My entrepreneurial life began early on when boy band Bros provided me with ample opportunity to sell fellow school pupils Grolsch bottle-tops for their shoes. I was about 12. Readers who aren’t old enough to remember Bros and why on earth kids would want to attach beer bottle tops to their shoes might want to go and Google now. I’ll wait here.
Are you back?
Well, I digress. Finding ways to make money was a matter of survival. We quickly realised that we couldn’t rely on bosses – bad working conditions and redundancies give you a lesson that there is no such thing as a job for life – so we made an effort to build up something of our own.
Many things I tried failed, some were temporary and others evolved into bigger, better things. Hindsight is always valuable though so I thought I’d share some advice from my own experiences along the way:
Plan before you pay
Whatever your idea, sit down and plan it out first. Some really great ideas sounded good in my head but when it came to putting them into practice it would soon become apparent that they weren’t destined for success. It’s good to be enthusiastic but don’t get carried away with it. Some level-headedness is needed alongside so make sure you plan out what you want to do, how you plan to do it, what you aim to achieve and how you intend to achieve it. The scale doesn’t matter; you might be launching a single-person self-employed business, a Costa Coffee franchise or a multi-million pound company. Regardless of size of the venture ensure you plan it well first.
While you’re planning don’t sugar coat anything. It’s easy to think that the small things won’t matter and little stuff won’t affect the greater picture but trust me, they will. Include the good and the bad in your planning. Seeing potential pitfalls before they occur is better than losing a lot of time, energy and money later so check that your idea is feasible before you begin.
Business loans aren’t a necessity
How you plan to start up your new business might depend on your funds but it can be done without resorting to business loans. Many, many years ago (pre-computer days) I took in people’s ironing. All I needed was an iron and ironing board (although I used a towel on the floor as I couldn’t even afford the board). Years later (but still years ago), I was doing audio transcription for a company. I decided that I didn’t like the small cut of the payment I received from the far greater amount that they were charging clients for the hours of work I was doing. I had already invested in my own transcription equipment and used my own PC and I worked on a self employed basis already for years. It made sense to me to get business cards printed and advertise my own services myself. My minimum outlay resulted in the start of my own admin work. Take a look at what you already have and see if you can build from the things you already have.
It will take a lot out of you
I thought that working for myself would result in me being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. It turned out to be quite different. Today’s technology means that people want to able to get in touch with you right now, or preferably even yesterday. The pressure can be constant and with it comes the pressure to succeed, especially if your family’s livelihood is depending on it. Committing to working for yourself isn’t something to take on lightly. You will get tired, you will get stressed and you will probably end up shedding a few tears too.
Some things won’t work out
Even the best laid plans won’t work out. It doesn’t matter how well you worked the details out. It doesn’t matter how great the idea was. It doesn’t matter how committed you were, how much effort you put in or how much money you invested. Some things just won’t work out. It’s tough, but it happens.
Some things do work out!
And they can work out extremely well! When they do you’ll be thankful you didn’t quit. I have had far more flunks than successes but each tiny success brought in a little money and a lot of experience – both of which were reinvested into the next venture. If you’re determined to get there in the end. If you don’t try, you’ll never know if you could have. If you quit, you’ll always wonder if you might have succeeded if you carried on. Don’t give up.