Starting a business is like building a boat from scratch and setting sail. Unless you build boats for a living, expect things to go wrong very quickly.
To continue the metaphor: The problem with many would-be entrepreneurs is that they only have experience on the open water. They know how to sail, navigate and survive at sea. They’re sailors, but they don’t have the skills to build their ship. They just have sailing skills.
I didn’t make the decision on a whim to start my company after I was fired from my last full-time job. I was already in the right industry, had learned from some of the best minds in the business and was freelancing on the side. In other words, I had a good sense of how to build a boat and captain my own ship.
If you too want to start your own business but have experience working only under a manager, you need to do some serious soul-searching and self-assessment. Ask yourself these six questions before you start:
1. ‘Could I survive, financially and psychologically, poorer than I am now?’
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 543,000 small businesses are started in the United States every single month. Yet, somehow, more businesses shut down than start up each month. Those aren’t exactly great odds for a newly minted entrepreneur.
Unless you’re some transcendent genius, chances are you’re going to fail at your first business. And that’s totally normal — more than 543,000 other business owners will be in the same boat. Even if you do “succeed,” you may end up making less than you do with your current full-time job.
Countless success stories, including J.K. Rowling’s, began with a life of modest means. Can you live at a level even lower than you do now?
2. ‘Could I work on something alone, and without encouragement?’
It’s certainly fun and games thinking about a great business idea — but executing it is another story entirely. As Freelancers Union founder Sara Horowitz discovered when she created a health plan for freelancers, remote work can be very lonely. “You work with coal miners and you learn everything there is about black lung . . . You work with freelancers, and you learn about depression,” Horowitz has said.
Freelancers have been found to have poorer mental health and higher stress than their full-time friends. This isn’t that surprising when you consider all the risks associated with starting your own business. Sure, you get to control your schedule and be your own boss. But you also have to work longer hours, usually in isolation, and potentially make less than your full-time friends.
One Dutch study found that freelance workers have a hard time separating work from home, and are more likely to become workaholics. Can you see yourself working that much?