These days many professionals yearn for a lifestyle that offers greater flexibility on how they manage their work, energy + time. And as companies restructure, change shape + outsource their functions, a new economy of small business operators has filled the voids.
In their recent report Independent work: Choice, necessity, and the gig economy, McKinsey claimed that up to 162 million people in Europe + the United States – or 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population, engage in some form of independent work.
Solopreneurship is now a word + is only a resignation or redundancy away. Although the idea of more autonomy + freedom is romantic, it’s not for everyone.
So what should you consider before you take that leap from a corporate role into self-employment?
Review your marketable skills.
You may be a highly valued employee + earn a healthy income, but does this translate into self-employment? Undertake an audit of your skills + expertise. Which of your strengths are readily transferable + in demand elsewhere? What sets your experience apart from others in the field? What industries, organisations or individuals might be a source of ad-hoc, short-term or project work tomorrow?
Seek out relevant training + development now.
If you’re planning to leave your job, is there any further training + development available within your current organisation that will help with your transition? Accreditation in specialist instruments + methodologies can be expensive when you’re starting out on your own. Take advantage of opportunities that bolster your credentials + expand your offerings to potential clients.
Test the support of those around you.
While a healthy dose of confidence + self-belief are pre-requisites for going solo, it’s important to get other people on board. How does your partner or family feel about the change? Are there expectations to manage or compromises to be made? Talk to coaches, mentors, sponsors + other networking contacts. What kind of feedback + support do they give you? All of this input will be useful as you consider your options + clarify if you’re cut out for it after all.
Re-position yourself, if needed.
Changing the perceptions of your reputation + what you offer, can take time. If you’d like to focus on something new + different, you might need a portfolio of case studies to share with your new client base. If you can’t do this after hours, explore the possibility of developing expertise via secondments or projects with your employer. It’s easier to make headway before you leave.
Be prepared to do something you don’t enjoy.
If you’re used to working for a large organisation, you may find the mundane tasks of self-employment daunting, time-consuming or just not ‘your area of genius’. Of course anything can be outsourced. But if you’re starting up on a tight budget, these costs add up. Research free + affordable user-friendly software + apps that help you to manage the admin + operational sides of the business.
Create a business plan.
Solopreneurship is quite different from corporate life. When you work for yourself, you’re no longer protected by a well-established organisation or strong company brand. A business plan is a roadmap + a reality check about the costs of going solo. What services or products will you offer? Have these been market tested? Do you need to create systems + processes? What fees, rates + prices do you expect to charge? Will these cover your overheads + pay you a salary? If you need assistance, look for free or inexpensive small business courses, mentoring programs + grants in your community.
Start a business savings account.
As there are many incidental costs involved with establishing a business, savvy professionals often set aside six months salary before plunging into self-employment. To make the transition easier, build a financial buffer +/or find casual work to help with the inevitable ebb + flow of your new income stream.
Identify business partners.
If you’re starting from scratch, it can take time to identify clients, win work + develop a track record for repeat business + referrals. The reality is that as a solo operator, you may not be considered to have the capacity to deliver the services you currently manage in corporate life. Seek collaborations with like-minded individuals + identify associate relationships with larger service providers + consulting firms. The variety, depth + volume of assignments will develop your reputation + expertise as you build your own client base.
Create your intellectual property.
Developing your own products + IP will avoid copyright issues + help to differentiate you in the market. Review the resources you’ve already created which can be re-purposed + branded for a new client base eg models, templates, techniques, presentations, research papers etc. All of these will become part of your tool-kit + can be incorporated into your marketing and communication activities.
Establish your brand + thought leadership.
If you’ve already thought about a business name, check to see if it can be registered in your state/country + if the website domain is available. Once you have a business name, you’re ready to share it with the world! It only takes 1-page to kick-start your on-line business presence – the rest of the website can be built later. Start sharing your ideas + professional expertise on a couple of social platforms eg LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Now you’re well on the way to taking the leap from corporate to solo!