Considering Entrepreneurship: First steps to starting your own business

lemonade_stand_1.jpgThis Saturday’s New York Times featured a front-page story about how the recession is prompting some people to start their own businesses instead of looking for new jobs. It’s an encouraging story if you’ve ever considered the option of creating your own venture, large or small.

While some people decide to dive headfirst into entrepreneurship, others feel more comfortable dipping in a toe, then an ankle, then a knee before swimming solo.  The choice is very personal and depends on your experience, finances and overall comfort with risk.  But, if you’re thinking even just a little bit about starting your own business, it’s never too early to take actions that will set you up for taking the plunge when you’re ready.  Here are some suggestions for first steps to take if you’re thinking about starting your own small business or becoming a full-time freelancer:

Find Real and Virtual Mentors.  I guarantee you are not the first person to start a business in your industry. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, DowntownWomensClub.com, Make Mine a Million $ Business, Yahoo groups and other networking organizations and websites to make connections with people who have started similar-sized businesses (though not potential direct competitors  — as you can imagine, it makes me really cranky when someone asks me for advice on how to start a business exactly the same as mine!).  Ask people how they got started and what advice and recommended resources they might offer.  You can also use the web to research successful entrepreneurs.  What do their websites look like?  What experience is listed in their bios or LinkedIn profiles?  What professional credentials do they maintain?  Take notes!

Understand the Essentials.  It’s not the most exciting part of starting a business, but it’s crucial to research any licenses, taxes and insurance you’ll need to go solo, and I recommend doing this sooner rather than later.  Start a list or folder to keep track of everything, and don’t be afraid to ask experts for help, especially an accountant and a lawyer.  You can look to freelancers unions, entrepreneurial websites (my faves are FastCompany.com, Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com) and the Small Business Administration for free or low-cost help determining what “official” steps are required. Above all, be sure to find independent health insurance. Never take the risk of being uninsured.

Learn How to Market Yourself.  One of the most important requirements of entrepreneurship is the ability to sell yourself and your ideas.  Even before you launch your own venture, you can begin working on this aspect of self-employment: Join high-profile committees of industry organizations to make yourself visible to members (who may be future clients of your new business). Volunteer at a nonprofit organization related to the business you’d like to start. Take professional development classes online or at a community college to enhance your business skills and industry expertise. Start a blog on a topic related to your entrepreneurial interests. Start posting comments and articles on Twitter that establish your expertise in the area of your choice. Check out the Personal Branding Blog for ongoing tips on marketing yourself.

Read up. Many, many, many people have written great books on how to start and run businesses of all shapes and sizes. Here are some of my personal favorites.

Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself

The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything

Getting Started in Consulting

Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer’s Guide to Making More Money

The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

If you have more how-to-be-an-entrepreneur books you’ve liked, please share in the Comments section!

Each of the above activities will increase your leadership experience, expand your network and, perhaps most importantly, build your confidence that there is a world outside of full-time employment.  The plunge into entrepreneurship could even take place sooner than you thought possible.  Or, if you find yourself resisting these actions, it may be a sign that you’re not quite ready to leave the regular paycheck pool, even if it is hard to find a job right now. Either way, self-employment is an option that many people consider at some point in their careers, so it’s always worth a bit of exploration.

Comments

  1. says

    Finding a virtual mentor is essential and social networking makes it so convenient and easy but at the same time you have to keep your senses about you.

    Be mindful and try to search the person through your preferred search engine to see what they are about and never give out personal information via the web. If they want to talk with you use http://www.skype.com

    Having said that a virtual mentor can help your efforts significantly. Search Young and Successful Network and Start Up Nation. They are both great starting points.

    @teenbizcoach

  2. says

    @teenbizcoach -

    Thank you for the follow, and for re-tweeting this post on Twitter.

    Great points and thanks for mentioning Young and Successful Network, another of my favorites (www.YSN.com).

    Lindsey

  3. says

    Hi Lindsey – great advice. It definitely looks like in this economy the new plan b is entrepreneurship – and why not! I would add another freelancing resource to your list – http://www.shelancers.com. Freelancing networks offer good venues for prospective clients to see your budding business. One of the reasons I like http://www.Shelancers.com is that it’s a directory that also offers professional learning resources (discussion boards, monthly resources like how-to guides, videos, reports, etc.).

  4. says

    Great post! My husband and I decided several years ago that we were going to go down the entrepreneurship path and our friends and family thought we were nuts! We have been at it for 2 years and now they are asking us how we did it.

    I agree about using twitter and other social media sites to find mentors. I access twitter, Facebook, etc several times a day from my webtop (basically an online desktop) to communicate with my mentors. I also use those tools to market myself, get educated and stay motivated.

  5. says

    As a Gen-Yer who is still in college looking at the current state of the economy and my potential for getting a job, entrepreneurship was my only option. While it was in my blood because both my parents where entrepreneurs and started their own successful company, I took it upon myself to major in Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University.

    Since then I have started and launched my own company, which for now is still gaining traction. I just wanted to stress how vital all your points where in the conception, creation and continued growth of it is. Through social networks I have come across so many willing and able people from all around the world who just want to help me succeed, it truly is amazing.

    The first thing that everyone needs to realize that you dont have all the answers and that you need to surround yourself with people smarter than you. After you come to terms that you need to read what others have done before you in order to move forward. It’s like studying world history, use the tactics and strategies of your predecessors.

    Lastly, you have to be able to cope with failure. This is the hardest part for most Gen-Yers as we love instant satisfaction. Most of all though, do what you love and what you’re passionate about, so that work isnt work but something that you want to lose sleep over.

    Trace
    @brandyourself

  6. says

    For anyone looking to start their own business, now is a great time to do so given what the Internet now allows you to accomplish. No real estate needed, no employees needed, no insurance needed… all good things for boot strapping a start up.

    I also suggest leveraging an expertise or interest that you currently have. My wife and I are in the process of launching an online assistant training program (executive, personal, admin, interns) for 20-somethings looking to break into an industry of their choosing. It’s not sexy but both my wife and I have a combined 20 years of experience as executive/personal assistants and there is a lacking in training for such positions so we decided to give it a go. All business is risky but if you can use the expertise that you already have combined with the limitless market that the Internet provides, you’ll be on the right track. Good luck.

  7. says

    @Ethan – thanks for the comment. Sounds like a great business idea. Are you aware of UrbanInterns.com? I just blogged about them recently.

    Good luck and keep us posted on your progress–

    Lindsey

  8. says

    I believe in small businesses and individuals wanting to have their own business. I think they are the driving force of our country and bring their dreams to life with hard work and determination. One piece of advice that I can give you is to get professional consultation and advice throughout the process. It will help in starting your business off the right way.

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