Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It takes a certain amount of determination, patience and courage to transform a business from mere concept to reality. It takes even more hard work to make it a success. Before you dive into an endeavor as an entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to test the waters first to make sure you’re not getting in over your head. We’ve come up with some guidelines to help make the transition from working for “the man” to working for yourself as an entrepreneur easier.
Are You Ready to Be an Entrepreneur?
1. Know What You’re Selling
No two businesses are exactly alike but they all share one thing in common–every business has a product or service they’re trying to sell. Becoming an entrepreneur begins with knowing what it is you have to offer that would be of value to someone else.
For instance, if your business idea centers around a specific product, it’s vital that you have a complete understanding of what it is and how it works. Knowing a product like the back of your hand ensures that you’ll be able to handle any questions or objections your customers may have.
The same is also true if you’re selling services. Whether you’re planning to start a financial consulting firm or a tree trimming service, you want your potential customers to see you as an authority. If you’re planning on seeking out investors to fund your efforts, you’ll need to be able to prove that you have the knowledge and the know-how to get the ball rolling.
2. Find Your Target Audience
No matter how great your product or service is, it’s meaningless if you don’t have someone to sell it to. Figuring out who your target audience is can give you a sense of how viable your business idea really is. Getting to know the competition is a good starting point for figuring out who your potential customers are.
Take a look at the type of people who buy your competitor’s products or use their services. You want to pay attention to basic demographic information, like their age, gender, marital status, income, location, etc. It’s also helpful to look at how they shop your competitor. Some companies rely solely on local business while others make the majority of sales online. Knowing who the customers are as well as where they are can give you an edge when you’re ready to enter the marketplace.
3. Have a Plan
Writing out a business plan isn’t a requirement for becoming an entrepreneur but it can certainly help to provide some guidance when you’re trying to get your venture off the ground. A business plan is essentially a roadmap that shows you where you are, where you want to go and how you’ll get there.
Even if your business idea seems fairly straightforward, having a written plan can help you stay on track. If you’re not familiar with what goes into writing one there are plenty of online resources available, including those provided by the Small Business Administration.
4. Ask for Help
Launching a business is a daunting task and thinking you can do it all alone is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Having a support system in place before getting started can help you avoid burnout and provide the motivation you need to keep going. It also comes in handy when you need someone to bounce ideas off of.
One of the most important people to include in your support system is a mentor. Ideally, your mentor should be someone who’s already established themselves as an entrepreneur and is willing to share knowledge with you.
If you don’t have a mentor, take a look at your professional network to see if there’s another entrepreneur you could learn from. Opening the door to a mentoring relationship may be as simple as asking them for their advice on something related to your start-up plans.
5. Don’t Stop Learning
The business world is constantly changing and keeping up with the latest trends is sometimes a challenge, even for the most seasoned entrepreneurs. Staying on top of what’s going on in your industry is a must, especially when you’re just starting out.
Reading trade magazines, newspapers, journals and blogs is a good place to start but you can also learn a lot by attending business seminars or workshops. Taking continuing education courses or earning a specialized degree typically require a larger investment of your time and money but it may be worth it if it helps to grow your business.