It’s Tuesday at four o’clock. You’re sitting at your desk at work, glancing repeatedly at the clock in the corner of your computer screen. Itching to get home. Your chatty coworker who doesn't understand personal space hasn’t stopped complaining about the broken water cooler. The next ten minutes seem to last ten years. Lying in bed that night, halfway drunk and sleep-deprived, you start thinking, “What if I never had to go back to that terrible office tomorrow? What if I just quit? I’ve had this idea burning a hole in the back of my head for months. What if I take that leap?“ Take a step back and think: quitting your day job is just one step. You have to think about what comes next. Consider this before you hand in your two weeks notice:
Are you asking yourself the right questions?
Queries can give you a clearer picture of things and put things into perspective. Asking the right questions right away gives you time to reflect on the things you are working with. Think to yourself:
Can I afford this?
Quitting your day job means your stable source of income will come to a screeching halt. You need enough to start your business, but you also can’t afford to forget about your day-to-day expenses (eating, rent, hygiene, etc.). If you have a partner, family, or any dependents, your situation is even trickier. Investing your middle child’s college fund into your business might not be the most responsible move, but there are plenty of resources online for educating founders on how to get past the “I can’t afford this" mindset.
Has my idea been done before?
Chances are, it has, but don’t sweat it! You can use these businesses as benchmarks. Scrutinize them, analyze what they’re doing right, and examine what doesn’t work for them — build yourself up from there. Start with some Google searches or search the US Patent & Trademark Office if you’re really concerned.
What am I good at?
More than the product or service you will be introducing to the market, you also need to sell yourself to potential investors and future patrons. Everything starts with knowing yourself and the skills that set you apart from everyone else.
Do I have enough experience in the industry?
Whether you have experience or not, asking yourself this question will allow you to get a good grasp on how much research you will need to do and the time you must invest in studying your industry. Think back to the classic saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and question whether or not you have friends, family, old business partners, etc. who could help you get things moving.
Is this a hobby or a business?
Simply put, a hobby is something done leisurely in your spare time. Running a business, on the other hand, is a lifestyle. Be prepared to invest most of your time and effort into it. So, unless you can really commit, diving head first into startup life probably isn’t the wisest idea.
Am I doing this for the right reasons?
It’s easy to think that quitting your frustrating, mind-numbing day-to-day job sounds like the best option right now, but you need to think about the “why.” If you want to challenge yourself by building something from the ground up, entrepreneurship might be for you. If you want some extra cash, chances are you can cut down on hours at your current job and put some time into a cash-generating side-hustle.
You should get advice from someone more experienced than you
On the rare days you have some free time, sign yourself up for seminars or classes about entrepreneurship. You’ll get a baseline feel for things and learn as you go. It could also be an excellent networking opportunity. You may meet people to share ideas and trade notes with. Avoid those “what if?” moments by putting yourself out there. If you see a professional in your industry, shoot them a note. LinkedIn, Meetup, and AngelList are always options and email addresses are surprisingly easy to guess — people love feeling useful, so, chances are, someone will be happy to help you!
Test the waters before diving in
At this stage, you may need to do a bit more legwork. First, figure out if people even want what you intend to sell — is there a market for your product or service? Considering you probably aren’t working with a lot of cash, do your market research the old-fashioned way, using elbow grease and asking real people to test your prototype. Without talking to potential customers, you’ll never be the entrepreneur extraordinaire you dream to be.
What will you do if things don't go well?
Establish a plan on the off chance your business crashes and burns. Entrepreneurship is extremely risky. Businesses don’t take flight overnight — you may not start making any real money for years. Many businesses never hit positive cash flow, so inject yourself with a healthy dose of cautious optimism when starting your journey. Plan for the worst, but hope for the best.