Want to Open Your Own Business? Start Here

Image courtesy of Gratisography / Ryan McGuire | freerangestock.com
Image courtesy of Gratisography / Ryan McGuire | freerangestock.com

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

When you envision your dream job, you probably think about things such as the difference you’ll make in the world, what your office or store will look like, how much money you’ll make, how satisfied and accomplished you’ll feel at the end of each week.

I feel fairly confident in assuming that your vision does not include a boss. In your dream job, you’d be your own boss! You’d be an entrepreneur, living out the American Dream.

You’ve spent countless hours imagining it, so why not go for it? What holds most people back from taking the leap and starting their own business—manifesting their dream job—is uncertainty and fear.

The cold, hard truth is that about half of all new businesses don’t make it past five years, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA); only a third survive 10 years or more.

Yet small businesses are everywhere, the backbone of our communities. There are more than 340,000 small businesses in Oregon, according to the SBA. In spite of the possibility of failure, people are still trying. And when true entrepreneurs fail, they learn from it and try again.

There’s no question that owning your own business is risky. But with risk comes reward. To paraphrase French author André Gide, you can’t cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

The following guidance may help you get closer to turning your dream job into a reality.

Do what you know and love. Don’t start a business because you think you’ll get rich quick. A business built around your passion and talent is much more likely to succeed. If your heart isn’t in it, your chances of growing and being profitable are slim.

Make a business plan. This is your roadmap to success. Describe what makes you stand out from your competitors, who your target customers are and how you plan to market your business. A well written business plan will also support your request for funding from your bank or government programs.

Be wise with money. Save up as much as you can before launching your business, but you’ll likely still need financing. Check with the SBA to find resources and government-backed loans. If you’ll need retail or office space, location is important, but keep a budget in mind and try to negotiate on price. When you’re up and running, keep a detailed profit and loss statement, and always keep current on your loan payments, taxes and bills.

Stay in compliance. Find out from the IRS what business taxes you’ll need to pay. Check with the Washington Department of RevenueOregon Secretary of State or Alaska Department of Commerce to find out if you need to register your business with the state. A specialty license may also be required, depending on the type of work you’ll be doing.

Manage your reputation. It’s a given that potential customers or clients will search online for information about you and your business. According to research by ZenDesk, 88 percent of people have been influenced by an online review. Take a little time each day to work on your website and social media profiles, and respond to positive and negative comments in a professional manner. Delivering on your promises is essential, too. Build trust by doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Chances are you won’t get it exactly, perfectly right the first time. You will experience ups and downs, successes and failures. If your idea isn’t panning out, reflect on the mistakes you’ve made and what went wrong, and think about what you could have done differently. Don’t let your ego keep you from calling it quits when it’s appropriate. If it’s time to walk away, take time to regroup—and then try again.

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