Who doesn’t want to start their own business? It’s easy to get restless in your job, to feel so bored and sick of following someone else’s playbook that you know it has to be better on the other side. As an entrepreneur, you dictate your own work schedule, set your daily goals, and pursue your passion 24/7. Sounds perfect, right?
It’s no wonder that 67% of millennials dream of starting their own businesses one day. I know how exciting and challenging the process can be. In my career, I’ve been everything from a sales girl at The Limited to the president of the entertainment division at Telemundo. I don’t regret a moment I’ve spent working as an entrepreneur, but I do wish there were things I had known before I got started. No one prepares you for the moments when you feel lost, or for the inevitable setbacks that will knock you down. That’s why I’ve spent the past six years touring the country talking to entrepreneurial women, and why I wrote SELF MADE: Becoming Empowered, Self-Reliant, and Rich in Every Way, to help aspiring entrepreneurs build a toolkit for the the toughest moments that come along the way.
Looking back at my own my career now, it’s clear that I have been most successful when I was most prepared and focused. I know how high the stakes are (and how terrifying it is) to say goodbye to a stable paycheck and support yourself full time. That’s why I advise anyone who hopes to be an entrepreneur to take these simple five steps before making the big move:
1) Map Out Your Career Trajectory
In order to fully assess your career path, and make sure you don’t get stuck on what to do next, it’s important to create a detailed analysis of what’s worked, and what hasn’t in your career so far. On a spreadsheet, list every job you’ve ever had. Create columns for your likes, dislikes, and the skills you’ve acquired. Be brutally honest about your worst moments. When you see it all written out, it will form a snapshot of what you need to do next. You’ll quickly start to see what you want to eliminate and expand on as you move forward.
2) Set Ambitious Goals
When I ask people what their goals are, I don’t want them to tell me they’d love to buy a brand new SUV. Everyone should have a special, private list of what they dream they will accomplish one day, from owning their own home to taking a trip around the world. When you create this list, project backward from the later years of your life. How would you like to be seen at the age of 85? What would you like to get done before you die? It sounds morbid, but it is the oldest motivator in the book. When your quality of life is at stake, you will achieve more.
3) Create a Game Plan
Once your goals are in place, it’s time to get your action plan in motion. Is there a product, a business, or an investment that can make money for you continuously over the years, preferably above and beyond the job you are already doing? Even if you don’t have the means to invest or create that product just this second, in a perfect world, where would all of your income come from? What contacts do you have that might buy in to your idea or help you market it? How would you support yourself if you went out on your own? Do some research to support your idea, and the first sketches of game plan could become a rough draft of your business plan. Make sure to create target dates for bringing your idea closer to fruition, and eventually, it will include the day you leave your day job!
4) Build Your Safety Net
If you plan to go out on your own, you need to have at least one year of your income saved, and yes, that does mean making some big sacrifices. To meet this goal, aim to save 20–50 percent of what you earn. Cut down on eating out, buying expensive clothing, and anything else that isn’t completely necessary to your survival. What you sacrifice now will be worth its weight in gold in terms of the freedom and peace of mind you’ll develop for yourself later in life.
5) Start Your Side Hustle
Do you have boxes of old clothes stuffed into your closet? Label them as beautiful vintage fashion pieces, and start selling them on eBay. Take at least one afternoon a week to go through your life and see how you could be earning money on the side. If it’s a skill you can do remotely, through TaskRabbit or another online marketplace, start growing your hours slowly to see if there’s a demand, and to suss out how much you enjoy the work. Your side hustle will not only build up your savings quickly, it will also build up your entrepreneurial muscle!