polarbearplungeIf I had a nickel for every friend, acquaintance or stranger who tells me that they’d love to launch their own business but are afraid, I’d be a very rich man. And they tell me that as if I wasn’t afraid nearly 10 years ago when I made the big move. Truth be told, I can’t believe I did it. I’m not sure where I mustered up the guts to quit what was, at the time, a great job, to enter the unknown world of entrepreneurship.

But I did it and I couldn’t be happier. Given that I am an older dad and have two children, the youngest of whom was only one when I made the move, I knew I’d probably never retire. So I had to find a way to make life more livable while continuing to earn a living. After spending two decades in agency, non-profit and corporate communications, launching my own PR and writing business was the answer.

It doesn’t matter whether you are launching a business like mine, or any consulting gig that means you sell your brainpower and skills to companies. This life isn’t for everyone, but I took a few steps that made me muster up the will to make it happen.

  1. Have a plan – It may sound simple, but know what you want to do. You can’t sell your services to people unless you know specifcially what it is you want to sell. For me, it was simple. I’m a writer by trade with two decades of PR and Corporate Communications experience. Make sure you are clear about your goals and how you want to spend your time every day.
  2. Do your homework – I must have read six different books on launching a business, most notably Peter Bowerman’s Well Fed Writer Filled with great information and inspiration, just reading these books gave me the confidence that I could be successful.
  3. Tell your friends – And by friends, I mean everyone you know, worked with or with whom you had any level of interaction. I started selling my services six months before I launched my business and when it was time to pull the trigger I had one client contract in hand and several others under consideration. I took a chance that my existing employer would contract with me for projects I had created and owned for seven years and when they did (on the day I handed in my resignation) I knew I would hit the ground running.
  4. Get your finances in order – Probably the toughest item on this list, you can’t just quit a job and launch a business with no resources backing you up. Whether it’s savings that you have put away as you chase this dream or a supportive spouse who can pick up the slack while you get your feet under you, make sure you have a back up plan. A lot of books talk about having three or six months of living expenses put away, but in my experience the number doesn’t matter as long as it is a number you are comfortable with and have the ability and drive to make it happen.
  5. Consider the small stuff – I’m a big believer in trying to learn to not sweat the small stuff. But when planning to launch your business, there are few things more important than the small stuff; from benefits to retirement, from vacations to office space – put all of these considerations on paper and make sure that you are truly ready to go.
  6. Finally, expand your network – When you leave the corporate womb to strike out on your own, one of the things you lose is constant human contact. Don’t lose your existing network and expand it so that you have a lot of folks with whom to interact on a daily basis.

Striking out on your own can be a wonderful thing, so long as you are prepared.