True story. I started my business out of necessity. I had just left a nice job at a nonprofit organization for what I thought was a bigger and better opportunity with a new home builder. It was 2008 and the housing market was hot. Well, you know the story. The bottom fell out of the market and so did my job with the home builder. Had I listened to my gut I would have stayed at the nonprofit and rode out the recession with a steady paycheck.
I started my business as a means to survive the Great Recession. It wasn’t under the best of circumstances by any means. I was out of work like most Americans and whatever savings and unemployment benefits I had, all eventually ran dry. So this business was started on a wing and a prayer and it’s been hard.
Starting a business at a disadvantage did teach me a few things. I’ve certainly learned how to be resourceful. I learned there are people out there who will do work for five bucks and five bucks was definitely in my budget. Well sometimes. There were certain things I had to learn how to do because there was no way I could afford to pay someone to do it for me. I’ve got great new skill sets like audio and video editing because those things had to be done to launch my podcast. I’ve worked part-time jobs at Staples and Wal-Mart to help make ends meet. It has not been easy. I even tried to go back to work full time. I was the top candidate for one position…I was all but a shoo-in to get the gig and at the last moment, they went with the number two candidate. I. Was. Mortified.
So, after all, I’ve experienced I’m very comfortable in telling aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners…stay on your job.
Yes, that’s right. Stay on your 9-to-5.
As much power as lieth within you…stay put.
Take deep breaths.
Take up boxing.
Do what you have to, but stay put for a season.
Based on what I’ve experienced and learned…here’s why.
Business is built on relationships. Yes, it’s true that people do business with businesses they know and trust. And trust is not built overnight. There’s a phenomenon very similar to people watching called business watching. I can’t tell you how many people have emailed privately or called me to say they watched me first..for months…and then made contact. If you don’t have a big circle or influential circle, you’re going to put in the legwork. You’re going to put in more than a few miles on your car to get out and start meeting people. Let’s be real…that means clothes to the cleaners, keeping your wardrobe presentable, washing your car, paying networking entrance fees, parking/valet fees, gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. You’re going to need business cards and if you’re smooth, your own personal name badge. And you haven’t landed your first client yet or made key connections. You’ll need a job or some kind of income to supplement all this relationship building and networking.
You will make mistakes. Some of them will be costly. As a graphic designer, there was nothing more painful than to have to “eat” a job. That means you have a client’s work printed and there’s a mistake and you have to pay for it. Well, you spent the client’s deposit as soon as you got it to pay the light bill. Sometimes these types of mistakes are enough to shut a business down. When you have no savings, no side hustle or supplemental income one seemingly small mistake can shut down your business.
The Steep Learning Curve. If you’ve never run a business before, trust me there’s a pretty steep learning curve. I highly recommend Azalea McKinney, aka, The Stilletto Boss and Solopreneur’s Best Friend™. She’ll make sure you start your business the right way and with all the tools you need to win.
There’s that funny thing about momentum. So much effort is exerted to get the wheel moving. O.M.G. Running a business requires that you’re consistent in your marketing efforts and;
Marketing is not cheap. Yes, there are some things you can do on your own, but I promise there will come a time when you’re ready to #Crush25K* and join the #30Percent** club, and #ClubOnePointEight***, you’re going to have to make a sizable investment in yourself and your marketing efforts. I promise you can’t do that on a shoestring budget.
They don’t make them like they used too. Stuff breaks and always at the worst opportune time. Computers crash, cars break down, the section of the roof right over your home office has a leak during the rainy season. You will question your own sanity and will want to throw in the towel many a day but that entrepreneurial bug just won’t go away. You’re going to need a financial cushion to weather these kinds of storms. Cash flow is crucial.
I know this because I’ve lived it.
So I would advise anyone who’s itching to come off of their 9-to-5 that if they don’t have their financial ducks in a row to wait. You’re going to need to collect more than a few paychecks to ride out the self-funded startup roller coaster.
If I had to do over again…would I have stayed at the nonprofit?
Knowing what I know now…I most certainly would.
I just would have been one praying/meditating/power walking sister on my lunch in order to keep sane.
Whatever you decide, I wish you well and much success.
*#Crush25K – Seventy percent of all women-owned businesses in the United States have annual revenues of $25K or less.
** #30Percent – The 30 percent of women-owned businesses that make above $25K in annual revenue.
*** #ClubOnePointEight – 1.8 percent of all women-owned businesses in the U.S. making annual revenues of $1 million or more.
Lisa N. Alexander is the author and founder of This Woman Knows and What Million-Dollar Brands Know. She is a women’s leadership speaker and marketing consultant known as The Marketing Stylist™. She speaks on topics ranging from women’s empowerment to successfully marketing your business and uses her wit and humor to inform and entertain audiences. For booking information please visit www.LisaNAlexander.com.