May 29, 2009
What no one tells you about starting your own business
If you count yourself among the 25 percent of laid-off workers who are considering starting their own business, you've probably already contemplated some of the biggest hurdles: finagling funding, paying for your own health insurance, convincing your family and friends that you're not crazy, and battling workaholism. But have you considered the following?
Depending on your overhead, you may not get a paycheck for 2 to 3 years. If you're selling a product or your operating costs are more than $15,000 a year, don't expect to pay yourself right away. You'll probably want (or need) to put everything you make back into the business for a while. That said, if you're a freelancer or consultant with minimal overhead (computer, desk, Internet connection), you'll likely start making an income within the first few months.
Minding the store is only 50 percent of the job. Sure, you may get to bake cookies or design doggie activewear or brew beer for a living. But until you hire an assistant of some sort, half your time will be spent handling the administrative, marketing, customer service, and financial details. (New freelancers can expect at least 30 to 40 percent of their time to go to drumming up customers and other non-billable work.)
Autonomy does not 100 percent bliss make. There are still bad days when you work for yourself. (In fact, I'm having one right now.) Many satisfied small business owners, freelancers, and consultants have told me that their first year was marked by many a crying bout as well as the sentence "What on earth was I thinking!?" looping in their head.
Despite everything I just said, there's good reason many self-employed professionals stick with it. We love what we do (much of the time). We love the flexibility and variety that comes with working for ourselves. And truth be told, we love calling all the shots.
If you'd like to hear how other self-employed professionals in the area got their start and deal with the pitfalls and potholes, you're in luck. On June 30, from 2 to 6 p.m., tech startup Jackson Fish Market is hosting its first Small & Special conference in Seattle for current and hopeful small business owners.
Speakers include Babeland co-founder Rachel Venning, children's book publisher Oliver Chin, web application developer Steven Bristol, and international wine distributor Jon Rimmerman. You won't find any venture-capital-hungry bazillionaires here; all the conference speakers bootstrapped their way to profitability.
As for the day's agenda, "It will be one part inspiration, one part practical advice, and one part meeting new people," said Donald DeSantis of Jackson Fish Market. In addition, all attendees will be entered into a drawing to win a custom promotional video for their business, courtesy of lilipip! studios and valued at $8,000.
To register for the conference (a deal at $25.00!), see smallandspecial.com.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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