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 Casnocha founded Comcate when he was 14, and it’s still running strong five years later. His book, “My Start-Up Life,” describes what it takes to get a company up and running.

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.

By Ben Casnocha — More than half of the current crop of college grads will start a business during their lifetime. And last year alone, 700,000 people started new companies in the United States. We are living in the golden age of entrepreneurship.

Part of the force behind this burst of new business is that the bar to start a company has never been lower, thanks to the Internet. On the web anyone can find cheap labor overseas, learn about almost any topic, and connect with potential partners and customers. Even if you’re in school – like I am – the opportunity to start a new business with few capital costs is enticing.

I launched my own business, Comcate, at age 14, and it’s still around today, five years later. Here are some things I’ve learned about starting a successful business even if you don’t know anything about business. These tips come from my new book My Start-Up Life, (which contains many more tips beyond these for starting and growing a company).

1. Be committed to personal growth and self-improvement.
Start reading books about entrepreneurship. Read about conferences. Reach out to local business leaders and ask for their advice on how to get started. In short, foster a genuine love for learning about the slice of business you are interested in.

2. Harbor a bias toward action.
Learning via books and talking to people can only take you so far. The very best entrepreneurs focus on doing over talking. Learn by doing, learn by failing. Take action. Pick up the phone. Send the email. Show up at the conference. Buy that book. What did you do today?

3. Share your ideas.
If you ask someone to sign a non-disclosure agreement, or if you simply pass on the opportunity to receive useful feedback because you’re scared someone will steal your idea, you are hanging a big, white poster on your chest that says, “I’m naive.” In the early stages, you want as much feedback as possible. This means sharing your ideas with others. There is no such thing as a new idea. Besides, it is execution that distinguishes successes from failures, not raw ideas.

4. Keep the customer at the top of your mind.
As you consider various business opportunities, always try to put yourself in the mind of the potential customer. What specific value would they derive from your product or service? What need are you serving? Leave the office and go immerse yourself in the life of the customer.

5. Enlist the support of others.
You can’t do it alone. Find people who can help you. Parents, neighbors, teachers, mentors, coaches. Your network is probably larger than you think. Somewhere in this network is probably a good co-founder for your business, too. Companies with 2 or 3 co-founders do much better than solo warriors. I talk about mentors so much in my book because they’ve been absolutely critical to my success.

Remember that anyone who tells you there is a single formula to successfully starting your own business is either lying or deluded. There is no single path. There are no top 5 rules.

It’s all personal to you. Who are you? What do you like doing? What are you good at? Where do you need people to help you? What do you know already? Be self-aware enough to answer these questions honestly.

Then get going and start doing (and let me know if you need help). The clock’s a-tickin’ and the world’s a-changin’!

Ben Casnocha, 19, is author of the new book My Start-Up Life: What a (Very) Young CEO Learned on His Journey Through Silicon Valley.

A lot of people who would like to start a business think the task is too daunting. But following a passion is not as high risk as you may think. Conventional wisdom about entrepreneurs being big risk takers and living on the edge is not all that realistic. In fact, there are ways to minimize the financial risk and emotional drama of going after your dreams. And, most of the skills you need to be an entrepreneur, you can teach yourself.

Alex Shear founded the production company Projectile Arts, in order to produce the documentary, “Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball.” The topic of baseball appealed to Shear, in part, because of the risks involved. “There is so much failure” in baseball, says Shear. He wanted to know how players deal with it. In the meantime, he had to deal with those same issues himself, starting a business to make the documentary.

Like many people, Shear is not a fan of huge risk: “I didn’t know what I was getting into. If I knew I was going to have to move twice, sell my car, and go broke,” I probably wouldn’t have done it. “You need to be stubborn and thickheaded and not think things through all the way,” advises Shear.

In a case like this, Saras Sarasvathy , professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, told me that she asks her students to look inside themselves: “Why do you want to open a restaurant? Is it because you love to cook? Then you can have a catering business out of your home. Is it because you have a great location? What else can you put at that location that would be more likely to succeed?”

