Within each of us is a desire to be our own boss. We've all had our "million dollar" idea or one too many horrible bosses that make us want to start our own company. Yet the truth is simple: Owning your own business takes hard work, determination, sacrifice, and a very clear understanding of not just your business, but also your personality. Here are a few points to consider when deciding to become an entrepreneur:
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1. Don't quit your day job...yet. Whether you're currently a student, working part-time, or gainfully employed, the next great idea usually doesn't need 40 or more hours per week to get off the ground. Create a strict schedule for how much time you really need. You may not make any money for a while, so keep whatever job is currently paying you. And don't ask your spouse or significant other to quit their job (like I did), or you could end up living in your parents' mobile home (like we did).
2. Estimate your annual revenue, and then divide it half. Some businesses never get off the ground, while others grow at such an amazing pace that annual estimates become obsolete immediately. However, you must be realistic about the time it will take for your efforts to really kick in. Calculate how much you think you can make, then divide it in half and plan your expenses around that number instead.
3. Make "free" your favorite word. New businesses must keep expenses as low as possible, and it doesn't get any lower than free. Brainstorm creative ways to grow and operate your business at little to no cost. Trade services with other businesses in any industry; for example, if you know graphic design but don't have a clue about databases, consider swapping your design skills in order to have your database set up. Before spending money on marketing, take advantage of free methods—like, for instance, Craigslist—to spread the word about your new business.
4. Know your business well, but know yourself better. You and your business will be practically one entity for a while, so realize your morals and values when making decisions and building relationships. Don't bash competitors or make business deals that you don't feel right about. Be the boss that others would desire to have. You must know who you are and how you'll react to challenges and situations; stick with your core values and ensure your business is in line with them as well. Most importantly, make sure you love what you're doing, since you'll probably be working twice as hard for half as much money in the beginning.
5. Take a break, take a walk, and take a shower. Entrepreneurship is exciting, but don't let it consume you. To keep moving in the right direction with fresh ideas, you need to take breaks often. It may be as easy as taking a walk or perhaps you might even take a shower. Sometimes you can think better when not thinking about business. Make time for breaks away from your new project so that you can come back with a fresh perspective.
If you're finally ready to start your own business, then create a schedule, reduce your expectations, find things for free, and figure out who you really are—then, go take a shower.
Steven Staley is the owner and founder of SoCo Sports, a sport and social club located in Sarasota, Fla. He is also the creator, founder, and owner of Playbook Community, a free mobile application that connects athletes and sports organizers across the globe. Steven is also a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth.