Ditch the Cubicle: How to Boldly Strike Out on Your Own
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I was talking with a coaching client the other day — a 31-year-old guy who's set the goal of being his own boss by the time he's 35.
He wants to have multiple streams of income so he can pursue a wide variety of interests and regularly experience new challenges and opportunities. He wants to set his own schedule, make his own decisions about his businesses, and have the flexibility of spending time with his family. He wants to love his work and have fun at it every day.
How does this sound to you? Do you share this dream?
When he was a teenager, my client didn't have much ambition and didn't feel he had much potential for success, a belief reinforced by his parents and teachers. But sometime in his early twenties, he made the decision he could be successful — maybe even more successful than his peers. He got his degree and started working for a large software technology company, using some of his income to start a couple of small business ventures. He is now planning his next step toward entrepreneurship. I have no doubt that he will reach his goal of being self-sufficient by the time he's 35.
Many people dream of this freedom, but most of us hold back. It feels too risky, with no real guarantee of success. So what makes my client different? He's not necessarily smarter or more hardworking than the next guy, though he is smart and hardworking. I bet you are too.
Here's what makes him different. He has done one bold thing that sets him apart –he made the decision to be successful.
He set a goal for himself and isn't looking back, even knowing the risks involved. And that action is more than half the battle.
Does simply deciding to strike out on your own guarantee success? Of course not. You must assess the risks, complete your due diligence, make wise choices, and do the hard work daily. But think about the times when you have firmly decided to pursue something. Your passion, vision and hard work were amplified by the tenacity of your commitment.
Do you dream of ditching the cubicle to set out on your own?
If it seems daunting, take heart. The biggest thing standing in your way is the decision and the fear that surrounds making the decision. Here are some strategies around making the decision to be your own boss and how to get the plan underway.
Do Your Research to Start a Business
The lure of working for yourself is enticing, but make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. If you are going to start a business, there are many factors you need to evaluate, from the kind of business you will pursue to filing the right paperwork. Read and research as much as you can about the business, the start-up work involved and the income potential.
- Here is an outstanding list of 50 Things You'll Need to Do to start a business. Many of these things can be done while you are still employed elsewhere. Don't give up your job until you have done your research and know exactly what it takes to start a business.
- Here's an article on the Four Reasons Why Businesses Succeed or Fail and another on 5 Money Keys to a Successful Business.
- Here are some great resources for starting a business from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
What About Freelancing?
If you want to be self-employed without the complications and overhead of starting a business, freelancing is the way to go. Freelancers generally spin off from the work they have done as employees, using their experience and contacts to get started.
- Freelancers commonly work in writing, editing, blogging, web design, graphic arts, computer programming, bookkeeping, or as a virtual assistant. They generally work on their own and have the luxury of working from virtually anywhere. But freelance work requires self-motivation, time management, and the element of uncertainty (like when is the next gig going to happen?).
- The average salary for freelancers is about $68,000. Check out this breakdown of salaries by job.
- If you are interested in freelancing or if you are a freelancer, I can't recommend Chris Guillebeau's Freelance Survival Guide highly enough. I have used it myself, and it is chock full of useful info. Check it out here:
That Entrepreneurial Spirit
Maybe you are like my client and want to have multiple streams of income from a variety of sources. You can mix investing, consulting, coaching, freelancing, and business ownership. If you've been employed for years and have some experience under your belt, you can offer the variety of your experience to others and get paid well for it. You will enjoy new challenges, and by not putting all of your eggs in one basket, you'll be able to stay afloat if one stream dries up.
- Here's a great article on 10 Ways to Earn Extra Income.
- Leo Babauta, the founder of the wildly successful blog Zen Habits, makes a six figure income with a variety of income streams. Here's and article he wrote on creating multiple streams of income.
- Here is a list of 163 Ways to Become an Entrepreneur.
- Chris Guillebeau has another great product for anyone looking to build a lifestyle business. His Empire Building Kit sold out during the first two releases. He now has it available on-going. Check it out here:
Making the Decision
The biggest piece of moving forward on your own is making the decision. Nothing is guaranteed in life, even if you have a seemingly secure full-time job. If you truly dream of being self-employed, gather as much information as you possibly can before you set sail. If you don't discover any glaring red flags, at some point you have to launch. Here are some additional ideas for feeling better about pushing away from shore:
- Take an assessment to see if you have the personality for self-employment. Here's a great assessment that has a very modest fee of of $12.95, and it only takes about 15 minutes.
- Here's a great article from Pamela Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation on How to Know When to Quit Your Day Job.
- You will need to have a back-up plan just in case things don't pan out. Make sure you don't burn any bridges with your current employer. In fact, ask them if they would be willing to keep the door open (in writing if possible). Make sure you have 6 months to a year's worth of savings to tide you over if necessary. Maintain your contacts from you previous work life. Here are some tips about creating a back-up plan.
- Once you have made the decision, don't look back. Keep your eye on the prize, and like my client, make the decision to be successful. Will you have challenges and moments of doubt? Of course. But you can keep yourself motivated if you are proactive about it. Here's a useful resource to help keep you energized and positive about your work.
If you want to ditch the cubicle, don't just dream about it. Take action now to set the wheels in motion. Just beginning the research and planning will boost your confidence and set fire to your enthusiasm. Go ahead — be bold. Today's the day.
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