Have basic skills in the field you are choosing. Sarasvathy uses the analogy of cooking a meal to describe the entrepreneurial way of thinking. Some people have a list of ingredients on a recipe and follow its steps exactly. Other people walk into a kitchen, see what ingredients are on hand, and whip something up. If you want to start your own business, you should be a person comfortable with no recipe. “But,” Sarasvathy cautions, “you need to know how to cook.” Both types of people probably will come up with good meals if they have cooking skills, and both will come up with bad meals if they don’t

Not knowing exactly what you will create is OK. Sarasvathy told me: “Entrepreneurs don’t believe in planning because they don’t want to be in a future that is predictable. If you want to create something new, then the future is unpredictable. If you can predict what will happen, there is no room for creativity.” This also leaves room for genuine partnerships, which you will need.

Get help in a partner. Finding a business to launch is a soul-searching venture, because you have to be passionate about your choice. But “part of your search for passion should be a search to know your skill set. Ask your parents, mentors, and friends. Then try to match skills you have with your passions and fill in what you need,” said Andrew Zacharakis, professor at Babson College. Most feelings of risk come from doing things you have not done before, so surrounding yourself with people who complement your skills can minimize risk.

Relax. The point of entrepreneurship is to have fun doing something you’re passionate about. But a small-business owner’s mind can race constantly. Learn to control this and business will feel less risky.

Jim Fannin is a success coach whose clients include more than twenty Major League Baseball players. He told me that research has shown that wildly successful people have 1,000 fewer thoughts a day than others, which allows the successful people to have exceptional focus on their goals.

Shear says he tried to focus on his next step instead of looking at the whole project, which would have been overwhelming. “If you think too much about the big picture it can paralyze you — mess you up in the moment.”

Fannin agrees. There are so many things you can worry about, so “I tell people to go on a mental diet,” says Fannin. “Cut out thoughts that won’t make you better because they hold you down.”

You need a sense of peace to perform well. Fannin says that just taking deeper breaths will slow your thinking and help your focus.

Stay optimistic. People who have big success have optimism. The key is to manage your thinking. When something bad happens, “learn from it and move on.” If you let yourself replay bad situations, you will get used to seeing your life that way.

Seventy-five percent of people report that negative thinking goes away if you look toward the sky. So for those would-be entrepreneurs trying to fend off negative thinking, Fannin says: “Chin up.”

By Ryan Healy — Most of my friends would love to run their own business some day. Me too. However, we believe the first logical step is to get a few years of work experience, make connections, and save money.

A couple of months ago, my good friends from college, Matt, Cole and Adam, came to visit for the weekend. These three want none of that work experience I’m talking about, so they are opening up a sandwich shop in a college town.

The first thing Adam said when he saw me was, “What does it feel like to be in 17th grade?”

He was referring to the fact that I live in an apartment complex with hundreds of other “young professionals” who are basically living the same boring (his words) lives. At first I laughed it off and told him that he was just jealous that I was making money and could afford to live in a nice place like this.

But after thinking about it, I understand what he means. I more or less live in an adult dorm, albeit a super-sized and super-expensive dorm. Every morning I wake up and put on a suit, or as my buddies call it, a “uniform.” I walk to the subway with all the other young workers or “students,” and I take the subway or “school bus” to work, or as Adam would say, to “17 th grade.”

I have to admit, thinking about post-college years in this way can make me question why I am doing this instead of pursuing something I love. But I have chosen to take a different perspective about this whole 17th grade idea.

Of my college friends, about half are in graduate school. They are in 17th grade much like me; however they are paying for it while I am being paid, and I’m learning how to live in the real world at the same time.

I do not consider myself to be an adult. Whether you think there is something wrong with this or not, it’s a fact. And I would say it’s safe to assume that if you took an inventory of recent college grads in the workplace or grad school, the majority would give you the same answer. I don’t know when or if I am supposed to be an adult. I’m thinking it will be around the time I start a family.

