There are many people today considering venturing out into the world of self-employment leaving the relative security of a steady job. You may have a spouse or close friend in this position. Typically when someone discusses leaving a job for the uncertainties of their own business they ask themselves, and anyone who will listen, a key question. If I start my own business, how will I find clients/customers? They are soon faced with the sobering thought of having to market themselves to get business. This is sometimes the stumbling block that can keep an aspiring entrepreneur from making the leap over the wall into the land of self-sufficiency. Marketing doesn’t have to be responsible for holding you back. If approached properly it could be the tool to enable your flight.
Here are a few pointers to guide you through the initial anxiety-filled period when most new entrepreneurs are in a mental and physical transition prior to, and for a while after, the actual move. Emotions tend to be higher, and your mind is somewhat distracted by changes you are going through and the many new issues needing your attention.
1. Talk to other entrepreneurs about leaping from a job to being your own boss. You are not the first person to make this move. Others have gone before you and are usually willing to share their experiences. Lessons can be learned and costly mistakes avoided.
2. Get a basic understanding of marketing to help reduce the sense of fear, anxiety and overwhelm that occurs when you enter an area of unfamiliarity. Read books on marketing and take marketing courses. Become familiar with marketing terminology and activities.
3. Take advantage of up front time before you leap. Start the thinking process early, before you jump. Waiting until you leave to start your planning can be too late. Do as much advance work as possible. Research your target group, competition, the potential of your idea, and the services you’ll offer. Start the marketing process by working to determine who you are and what you are selling.
4. Ask yourself if your expectations are realistic? Discuss these issues with your family and get their agreement. A reasonable initial financial goal should be to at least replace your current income. Be prepared as this goal may take longer to reach than expected.
5. Consider approaching your present employer and offer your services on a contract basis. They could be your first customer, serving as a stepping stone until you develop a larger customer base.
6. Go out and see prospects. Be objective, honest, realistic, about what you can do, who you are, don’t over promise. I recommend making your early mistakes with smaller less important potential customers. Don’t take it personally if you are rejected. They may be reacting to the way you have presented your company or they may genuinely not have a need for your services. Either way there is valuable learning to be had.
7. Qualify leads carefully, hear what a prospect is saying not what you want them to say and be very realistic about their intentions. Many promising businesses have failed in infancy because a new entrepreneur thought a positive response to their idea meant money in the bank.
8. Join up with other small businesses who complement your products or services. They could provide much needed leads and act as part of your support system.
9. Look for a mentor or group of advisors to provide guidance. Preferably those familiar with the business you are entering. They may have been there before you and hopefully can help to avoid some of the pitfalls of running your own business.
10. If you are planning on a career change try working for a company in the same business you are entering learning what and what not to do.
11. Make sure your voicemail is businesslike and professional before you leave the job, while going through the initial research stages. It is not necessary to use a company name, but leave a professional message and don’t have the kids answering the telephone. Train them early, when to answer and what to say or get an extra telephone line for your computer (internet/fax) and business voicemail.
12. Purchase computer equipment early and learn to use it. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute learning new software when you’re trying to produce a letter or proposal.
13. Prepare marketing tools with the understanding that you will likely need to revise them as you go. Get business cards and letterhead produced in small quantities. Do not produce homemade cards. The negative message you are sending out is a lack of commitment to the idea you are attempting to base a business on.
14. Have fun but don’t let the new business venture consume your life. Make time for family and friends. You will be amazed at how much more energy and clarity you will have if a balance is maintained.
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