At least once a week, I receive a question from someone who wants to start their own training or professional development practice. While I love, love, love chatting with people about achieving their dreams, I feel wholly unqualified to help anyone start a business. The only business I know is mine – and I am usually making it up as I go along!
That said, if you are daydreaming about starting your own gig, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way!
1. Don’t quit your day job. Many people don’t realize that I did this Together work for over five years on TOP of a very big day jobs before deciding to take the risk to go solo. Also, be sure you have a supportive employer and that you are abiding by any moonlighting policies that may be in place. I’m forever indebted to the tremendously kind managers who wholeheartedly encouraged me to pursue my dream.
2. You do not need a business plan. You may want to consider your general direction, but I don’t think you need a business plan to get started – unless you are looking for investors, which I was not! Having a set business plan may actually limit your options.
3. Spend carefully – or not at all. When I got started, I had no website, no logo, no marketing materials, and no bank account. For many years, I ran things from a two page document that outlined workshop options, my background, and a few testimonials.
4. Sweat, sweat, sweat. There is no doubt about it: Starting your own business is HARD work. I spent many a late night stuffing folders for shipments and re-taping on page numbers because I couldn’t figure out how to work Adobe, and many early mornings designing trainings. Plain and simple, it was really hard work for many years – and continues to be.
5. Standardize what you can. Another entrepreneur gave me the great advice to standardize any templates or procedures early on to save time for later. This forced me to create a workshop inquiry template, a proposal template, and several other items. It freed up my brain to focus on the content of my work.
6. Keep it narrow. It may be very tempting to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, but keep it narrow and obsess on quality. In my case, I started with just one workshop with full- and half-day options, that I perfected for THREE years. Even now, I typically only add one new workshop per year and do very little customized work.
That’s all I have really. If you are considering hustling on the side, following your dream, or imparting your wisdom to others, make sure you love what you do, you are very good at it, and people need your content.