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How to give up your day job

Andy Yates

Ask yourself these three simple questions:

  • Do you hate your boss, employer or place of work (or indeed all three)?
  • Do you know you could do better - and dream of setting up your own business one day (and often talk about it to friends and loved ones)?
  • Have you singularly failed to do anything about it?

If the answer is yes to all three questions, you have your very own name. You are a Wantrepreneur - like millions of others in the UK.

Yes, you Wantrepreneurs talk a good game. You are often to be seen in pubs and coffee shops up and down the land expounding your latest business ideas with real gusto. But, far more often than not, they come to nothing.

On the face of it, it's easy to understand why. Running a business is no walk in the park. The risks are high and the rewards are uncertain. But the prize of making a go of it and controlling your own destiny (and saying yah boo sucks to that incredibly annoying boss) can be a compelling one.

So here are five top tips to turn you from Wantrepreneur to Entrepreneur.

1. Don’t give up the day job…yet

Successful entrepreneurs really know their own business or industry well - and what better way than through direct work experience. It doesn’t matter if you are a plumber, a pilot or a pilates teacher - if you really know your trade, you should be able to get other people to trade with you.

So if your business idea is related to your current job, use your time at work to flesh out your business ideas, build up a network of relevant contacts and really research your opportunity.

If you are planning to set up a business in a different field, then do everything you can to level that field. Speak to family, contacts and friends - or their friends and contacts - and learn as much as you can to give you the confidence that you are on the right track.

2. Speak to your future customers

Yes, research is good - but you have to spread your wings far wider than a spreadsheet. There is no substitute for actually speaking to potential customers. Find out what they want - and crucially what they will pay for. If you can identify a gap in the market and a set of ready made customers you will be far readier to become an entrepreneur.

3. Hedge your bets

Setting up a business does not have to be all or nothing. Cashflow is king for small businesses - and it can be a right royal pain if you haven’t got enough money coming in to pay yourself, especially in those hectic early days. One compromise is to bring a bit of cash in through consultancy work, or keep a part-time role. For example, I used to be a full-time journalist, so when I left to become an entrepreneur I carried on doing some freelance work for newspapers to help pay the bills while the new company found its feet.

4. Team building 

Getting other like-minded co-founders involved can significantly improve your chances of success and help keep early expenses and hiring costs down - especially if you have complementary skill sets.

I started up with a great friend from university. We had different skills and personalities but we knew we could trust each other and two heads turned out to very much better than one.

Of course, the road to entrepreneurship can be a rocky one and has punctured many a great potential partnership. So there is no substitute to working with each other first, perhaps on a project basis - researching the idea, talking to customers and coming up with a business plan. You will soon work out your potential partner’s skills, style and, crucially, his or her commitment to the cause.

5. Testing times

Try before you say goodbye to your job. Test out your product or idea with real life customers. And use the internet and social media for what it is good at - getting instant feedback. Unless you are very lucky, the chances are your first idea may not quite hit the spot but don’t be afraid to be flexible, open your mind and listen to the market. When you know you are on to something you can really get on with it.

The journey from Wantrepreneur to Entrepreneur doesn’t have to be a hazardous one and the real danger is to do nothing. 

So, Wantrepreneurs, here is my final question for you: Anybody can have an idea - but are you going to do anything about turning your day dream into your new day job?

Andy Yates is an experienced entrepreneur, business mentor, advisor and angel investor and helps a portfolio of exciting growth businesses reach their potential. Follow Andy on Twitter: @smallbizhelp

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