Because of this, I guess you could say that my company has replaced my parents as my support system. They provide me with money to put a roof over my head, they pay the insurance companies to cover most of my medical needs, and instead of asking mom and dad for my weekly allowance, I just wait for that good old bi-weekly paycheck to appear in my bank account.

I try to learn something from everything I do. This so-called 17th grade is just what it sounds like — an educational opportunity for me to master before I graduate to the next phase of my life or the next “grade.” What that grade will be, I have no idea, but I hope to figure it out while I’m here. It might be my own business, it might be a management position in a small company, or it may have absolutely nothing to do with business at all.

My ideal 17th grade will teach me how a successful company runs, how to improve my public speaking skills, and how to work with and eventually manage a diverse group of people. The question I ask myself is, which company or “school” as my buddies would say, will provide me with the best “education?”

There is a glut of people who are dying to fund business plans. Especially now, as starting a business online becomes less and less expensive, people require less money from investors, so investors have to look harder for startups to fund.

The problem is that people only want to fund good business ideas. It’s very hard to tell if an idea is stupendous. But it is easy to tell if an idea is terrible. And it’s easy to tell if you are pitching your idea for a company in an incompetent way.

Of course, there are a lot of resources online to help you get started with a business plan and a pitch. is full of great resources. Pamela Slim’s blog, Escape from Cubicle Nation is a great community for getting moral support to make the leap into entrepreneurship. And Guy Kawasaki has a classic list of ways to screw up your pitch.

To get funding, you need to know how much money you require to execute the business idea. If you need a lot of money you need to go to a venture capital firm. If you only need a little money (e.g. $50,000) you can go to an angel fund. Guy Kawasaki lists ways you can get to a venture capitalist, and Paul Graham has an essay on how to fund a company on a shoestring.

But to make any of this work, you need a plan that is good enough to make people who know business plans think, “Hm. I wonder if this will work?” So you need a great elevator pitch — the one-minute summary of why your idea is good — and you need a smart business plan that you can send to potential investors.

This week’s Coachology will match you with an angel fund manager, Teresa Esser. She oversees Silicon Pastures, a group that funds early stage startups. She wrote Venture Cafe, a book about entrepreneurship, and she teaches entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin. Teresa will help you sharpen your elevator pitch and business plan so you can land the angel funding you’re looking for.

To work with Teresa, email three sentences to me about the business idea you have. The deadline for sending an email is Sunday, April 8.

One of the important lessons in entrepreneurship is to figure out your goal: Do you want to run a small business forever? Grow into a multinational corporation? Or do you want to sell as fast as possible? Your business should fit your personality and your vision for your life.

New York magazine profiles a drug dealer trying to find an exit strategy for his mid-size company. Which sells cocaine, of course. Believe it or not, there’s a market for drug dealerships. And you can tell this guy is an overachiever in the business world because he keeps his client list on an Excel spreadsheet.

Here’s how he explains his plan: “The rule in any business is that you don’t sell your company for what it makes in a year, but for what it makes in two or three or four years, right? Well in my business, you can’t do that. Someone gets arrested and — boom– it’s over. So you gotta sell it based on what you make in, like, six months.”

For those of you who are thinking about entrepreneurship in a less life-threatening product category, try taking Pairwise’s entrepreneurial personality test (scroll down the page to find it). This test tells you if you have the personality similar to other scrappy Internet company founders who Y Combinator has funded.

Y Combinator typically funds young technical-type guys in college or just out of college, (although every time I write this, Y Combinator asks me to say that this is an overstatement and they actually fund a wide range of people.) If you know you are not this type even without taking the test, and you know you can’t stomach the drug trade, there’s still hope.

Current research from the academics says that there is no one personality type for a successful entrepreneur. There are so many ways to be an entrepreneur today that you can create a business to fit your strengths.

The barriers to entrepreneurship are crumbling, and every six months, technology makes starting a business easier and easier.

As a result, entrepreneurship has become more appealing to a wider range of people. If you measure success in terms of personal growth and flexible work, their success rate is sky high.

