Within each of us is a desire to be our own boss. We’ve all had our million dollar idea, or one too many horrible bosses that make us want to start our own company. Yet the truth is this: Regardless of your idea, owning your own business takes hard work, determination, sacrifice, and a very clear understanding of not just your business, but also your personality.
Here are a few points to consider before deciding to become an entrepreneur:
Don’t quit your day job … yet. Whether you’re currently a student, work part-time, or are gainfully employed, the next great idea usually doesn’t need 40+ hours per week to get off the ground. Create a strict schedule for how much time you really need. You may not make a dollar from your new business for a while, so keep whatever job is currently paying you. And don’t ask your spouse or significant to quit, like I did, or you will end up living in your parents’ mobile home … like we did.
Estimate your annual revenue and divide it in half. Some businesses never get off the ground, while others grow at such an amazing pace that annual estimates become immediately obsolete. However, you must be realistic about the time it will take for your efforts to really kick in. Calculate how much you think you can make, then divide it in half and plan your expenses around that number instead. I started a business that facilitated recreational sports leagues in a community of 600,000 people after getting the idea from a sports club in Chicago, home to more than two million. The two markets were vastly different, so my estimates on participation and growth were way off: I ordered 2,000 jerseys for our first season, and only 75 people signed up. For an entire year, I didn’t know if I was running a sports business or a t-shirt business.
Make 'free' your favorite word. New businesses must keep expenses as low as possible, and it doesn’t get any lower than free. Brainstorm creative ways to grow and operate your business at little to no cost. Trade services with other businesses in any industry; for example, if you know graphic design but don’t have a clue about databases, consider swapping your design skills for free database setup. Before spending money on marketing, take advantage of free methods to spread word about your new business. I used free listing services, like Craigslist, to advertise leagues and events, post job openings to find umpires and referees, and trade services with local screen printers and advertisers to keep start-up costs extremely low.
Know your business well, but know yourself better. You and your business will practically be one entity for a while, so realize your morals and values when making decisions and building relationships. Don’t bash competitors or make business deals you don’t feel right about. Be the boss that you always wish you had. You must know who you are and how you’ll react to challenges and situations; stick with your core values and ensure your business is in line with them as well. Most importantly, make sure you love what you’re doing, since you’ll probably be working twice as hard for half as much money in the beginning.
Take a break, take a walk, take a shower! Entrepreneurship is exciting, but don’t let it consume you. In order to keep moving in the right direction with fresh ideas and new approaches to challenges, take breaks often. It may be as easy as taking a walk; I happen to get my best business ideas in the shower. Though my wife gets nervous whenever I emerge from the shower and say “I have an idea,” I find that I think more clearly when not thinking about business. Make time for breaks away from your new business so you can come back with a fresh perspective.
If you’re finally ready to start your own business, I encourage you to create a schedule, reduce your expectations, find things for free, and figure out who you really are … then, go take a shower.
This article originally appeared on the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.