Being your own boss is thrilling. You have the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you also have the boundless freedom to soar wherever you’d like.
When you’re the boss, you get to call all the shots—but you also have all the responsibility. Mess up at your 9-to-5, and you’ll likely get loads more opportunity before there’s any real consequence. Mess up when you’re the one-and-only boss, and you might not get a paycheck that month.
On the flip side, you also get the full return on your investment when you’re the boss. If you invest more time and energy into your business and it succeeds, you make more money—and your business (read: your baby) becomes that much stronger.
That’s not usually the case at your full-time job—if you do well, you get a pat on the back and maybe a petty bonus at the end of the year. Ultimately, you’re spending 40 hours a week (or more) building someone else’s dream.
“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help build theirs.” — Tony Gaskins, Author and Professional Life Coach
Entrepreneurs and business owners are often stereotyped as always traveling the world, flying first class, sipping cocktails on the beach, or lounging by the poolside all day long. Sure, that’s life for the fortunate .001%—but that’s not the day-to-day life of your typical entrepreneur.
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You’ll have long sleepless nights grinding out what needs to be done, and you’ll need to tap a shoulder or 2 to ask a favor. You’ll have days when you’re overwhelmingly busy and days when you don’t know what to do. It’s all part of being an entrepreneur.
All this is to say that being your own boss is incredible—but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Now that you know what being your own boss is all about, it’s time to make it happen. Below, we’ll show you the 6-step process for how to ditch your 9-to-5 and pursue a profitable passion as the head honcho.
1. Figure Out What You Want to Do
So many ideas, so little time. After browsing through our list of online business ideas and side hustles, finding an idea won’t be the problem—but narrowing it down to one will be.
Think about what skills you have, or consider what you want to accomplish. Do you want to build an ecommerce business, or would you like to sell your talents to other companies as a freelancer or consultant?
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There’s no right answer. Sure, some businesses might have better profit margins than others, and a few will be a bit riskier. But you’re the boss—you get to choose what’ll make you happy and fulfilled.
Don’t worry too much about finding the perfect startup idea. Chances are you’d be a good fit for various business types. Find what makes you happy now. You can always pursue another idea later.
2. Validate Your Business Idea
Once you’ve got an idea for your business, it’s time to find out whether it can go the distance. Before you invest too much time and money into your idea, you’ll want to validate it.
When you present your business idea to friends, family, and colleagues, chances are you’ll hear a lot of “that sounds awesome!” even if your plan is lousy. Seriously. Go try it. Come up with a terrible idea and pitch it to your friends—see what they say.
There are a few ways you can validate a business idea, but we like to go with the classic landing page smoke test. Here’s how you do it:
- Create a landing page marketing your product or service
- Include a “Buy Now” button on your page
- Drive real traffic to the page with a small advertising budget
- See if people click the “Buy Now” button
- Set a benchmark for the click-through rate you’d like to see
This test lets you bypass friend, family, and even stranger bias. You don’t want to hear whether you have a good idea or not—you want to know if customers will open their wallets and buy what you’re selling.
3. Build a Business Plan
Part of being your own boss is doing all the planning. You’ll need a game plan for how you’re going to take your business from Point A to Point B.
While it seems fresh and creative to just wing it, that’s a solid strategy to end up broken and battered. Get out your pen and paper (or Google Doc) and answer the hard questions from the get-go:
- What is your business?
- Who will you serve?
- What are you selling?
- What problem do you help solve?
- How will you make money?
- Who are your competitors?
- What makes you different from all the other businesses?
- How will you finance your startup costs?
- How will you get your product or service in front of customers?
It’s a lot to think about. Take a look at our guide on how to create a business plan. It’ll walk you step-by-step through everything you need to outline and answer to improve your chances of success.
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4. Take the Leap
After you have a strong business plan, you’re ready to make things happen. Don’t worry—you don’t need to quit your 9-to-5 just yet. You can always start your business on the side (nice and slow) while you prove out your idea.
Launch your business and aim to make your first sale.
Once things start to pick up and you’re making consistent income, then you might decide to go all-in on your business and be your own boss. Or you might just skip the proving phase altogether and take the leap.
You’re the boss. You get to decide how you move your new career forward.
5. Grow Your Business
There’s no one-way-fits-all method for growing your business. You might want to expand your operations or increase your customer base. You may want to add additional products and services or boost your prices.
Resist the urge to be complacent, especially early on. Your business is either moving forward or back—it rarely sits stagnant. Take the right steps to keep it moving in the right direction.
Here are a few ways you could grow your business:
- Hire help to accelerate work or increase bandwidth to help customers
- Obtain additional financing to expand operations with upgraded equipment or more aggressive marketing campaigns
- Expand your products and services to help customers in more ways
- Raise your prices to earn more from every sale
- Become more efficient to reduce your expenses and improve your ROI
When you’re the boss, you get to decide what direction you take your business. Once you’ve got a solid set of customers and consistent income, you may choose to dedicate more time to your family or a hobby. It’ll impact your business, but you get to make the decisions.
6. Do It Again (Optional)
After you’ve grown a successful business from the ground up, you may get the itch to do it all over again. You might want to start a complementary business, or you may want to build something in an entirely new industry.
Again, you’re the boss. You get to decide.
Managing multiple businesses isn’t easy, but for some, the thrill of the adventure beats out the demands of the journey. However, you may decide to launch, build, and exit your company before starting a new one. Or, you may just stick with your initial business for the next decade or 2.
There’s no right way to do it.