I'm a rule follower, not a risk taker. At least, that's what I thought three years ago when I decided to quit my job in wealth management public relations and start my own PR and communications business.
To leave a good job without a "real" job is the riskiest career move I've ever made. At least, that's what I thought then. But I know now that I was more prepared than I realized. For years, I'd yearned to work for myself and to build my own business. And for a solid year leading up to giving notice, I prepped to launch.
Here are the steps I took to get ready to be an entrepreneur -- and what I recommend you do before giving your notice to become a small-business owner.
Network, network, network. No more sitting in your cube dissatisfied with work life -- unless you want this to be your life. If you can't get out and network, or if the mere thought of it leaves you cold, you won't make it as an entrepreneur.
Join a professional group. For me, it was the Public Relations Society of America. Take lunches and make coffee dates for before or after work. If you're ready, you can share your plans with those you trust the most so they can help make connections and referrals when you are flying solo.
2. Polish your LinkedIn profile.
Oftentimes, people neglect their LinkedIn until they are looking for a new job. You are creating your next job, so invest the time making sure your professional profile is polished. When those in your network want to refer you to would-be clients, chances are they will include a link to your LinkedIn. You want it to look good.
Take time to make sure your story section is compelling and that your experience section is filled out with details on each of your jobs, including responsibilities, highlights, and accomplishments. In addition to having a complete profile, which is necessary, this activity is also somewhat of an ego boost. If ever there was a good time to be reminded of all of your great work, now is the time.
3. Try out some boundaries.
You don't want to burn out in your new job of running your own business. So before you leave your old job, try out some boundaries. Here's an example of what I mean. Before I decided to plan my exit from corporate life and entry into entrepreneurship, I answered practically every email that came from higher up the chain within minutes -- day or night, weekday or weekend.
I stopped doing this once I started investing in my future on my own, and ended up liking my job a lot more. It made me wish I'd started out that way. So I vowed to employ this practice when I started my business. I will always respond to clients ASAP when matters are urgent. But not all matters are urgent. I learned to trust that I provide excellent client service -- and that email response speed is not a direct reflection of that.
4. Do something hard.
I'm not a techie person, and what I miss most from corporate life is the IT department. So it was a major accomplishment that I built my own company website.
I did it out of necessity -- having no budget to hire a website developer -- and desire for total control of my website. It was hard. I spent a lot of time yelling at the computer or with my head in my hands. But I did it. And there were times in that first year of business when I thought, I can do this, because I built my own website. Nothing would ever be as hard as that. Do something hard so that when business is hard, you know you've got it.
Bottom line: Quitting your job might always feel risky. But if you take these steps, I bet you will feel gutsy and empowered, too. Looking back, I realize I'm both a rule follower and a risk taker.