How many times have you thought that life would be easier if you worked for yourself? Or perhaps your time more productive and outcomes more impactful if you avoided a lengthy commute, strict working hours, or conflicts with managers? It took me more than three jobs, many frustrating bosses, and a clear need to find greater fulfillment to realize that working for myself was the answer to the growing challenges in my professional life.
The idea had crossed my mind over the years, how to seek greater impact in my various positions. I often grew frustrated where momentum within my current corporation seemed to stall, or action was less forthcoming. I preferred a fast pace, and a constant challenge. My father, a retired small business owner, would say that starting my own business would help me find solace, supporting myself based on my passions, my ongoing need for self-motivation, and a pledge I had made to myself to only seek positions that allowed me to contribute to the greater good. I questioned how hanging out my shingle was even realistic, given my role in helping support my family with two small kids. The desire to effect change and be fulfilled was a priority, so I had to put aside fears and trepidation and make the shift. In doing so, I learned 3 valuable lessons:
1. Prioritize Your Goals: I spent sixty days writing a business plan, researching consulting models, talking to attorneys and accountants, and learning as much as I could about entrepreneurship. Luckily, there is so much insight and knowledge to be shared that it was easy for me to find information both online and from referrals. The challenge became narrowing my focus onto what I was truly capable of. I had to be realistic about my skillset, my niche, and what people would actually pay me for. This leads to #2…
2. Leverage Your Network: I reached out to those within my network whom I trusted and respected, asking their thoughts about my initial ideas. I asked them about what services they would pay for, where their needs lay, and what types of gaps existed that could call for consulting expertise. One of the most critical elements supporting my work now is managing my network and relationships. It amazes me how often paths crisscross and reattach in different ways. I have been able to reconnect with so many colleagues over the years, and it keeps me learning, inspired, and curious. You never know when someone in your network can be of help, and everyone really does like to help each other! Intensive networking made the process of starting my own business much easier.
3. Keep What’s Working and Cut the Rest: Figuring out the financial elements of starting my own business meant taking significant risks, assuming paying clients would be slow to develop. While not to be ignored, the financial risk was something I could not obsess over. I had to trust my gut and assume the business plan, which at this point was well defined and honed in, would guide me. By sticking to my strengths, not veering from my core services, and being clear on financial terms, I was able to begin making a bit of money while doing work I loved.
I launched Connective Impact in January 2014. It was a proud moment, representing years of struggle to find a career identity that brought fulfillment. Starting my business allowed me to stay true to my word that creating lasting change was my primary motive. In the end my goal was that simple, and yet keeping tabs on my network, being honest about what I was capable of, being an active listener, while staying focused on my core services allowed me to build a successful consulting business
Stepping outside the fear is not easy, but once that trepidation subsides, it’s time to jump in and start your own business. By operating independently and seeking work with substantive impact, I have found a joy that is unlike any professional experience yet. Try it, you might really get into it.
About the Author
Joanne Sonenshine is Founder + CEO of Connective Impact, a company focused on bringing like-minded organizations together to improve how we utilize resources and address the crises of our time. She is also author of ChangeSeekers: Finding Your Path to Impact.
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