Perhaps you have a lifelong passion you wish to pursue, but you have always been nervous about giving up security for a dream. Or perhaps you’re at the stage of your career where your only chance of a promotion is to take your boss’s place, but your boss isn’t looking like budging any time soon, and the only way to get ahead is to jump to another company entirely. Or maybe you have been out of the job market so long, you don’t know where to start. If any of this is true it’s worth considering whether you could or should start a business of your own.
We know that women undervalue themselves, so if you’re reading this thinking, “Yes, but what can I do that would be of value?”, taking stock of your achievements would be a worthwhile exercise. In her article A Woman’s Guide to Sticking to Her Freelance Guns, Erika Parsons discusses how many women are “Intelligent, creative, high-achievers who knowingly or unknowingly harbor self-doubt about their abilities. They allow negative self-talk and fear of being “found out” to inhibit potential success.” The truth is that you’ve gathered a myriad of skills that you can draw upon and transform into services or products potential customers will gratefully make use of.
To start, make a list of all the skills you have acquired in your work, and problems you’re able to solve, not just in your current role but in your past jobs as well. Next, make a list of every single skill you practice outside of your job. Yep, that means anything you do well. Even if you haven’t been in the job market for several years, you probably have been developing marketable skills. For instance, one of my friends spent the better part of 20 years raising four children and running her household with ship-like efficiency. Her skills would include management, schedule coordination, planning and cooking regular meals (nutrition), daily cleaning and organization, and tutoring across a wide range of subjects.
It might be useful to check out the most in-demand skills today; do you have or could you learn an in-demand skill? Are there things you might be interested in doing or learning about?
Identify the business services or products that match your skills. List the industries that market these services or products. If you start to see a trend, that will indicate what kind of business is most in line with your interests and abilities.
The work you choose should align with your core values in order to feel like a natural fit. But sometimes defining what is important to you is complicated. If you examine what you do on a day-to-day basis, you might find that your core values are in reality different from what you imagine they are. As Kevin Daum advises in his article for Inc., Define Your Personal Core Values: 5 Steps: “Think of a situation where following your core value hurts you rather than helps you. For example you might think Innovation sounds good until you realize that your life thrives on stability rather than constant change. You have to think it through carefully.”
Your new business may require a refresher course, an additional qualification, a certification, technical training, or industry registration in order to get it up and running. Don’t let that discourage you. You can often find what you need online or fill in your education at a local school.
In the meantime, it is completely within reason for you to start offering services or products that you’re able to provide. This would allow you to build up clientele while still doing your day job, giving you a good testing ground and peace of mind that your business concept will succeed – before resigning your position.
To get your business up and running requires planning, advertising, and a strategic approach (in other words, marketing). Your current network is a great place to start. Find an expert marketing consultant who can help you navigate social media safely and effectively (this will be well worth the investment). Then begin getting the word out!
Other women provide a wealth of knowledge, so I suggest finding an experienced mentor who has made the transition to self-employment successfully, and find out what she does to make her business work for her. I personally have a number of mentors, all women, and we all share and support each other’s business developments and ventures. We refer mutual friends as potential clients, help each other with our fledgling projects, or act as a soundboard for bouncing off new ideas.
You may be the type of person who is inclined to caution, but if you can envision a positive change, it is time to test the waters. Start small, make mistakes while you can, and learn from them. From a single client, you can slowly snowball your venture into a business profitable enough to quit your day job. And isn’t that a powerful thing indeed.
Written by Sarah Caroline Bell