Ready, Steady… Start a Business! When It’s Time to Stop Procrastinating

Thinking about starting a business and wondering if you're really ready? Check these signs!

Starting a business

Is it time to give up your day job? Entrepreneurship is a risk, but if you’ve got what it takes, starting a business the right way opens up a world of possibilities. You can control your destiny, have the freedom to spend your time doing what’s important to you, and strive for unlimited earning potential.

So ask yourself: are you ready to create and capitalize opportunities—and put in a ridiculous amount of work? No one ever said starting a business was easy. But as TED-talker and psychologist Angela Duckworth is clear about in her recent bestseller, your grit is something that can be developed over time to up your chances of success.

Given the odds that nine out of 10 startups fail, you need to be prepared to work hard and smart—well before you actually quit the cubicle. There are two overriding principles to have nailed down: Psychological preparedness and practical preparedness. Let’s spell these out and pinpoint the seven signs that you’re ready to start a business:

Starting a Business: Psychological Preparedness

1. You Find Yourself Craving Independence and Autonomy

You may have an excellent boss, but you’re constantly thinking, ‘Let me do it my way!’ That idea inspires and excites you more than having the guardrails of somebody else taking that risk and responsibility and risk.

You can see yourself in charge of finding new business, completing projects, managing deadlines, priorities and the paperwork that goes with day-to-day. You know that you would thrive setting your own schedule with your own milestones. With that freedom comes the responsibility to excel at time management and being proficient at putting together a plan and making it happen. If this is you, you’re likely ready to dig in and start a business for yourself.

2. You Have the Confidence in Your Unique Skill

You’ve mastered a skill and have been recognized for the work you do, with awards, mentoring, even pay raises. Your skills are in high demand and you even have your own unique spin or approach. Fortune reported the number one reason for failure, cited by 42% of polled startups, is the lack of a market need for their product.

Society romanticizes entrepreneurs as fearless and charismatic, but the successful ones are experts in their field who work hard, never give up, and have something exceptional to offer.

Society romanticizes entrepreneurs as fearless and charismatic, but the successful ones are experts in their field who work hard, never give up, and have something exceptional to offer.

You know the work you do lands far above the bar and you are fiercely determined to showcase your talent to the market. If that sounds like you, you’re well on your way to starting a business.

3. You’re Passionate About Problem-Solving and Understand the Risks

Romantic notions aside, the life of an entrepreneur is beset with obstacles. As master of your own domain, you’ll need to make hard decisions, deal with financial challenges and manage clients of every kind (and you thought your boss was tough!) The ability to problem-solve (with enthusiasm) is key. Successful entrepreneurs identify a customer problem and a product that solves it. You rise to this task, learn new things and are stimulated by change.

You also understand there are serious risks to prepare for: You know you need to avoid sacrificing personal savings, relying too heavily on unstable on cash flow, over-estimating interest in your business, running into legal problems, compromising your personal time and health. This shouldn’t steer you away from entrepreneurship, but help you to better navigate your path. Recognize the risks as obstacles you need to prepare for and mitigate.

Starting a Business: Practical Preparedness

4. You Have a Well-Thought Out Business Plan

You’ve done extensive legwork and have a business plan in place. Markets are competitive and customers have to see a strong, differentiated value proposition to buy your services instead of a market full of alternatives. If they don’t, you won’t be successful over the long haul.

You’ve become an expert on your target market, know what your competitors are doing and have developed your services as sought-after solutions. Your online presence reflects this: you’ve got a great website that is SEO-friendly, a strong voice on the appropriate social media platforms. You may even be blogging to market your expertise. You create (or plan to) and send regular email newsletters to help keep your current database updated on your new projects. You are constantly researching and testing new digital marketing techniques.

Your offline presence reflects this as well: You have joined professional associations and community groups, and made inroads as a potential speaker at trade shows and events.

In fact, you’ve clearly started your exit plan from employee-dom. Outside of your day job, you’ve built a roster of business clients and have a pipeline of money coming in.

5. You Have the Right Business Tools in Place

As a small business owner, you wear many hats. Your core business may be graphic design, but you are also adept, by way of necessity, at accounting, IT troubleshooting, and web analytics.

Starting a business begins with a business plan, but moves forward with technology. You have accounting software, online data storage, web hosting, analytics tools, etc., in place to help you handle all the essential parts of your business outside your core service, so you can free up more time to do what you do best and bring in the money.

If you’re running a side hustle and invoicing with Word or Excel, stop it. Sign up for a free trial with FreshBooks and invoice like a pro (your accountant will thank you later). While you’re at it, start tracking your time so you provide more accurate estimates and get a leg up on productivity. You can even manage your expenses and bid adieu to that pesky box of faded and torn receipts. With the right tools in place, you’ll have more time to do the thing you really love. (Yep, we know that’s not accounting.)

6. You Have a Support Network of People

After you quit the cubicle you may find it’s lonely out there. While you may be the sole person calling the shots and closing the deals, you’re going to need family members and friends to help you make tough decisions and soften the blow of small failures.

With the right tools in place, you’ll have more time to do the thing you really love. (Yep, we know that’s not accounting.)

You’ve created a network of business mentors for guidance on identifying and managing new clients, and providing advice to help you push through plateaus. These connections can act as your performance reviews and professional development training that you left behind at your former job.

You’ve also got a plan in place should you fall ill and be too sick to work, or simply want to take a vacation. You have disability insurance, and you have someone you’ve carefully vetted to subcontract your work.

7. You Have Financial Resources as a Safety Net

One of the main reasons many small businesses fail is that they simply run out of cash. You’ve planned for your business launch with foresight and due diligence, calculating how much money you need to save, and now having those funds readily available.

While every type of business has its own financing needs, the guideline is six months’ worth of fixed costs on hand at startup. These comprise the relatively consistent costs, such as rent, hydro, gas, internet, web hosting, etc.

Before you make any major decisions, do your research. Read articles, make a checklist. Talk to other entrepreneurs in your area, and find out what works and what doesn’t. Learn everything you can about how a business works. If starting a business something you are determined to do, now is the time.

Karen Hawthorne
about the author

Freelance Contributor Karen Hawthorne worked for 6 years as a digital editor for the National Post, contributing articles on business, food, culture, and travel for affiliated newspapers across Canada. She now writes from her home office in Toronto as a freelancer, and takes breaks to bounce with her son on the backyard trampoline. Connect with her on LinkedIn.