Budding Entrepreneur? New business start up?

Setting up a new business can be a real challenge so I offer some thoughts from my own experience.

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Did your New Year start with determination to set up your own business? Maybe it’s time to manifest your dream and be your own boss. Or perhaps you’ve been working on a business plan half heartedly for ages and now it’s time to focus or move on.

I’ve been self employed for forty years and set up three businesses in that time, so I have some idea how you’re feeling right now. It’s exciting to think about the impact you can make and the freedom you could have once you’re self employed. Those early stages of set up are exciting as you see a brand growing right before your eyes.

But then the honeymoon is over. Now it’s more grunt work that excitement and you have to start bringing in some money.  Some days it’ll be a challenge to get out of your dressing gown or to switch off Netflix and a regular salary suddenly seems appealing. So in case you’re at that stage, some thoughts to help you on your way:

Success takes time to build – I know you’ll want it all to fall into place quickly, but these things take time. You’ll get it wrong, make mistakes and learn loads as a result. If you can keep some money coming in as you begin, then do it. I managed always to carry on some of the work I was doing before as I began the new venture. It was frustrating and I really wanted to focus, but it significantly reduced my anxiety at the start and that enabled me to be more relaxed and productive.

In my experience it takes roughly two years to feel fully confident that a business will deliver. During those times, I've worked myself ragged to get established. You can only do it for a certain length of time, so do take care of yourself. Remember to take a break once in a while - sleep and have some fun. It will all be worth it in the long run, but only if you're still in one piece!. 

Keep overheads as low as you can – as you start up, resist the temptation to hire people, take on big rents, invest in product etc. If, like me, you're selling your expertise, this is much easier. If you are selling a product, then it’s clearly more difficult, but anything you can do to reduce your overheads is worthwhile.

Having worked my way through three recessions and set up a business in a fourth, I know how low overheads can help you hunker down and wait it out. And since we’re in challenging times right now, anything you can do to cover your back is a good idea. 

Social media panaceas – as you kill time or work on building your Social Media presence you’ll be tempted by the numerous solutions and offers laid out before you. Every visit to Facebook or Twitter will present you with some guru who has the answer to your problems. There will always be someone who made their fortune in just six months and is now ready to teach you how to do the same. 

Some will be quality help and some will be fluff designed to part you from your money. I was caught by the latter just once, resulting in a very difficult four months of my life that I’ll never get back. I’m not sure what the answer is. I looked very thoroughly through the web to find comments from other users. I think there are a lot more now about this particular person, but at that point it was all locked down. I was lucky and found a loophole that enabled me to get back the bulk of my money, but I think that’s rare.

I guess the one piece of advice is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

 Find support – having said that, do find others who are working in the same way, so you can share experience and have a moan when you need it. You’ll learn a lot from each others mistakes and can save each other pain along the way.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a partner who has built his own business and now my daughters and son-in-law are doing the same, so it’s all around me. It means I end up doing everything from stuffing envelopes to reading manuscripts and get lots of encouragement and support in return.  

Of course you will be offered support groups on FB and Twitter. Just make sure you check them out thoroughly and talk with people who have been involved before. Some are great, others like the idea of helping, but don’t necessarily have the expertise you’re looking for.

Get your family/partner on side - the more your family are involved and supportive, the easier your life will be. Include them in your early explorations, involve them in decisions that will affect them, ask their opinion. Take any concerns seriously and see how you can ease their minds. They'll be doing this with you - by proxy - so don't leave them out, because............

You will work very long hours – I’ve talked with loads of people who envy my work. They see sizeable fees for intense bursts of work and assume that’s all I do. They don’t realise the days and weeks that go into making that work happen. Being able to choose when you want to work is a myth. If you’re self employed and totally responsible for bringing in the money, then you’ll be working every available hour until you’re fully established with a good amount in the bank. If you really don’t want that, then working for yourself may not be your best option.

I was advised by a colleague early on in my most recent incarnation to get together a ‘f**k off fund’ – a back up sum that would enable me to say, ‘no thank you, I don’t want to work with you.’ Without that you risk getting pulled off course by the need for money, ending up doing work that isn’t right and doesn’t suit you. Once the fund is in place, then you can begin to relax. It proved to be very good advice so I pass it on to you.

Take time out to feel proud – having said all that, it is a great way to work. The pay off in income and personal satisfaction is enormous. You can review what you’ve achieved and know you’ve done it yourself. You take the risk, but you also take the rewards and if sometimes that means an afternoon at the cinema or a long lie in, then good for you. You’ll certainly have burnt the candle at both ends enough times to have earned it.

I can’t imagine any other way of working. After this long, I am totally unemployable, so if I need a change it’s up to me to create it.

So if you have the determination, a workable idea and the back up  you need – finance and people – go for it. It will be a huge adventure. You'll work as hard as a hive of bees, but the honey will be all yours to enjoy!

And if you need help or another mind on your challenges, let me know. I'd be delighted to share my thinking and help all I can.

Post your questions in the comments section below, ask us on the Psychologies Facebook and Twitter page or email letters@psychologies.co.uk. I’ll be posting regularly, answering your questions.


Judith Leary Joyce

Great Companies Consulting

In 1996 I made the shift into business, taking my knowledge of Gestalt Psychology into the realm of Executive Coaching, Facilitation and Leadership/ Management Development. In 2001 I worked on the 100 Best Companies to Work For list, then went on to write my first book Becoming an Employer of Choice which was followed by Inspirational Manager and The Psychology of Success. Since then I have worked with organisations across the sectors from large corporates through to young start ups, public sector and charities. Now it’s time to help you have a love affair with your work and get exactly what you want from your career. To find out more about my work and coaching go to www.judithlearyjoyce.com