August 16, 2011
Forget plan C -- what new entrepreneurs need is a reality check
I'm still miffed about an article from Sunday's New York Times. Called "Maybe It's Time for Plan C," the story highlights a number of recession-casualties-turned-entrepreneur who decided to follow their proverbial bliss and open a bakery/clothing boutique/bed and breakfast, only to find that self-employment isn't all unicorns and rainbows and three-hour lunches with friends.
[Flickr photo by velkr0]
Color me insensitive, but what were these people expecting? The mythical four-hour workweek? That their taxes and filing and prospecting would automagically take care of themselves?
Among the gripes made by the rookie business owners the Times interviewed:
- "I work wayyyy more than I did when I had an office job."
- "I feel more like a janitor than a shopkeeper."
- "There's no one but me to answer the phone/update the spreadsheets/pay for my sick days."
- "The amount of time I actually spend making crafts/baking cookies/planning weddings is a fraction of the time I spend on tedious business administration."
Duh. Had any of these people researched what being their boss would entail before hanging their shingle they would have known all of the above.
That's not to say self-employment is misery. Many, myself included, will tell you it's liberating, exhilarating, and a heck of a lot better than job we left behind. It's just not the cakewalk the starry-eyed entrepreneurs profiled in the Times were hoping it would be. After all, even the most joyous job has its drudgery. (Do you really think I like invoicing?)
If you, too, are thinking of striking out on your own, do yourself a favor and figure out what you're getting into before you quit your day job. Some of the best ways to do this:
Talk to other business owners. Chat with both rookies and veterans, entrepreneurs who do what you'd like to do and those in entirely different lines. Local organizations like Biznik, Grassroots Business Association, and Northwest Entrepreneur Network make these folks easy to find.
Take a class or three on self-employment. The organizations I just mentioned offer a number of free or nominally priced classes and lectures. So does Seattle SCORE.
Apprentice for an entrepreneur. Many small business owners need interns or affordable assistants a few hours a month. Offer your services to an entrepreneur you admire, or ask to shadow them for a day. If you have money to spare, consider test driving your fantasy gig through Vocation Vacations.
Read the blogs, books, and tweets of business owners you envy. Don't limit your reading to entrepreneurs who paint only the rosiest (or the darkest) of pictures. The truth lies somewhere in between. Some days running your own show is great, some days it's the pits.
Launch your business on the side. Test the waters while keeping your paycheck. That way, if you hate self-employment or find you're terrible at it, you haven't risked as much.
New entrepreneurs, how about you? What did you do to educate yourself about the transition from having a boss to being one?
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.
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."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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