6 Tips for the Hopeful Entrepreneur

If you’ve ever considered working for yourself, here's how to make it happen.

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Down economies tend to give rise to great ideas, and this one is no exception. As the job market continues to be tight, the option to start your own venture sounds pretty good.

We all have fantasies about becoming filthy rich and super independent, and being able to take vacation whenever we want. But let’s leave those dreams in the fantasy drawer for now. Entrepreneurs have freedom, yes, but most work constantly and awfully hard.

[See And On the Side, I'm an Entrepreneur.]

During a recent speech at an eighth-grade graduation in California, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg shared the following:

"Everything that’s worth doing is actually pretty hard and takes a lot of work. It’s not about a single moment of inspiration or brilliance. It’s about years and years of hard work and practice before you get there.” (Source: TechCrunch)

So if you’ve ever thought about working for yourself, here are six tips to help you plan an approach to making it happen:

1. Imagine doing what you love 16 hours a day. It’s about picking an idea that doesn’t feel like work. You can’t just do something you love and be successful. But you’ll have a hard time succeeding if you don’t love it. You’ll put in fewer hours and deliver less relevant output when working on something you’re less passionate about. So pick five ideas you might like to do and take a few small steps on each. Pay attention to how it feels to do each. When ready, reduce your list to three and keep going until one idea feels about right.

2. Have a long runway. A long runway can be expressed two ways. One is your psychology. Since success may not come quickly, you have to believe enough in your idea to help you through the early days. And the tough days, when no one seems to care about your idea, product, or service. Second, and most important, is your funding source. You have to be funded for long enough to give the business a chance to catch on and mature. Without a long runway, this heavy plane (your idea) will not get off the ground.

[See Is the New Career a Perpetual Job Search?]

3. Is there a product in there somewhere? This may seem obvious, but in this new world of internet millions, you may think content is enough. It’s not. You can’t just start a blog or new social-media platform and watch the money roll in. Advertisers are wary and traffic (to drive advertiser interest) is slow in coming for most. As early as you can, create something tangible for people to buy. Use your website, public speaking, social networking, and social-media platforms to gently funnel people to your product, by engaging them in a conversation.

4. Get started yesterday. Since you know it will take time, get started as soon as you can. Begin the planning while you are still working full time. If you’re out of work, kick off the business now while you have time, and run it part time (during your non-work hours) for the next three years while working a full-time job. Four hours a day over three years will deliver similar value to 12 hours a day for a year. It’s a fallacy that going full time is the only answer. Success comes in days and months, not hours. So build it while you have an income and health benefits.

[See How to Position Yourself to Change Careers.]

5. Have a target customer. Who has your money in their pockets right now? How can you craft your brand message to attract them? In this busy world, few have the time or patience to listen to your message if it’s not relevant. Once you know who they are, what target customer “pain points” are you helping to ease? How does your idea allow the swipe of their credit card to feel good?

6. Have an accountability partner. Join an accountability group so your weekly goals don’t get lost during a busy week. Join one for your job search and start one for your entrepreneurial venture at the same time. Ask others to help you stay on track, review your business plan, and provide critical feedback early in the life of your venture.

Entrepreneurship is a real option in today’s economy, but it’s not usually a quick one. So pursue with caution—and passion.

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and learn about his two popular job-search books.


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