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5 Tips for Making a Career Change
to Full-Time Entrepreneur
Changing your career requires enormous bravery. No, you’re not adventuring into unknown lands to fight dragons like the archetypal brave knights in literature, but you’re still taking a risk and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
Changing your career means giving up the luxury of knowing what lies ahead. You’ll have to give up some of your salary expectations and start to get your foot in the door of a new industry. In the end, though, the challenge will be worth it since you’ll be truly happy with your job as an entrepreneur.
You know what you want your ideal “day in the life of an entrepreneur” to look like … but how do you get there?
It’s a process that takes months and even years. There’s no set roadmap to take you from Point A to Point B every time. Instead, we can offer you five useful tips and strategies to steer you in the right direction.
Even if you get knocked off course, get up, dust yourself off and keep your eye on the prize. Let’s go!
1. Talk to people in your desired field to learn the pros and cons.
Do you really know what you’re getting into?
Some careers look rosy on the outside but are completely different once you’re in the thick of things. For example, at some point in their young lives, most animal-loving kids consider becoming a veterinarian. After all, wouldn’t it be amazing to work with animals all day long, and to even save their lives? Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to the field: considerable amounts of paperwork, clients who cannot afford treatments, the pressure of not making a life-or-death error, and of course the grim reality of euthanasia and death. The folks who feel the pros of this field outweigh the cons end up becoming practicing veterinarians, and the rest of us typically become their clients.
So if you want to ditch your Human Resources job for, let’s say, graphic design, just be sure you know exactly what to expect by talking to current graphic designers. And if you want to do something truly innovative, like open up a pop-up Pop Tart food truck, try to touch base with other people who have broken barriers in similar ways, even if they are not executing your precise idea.
There will always be pros and cons in any job, but you’ll be happiest when the cons are ones you can easily live with.
2. Once you know what you want, visualize it.
Don’t just sit and think about it for a minute or two; document your visualizations by writing about it or sketching it out.
- What kind of product or service will you provide?
- How many clients or customers will you have?
- What types of teams or departments will you have in your company, or will you only have a couple assistants? Or maybe you’ll be flying solo?
- How much revenue will you be taking in?
- Will you feel confident or stressed?
- Who will you turn to for advice?
- What kind of website and marketing plan will you have?
- What kind of reputation will your brand have?
Try to look about five years into the future and capture a sense of what your company is achieving.
This is “Point B” on your career change roadmap. “Point A” is wherever you are right now. The tricky part is to fill in the gaps.
3. Start taking advantage of your day job’s resources.
Many large corporations offer tuition reimbursement for continuing education classes or special training. Take a look at what your current employer offers in terms of business development training, and sign up for classes or seminars that could provide useful information when it comes time to start your own company.
Approach networking events with the same ulterior motive. Make note of any tools or software programs that you use at work that seem particularly useful, because they might come in handy when you have your own business to manage.
Just be sure any research you do that is blatantly for your own personal gain is performed off the clock.
Another strategy is to look for growth opportunities in your current position. This may seem counter-intuitive, because your ultimate goal is to get out of this job, not to climb the corporate ladder, right? However, the more responsibility you take on, especially in terms of handling client projects, the more robust your professional portfolio becomes. This will be extraordinarily useful when networking or speaking to potential advisors, sponsors and investors.
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4. Slow and steady progress will get you there.
Get organized by planning out the steps you need to take to reach your “Point B.”
Perhaps some of your first steps involve doing more research or attending a few business classes. Maybe you need to carve out some time to brainstorm or to dig into product development. The sooner you get a handle on productivity and optimizing your time, the less stress you’ll experience throughout the career change process. Also, by focusing on a little bit at a time, it will be easier to hold down your day job until you get funds and investments for your new venture. (There’s absolutely no need to quit your job to throw yourself into the entrepreneurial spirit full-time without so much as a safety net.)
Start every day by blocking out your time, dedicating about 30 minutes to an hour to anything that will move you closer to your goal… even if it’s browsing the web for research.
5. Find a mentor (even if you have to pay for one!)
Finally, the easiest way to avoid roadblocks is to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
A mentor or advisor can make or break your success in terms of becoming a full-time entrepreneur. They can show you the process that worked for them. However, their time is precious, and they might expect to be paid for their advice.
Of course, entire books have been written on the topic, but these five tips should help get the wheels turning.
About the Author
Cathy Habas is a professional writer, editor and Spanish-English translator based in Louisville, KY. She enjoys road trips and spending time outside with her six dogs.