When I was 12 years old, my dad quit his corporate job. He quit his job to open his own restaurant. The restaurant opened around my 13th birthday. I only remember that because the restaurant billboard by the street said “Happy 13th Birthday Courtney”. I was billboard by the side of the road famous.
I was famous, and hired to work at the family biz. I thought it was really cool to have a paying job at such an early age. It sparked my entrepreneurial spirit and formed my strong work ethic. I loved being that girl who could bring pizza to events and meet friends for lunch (for free). When I was in high school, I still thought it was great to have a job, but being the owner’s daughter meant that if someone called in sick and a last-minute replacement was needed, I was the easiest to reach. Even if it was on the night of a dance or other event that was more appealing than work. It was then that I realized when it’s your business, you get the good and the bad.
There are pros and cons of growing up in a family business
- You spend a lot of time working with your family
- There is always restaurant food to eat
- People think you get special treatment as the owner’s daughter
- You get special treatment as the owner’s daughter
Each of the above statements are pros and cons.
While I always admired my dad for going out on his own and realizing a dream, I was determined to work for someone else instead of having my own business one day. I didn’t want to be so invested. I didn’t want to care so much. I wanted to pick up a paycheck and go on my way.
That’s exactly what I did until a few years ago, after decades of pouring my heart and soul into everyone else’s dreams, when I realized that I still cared and was still invested even when it wasn’t my business.
I didn’t start working for myself for more money. I did it for freedom, for time, for creativity. Yes, I want and need to make money, but it wasn’t the driving decision maker for me to make a change.
Times have changed
In 1982, when my dad’s restaurant opened, being your own boss meant getting a loan, finding a store front, ordering inventory, hiring staff and then trying to make a little money. Today, being your own boss means having an idea, building a platform and opening your computer in a coffee shop to check your email, write a blog post and connect with clients via Skype. (I’ve grossly simplified both scenarios here.)
I do not believe that there are people destined to own their own business any more than I think some people are supposed to work for other people. Circumstances, desires, openness to change and opportunity all shape the decisions we make for the life we want to live and the work we so desperately want to love.
Everything You Need to Know to Start a Microbusiness
Pay Off Your Debt
Before you leave your day job and declare your independence, be debt free with $1000 emergency fund. That doesn’t mean wait until that happens to get started, but I suggest waiting until that happens to actually quit your job. I chose to save 2 months of income so that I wasn’t pressured to make money immediately. I didn’t want to start a business with the anxiety of where the next dollar would come from.
Assess Your Income Needs
You may want to make a lot of money, but to get started think about how much you really need to make. Read Your Money or Your Life and Smalltopia to define that number.
Maybe you don’t know what you want to do. You might be so overextended and burnt out with your current job and lifestyle that you have no idea what interests you. If you don’t like what you are doing, but don’t know what’s next, this book is next: The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte.
Brainstorm Business Ideas
In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau says “To start a business, you need three things: a product or service, a group of people willing to pay for it, and a way to get paid. Everything else is completely optional.”
I’ll add that it will help if you know and love what you are selling. That makes you much better at what you do and takes the sting out of asking for money. When you know you are offering your very best, and that product or service will help someone else, you will feel good about getting paid for it.
Visit an Accountant
There are plenty of tools online like to help you manage your business finances, but I recommend meeting with a local expert. Understand tax laws, organize your business and have a friend in your local area that can help if problems arise.
Develop a Platform
Almost every client that I’ve worked with found me as a result of my blog. They may have found the blog from twitter or another site, but they didn’t find me because my face was on a billboard, or in a magazine ad. Each person found me because I showed up and wrote honest, helpful information consistently. Building a blog will be your number one way of developing new ideas and connecting with clients, business partners and investors. To answer your next question, yes, you really need a blog.
With my history in the advertising industry, I can tell you with no uncertainty that times have changed. Your business will not grow because you throw thousands of dollars at TV spots and magazine placements. Your business will grow because you will take time to let people get to know you and your work through a platform like a blog. It will grow because you help people and they will tell other people that you helped them.
