At some point, you’ve probably thought about starting your own company. Maybe you want to get rich and famous from it, but most likely you just want to have fun, learn a lot, and try something new. The trick is getting the guts to do it.
Whatever you want to gain from starting a business, there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur. It’s easier than ever to get things going quickly and inexpensively. And today’s opportunities for entrepreneurship allow you to maintain a sense of stability in your personal life while trying out some of your business ideas.
Here are five ideas to give you the courage to get started now.
1. Don’t wait to start until you’re sure you’ll succeed.
Assured success never happens. For instance, Guy Kawasaki, who was known for evangelizing the Apple brand before starting his own firm, Garage Technology Ventures, launched his own startup, Truemors, this month. It’s a site that allows people to post rumors they’ve heard and then let others vote on the rumors for popularity ranking.
When asked how he knew Truemors would work, Kawasaki said that he didn’t. “You don’t get over the idea that it might be a flop. Every startup faces these feelings. It’s not like the founders started Google and people said, ‘Oh, that’s a slam dunk.’ In fact, when people do say it’s a slam dunk, you can be sure it’ll tank.”
2. You don’t have to dive in head-first.
It used to be that if you wanted to start a business you’d have to move your family into the apartment above your general store. Luckily, you no longer have to overhaul your whole life in order to take the leap into business ownership. In fact, you can take small steps to test the waters before leaving your corporate job.
For example, take a freelance gig, then try consulting, and then launch a full-blown business. That way, you’ll have a client base built up before you give up your steady paycheck.
You can also launch a quickie web-based business that you build on nights and weekends, and see who shows up and who talks about it. If it’s a flop, you can just keep working your day job until you come up with a new idea. The quick response of an Internet audience means that it takes months, not years, to figure out if you have a viable business.
3. You don’t need to spend a lot of money.
Starting an Internet company isn’t nearly as expensive as it once was. You used to need up to $5 million in funding from a venture capital firm in order to cover software development and marketing.
Today, the software behind many Internet companies is very cheap, if not free, and marketing consists of sending an email announcement about the company to 50 friends. So the money you need to think about is in the thousands, not the millions.
Think of making your company virtual, with no specific location. This means there are few overhead costs — no rent, no phone line, and no furniture. So the risk of failure doesn’t include risking your ability to pay your mortgage, which is often the case with a failed business stuck in a lease.
4. Rethink success and failure — they’re not black-and-white conditions.
Starting a company doesn’t have to mean you’re building the next Microsoft. It simply gives you an opportunity to learn and grow, and offers you the chance to work with your friends and create the lifestyle you want.
This means that starting a business is a lot less risky than it seems. Conversely, sticking with a corporate job — with no assurance that you’ll stay or, that if you do, you’ll learn anything — is the more risky choice.
The diverse goals of today’s entrepreneurs mean that most companies are a success in some way. If nothing else, it’s difficult to start a company and not learn a lot given the amount of time and effort you put in. Even if the endeavor is as small as a blog-based business, as Ryan Healy of Employee Evolution points out, you learn a lot faster by starting side projects than waiting for your boss to teach you something.
5. Take action.
Ben’s big message is to take action: “In the early days of any new business, it’s easier to plan than to act. It’s easier to strategize than actually do stuff. I tried to keep action the centerpiece of my strategy.”
Starting a business is taking a risk on your own idea, but it’s a very small one compared to leading a life with no risks. It’s much more interesting to see how your idea plays out — even if it doesn’t work at all — than to never try doing something on your own.
So take one small action today. Starting a business isn’t the huge, sweeping act it once was. It’s simply taking many smaller actions that add up to some of the biggest, best experiences of your life.