Here’s a list of the old and new ways of thinking when it comes to starting your own business:

Old: Entrepreneurs are born with a specific set of character traits.

New: Entrepreneurship is learned.

There is no single way to be an entrepreneur, according to research by Saras Sarasvathyof the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. There are actually many different types of personalities that can succeed because there are so many different ways to structure a business.

The key is to pick a business that plays to your personality traits. For example, someone who has lots of charisma and leadership skill, but little interest in day-to-day details, should probably run a larger company than someone who’s capable of doing all the dirty work required for a one-man show.

Old: Raise money and spend a lot of it on advertising.

New: Raise no money and spend no money on advertising.

The viral efficiencies of Web 2.0 make today’s Internet very effective for spreading good ideas quickly. You can think of an idea and test it right away, and if you get traffic to your site the idea is good. If there’s no traffic, that’s not a sign to spend money on advertising, it’s a sign that you don’t have a good idea.

Reddit, for example, was started by two twenty-somethings who emailed their friends and invited them to use their new online tool. Their friends liked Reddit and passed the email on to their own email lists. No advertising budget whatsoever was required, and two years later Conde Nast acquired Reddit.

Old: Women will get power in corporate America and change it.

New: Women are getting what they want by leaving corporate America to start their own businesses.

While a steady stream of press releases touts the increasing flexibility of corporate jobs, it isn’t happening in practice. But instead of pounding their fists against the doors of corporate human resources departments, women have put their energy toward growing their own businesses.

More businesses are started today by women than by men, and most of the sole proprietorship businesses are run by women. This tells us that women have won the fight for flexible jobs by creating them for themselves.

Old: The self-employed are happy because they’re doing what they love.

New: The self-employed are happy because they have control over their work and they have a flexible lifestyle.

The idea that you need to do what you love is more of a platitude than solid career advice. Instead, the best advice might be to do what fits your life best, and create a life that you love.

Rebecca Ryan, CEO of Next Generation Consulting, writes about how instead of living to work, people today are working to live. In this context, self-employment is a very effective way to create a life you want.

Old: Climb the corporate ladder, learn the ropes, then start a company.

New: Start a company to get out of climbing the corporate ladder.

Learning the ropes at a big company is sometimes slow going. You often only learn what your own department does, and if you have a really bad job, you only learn what your department does from the perspective of the copy machine. This is no way to learn about business.

The fastest way to learn about business is to try it. And since there’s very little cost to starting an Internet business, you can try one, fail, and start another, and another, as a way to teach yourself about business.

Eventually something will stick, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll probably get enough experience to skip the drudgery of the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder.

Old: Entrepreneurship is all or nothing.

New: You can test the waters by starting a company while you have a corporate job.

Setting up shop online is a matter of using your mouse and clicking on the kind of features you want in your store. And there are new ways to do business online that didn’t exist even two years ago. For example, you can buy and sell web sites on 24-hour message boards, and you can set up an arbitrage business around buying and selling web traffic.

Many new types of businesses are ideal for pairing with a career you already have. Marci Alboher wrote a handbook for starting this kind of life: “One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success.”

Old: Starting a business is risky.

New: Staying in corporate life is risky.

Most businesses succeed, most jobs end. The statistics about most companies failing assume that most entrepreneurs want to run the next Microsoft. In fact, most people don’t. They just want a flexible, fun, rewarding job.

In that respect, if a company provides fun, flexible work for even a short period of time, you can say it’s a success even if it fails soon after.

Old: Do a lot of planning and make sure it’s going to work before you start.

New: Forget the big plan — just try it.

If it doesn’t work, just try again. This is not true for, say, starting a restaurant, but for a company with little cash outlay there’s little risk to running without a set plan.

A few months ago, I was interviewing this guy, Ben Casnocha.

The first thing you need to know about Ben is that he started a company when he was fourteen. And it’s still around today, four years later. Ben doesn’t run it, but my point is that it’s a real company.

