I love working on my own terms. I like choosing when to wake up and when to take my lunch-break. I also really LOVE making my own choices with product development and direction. Let’s be real; who wouldn’t? Being your own boss is the ultimate dream for many of us.
That said, I was in no way prepared to deal with the responsibility that comes with those choices. When I started my first business, I was broke, down, and out. Getting customers was hard and stability was elusive. I failed.
Ultimately, I went into formal employment and continued to run a business on the side. It wasn’t all bad, though. I learned true grit and self-discipline that proved to be invaluable as a full-time remote worker.
If you get through this article, and still feel prepared to start your own business, you may well succeed.
1. Starting a business takes time. All of your time.
Starting a business will not give you more time. Instead, you will need to spend long hours doing things not even related to your business at hand. Take for instance that you are a graphic designer turned freelancer. Instead of spending all of your work time designing awesome graphics, you’re now in charge of marketing. And finance. And customer relationships.
So, if you’re coming from traditional employment, do not expect to gain more time. Sure, you might be able to adjust your hours. You can wake up at 10 am and finish working at 7 pm. But you’re going to need to do a lot of upskilling to handle all of the new roles you’ll be taking on.
2. You will need to be a people person
Even if your business is based online, you won’t escape this. People, for some reason, like to talk to people they are giving their money to. Crazy, I know. I tried my damndest to keep everything text-based. I know now that sometimes, there is no alternative, and have since gotten over any and all phone-phobia.
Making small talk is also a necessity and is something you’ll need to learn. Building good customer relationships is essential. Beyond that, you’ll need to have difficult conversations when things aren’t going as planned. Whether it was you or the client who caused the issue, it will be up to you to guide things to a peaceful resolution.
I would often never say no to a client but have since written an article entirely about doing just that. It’s a delicate art of keeping your cool, being empathetic and sharing your knowledge.
3. You won’t get paid sick leave if you’re the only worker
This is important. Ensure that you have a financial safety net for these times. If you have known health issues, you’ll want to take care of yourself. Eating well and getting exercise if possible is a good start. Get that flu vaccine.
In South Africa, we are protected as employees and do get paid sick-leave. However, if you’re a freelancer, spending too much time off sick may mean losing clients or customers. While most people will be sympathetic, there are always limits as to how long people will put their business on hold. Make sure that your work and health status are in balance before leaving your day job.
4. You may become socially isolated
Ironically, while you will need more people skills, you may be socially starved for most of the time you spend working alone. Customers are not, and should, be friends. Colleagues, however, often tend to be people we can enjoy to some degree (if your work environment is pleasant).
So, if you’re very extroverted you’ll want to be extra sure to schedule social time with friends. Your business will easily eclipse your social life and leave you feeling miserable.
On the other side of the coin, you may actually need to turn down social events to get important work completed. Maybe it’s a rush job for a client you’re trying to impress. Or maybe you’re preparing to sell your wares at a weekend festival.
Depending on your business, you may end up working almost exclusively during the time when other people are free from work. Think of those in the service industry, cafe owners will need to be working while others are recreating.
5. You will probably fail
New businesses in general, and especially those in South Africa, have a very high failure rate. More than half will fail within a year.
failure rate. More than half will fail within a year. Even if you are very good at creating your wares, or providing your services, passion is not a substitute for grit. You’re going to need to learn and adapt in a highly competitive environment.
Be as ready to fail as you are to succeed. If you are ready to work hard, for a long time to see even minor success, then yes, you should start your own business.