When I finally made the decision to give up the network news anchor life — and the stability that came with it — to start my own business, I wasn’t scared. I was relieved.
That’s because getting to the point where I was ready to bring my business to life was a feat in itself. I started my multimedia production company in 2011, at the end of the so-called Great Recession. I left hard-core business news, where my primary audience skewed to the older and more affluent end of the spectrum, to start reaching an audience of young women who didn’t seek out money news — but needed it the most.
I made a lot of mistakes, including not establishing a budget or business plan. I wasted a lot of time and money pursuing projects that, had I done my homework, I would have known would never pan out. I took way too many meetings for the sake of taking meetings, and I ran myself into the ground. But I also learned. A lot.
Here are five things I needed to have in order before I was ready to start my own business.
When you start your own business, you’ll likely make a different salary and see different benefits — if you get any at all. That’s why you must have one year of savings in the bank before you strike out on your own.
It might take a year to start making money again, so the best way to avoid anxiety that comes with starting a business is to have enough money saved to get through the launch period.
These savings will also give you a cushion in case your timeline toward being cash flow positive takes longer than you expected.
This might come as a surprise to you (because it definitely did for me): You are going to fail. At least at some things, some of the time. So, mentally, you have to be comfortable with failure. During the early days of my launch phase, my business card said CEO, but I felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole.
I had to learn to face my feelings head on and deal with them in the moment in order to keep myself and my budding business moving forward. When you work in a more traditional job, it’s easy to fantasize about leaving if things get tough. But when you own a business, you can’t just up and quit because you’re frustrated, overworked or hate your boss. Because guess what? You are the boss. So get your feelings in check and start acting like one.
Keeping yourself healthy is always important, but as an entrepreneur, your body is now one of your company’s most precious assets. You are now quite literally your business.
While expending sweat equity is undoubtedly important, resist the temptation to give your business everything you’ve got. You are going to need a lot of energy to run your business, but you won’t have that if you don’t care for yourself first. And you’re no good to those depending on you if you’re down and out with the flu. Plus, you are now paying 100 percent of your healthcare costs.
Now that you’re not making much money — or you shouldn’t be, since you typically want to reinvest most of what you make back into your business — it’s important to make changes to your lifestyle.
Before you know when you’ll start seeing a return on your hard work, it’s better to be as conservative as possible. And once you get back to your “normal” budget, keep it steady there even if you’re making more money. This will allow you to rebuild that cushion of savings that we talked about before.
No, I’m not talking about the ones you lose after a cocktail or two. I’m talking about any sort of wallflower tendencies. As a new entrepreneur, you need to be ready to network at every opportunity and deliver your elevator pitch in any, well, elevator.
Networking doesn’t just happen at large industry events. In fact, I’ve had better luck making business connections by volunteering at my local farmers market or taking a fun workout class with other women in my industry. If you’re shy by nature, it’s time to find your chutzpah. No one will sell your business as well as you can, so it’s up to you to sell the sizzle.