But no, wait, that’s not my point. This next paragraph isn’t my point either, but I’m going to tell you anyway: Ben’s company, Comcate, helps governments do stuff online. Nothing particularly notable about that except that it’s exactly what my second startup did. So while my own governments-go-online startup was going bankrupt in the dot-com crash. Ben was in his sixth grade classroom making a success of that very business.

Ben does not know this. I nearly fell on the floor when I was on the phone with him, and it was all I could do to keep the interview going. But now, whenever you see me grandstanding about my three companies that I started, you can recall that I’m also the one who was outmaneuvered in my business by a kid in junior high school.

But anyway, I digress. Ben is a very humble and interesting guy, and he’s hard to not like. So during the interview, I asked him how he meets people to mentor him. This is what he said, “Mostly face to face. Not through the more traditional ways like blogging.”

TRADITIONAL? I had to pick myself up off the floor again.

But you know what? That was eight months ago. And I’ve been blogging for a while now, and Ben has a point. It is very, very easy to meet people through blogging. And it’s very efficient — you never have to leave your computer.

Some of you are thinking you have no idea where to start. So look, here are the easiest instructions for starting a blog. Some are you are thinking it’s too time intensive. But you can grow a useful network efficiently from a blog that you post to only once or twice a week.

I think the networking benefits should be enough reason for you to be posting twice a week. After all, if you can’t afford two hours a week for networking, your career is in trouble. But here are three more benefits to blogging — these are goals you should have for your career anyway, and they’re goals you can reach by blogging only a handful of times a month:

1. You will force yourself to specialize.
You can’t really write a blog about everything. Well, you can, but it will suck. So you’ll need to pick a topic and stick with it. And just the act of doing that is good for you because specializing is good for your career. After all, you can’t be known for something if you are not specializing in something. And once you are known for something you have a lot more leverage to get the kind of work you want to be doing.

People who want flexible work schedule often think that being a generalist will give them a lot of wiggle room. In fact, it’s the opposite. A generalist is easy to find, so no one needs to bother giving you a flexible work schedule to keep you. But if you specialize you are not so easily replaced, so you can ask for more flexibility at work.

2. You will let people know you have good ideas.
One of the biggest complaints people have about their work is that no one listens to their ideas. Everyone wants to be a creative thinker, but not everyone feels like that sort of work is open to them.

With a blog, though, you show people your creativity. Got a lot of ideas? Good, because there are a lot of days in the week for you to fill on that blog. And instead of you running around the office complaining to people about your stifled potential, you can show people your potential by broadcasting your ideas. The best way to get hired to spew ideas is to spew them and get people interested.

3. You will show passion and commitment.
There is a lot of evidence to show that, all things being mostly equal, we have a proclivity toward hiring people we want to have sex with. But we also have a proclivity toward hiring people we like. And after all the Ford Models are out of the interview cue, the most appealing people are those who have passion and commitment.

Of course, if you have read any how-to-interview advice, you know you should always say you have passion and commitment. But people who have it exude it. And if you are a blogger, and post at regular intervals, you don’t need to tell people about your passion and commitment – it’s right there on the page.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve interviewed a lot of people about entrepreneurship. The common thread running through all the interviews is that entrepreneurship is different than it was even five years ago. Barriers to entry are lower than ever, and if you measure success in terms of personal growth and flexible work, then the success rates for entrepreneurs is sky high.

Entrepreneurship has changed to become more appealing to a wider range of people. Here’s a list of the old and new ways of thinking when it comes to starting your own business:

Old: Entrepreneurs are born with a specific set of character traits.
New: Entrepreneurship is learned. There is no, single way to be an entrepreneur.

Old: Raise money and spend a lot of it on advertising.
New: Raise no money and spend no money on advertising.

Old: Women will get power in corporate America and change it.
New: Women are getting what they want by leaving corporate America to start their own businesses.

Old: The self-employed are happy because they are doing what they love.
New: The self-employed are happy because they have control over their work and they have a flexible lifestyle.

Old: Climb the coprorate ladder, learn the ropes, then start a company.
New: Start a company to get out of climbing the corporate ladder.

