Employee to Entrepreneur: Tips Before You Switch

Thinc Strategy

July 16, 2018

Entrepreneurship is on the rise and it’s more accessible than we’ve ever seen before. Today’s economy has given birth to a new wave of innovators and creators, and most of those individuals have innovated and created in tandem to full-time employment.

  • Drybar, now a $100 million operation, was first launched by a stay-at-home-mom, who found time between naps and infant feedings to start a business with just a hairbrush and a blow dryer.
  • Carol’s Daughter was created by a full-time working mom, who created and sold beauty products from her Brooklyn apartment kitchen before ever opening her first storefront. Lisa Price took her desire to offer better multi-cultural products and converted it into a thriving business that eventually sold to L’Oréal for an undisclosed amount.

The faces and founders behind these mega-brands didn’t birth their businesses overnight, nor did they experience immediate success. Like many budding entrepreneurs, they built the foundational elements of their business slowly, operating as both employee and entrepreneur.

What’s the smartest way to transition from salaried employee to full-time, self-employed entrepreneur? The answer is complex, and it requires elements of business you may have yet to consider.

Understand your why

Understanding and connecting to our “why” helps provide everyday focus. That connection – what allows you to see beyond day-to-day tasks – is the key to being able to withstand the moments of high stress and slow financial growth. Take the time now and outline your motives and drivers, that which you are most passionate about and willing to make sacrifices for to ensure your business succeeds.

Prepare for being the boss now

Most entrepreneurs have an innate desire to lead and feel comfortable at the idea of being in charge. That’s a valuable trait, but the idea of leadership is different than the reality itself. The feeling of not having to answer to someone else may sound great, but that will never be a reality, especially as entrepreneur. Being at the top means you are responsible for answering to everyone – your employees, the government, financial institutions and the general public. At the end of the day, you are the face of the organization, which adds a completely different level of pressure and responsibility.

Start slow, but dream big

Having an idea is great, but don’t quit your day job on an idea alone. Take time to carefully think through your next steps. Be purposeful and conduct adequate research on what it will take to build this concept into a business, and then create a business plan that will guide you forward. Then evaluate the market and test that evaluation to better measure the likelihood that your idea will convert.

Yes, you should take a leap of faith. You should absolutely bet on yourself and be bold, but do your due diligence first. Get comfortable with building your business in stages. That gradual process, while it feels slow, will actually help you reduce risk and achieve success faster.

Set a timeline and commit

You are doing the hard work now, diligently preparing your business on the sidelines of full-time employment. But your likelihood of actually stepping away from salaried employment will continue to lessen if you do not hold yourself accountable for the transition.

Outline everything you need to complete or accomplish before transitioning. Determine how long those accomplishments will take, and then set a deadline for yourself to leave the employee status behind. Setting a deadline is a tangible reminder that time is continuously passing us by, and will help serve as a marker and driver for the goals you are chasing.

Surround yourself with smart people

You are on a journey filled with unknowns. You don’t have to know it all, and you never will. The best thing you can do is embrace the journey ahead and build a bench of smart leaders who’ve gone before. Don’t hesitate to lean on others, ask for advice and admit your shortcomings.

Remember, there is a difference between taking a risk, and then taking a calculated risk. Do the hard work now, and you’ll feel more confident about entrepreneurship and your chances for success.

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“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.”  Vince Lombardi

“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.”  Henry Ford

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say.”  Steven Covey

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”  Bill Gates

“Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”  Sam Walton

“Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react.  If you’re in control, they’re in control.”  Tom Landry

“Never make decisions based on money alone.”  Cindy Anderson