Deciding to venture out on your own is scary, exhilarating, stressful, and exciting. Being your own boss can be an incredibly humbling yet rewarding experience. Whether you want to be a freelance translator or something else entirely, proper preparation can make the switch a bit less daunting and mean the difference between success and failure. Below are five things that anyone who wants to work for themselves in any field should keep in mind before they take the plunge. Some of these I did, and some of them I wish I had done to make my transition to self-employment easier.
Visit your local small business development center
One thing that I wished I had known when I was starting out is that there is often a wealth of free information about starting a business in your community. Small businesses and nonemployers account for a large portion of job and economic growth in most places. It is therefore in the interest of municipalities and local governments to encourage the growth of small businesses, and many places provide free resources for doing just that. Look up where the closest small business development center is to where you live. Chances are it isn’t far and can advise you on how to get your business off the ground.
You don’t need a business license until you have a business
Where I live, I need both state and city business licenses, the annual cost of which is about $500. When you are just starting out, this can feel like a huge expense, particularly when you don’t have any money coming in yet. There are many things you can do to grow your business that do not require getting a business license. Once you have a check in hand from a paying customer, start the formalities of legally establishing your business. In the meantime, build your brand and get your name out there. Be sure to check with your local laws to make sure this is OK for you.
Buy a domain name
For about $10, you can own your own domain name. If you can, buy YourFirstNameLastName.com and maybe the domain name of what you think you might name your business. Is the domain for your dream business name already taken? You might need to rethink what you are going to call it. Having a domain name is important for several reasons: it helps you build an online presence in your own name, allows you to create a distinct brand that you control, and helps potential customers find you just by knowing your name.
Have a nest egg
Anyone who has started a business can tell you that there will be times when cash is tight. It is a good idea to have several months’ worth of salary saved up as a reserve, particularly if you are thinking about starting out on your own without a loan. However, there are other ways to mitigate financial risk without relying too much on debt, one of which is described below.
“Ride a donkey to look for a horse”
There is a great Chinese expression that goes 骑驴找马 (qí lǘ zhǎo mǎ). Literally, it means to ride a donkey to look for a horse. Figuratively, it means to keep the job you aren’t thrilled about until you find the one you want. How does this apply to starting a business? It means that you should keep doing what you currently do, provided that it is an option, until you are confident that your new venture is a sure thing. Do you want to be a consultant? Get your first consulting gig before you quit your current job. Want to be a freelancer? Start moonlighting in your chosen field until you get some cred. If you are going to start off without a loan or investors, you should be wary of taking the plunge before you are sure you can at least break even on your expenses, particularly if you have a mortgage or a family to support.
Taking the leap, biting the bullet, going for it… call it what you like. Starting my own business was one of the best decisions I’ve made. It’s definitely a little scary, but with the right preparation, it can be a little less so.
Do you already work for yourself? What made your transition easier? Are you thinking about starting your own business and have been preparing yourself a different way? Let me know by leaving a comment.