When I was 12 years old, my dad quit his corporate job. He quit his job to open his own restaurant. The restaurant opened somewhere near my 13th birthday. I only remember that because the restaurant billboard by the street said “Happy 13th Birthday Courtney”. I was famous.
I was famous and employed at a very young age and usually loved working. I thought it was really cool to have a paying job at such an early age. It sparked my entrepreneurial spirit and formed my strong work ethic. I loved being that girl who could bring pizza to events and meet friends for lunch (for free). When I was in high school, I still thought it was great to have a job, but being the owner’s daughter meant if someone called in sick and a last-minute replacement was needed, I was the easiest to reach. Even if it was on the night of a dance or other event that was more appealing than work. That’s when I realized when it’s your business, you get the good and the bad.
There are pros and cons of growing up in a family business
- You spend a lot of time with your family
- There is always restaurant food to eat
- People think you get special treatment as the boss’s daughter
- You get special treatment as the boss’s daughter
Each of the above statements are pros and cons.
While I always admired my dad for going out on his own and realizing a dream, I was determined to work for someone else. I didn’t want to be so invested. I wanted to pick up a pay check and go on my way. And that’s exactly what I did until last fall when I realized I still cared even when it wasn’t my business. I was still invested and I wanted to direct that towards my own business. I didn’t do it for more money, and I don’t think my dad did either. I did it for freedom, for time, for creativity. Yes, I want and need to make money, but it wasn’t the driving decision maker for me to make a change.
Times have changed
In 1982, when my dad’s restaurant opened, being your own boss meant getting a loan, finding a store front, ordering inventory, hiring staff and then trying to make a little money. Today, being your own boss means having an idea, building a platform and opening your computer in a coffee shop to check your email, write a blog post and connect with clients via Skype. (I’ve grossly simplified both scenarios here.)
I do not believe there are people destined to own their own business any more than I think some people are supposed to work for other people. Circumstances, desires, openness to change and opportunity all shape the decisions we make for the life we want to live.
The following advice can be used for a home based microbusiness or opening a store on Main Street.
Everything You Need to Know to Start a Microbusiness
Pay Off Your Debt
Before you leave your day job and declare your independence, be debt free with a $1000 emergency fund. That doesn’t mean wait until that happens to get started, but I suggest waiting until that happens to quit your job. I chose to save 2 months of income so I wasn’t pressured to make money immediately. I didn’t want to start a business with the anxiety of where the next dollar would come from. If I hadn’t paid off my debt, I never could have saved the money.
Assess Your Income Needs
You may want to make a lot of money, but to get started think about how much you really need to make. Your Money or Your Life may help you determine what that number is.
Maybe you don’t know what you want to do. You might be so overextended and burnt out with your current job and lifestyle that you have no idea what interests you. I just started reading The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte. If you don’t like what you are doing, but don’t know what’s next, this book is next.
Brainstorm Business Ideas
In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau says “To start a business, you need three things: a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. Everything else is completely optional.” I’ll add this … It will help if you know and love what you are selling. That makes you much better at what you do and takes the sting out of asking for money. When you know you are offering your very best, and that product or service will help someone else, you will feel good about getting paid for it.
Visit an Accountant
There are plenty of tools online like outright.com to help you manage your business finances, but I recommend meeting with a local expert too. Understand tax laws, organize your business and have a friend in your local area that can help if problems arise.
Develop a Platform
Every client that I’ve worked with found me as a result of this blog. They may have found this blog from twitter or another blog, but they didn’t find me because my face was on a billboard, or magazine ad. Each person found me because I showed up on this blog and wrote helpful information consistently. Building a blog or another online home will be your number one way of developing new ideas and connecting with clients, business partners and investors.
With my history in the advertising industry, I can tell you with no uncertainty that times have changed. Your business will not grow because you throw thousands of dollars at TV spots and magazine placements. Your business will grow because you will take time to let people get to know you through a platform like a blog. It will grow because you help people and they will tell other people you helped them.
