Starting a business in 2018Are you considering starting your own business this year? If so, you’re not alone. According to a report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), nearly 14 percent of Americans are starting or running new businesses.

What’s more, 51 percent of the working population believes there exist good opportunities for starting businesses, according to the aforementioned report.

There are many advantages to starting your own business, and I enjoy all of them myself as a business owner and consultant.

First and foremost, if your business is successful, you can spend 9 to 5 doing what you love—this is my number one reason for running my own business. This also gives you the freedom and flexibility to run the business how you see fit; to finally be your own boss.

While starting your own business has its advantages, it also has its fair share of challenges, from extreme stress and long hours to building a valuable product or finding a high-value niche for your service, just to name a few.  

To be sure you’re ready, answer the three important questions below.

1. Am I a hundred percent committed? (Or at least “pretty committed”?)

I’m  not a fan of the way “commitment” is depicted in the entrepreneur world. The stories we read seem to fall into one of two categories:

  • You’re an overnight success.
  • You work yourself to the bone and burn out before you’re even up and running.

Someone recently shared a great quote: “An overnight success is 10 years in the making.” 

That’s a great reminder of two things:

  • You don’t need to be an overnight success to be successful.
  • You don’t need to burn yourself out to get there. There can be a happy medium.

While starting your own business does take a hundred percent commitment, that doesn’t have to mean leaving your current job or working long nights and weekends. Juggling a career and a business on the side is challenging, but not impossible. If this is the route you’ll take, do a bandwidth check and create a rough timeline to help you stay on track.

For example, your timeline might look like this:

  • January: Meet with five successful entrepreneurs in the industry or find a mentor.
  • February: Put together a Lean Plan: a quick, one-page business plan.
  • March: Get a website and social media set up—start posting regularly.
  • April: Find a freelance developer to install ecommerce software and get product listings right.

Ultimately, you’re working toward starting your business with each passing month—without driving yourself crazy in the meantime.

Leaving your job and relying solely on income from your business before you’re ready to do so may leave you struggling to make ends meet, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety. If you wait until you’re 100 percent committed (and financially ready), it will be easier to take the hiccups and roadblocks in stride.

2. What’s my niche?

You’re entering a market that has existing competitors, more than likely. To ensure that your product or service stands out amongst the crowd—making the sacrifice in time, money and sanity worth it—you must differentiate.

This is where your niche comes into play.  A niche is a specific segment of a market or particular qualities of your own product or service that narrow down who you’re trying to sell to, and what exactly you’re selling. For example, the plus size category is a niche market within the larger fashion industry because it’s catering to a very specific audience, not just shoppers.

As you determine your niche, remember that “the smaller the niche, the less competition, which means you have more chance of the buyer finding you. But be warned—it also means less potential buyers. So you need to balance the level of competition with the size of the market,” according to 5 Secrets to Selling Products Online.

Note that this is true of services as well; if you want to start a cleaning business, for example, your niche might be multi-family homes or green cleaning rather than simply being a “residential cleaner,” of which there are many.

The key is making your niche clear to anyone who comes across your website or social accounts. I consider my niche to be high-quality content and great communication, and I actively work to make sure that remains true of all my work.

To make my value clear, I use testimonials that speak to this niche. I also make it a point to respond promptly to project requests, always meet deadlines, and communicate to the editor when I cannot.

To find the best balance between concise and too narrow, check out this guide from ThriveHive, which walks you a few important steps and ideas for identifying your niche. As you think it through, simultaneously brainstorm the ways you can show this value in your marketing.

3. What tools and resources do I need to start?

Before you take the first step toward starting your own business, make a list of what you need to get going.

This list may be as simple as:

  • Website
  • Time

For me, this was all I needed—and a new desk from Ikea. In other cases, however, this list may be a lot longer to include: software programs, high-tech tools, and more likely, money.  Knowing what you need from the get-go will allow you to slowly assemble what you need as you prepare to get started—if you need a lot of money, you’ll need time to find it, whether you take out a bank loan or find an angel investor.

In either case, when you know what you need, break the list into two columns: “Must Haves” and “Would Be Nice.” Prioritize the items and then determine the costs of all of it, and where you should splurge versus pinching pennies.

Consider creating a list like this one in order to prioritize what you actually need to get your new business up and running.

Next, turn to your digital Rolodex to find people within your network who are well-connected, both in your industry and otherwise. They may have great insight on buying used parts or who to refer to about legal questions.

Starting your own business

The time is now to take the first steps toward starting your own business—if you’re ready. It’s no easy task; it takes determination, patience and a lot of hard work. Before you launch, though, be sure to ask yourself these three important questions. With this groundwork in place, you set a solid foundation for a thriving and successful business.

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Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years has managed a number of employees in her various roles. She now owns her own consulting business and has been featured on Forbes.