The beginning of a new year is always a time of regeneration, recalibration and forward planning. One of the questions I often hear from my clients at this time of year is, “Could I/should I/will I go it alone and become my own boss?”

There’s no straightforward answer. Some of my clients weigh up this issue for months and even years before deciding whether to go ahead. Some never take the plunge, and for many that’s the right decision. It’s not for everyone. But there are some useful pointers you can bear in mind when weighing up whether it’s time to branch out alone or whether you’re better off staying with what you know.

  1. Make a plan. You’ll never know everything you need to know about running a business. You learn on the job every single day. Accept that you’ll learn as you go. But a plan is your best safety net against falling into the void.
  2. Start planning six to nine months in advance, unless there’s a business opportunity staring you in the face that you need to capitalise on right now. It takes time to think of yourself in a different role – as an entrepreneur, a business owner, an employer of others. Make sure your own finances are in order and work out what you’ll lose if you leave the company you’re working for – pension, healthcare, holidays etc. Owning your own business can be very lucrative but you need to know the benefits you’ll be losing before you can truly evaluate whether you’re prepared to take the risk. Get the full picture.
  3. Sharpen your vision. What’s your motivation to do this? Are you going to do what you already do, but better or differently? Do you have a hobby or a passion that you think you can monetise? Or have you spotted a gap in the market for something new? Explore different avenues, passions, dreams and from those work out your potential income streams. Creating your own business takes huge energy so make sure you’re planning to do something that interests and stimulates you.
  4. Hone the detail. Identify your product or your offer, clarify your skills and scope out your target market. Think about your pricing points and your marketing strategy. How are you going to fund the business? Write your business plan and test it out on people you know and trust. How will you add value in a way other businesses in your area don’t?
  5. Build a following. Once you’ve decided to go for it, and perhaps even begun to establish funding and get your business in place, then get out there and build a network of supporters, partners, allies, suppliers and of course customers. Use social media, blogging, word of mouth and networking events to create an identity for your business.

Running your own business isn’t an easy option but it can be both satisfying and lucrative. And there’s a fine line between planning and procrastination, so once you decide to go for it, go for it with all you have. Working for someone else is the right option for many people but not for everyone. Be aware of the risks and go into it with your eyes open but if you want to do it, don’t let fear hold you back, engage entirely and show the market what you’re made of.
Deborah Lyon of Nab Communications provides advice on internal and external strategic communications to clients including Peninsula Business Services, as well as offering level-headed coaching on your business and career choices. www.nabcommunications.co.uk