As I gear up to reengage with the Colorado Entrepreneur’s Organization after a personal hiatus, it hit me how many of us in the Chapter have been at that place of pure terror at the thought of going out on our own. I was thinking about the spirit of entrepreneurship and how every few weeks someone emails or calls and asks if I would spend a few minutes sharing what I think of their idea of leaving Corporate America behind and heading out on their own to start a professional services or creative company.
The last call I took was from the younger sister of a good friend of mine. She is a brilliant, outgoing young woman who will do well in anything she sets out to do. However, she has the same fear that many do when deciding to embark on the path to entrepreneurship. I shared some tips with her, about how most solopreneurs start with online jobs. I want to share them with you. This is not brain surgery, but this advice has been worth sharing with others who are about to embark on the same road. Take them with a grain of salt…
- Do not take the leap of faith without at least one client with a signed agreement. I am not saying you can’t make the jump without a client, but it definitely helps you sleep at night.
- Ensure that the client contract gives you a solid ramp. I suggest that it is a minimum of six months with a minimum monthly fee or retainer. This way, you can truly focus on building your new brand and establishing your business by delivering solid results without immediately worrying about securing additional contracts.
- Be mindful of your start-up costs and ask yourself, ‘what do I really need to launch this business?’ I highly recommend investing in two areas from the outset:
- Those who can keep you out of jail: a good lawyer and a creative, knowledgeable CPA. You don’t have to spend a ton of money, but you do need to set up your business right from Day One. Do you have your articles of incorporation? The bank may ask for it soon. Will you establish yourself as a corporation with a S designation? An LLC? There are valid reasons for choosing one path. Make sure you weigh the options and think about the long-term impact on your business.
- A talented marketing professional to make your company look larger than it probably is. Have you reserved your URL? Can you grab your spot on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube? Even if you aren’t ready to engage with your customers online across all channels, holding your spot will be important. Invest in a strong logo and design that can be used as the basis for your corporate ID package, as well as social media skins and your website. Do you have former clients or associates that you can use for testimonials on your website or on LinkedIn? Use them. Get creative. Start a blog. Comment on other relevant blogs. Make people see you and your company with the ability to handle any piece of business – regardless of the size and scope.
- Find your equals (or those smarter and better than you). At some point, your business will hit the place where you simply can’t go after new business unless you have talented people who can help you manage the flow of existing work. Make sure you cultivate this team early. Have your ICAs and NDAs ready to roll and ready for these new team members to sign (see point 3-1). You should also be aware of the rates that you will pay for client work and your commission policy, if that is something you are comfortable offering. Personally, I think having a team of people incentivized to bring in new business that fits well in your wheelhouse is well worth the trade off in commission payments.
- Plan vacations and ‘offline’ time with your family well in advance. Your new business will be your new family so make sure you plan quality time with your old family before the chaos hits. If it isn’t planned, it simply won’t happen.