Is it time to turn your hobby into a business? Are you at the point where you feel that life is too short to invest 40-plus hours a week into something that feels thankless? Maybe it’s a good idea to stop shelving your dream because the longer an aspiring entrepreneur ignores the longing for freedom, the less likely the dream becomes.
Don't make a rash decision and quit your day job just yet though. The recipe for entrepreneurial success is part risk, part faith and part planning. I've been approached by far too many people who jumped in unprepared and sought out coaching as a last-ditch effort to succeed. Sadly, with more preparation upfront, many more of those businesses would have done just that.
How ready are you? Before you leave your job, increase the odds of success with these seven business and life-savvy steps.
1. Document your plan.
Daydreaming is something you probably do often, and that's great! You need to do more than daydream though; it's time to work on your plan. Every step, from where you will operate to how you'll fund and market your idea, needs to find a home outside of your head. Declutter your mind by creating a document that outlines your steps and how you will execute them. One caution though: don't strive for perfection; that's simply another way of putting things off.
2. Connect with helpful people.
You've probably never done this business-building thing before, so don't go solo. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Find a few successful folks, in and outside of the crafting world, who are willing to provide sage advice and guidance. With the combined experience and input of a strong support network you will make better choices. Also, find a great coach who has a solid track record of helping others succeed.
3. Create a budget now.
Before you take the leap from employee to employer, plan for the consequences of a slower than expected take off. Have you saved money specifically earmarked for living expenses and startup costs? Plan for a long road ahead; if you make it there sooner, you'll have capital remaining for expansion. If you don't have enough money set aside (double or triple the number that comes to mind) then start socking it away now. Take on a second job if needed--yes, I really said that. You may as well get used to the long hours now, since operating a start-up often leads to many sleepless nights.
4. Tell people about your idea.
If you're afraid to share your idea and expect everyone you meet to sign an NDA, you're acting out of fear. Stop that! Your idea is just an idea, and there are millions of them out there. When you actually have an innovation (an idea turned into a profitable business), you may need to protect it. Right now what you need is feedback, sage advice and to become well networked. And that takes us to my next point:
5. Build a diverse network.
A solid network for general support, connections and financial support is critical to the success of your soon-to-be business. But don't forget the industry connections related to your current work. Your contingency plan may include returning to a day job (for a period of time at least) and you don't want to lose touch with the people who can help you do that. Don't burn your bridges! When the time is right, leave your company on good terms and with integrity.
6. Do a test drive.
You love your idea. You have to, or you won't have the fortitude to make it work. Now it's time to make sure you're not the only one who believes in it. At this stage of the game, test the market by wading in, not jumping in feet first. Do your market research, sample out your product and launch it in phases. I once had a client who wanted to launch an entire line of skin care products, risking everything she had. Thankfully, she agreed to launch only one lotion and received invaluable feedback that probably saved her from financial ruin. Don’t resist going back to the drawing board to improve your product or packaging as needed.
7. Don't make empty promises.
Hopefully, your close friends and family, especially your significant other, will back you up on your decision to take this leap. It’s possible that they are even more nervous about it than you are—don’t be tempted to make promises you may not be able to keep! Giving your word about things like a short timetable to profits and devoting plenty of time to the family will soothe some of their fears and make your life easier--at first. Don't pretend that this life-changing event won't affect your home life and relationships, because it will. The goal is to create "life balance” over the long haul, understanding that there will be times when your life is anything but balanced. Be honest with yourself and others; anything less will only make you a liar, at least for a while. With that said, never lose sight of what's truly important and can never be replaced.
For those of you who have already taken the leap, what do you wish you had done differently? Pay it forward by mentoring someone who’s exactly where you were only a few years ago!