Giving up the comforts of a steady job for the unknown territory of full-time entrepreneurship isn't easy. What's more, it's difficult to know the right moment to finally take the leap. A 2016 article on New York magazine's Science of Us website cites a study of more than 5,000 entrepreneurs over the course of 14 years by organizational psychologist Adam Grant, which found that those who kept their day jobs while building a business had a 33 percent lower chance of failure than those who didn't.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely is one entrepreneur who saw the safe route pay off. The clothing billionaire sold fax machines for two years while working on her business idea. Here are five of her top strategies you should consider adopting before leaving your regular gig.
1. Do your research
Blakely dedicated two years to working on Spanx, a new kind of women's undergarment, at night while spending her days at Danka, an office supply company. According to a profile in Forbes, the entrepreneur once spent a week at the Georgia Tech library researching hosiery patents. She also roamed the aisles of craft stores to find the perfect fabrics and cold-called hosiery mills. Blakely became an expert, educating herself about every detail in order to make a product she knew would be successful.
2. Sell something you care about
Blakely, who started her career as a saleswoman, liked the idea of making her own product, but it couldn't be just anything. "I liked to sell, and I was good at it," she told USA Today in 2011. "But I [wanted] to sell something that I was really passionate about." She was hooked on developing slimming shapewear that she actually wanted to wear--a lesson that the excitement of starting a business can easily diminish if even you aren't buying what you're trying to sell.
3. Nail your sales pitch
It's easy to get wrapped up in a long-winded speech about your product. When selling her product to buyers, suppliers, and customers, Blakely always kept it simple by focusing on the benefits for the wearer. "If I got my 10 seconds with a customer, I'd say, 'I have something that's going to make your butt look better' instead of 'I've got a product, and it stops here and it starts here,'" she told ABC News.
4. Find buyers
Rather than email, Blakely relied on the telephone and in-person communication to secure her first client, Neiman Marcus. She explained to Guy Raz on NPR's How I Built This that repeatedly calling the retailer's headquarters was the key to getting her foot in the door. Those phone calls led to a conversation with the hosiery buyer, which led to an offer of a meeting if Blakely flew herself to the store's Texas offices. A quick demo of the product in the ladies' restroom sealed the deal.
5. Create demand
Without a marketing budget, Blakely needed some creativity to get the word out about Spanx. When she felt that Neiman Marcus wasn't showcasing the product properly, she took a DIY approach and created her own displays by the cash registers. Concerned that Spanx wasn't selling well enough, she called friends in different states to buy the product themselves, reimbursing them for the costs. And, of course, her biggest achievement was getting Spanx a coveted spot on Oprah Winfrey's list of favorite things, which came after Blakely sent a sample to the talk show host's personal stylist. Knowing the opportunity would create more business than she could keep up with, she finally quit her day job two weeks before appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show, according to Forbes.