Keep Your Day Job
The early stage of new business planning is not the time to leave your job, unless money is not an issue. The early stage of new business planning is the time to hustle. I launched this site in May 2010 and quit my job 18 months later. There were months of writing nights and weekends, staying up late, waking up early and working extra hours. The beauty of it was that it wasn’t exhausting. It was exhilarating. I knew I was building my future work. I knew I wouldn’t be attending anymore weekly meetings. I knew I wouldn’t be writing reports or be chained to a desk or a cell phone from 8-5. I knew I wouldn’t need a committee to make a decision and that I would have an opportunity to do some really cool stuff.
Set a Date (or several)
I set 3 different dates before I pulled the trigger, but each date gave me hope and motivation. My first date was May 2011 but I wasn’t ready, then July 2011, and my dog needed an expensive surgery that depleted my jump ship fund, and my 3rd date at the end of September 2011 stuck. Setting a quit date will be a reminder that this isn’t a pipe dream or a hobby. This is your life.
Read and Connect
There are people out there doing what you want to do or doing something that can help you do what you want to do. Meet them, work with them, learn from them and read their stuff. I’ve learned from the best in my field, Leo Babauta, Pam Slim, Chris Guillibeau, Darren Rowse, Seth Godin (+ many others) have all helped me with in person meetings, phone consultations or through writing amazing content that shaped my business. If they didn’t have a blog, I never would have found them.
A consultant or business coach can help you brainstorm and organize your ideas, streamline your business and put an idea into action.
Use Virtual Partners
You don’t need a staff to run your business, instead, use free or paid microbusiness resources.
One source of your microbusiness income can come from recommending other products. When you purchase a product I recommend, it is sometimes through an affiliate link and I receive a commission. The commission can be anywhere from 4-80% depending on the product and the partner. While this post has several affiliate links, I know that each recommendation is valuable. If I started linking to popcorn makers, credit card deals and furniture, you’d see that the recommendations don’t fit the message and you wouldn’t trust future recommendations or ideas that I share.
Full disclosure is necessary legally and in terms of building trust. If you visit my I love page, you can read my disclaimer at the end of the page.
Test. Fail. Repeat.
Not everything you do will work. Fortunately, you are out of debt, building your platform, connecting with new people and will try something new. The benefit of a microbusiness is that you can try again. You won’t be filling your garage with millions of dollars of widgets that won’t sell, leaving you broke. Instead, you can create on demand and give your people what they want.
You won’t be working from the beach everyday, even though some people do. I like the beach, but I also have a family to take care of, grocery shopping to do, bills to pay, and a child to pick up from school. None of that changes when you own your own business. The romance of location independence work can be alluring, but instead, think about how working for yourself would benefit your lifestyle. I love that I can walk my dog in the morning, exercise in the afternoon and work when I like instead of when an office is open. I can also work when I travel.
Treat People Like People
If you start your own business, you will be working with people. Care about them. Help them. Support them.
I am not a fan of partnering on a business, but I love partnering on business projects. Working with Leo Babauta on theclutterfreecourse.com and other friends and simplicity authors and advocates on A Simple Year has been fantastic. We share the workload, get to know each other better and learn from each other.
I am sure that there is a spelling or grammar error in this post and someone will email and tell me about it. That error and my general lack of perfection does not dilute my message. If you make a mistake, you can correct it. If you wait until things are perfect, nothing happens.
This isn’t your someday business. The right time is right now. You don’t need a mission statement, marketing plan or quarterly projections to get started. You don’t need a degree in business or a special certificate. You just need an idea, a taste or tolerance for uncertainty and a good sense of humor. Supportive friends and family help too!
Is this really everything you need to know about how to start a microbusiness? It’s everything you need to know to get started, and the rest … you don’t know what you don’t know and you won’t completely know what you need to learn until you get started. My business is different from what I thought it would be, and I know next year it will change again. The only constant in our lives and work is change and we need to embrace it.