I got a question about whether starting your own business is a way to do the kind of work you love. It definitely is, as long as you understand what goes into being an entrepreneur and business owner.

Decide what ONE idea you will pursue.

Just as in a job search, you’ll need to decide exactly what business you want to start. Get specific. Focus. Narrow down your options to one thing. Make a considered choice.

If you’re considering what business you might want to start, this blog and my e-book will help you identify what you love to do and do really well and thus could market to other people.

You’ll have time and energy to fully develop just one business at a time. You can develop other businesses later. Right now, it’s essential to focus your energy on one concept.

Most people have many ideas and have trouble deciding which one thing they will pursue, or try to pursue all of them at once. Then they wonder why none of them is taking off. This is one time when you must be ruthless with yourself and decide on the single most promising business idea to which you are willing to devote hours of love and labor.

Learn what’s involved in starting and structuring your business.

  • Many colleges and universities provide these classes which have a very low cost and give you a great understanding of what’s involved in building a business – from incorporating to financial management and marketing. For instance, Baruch College in New York City has the Field Center for Entrepreneurship that offers non-credit courses for entrepreneurs.
  • The Small Business Administration has tons of information on its website, and also offers classes, both online and in-person. Its Small Business Development Centers offer training. You can locate a Center in your area by clicking here. Sometimes the SBA and local governments offer programs in partnership with local and national non-profit organizations. Many of these are free.
  • In larger cities, some local non-profits have small business assistance programs.
  • Perhaps there are small business incubators in your community, to help you with the start-up of your business. You’ll find a list of incubators here.
  • Another resource is SCORE, the “Counselors of America’s Small Business Owners”. Like other sources, it has special programs for women and minority-owned businesses – take advantage of them.
  • American Express‘s OpenForum has a wealth of information about entrepreneurship and operating a small business.
  • StartUp Nation is an on-line community for small business start-ups, including on-line businesses.
  • An on-line resource for women who work at home is The Association of Work At Home Women. There’s a lot of free information on the site, as well as more resources with a paid membership.

I suggest that you review a few resources and then decide on one or two you will commit to using. Choose those that explain things in a way that makes sense to you and that fit your budget of both money and time. In some cases, it will be easier to take a six week class that costs some money because you are demonstrating to yourself how committed you are. In other cases, you’ll want to use an on-line resource and take your time learning and then putting lessons into practice.

Have realistic expectations.

New businesses take time and energy – a LOT of both. After you’ve decided which business to pursue, you’ll be able to map out a plan for developing it into a reality. You will quickly see how much is involved in starting a business when you read even a little information from the educational resources listed above.

Because there are lots of things to learn and keep track of, give yourself some time to do your research and get started. How much time? That depends on you and your other commitments, such as an existing job, family responsibilities, and financial resources.

Patience with yourself is key. It’s not helpful to you to get constantly frustrated by how long things take, or to wish that you were doing more or making more progress than you are. If you really want to do this business, you will do it – and all the badgering of yourself will not make you move any faster than you are able. In fact, it may slow you down – because who wants to do anything when their results will be criticized? Anything you do is good enough.

The key work here is DO. Take action. Go ahead and do something and see what happens. You can always revise something if you find it doesn’t work. If you don’t do anything, however, you’ll never get the information that could help you improve what you do. And once something is in motion, it is easier to keep it going and build toward having a rewarding business.

I’ve attended so many entrepreneur seminars and been part of several business-startup communities that I’ve gotten a sense of how long it takes to get a business started, and how long it takes for it to be profitable. I also have worked with many consultants so have a sense of how long it takes for them to be self-supporting.

Success usually comes fairly quickly for consultants with specific expertise, the ability to network, and the willingness to ask for fees. Sometimes you need to work on the last two for a few months before you get a paying client. Sometimes a paying client appears quickly – within two to three weeks. That’s a fantastic start. Keep in mind your goal of supporting yourself. My observation is that it takes about a year to build up enough clients to achieve that goal. And there must be constant attention to marketing your services in order to have a sustainable consulting business.

My observation is that most other business builders typically take anywhere from 3 to 12 months to settle on a business focus, put all the pieces in place, and start to make some sales. A sustainable business takes about 3 years to build.

Building a business takes time. Most people are working at the same time they are building a business, and something suffers. Sleep is one thing that often is curtailed. Time with friends and for fun is another casualty of a business start-up. And unfortunately, time with family can suffer, too. If you aren’t willing to give up anything, you can still start a business. Just recognize that it will take a lot longer to develop.

I think it’s fantastic to start your own business. And I don’t want to discourage you at all. I simply want you to know what’s involved. Your love of the business will take you pretty far. It’s not enough, though. If you want yours to generate enough revenue to support a household, then make sure you understand that your business will take a whole lot of time, energy, emotional resources, and sacrifice. When you accept that and act accordingly, you can make your new business a success.