. Differentiate your idea.

The odds are that someone is already doing what you want to do.  You should thoroughly research your competitors and find ways to differentiate your idea. For example, are you going to be better, cheaper, faster, or closer in proximity? 

3. Write a business plan. 

The process of writing a business plan is arguably more valuable than the plan itself. If done properly, it will force you to consider a lot of potential challenges that you might not have otherwise considered. The SBA has some excellent information on this webpage. Also, you should take advantage of the free business plan counseling offered by your local SBDC

4. Find startup capital.

You will need money to get started. If your business requires equipment, materials, or employees, for example, the necessary startup capital may be large. If you're lucky, you have enough cash saved. Otherwise, you must resort to loans or finding investors. Again, a good business plan will help identify the amount of startup capital you need and how much you can afford to take on regarding loans or investor obligations. 

5. Develop a marketing plan. 

After you have refined your idea and determined your budget, you should consider how you will promote your business once you open. This article is a good summary. The most important steps are to define your target audience and determine how best to communicate with them. 

These five steps will get you closer to starting your own business, and you can easily tackle them while still at your current job.