BE YOUR OWN BOSS
If you are going through a divorce and need to generate income, consider starting your own business. Given the new economic reality of our time, more people than ever before have found the "job" they thought was waiting for them doesn't exist. Chances are that if you have been out of the workforce for any significant period of time, you will also find this to be true. And you may realize that in order to have the flexibility you desire and work you love, you would rather create work constructed to fit your needs. No matter what the motivation is to be your own boss, you can do it. Many women have found out that it is very possible to earn what they need and enjoy themselves while doing it when they start their own business.
☐ Steps to Get Started
✓ Take a Stand for Yourself.
Change can only occur when you make a conscious decision to make it happen. I was not naturally entrepreneurial. I spent my career working for a large corporate law firm, until it imploded during the recession. What seemed like a catastrophic event was one of the best things to happen to me in that it forced me to go out on my own and start my own law firm. This in turn brought me independence and the good fortune to find my voice assisting other women navigate divorce. Decide now that you will not blame your ex, the economy, or anyone for your situation. Rather, you will use this opportunity to create something that will meet an unmet need. When you do this, abundance naturally follows.
✓ Identify the Right Business for You.
Give yourself permission to explore. Be willing to look at different facets of yourself (your personality, social style, age) and listen to your intuition. We tend to ignore intuition even though deep down we often know the truth. Ask yourself, "What gives me energy even when I'm tired?" How do you know what business is "right" for you? There are three common approaches to entrepreneurship:
· Do What You Know: Look at work you have done for others in the past and think about how you could package those skills and offer them as your own services or products.
· Do What Others Do: Learn about other businesses that interest you. Once you have identified a business you like, emulate it.
· Solve a Common Problem: Is there a gap in the market? Is there a service or product you would like to bring to market? (Note: This is the highest-risk of the three approaches.) If you choose to do this, make sure that you become a student and gain knowledge first before you spend any money.
✓ Business Planning Improves Your Chances for Success.
Most people don't plan, but it will help you get to market faster. A business plan will help you gain clarity, focus and confidence. A plan does not need to be more than one page. As you write down your goals, strategies and action steps, your business becomes real.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I building?
- Who will I serve?
- What is the promise I am making to my customers/clients and to myself?
- What are my objectives, strategies and action plans (steps) to achieve my goals?
✓ Know Your Target Audience Before You Spend a Penny.
Before you spend money, find out if people will actually buy your products or services. This may be the most important thing you do. You can do this by validating your market. In other words, who, exactly, will buy your products or services other than your family or friends? (And don't say. "Everyone in America will want my product!" Trust me -- they won't.) What is the size of your target market? Who are your customers? Is your product or service relevant to their everyday life? Why do they need it?
There is industry research available that you can uncover for free. Read industry articles with data (Google the relevant industry associations) and read Census data to learn more. However, the most important way to get this information is to ask your target market/customers directly and then listen.
✓ Understand Your Personal Finances and Choose the Right Kind of Money You Need for Your Business.
As an entrepreneur, your personal life and business life are interconnected. You are likely to be your first -- and possibly only -- investor. Therefore, having a detailed understanding of your personal finances, and the ability to track them, is an essential first step before seeking outside funding for your business. This is why I recommend setting up your personal accounts in a money management system such as Mint.com to simplify this process. As you are creating your business plan, you will need to consider what type of business you are building -- a lifestyle business (smaller amount of startup funds), a franchise (moderate investment depending on the franchise), or a high-tech business (will require significant capital investment). Depending on where you fall on the continuum, you will need a different amount of money to launch and grow your business, and it does matter what kind of money you accept.
✓ Build a Support Network.
You've made the internal commitment to your business. Now you need to cultivate a network of supporters, advisors, partners, allies and vendors. If you believe in your business, others will, too. Network locally, nationally and via social networks. Join networks like National Association of Professional Women, NAPW.com, which has more than 850,000 accomplished women members from varying backgrounds and fields. You can network online and in person through NAPW. You can also network through your local chamber of commerce, or other relevant business groups. Here are some networking basics:
- When attending networking events, ask others what they do and think about how you can help them. The key is to listen more than tout yourself.
- No matter what group you join, be generous, help others and make introductions without charging them.
- By becoming a generous leader, you will be the first person that comes to mind when someone you've helped needs your service or hears of someone else who needs your service.
✓ Sell By Creating Value.
Even though we purchase products and services every day, people don't want to be "sold." Focus on serving others. The more people you serve, the more money you will make. When considering your customers or clients, ask yourself:
- What can I give them?
- How can I make them successful in their own pursuits?
- This approach can help lead you to new ways to hone your product or service and deliver more value, which your customers will appreciate.
✓ Get the Word Out.
Be willing to say who you are and what you do with conviction and without apology. Embrace and use the most effective online tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) available to broadcast your news. Use social networks as "pointer" sites; i.e., to point to anything you think will be of interest to your fans and followers.
Even though social networks are essential today (you must use them!), don't underestimate the power of other methods to get the word out: e.g., word-of-mouth marketing, website and internet marketing tools, public relations, blog posts, columns and articles, speeches, e-mail, newsletters, and the old-fashioned but still essential telephone.