I speak a lot about jumping in feet first, launching and learning and making mistakes to grow your business, but the truth of the matter is you can’t always lead with your heart. You have to weigh up the pros and cons of each major decision that you make so that you don’t end up losing it all.
While I am a firm believer in trusting your gut, I would never encourage anybody to do things with wild abandon. Don’t quit your day job until your baby business can cover your bills, have a plan and a back up plan, and make those big choices based on fact, not whimsy.
But the reality is that if you do nothing, you’ll gain nothing. There is always an element of risk when it comes to striking out on your own. It is essential if you want to move forward, do something different and stand out against your competitors. Risk is actually one of the very best, if not scariest, ways to expand our knowledge, offerings and confidence.
So how can you make sure you’re making good risky choices, not one that will destroy your business?
The difference is forward-planning. Having goals to work towards, projecting your income and having quantifiable ideas will all help keep you on track. I started this blog in 2007 but I didn’t quit my day job until 2011. As someone who struggles with patience this was immensely difficult for me! I wanted to strike out on my own as soon as I’d made my first £100! If it was up to me I’d have jumped in right away and figured it all out as I went along.
Luckily Gareth is the yin to my yang. He’s a lot more risk averse than me. He wants to make sure all the possibilities are planned out before making any decisions. It takes him forever to do anything (which, yes, does drive me crazy!) but he always seems to make the right choices in the end.
For example it took him about six months to choose our new television because he had to get the very best one for the very best price. If it was me I would have walked into one shop and picked out the first one I saw. It would probably have ended up being too big, tinny sounding and with a crappy picture display… but because of Gareth’s research and forward-planning the one we now have is awesome.
Anyway, Gareth told me I should wait until I was earning the same money from Rock n Roll Bride that I was from my day job before handing in my notice. This seemed like a MASSIVE goal, and one that would take me forever to reach. But you know what? It actually didn’t. Having that metaphorical carrot dangled in front of me kept me really focussed. It gave me something concrete to aim for and I actually got there a lot quicker than I expected. The best part was that once I quit my job I never had to go back and freelance for them. Quitting a job then having to go crawling back for work because the ‘grand plan’ didn’t work out is not something anyone ever wants to do!
If you don’t have a Gareth keeping your feet on the ground like I do, my advice to you would be to test and validate your ideas first. Do some market research, find out if your product or service is actually resonating with people. Give out freebies and ask for feedback. Learn as much as you can about your industry and career path before you make any rash decisions. Hone your skills before asking people to pay for them. And always, always have some savings. All of these things will put you firmly in the driving seat, rather than finding yourself strapped into a rollercoaster that you can’t get off of.
Keeping organised is also imperative. You need to constantly be evaluating if things are working out the way you planned, and if not you must quickly adapt and shift your focus to come back into line with your goals. Having benchmarks to work towards are especially important, so you’re not just carelessly marching forward without taking into account where you actually want, or need, to go.
However in saying all this, there is only so much you can project or plan in advance. Once you have that solid plan in place, you really just have to take the first step and strike out on your own. Yes, it’s terrifying, but without that initial leap of faith you’ll never get anywhere.
To me, it always comes back to gut instinct. It’s not always quantifiable, but as an entrepreneur you’ll eventually learn how and when to listen to it. You’ll know when it’s steering you in the right direction and when it’s telling you to put the breaks back on.
- Photography: Diane + Mike Photography