Preparing For Self-Employment

Leaving the security of a regular job to strike out on your own to start a business can be scary under the best of circumstances, but it will be doubly difficult and even more frightening if you discover after the fact that you are actually underprepared to make your vision a reality. In that scenario, the dream of self-employment can quickly become somewhat of a nightmare.

How do you avoid that unenviable fate? Here are a few tips:

1. Get The Most Out of Your Corporate Benefits:

For many people, one of the toughest things about setting out on their own is the loss of their benefits package. So it is smart to get the most out of those benefits before you cut ties with your old job:

  • Schedule a final round of medical, vision, and dental appointments. I have a pal who was leaving a job and did this for himself and his wife, though she didn’t think it was necessary. The ophthalmologist discovered a problem in her eye. The appointment probably saved her life.
  • Max out the employer matching for your 401k
  • Take any classes you might be entitled to

2. Do Extra Research:

Of course you will do research as part of your business planning, but what I am suggesting is that you do even more research.

Let’s imagine that your dream is to open a breakfast place and you found a “great location.” But do you really know the history of that location, or what the landlord is like? What if three restaurants have come and gone from that spot in the past few years, or the landlord is forever being sued? Or what if the landlord wants you to sign a triple net lease. Do you know what that is?

The point is, you can never know too much about the business you are going into. Make sure you have covered every base, brainstormed every scenario, performed all your due diligence, etc. There will be surprises as it is, so the last thing you need are problems that could have been prevented by asking a few pertinent questions.

3. Be Super Smart About Money:

Believe me, your new venture will take longer and cost more than you anticipate. If it only breaks even for the first year, can you survive? What if the build-out costs more than your budget allows? The two money mistakes new entrepreneurs make most often are taking on too much debt, or conversely, not having enough money. So you need to be extra thoughtful about finances so that you don’t set yourself up for failure.

4. Set Up Your Business Website, Social Media, and Bank Accounts, Now:

Make sure you can hit the ground running by getting everything set up for your new business long before you ever leave your job. Have your website ready, have all your social media accounts and pages set up, get your business license, open business accounts at your bank and at any stores you will need for products, and so on.

In short, be proactive so that you will be ready on Day One to step out of your old responsibilities and right into your new ones. The more lag time you have between the two, the longer it will take to get some traction.

5. Don’t Burn Bridges:

The old television and movie staple of taking your last day to tell everyone how you really feel is not only unnecessary, it’s also a terrible idea. Your network will always be one of your biggest assets, so make sure that you leave your job with as many connections as possible still intact.

And of course, having those friendly contacts won’t hurt if you ever want or get your old job back, either because the venture didn’t work out, or you sold it, or you just didn’t like it. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody.

Steve Strauss – Senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible, Steve is your host at

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