When you think of entrepreneurs, you may think of their independence, creativity and limitless income potential. If you’ve spent extended time around an entrepreneur, however, you’ve likely seen the other side of things—the long hours, the stress created by a steady supply of risk.
Do you feel driven to start a business? Perhaps you have an idea that you’re confident will take off or you see an opportunity that can’t be passed. If so, you may be willing to put in the time and effort to make an entrepreneurial life work. Many aspiring entrepreneurs start this way. They love the idea of starting a business but don’t know where to start. Good news—there are many paths to the same end.
If you’re interested in the many ways of becoming an entrepreneur, here are some ideas:
1. Start with a Side Hustle
Starting a side hustle is a common way of becoming an entrepreneur. Not everyone has the luxury of a family business as a training ground. If you need to keep your day job and want to try out a business idea on the side, you may want to start with a side hustle.
If you make handmade products, for example, you could start with weekend craft shows or generate sales through an online marketplace. Or if you create websites, you could work on them at night. Once your business grows, you can think about trading your day job for your side hustle.
2. Find a Mentor
If you have a field you are interested in – whether manufacturing, retail, product development or technology – and know you want to pursue an entrepreneurial path, consider finding a mentor to show you the ins and outs of the industry.
Many business communities offer programs that pair business owners with seasoned veterans, allowing them to ask questions and seek advice, based on their experience. This relationship can provide valuable guidance as you take your first business steps.
3. Job Shadow
If you are lucky enough to find a contact in the field you’d like to enter, consider asking if you can job shadow a senior staff member for a few days. You may gain business insight, entrepreneurial tips and even valuable contacts. If you don’t feel comfortable asking strangers directly, ask your family and friends if they know anyone in the field who would allow you to job shadow for a short period of time.
4. Learn and Research
Starting a business takes plenty of research. Before you register a business name, make sure you have a good understanding of the landscape you hope to enter. Put together a business plan, including a balance sheet and a cash flow statement. Research your ideal customer, your competition, the cost of advertising and your profit margins.
Have a good understanding of when you think you’ll break even and if you can last until that point. If you need a more formal way to learn these skills, you can attend courses and entrepreneur workshops.
5. Surround Yourself with the Right People
Once you have a clear picture of your business idea and how you will make it work financially, actively seek out a group of supportive people. In this early stage, you need more than just the support of your family and friends. You need to find people who can critique your business plan with first-hand knowledge of the industry. You may find your support network through business clubs, service groups or through the small business arm of your regional municipal office.
6. Check Your Personality Type
Let’s face it—not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Before you launch yourself into a new career that might fail to provide a regular income for many months, make sure you are ready for the effort required. As much as the early days of an entrepreneur’s career can be exciting and liberating, they are often filled with long hours, sleepless nights and plenty of risk, as well. Make sure you are up for a sustained challenge before you launch into your new venture.
7. Find Targeted Training
An alternative to diving right into an entrepreneurial life is to test the waters and prepare yourself through specialized training. A number of colleges and institutes offer exceptional, hands-on training for entrepreneurs. A targeted program will allow you to plan for your specific business, while learning the details of creating a business plan, a marketing strategy and much more.
If you’ve been looking into the ways of becoming an entrepreneur, you likely have an idea in mind and some excitement to back it up. Make sure you go into things with your research done and a support network in place—your business is far more likely to be a success if your excitement is supported by knowledge and guidance.
8. Follow Family Footsteps
If you are lucky enough to have a business in your family, whether owned by your siblings, parents, aunts, uncles or cousins, ask if you can be involved. Learning the ropes of a small business from the inside will help you figure out what works well and what you would do differently. Whether you ultimately inherit a business or move on to start your own, you will have had a huge advantage by seeing the inner workings of a family operation.