Making the leap from your 9-to-5 without a plan is a sure-fire way to find yourself in the middle of a troubled situation.
The corporate lifestyle doesn't hold as much allure for Millennials as it did for previous generations. No sooner does Gen Y enter the workforce than they start dreaming of leaving it all behind and working for themselves. And that can be a good thing. But there are some considerations Millennials should be aware of before they make such a move.
I know this well because I made this same leap from the corporate world into working for myself. And though I've found my footing and success as an entrepreneur, it wasn't an easy path. It can be challenging to make it while working for yourself, however there are some things you can do to make it easier.
Here are a few things to take care of before taking the leap:
1. Have a Plan
Don't jump blindly. Think about your value proposition and how you are going to generate revenue. Identify ways you can get a running start before you leave your steady income.
When I was working as a Project Manager daydreaming about life beyond the cubicle, I started looking at ways to get involved and stand out in my industry before I stepped out on my own. I volunteered for my local Project Management Institute Chapter as their VP of Operations. You can begin meeting people from other companies and expand your network by joining professional organizations in your industry.
I began speaking at industry conferences to begin building my brand and start to position myself as an expert in the industry and I chose a niche on Agile Project Management. Speaking opened up a world of opportunity for me including building an international network that came in handy when I launched my own consulting business.
While my friends were out at happy hour after work or partying on weekends, I was attending professional development organizations and putting together proposals. Now, many of them still work in the same office jobs while I travel the world for free and get paid to lead training classes, speak at conferences, and stay for weeks in Singapore, Thailand, Fiji, Jamaica and other amazing places. A little risk + a good plan + dedication and persistence yields a great reward.
2. Focus Your Actions
You need to have systems and processes of self-management in place to work effectively as an entrepreneur--and that takes a lot more self-discipline than you may think.
It's easy to fill your day with activities when you've got a manager telling you what to do, when to do it, and how it should be done. That kind of management might be one of the reasons you're looking to make the leap in the first place! But once you're out on your own, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the options and workload if you don't have a method on how to go about prioritizing and accomplishing your work. You'll need to find a way to effectively self-manage your time.
Try this mantra as you begin to focus on what needs done "Stop starting, and start finishing."
This approach is designed to get you to finish tasks one at a time instead of spreading yourself too thin and accomplishing too little. Organize yourself so that your work fits that mantra and you'll find your work days much more productive than if you were chipping away at ten larger tasks. What can you finish this week that will allow you to bring in immediate revenue? What's the fastest path to cash as you race toward earning your first dollar?
3. Find Accountability
Accountability is essential. This could be as simple as having a friend, business partner, or other entrepreneur to bounce ideas off and help keep you on task. There are also plenty of frameworks out there to help keep you accountable. Personal Agility is a great one that I use myself. It allows me to work on what matters so I can make sure my time and energy are always spent working proactively toward my goals.
Accountability expert, Nick Snapp, talks about 3 ways to stay accountable to complete your goals. First, make it public. Let people know exactly what it is you'll get done and by when you'll deliver. Second, make it double. Find an accountability partner who will hold your feet to the fire. Third, make it hurt! Develop a persuasive consequence for not delivering as promised.
This could be as easy as committing to donate to the opposite political party from who you normally support if you don't meet your goal or (this next one scares me) give a friend a bad picture of you that they'll release on social media if you don't reach your goal (this one works especially well with fitness goals too).
The method you use doesn't matter, just as long as you have a system of accountability in place.
A Moment of Clarity
Before you step away from your 9-5, think about what you can do to build momentum. Gaining clarity around your plan, focusing your actions, and setting up accountability is key. You don't need every detail worked out just to get started. You can create momentum for the leap, use an Agile approach, and pivot your way to success.