Old: Entrepreneurship is all or nothing.
New: You can test the waters by starting a company while you have a corporate job.

Old: Starting a business is risky.
New: Staying in corporate life is risky. Most businesses succeed, most jobs end.

Old: Do a lot of planning and make sure it’s going to work before you start.
New: Forget the big plan. Just try it. If it doesn’t work, you can just try again.

Thirty is a magic number for the new generation — a time when people want their career path and their family life in place. This is a difficult convergence to pull off, but more and more people are aiming for it.

Jessica Marshall Forbes summarizes these feelings as she describes getting married: “We always knew we wanted to get married before we were thirty. When you’re younger, in college, thirty seems like a turning point. And as I’m nearing that age, the significance hasn’t changed. Thirty is when you’re really grown up. At thirty you should know what you’re doing.”

For both men and women this is a key age to have their career goals in place. Lia Macko is co-author of the book, Midlife Crisis at 30: How the Stakes Have Changed for a New Generation — And What to Do about It Macko writes, “It may be socially acceptable to spend time searching for a professional calling during your twenties, but after 30, that grace period ends fast. Adjectives begin to change — ‘aspiring’ actors/filmmakers/musicians/writers are recast as ‘wannabes’ or ‘dilettantes’.”

However women have a more loaded marker of age thirty: Their biological clock. “Women take into account their reproductive potential is diminishing,” says Jeffrey Arnett, professor at Clark University and author of Emerging Adulthood. “Women think if they marry at thirty they can have two years with their husband and have a kid and then wait to years and have another kid. But if this doesn’t happen then they worry about the impact on their reproductive life.”

The worries are well founded: The chance of birth complications skyrockets after the age of 35. It used to be fashionable to tell women, “Don’t worry about babies. You have time. Concentrate on your career.” But now that the statistics on late motherhood are clearer, fears have set in. For Forbes, the self-imposed deadline for having children has everything to do with medical risk. She says age is not a concern “as long as I’m not getting to the point where complications start.”

So today many women find themselves in a position where they are struggling to line up a grand convergence of career, marriage and motherhood within a couple of years of age thirty. Lia Macko says, “In the past, women had kids when they were lower in the masthead. Now women are making decisions about kids and earning potential and marriage all at the same time and this is specific to their generation.”

This convergence means that it’s the first time in history that a large proportion of women have a big career and small children, and it appears that the combination is almost impossible. For example, sixty percent of women with MBAs are working at home, and an epidemic number of women are leaving corporate life when their children come. Women approaching age thirty face these statistics.

How can women alleviate some of the pressures of turning thirty? For one thing, Macko advises that you “Tune out the cultural white noise” and figure out a plan that will meet your own needs, regardless of the expectations people place on you.

Starting your own business is a great way to ensure that you can control your time as your thirty-year-mark approaches. Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin, author of How to Run Your Business Like a Girl, says that most entrepreneurs she interviewed for her book, “tried to do kids and corporate life and they couldn’t.” But Baskin encourages entrepreneurship at a relatively young age. She says “younger women are smarter about these issues from the get go” and realize before trying that corporate life is not compatible with family life.

Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie-Mellon University and author of the book, Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide encourages women to manage the convergence of fertility and finances by negotiating up front with their partner. “Ask questions like who will find the nanny and who will change jobs. You might change your mind, but you will set the tone for both parties making an adjustment when the baby comes.” Managing the changes one faces at age thirty is much easier if both partners are committed to absorbing some of the shock.

For those of you who are not in a position of convergence – for example, fielding the annoying question: “So you’re already 30. Where is your husband?” – recognize that all women face crisis issues at 30, it’s just that some issues focus on finding a partner or career and some focus on coping with having found them.

And while everyone has a different opinion about how to make women’s decision points easier, there is unanimous clamor that women must talk. The women who are most successful at navigating these issues are those who help each other, and talk about it with their significant others and their community. Dialogue is the first step toward finding a solution that works: Talk to your friends, and even your enemies – the wider the discussion the better.