Starting your own business seems appealing to many people for several reasons: the potential to turn a hobby into a viable financial endeavour, the chance to set your own schedule and be your own boss, and the satisfaction that comes with knowing that you—or your team, if you’re lucky (or perhaps wise)—built a business from the ground up. You’ve done the preliminary research and thinking, you’ve designed a profitable business model, and you’re figuring out finances and working through how to successfully market your project. Or… are you? Whether you’re heading into retirement and looking to keep busy, or are considering a mid-career shift that will possibly give you more freedom, these are all important questions to ask yourself before you jump off the pier into the world of entrepreneurship.
1. Have I done enough research?
You have a great idea for a business, and you’re totally the right person for the job: passionate, skilled, and a budding expert in your field. But, failing to figure out how your business fits into a particular market can set you up for failure (or for something that’s not exactly a success). Are you competing with other businesses? Who are your competitors and how does your business compare to theirs? Is your target market local or global, and why? By asking yourself these questions you can begin to determine the next step in your process; determining a business model, a nice way of saying that you’re figuring out how you will make money.
2. Do I have a clear grasp on the financial side of running a business?
It’s probably a no-brainer that one of the top reasons new businesses flounder is a lack of efficient financial management. Track your spending, create a budget, anticipate expenses, plan for tax-time, and be thrifty in your costs for startup. Many recommend going as lean as possible with initial loans, but having a good chunk of cash to start with—and a clear plan for making those initial investments back—can ensure smooth sailing on your end. Make sure you have what you need to get started and put bigger investments for your business on a wish list for a rainy day.
3. What is my marketing strategy?
You may have great ideas, products, or services, but if you’re not getting the word out to customers, clients, and investors, your cashflow is sure to stay stagnant. Knowing what your “brand” is about, who it appeals to, and how you will reach them is key. Flyers, business cards, and print ads may not be the best route for all businesses in changing times, and considering online and social media marketing is key for getting ahead in the current climate. If you’re a novice with marketing or social media, taking some time to learn the ins and outs might be useful, and sites like lynda.com can help.
4. Am I ready for the time commitment required for this endeavour?
Will this be a part-time or full-time commitment for you? Will you work at home from a laptop or in a studio, or does your business require that you travel to another workspace (or even another country) to get things done? Even if you only intend to commit to part-time hours, starting a business can be all-consuming. If you’re hoping to travel and live an active lifestyle, consider how much time you need to be yourself, and how much time your business really needs to grow. If it seems like too much, re-consider the size and scale of what you’re doing. If this is a retirement project, remember that you need a break from work, no matter how fun that work may seem.
5. Am I remaining flexible?
While you might have a clear business plan in mind, it’s sure to change along the way as you learn, grow, and develop your project. Holding onto an original idea might seem tempting, but adapting to a changing marketplace might have great benefits for you in the long run, both financially and creatively. Sometimes entrepreneurs are tempted to jump ship at the first signs of troubled water, but rolling with the punches is a part of staying afloat. Chances are, if you’re making a mid-career change or starting this business post retirement, you’ve had a life full of flexibility; take those valuable experiences where you’ve learned the powers of adaptability and apply them in this exciting new endeavour. Remember, you’ve got this!
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