Todays “Guest Post of the Month” is from the lovely Sarah Easley, a fantastic freelance copywriter and content queen.
When I made the decision to leave my traditional office job earlier this year I spent a lot of time combing through blogs, Medium articles, and business e-zines, reading all about how people just like me had taken the grand leap of faith, starting up the businesses of their dreams. They were raking in the cash, grinding out the work for a few hours in the morning and then switching off to do whatever they wanted with their day. They’d made $1K in their very first month. They posted aesthetic shots of their laptops in chic little cafes or on the beach.
It was magical, or so they would have had me believe.
Whether these success stories mentioned it or not, though, the truth is that there was no fairy dust involved. None of these happy endings came about without a little help … and I’m not talking about a musically-gifted elderly lady bibbity-bobbity-booing at them.The simple fact is that no one can ever really “go it alone.” We all need some help to make our dreams come true.Click To Tweet
Before we dive in, though, let’s first get this out of the way: don’t be afraid to admit you need help.
There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that you don’t know everything you need to know to get your dream off the ground. I’m guessing you probably don’t even know what questions you should be asking – I certainly didn’t. Guesswork and panicked, 11th-hour realizations after opening an email that rips the floor right out from under you are natural parts of the process.
Frankly, it’s a relief to be able to turn to someone who can hold the floor under your feet long enough for you to get your footing.
But where do you find such fairy godm- … I mean, business-savvy sages?
Fortunately for those of us in need of assistance, there are powerful incentives for governments and organizations to provide guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs. Here in the United States, there’s a saying that gets thrown around in every political campaign and splashed on billboards: “small business is the backbone of the American economy.”
And it’s true, but not just in the United States.
The prominence of small business is a global phenomenon. Whether you refer to it as “small business,” “independent enterprise,” or a “SME,” the basic fact is that many economies rely on these small, but determined initiatives to remain healthy. Check out WA’s Small Business Development Corporation’s statistics, which highlight that sole traders represent 63% of all businesses in Western Australia; the European Commission’s shout-out that SMEs form 99% of EU businesses; or the U.S. Small Business Administration’s announcement that 2018 is the year the number of small businesses in America rose to 30.2 million.
We mean a LOT in the grand scheme of things.
To support those who support them, governments put out a wealth of information, resource repositories, and financial support programs to get businesses up and running. To find these treasure troves, a good first step would be to pop open your laptop and find the department that oversees small enterprises in your area. In the United States, for instance, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is your man and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science should be the go-to for small businesses in Australia.
Note that the applicable site can be difficult to locate in some cases (you really have to dig to find the UK Small Business Commissioner’s website), so if you can’t find it right away do some strategic keyword searching.
On these websites, you will find whole databases of trainings, conferences, financial support opportunities and local resources. Try not to get lost in just how much information there is – there’s a ton of it. Drill down into the areas you know you need the most guidance with.
Seek and ye shall find!
Once you’ve mined these websites for all their worth, it’s time to take some more advanced steps. Looking to more robust instructional and support systems, you should seriously consider mentorship. I can personally recommend that anyone seriously looking to make their dream a reality should find someone to guide them through the process 1-on-1. Hit up your favorite web browser again with searches like “mentor program small business” or “[your region] startup mentoring.”
I was paired with an extraordinarily knowledgeable man through the local chapter of a volunteer organization (SCORE) focused specifically on helping aspiring entrepreneurs. He helped me form a viable business plan and calmly responded to every frazzled email I sent as I was going through the turbulence of taking the leap away from a reliable paycheck. Though it’s been several months since my launch, he is still there for me and always has new ideas to offer whenever I get myself stuck in a jam.
Most importantly, he promised to be utterly transparent and to frankly let me know if, at any point, he believed my business wasn’t succeeding.
That’s important to look for in a mentor. It’s great to be told “you can do it” and “the sky’s the limit.” The hard truth is, though, that for a new business the odds are categorically stacked against you. We all know the statistic: 80% of all businesses fail within their first year. Find someone who will root for you, but make sure they’ll also be honest about how you’re really doing.
And finally, as you ready yourself to change your LinkedIn tag to “entrepreneur,” there’s another source of guidance you should consider: people you already know.
Never underestimate the possibilities of your existing network of connections. Even if you don’t realize it, some of your friends, family members, and former colleagues may have experience that could be extremely helpful as you start out. Mining your network and making strong connections through social media groups can offer up a surprising list of possibilities.
You may even find a few potential clients in your friends list!
So, as you scroll through blog posts that regale all and sundry with stories of stress-free lives, 6-figure incomes, and yet another photo of a laptop in a trendy cafe, think about the gritty reality behind the glamor. None of those success stories happened without a little help … and more than likely, a LOT of it.
Don’t demand of yourself that your own path to success be a solo act.
If you have the hunger and the dream pushing you onward, then you’ve got the most important parts covered. Now, you just need to find those who will help you navigate the journey – no pixie dust required!
When Sarah was a young girl, she discovered a passion for the written word. Her parents didn’t allow her to watch TV on weeknights, so there wasn’t much of an option but to find as many books to stick her nose into as possible. What began as a simple alternative to gluing herself to a screen quickly became her favorite hobby – and the foundation for a rewarding career. Books taught Sarah that stories are the beating heart of who we are as individuals, communities, and businesses. Today, as a professional content writer, she takes those stories and helps the people behind them express and develop their narratives through creative copy.
Sarah holds a B.A. in History and a M.A. in English from Southern New Hampshire University. In her spare time, Sarah continues to read as many fantasy and historical fiction novels as possible, always while cuddled up with a mug of tea and her sheltie, Rowan!