Keep Your Day Job
The early stage of new business planning is not the time to leave your job, unless money is not an issue. The early stage of new business planning is the time to hustle. I launched my first site in May of 2010 and quit my job 17 months later. That meant months of writing nights and weekends, staying up late, waking up early and working extra hours.
Image via CrunchBase
The beauty of it was that it wasn’t exhausting. It was exhilarating. I knew I was building my future work. I knew I wouldn’t be attending weekly meetings. I knew I wouldn’t be writing reports that no one cared about and that I wouldn’t be chained to a desk or a cell phone all day long. I knew I wouldn’t need a committee to make a decision and that I would have an opportunity to do some really cool stuff.
Discover What You Love about the Job You Hate
Your boss is a jerk and your hours suck, but there are things about your job that you really like and maybe even love. Make a list of those things and brainstorm what they might look like in your own microbusiness. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
Set a Date (or several)
I set 3 different dates before I pulled the trigger, but each date gave me hope and motivation. My first date was May 2011 but I wasn’t ready. The next was July 2011, and my dog needed an expensive surgery that depleted my jump ship fund. My 3rd date at the end of September 2011 stuck. Setting a quit date will be a reminder that this isn’t a pipe dream or a hobby. This is your life.
Read and Connect
There are people out there doing what you want to do or doing something that can help you do what you want to do. Meet them, work with them, learn from them and read their stuff. I’ve learned from the best in my field, Leo Babauta, Pam Slim, Chris Guillibeau, (+ many others) have all helped me with in person meetings, phone consultations or live events that shaped my business. If they didn’t have a blog, I never would have found them.
Ask for help to brainstorm and organize your ideas, streamline your business and put an idea into action. Yes, you can hire me.
Use Virtual Partners
You don’t need a staff to run your business, instead, use free or paid microbusiness resources.
Test. Fail. Repeat.
Not everything you do will work. When you are out of debt, building your platform, and connecting with new people, you will feel better about trying new things and then trying again. You won’t be filling your garage with millions of dollars of widgets that won’t sell, leaving you broke. Instead, you can create on demand and give people what they want.
Paul Jarvis says this about experimenting, “I like to frame my business ideas as experiments (no lab coat required). I do this because experiments don’t fail, they simply show results. Sometimes those results are great and point you in the direction for bigger and better things. Sometimes they just show you what idea isn’t worth pursuing.”
You won’t be working from the beach everyday, even though some people do. I like the beach, but I also have a family to take care of, grocery shopping to do, bills to pay, and a daughter in college. None of that changes when you own your own business.
The romance of location independence work can be alluring, but instead, think about how working for yourself would benefit your lifestyle. I love that I can walk my dog in the morning, exercise in the afternoon and work when I like instead of when an office is open.
Treat People Like People
If you start your own business, you will be working with people. Care about them. Help them. Support them.
Understand the difference between selling something and selling someone. It will change the way you do business.
I am not a fan of partnering on a business, but I enjoy partnering on business projects. Working with Leo Babauta on theclutterfreecourse.com and Tammy Strobel on Your Lovely Life is a great part of my microbusiness. We share the workload, get to know each other better and have a great time creating together.
I am sure that there is a spelling or grammar error in this post and someone may email and tell me about it. That error and my general lack of perfection does not dilute my message. If you make a mistake, you can correct it. If you wait until things are perfect, nothing happens.
This isn’t your someday business. The right time is right now. You don’t need a mission statement, marketing plan or quarterly projections to get started. You don’t need a degree in business or a special certificate. You just need an idea, a taste or tolerance for uncertainty and a good sense of humor. Supportive friends and family help too!
But how do you really make money?
Every microbusiness is different but my income comes from a combination of writing and selling books and digital courses, fine art photography sales, speaking, and working with really awesome people who want to start or grow their own microbusiness and develop creative ideas.
I believe that doing work you love should be accessible to anyone who is interested. I help you simplify your life and business so you can focus on what really matters.
Is this really everything you need to know about how to start a microbusiness?
It’s everything you need to know to get started, and the rest … you don’t know what you don’t know and you won’t completely know what you need to learn until you get started. My business is different from what I thought it would be when it started, and I know next year it will change again.