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Seven Steps To Entrepreneurship

Via Forbes : I can’t remember the exact moment I had the thought, but it was an epiphany. It crept in slowly, like someone trying to startle me: “What if I didn’t have the title of SVP Global Communications anymore?” What if I wasn’t the voice of DKNY PR GIRL®, commanding the attention of half-a-million followers on Twitter? What would happen if I quit my job?” Those questions spun around my head like clothes in a dryer.

I decided I had to find out.

For the record, my last job was the stuff dreams were made of. I’m very sure that people would line up for blocks to have the opportunity to step into my role. Working for Donna Karan, one of the most admired fashion designers in the world; dressing celebrities; producing fashion shows and hobnobbing with talented and fabulous people — it was a privilege. And trust me, I worked hard to get there. But for me, after 17 years of sitting at the same desk and having a job that I could do with my eyes closed, it just seemed, well, boring. Not the kind of boring where I’m so jaded that I don’t appreciate all the amazing things that I was exposed to. The kind of boring where you know that you have stopped learning, that it’s too easy and that you’re too comfortable. But easy doesn’t mean short and the hours were plenty.

As a mother of two small children, getting home at seven every night was okay, but not ideal. The work always came with me and though I would put it away until they had gone to bed, it was never ever done. As any mother will tell you, working full-time and being a hands-on mom takes a lot of energy and commitment. I was convinced that there had to be other options, different experiences and new things to learn, but there also had to be a better, more efficient use of my skills and time. We all know that so much time can be wasted in an office. Anyone who works remotely from an office will concur. Despite all of this, it’s not easy to think about leaving a great job that you excel in.

But the thought of doing something vastly different excited me. More specifically, I fantasized about developing a show inspired by my book, Leave Your Mark. I love doing on-camera work, and if I could figure out a way to do that successfully, I would be living my next dream. The was easier said than done. Could I quit my job to pursue a fantasy?

I’m a practical person, so I decided for me to chase a dream; I needed to hatch a realistic plan to support that goal. I decided to start a consulting business where I could lend my expertise in branding, communications and digital to different brands while trying to pursue what I really wanted to do.

On January 4, 2016, I was officially on my own. You might call it entrepreneurial; I lovingly call it “girl with no job.” It was the best day I can remember in a very long time. A white space, blank canvas, or whatever you want to call it, is an intensely inspiring and absolutely scary proposition. How will I fill it? How much do I want to fill it? What do I actually do with the gift of time and flexibility that I have now awarded myself?

Here’s how I systematically mapped out my business:

1. I listed my capabilities:

Seeing my skills on paper showed me two things: First, one’s title is much narrower in scope than the skills amassed over the course of a career and second, just because I know how to do something, doesn’t mean I actually want to do it. This was an opportunity to focus on the services I wanted to offer.

2. I created a visual identity:

Canva.com is a free and great resource to develop a visual identity for your business. You can make anything from logos, presentation decks, social media posts, business cards and so much more. Make sure your visual identity is consistent across all the channels you are on from LinkedIn to Twitter and everything in between.

3. I told people about it:

When people think of you one way and you want them to think of you another, it’s your job to reposition yourself. You need to educate people on what you do so that they can help you achieve your goals. That’s why branding your business and communicating it is so important. You can’t assume that people will just “hear” about what you’re doing. It’s your job to educate people so that if an appropriate opportunity arises, you are the first person they think of.

4. I kept a “leads” chart (and still do):

When you’re networking at top speed, conversations and people get confusing. I have an excel sheet to track whom I met with and when, what was discussed and who introduced me to that person. This way if things move forward, I always know whom to thank.

5. I strategized how to price myself:

Pricing is a tricky undertaking. I decided early on that I was going to aim for only a few clients (at a higher retainer) rather than a bunch at a lower retainer. Why? I like to focus and get deeply involved with the people I work with. The other reason is that I wanted to leave time to pursue my other creative interests. Having a clear understanding of how your rate equates to hours is essential. Everything about how you spend your time should be defined.

6. I didn’t expect quick success:

The part about going out on your own that nobody tells you is that it takes a lot of time to build a business. Landing clients is a long process that requires a real commitment to networking at levels you have never dreamed of. It also requires patience. Putting together proposals for companies that have no real intention of hiring is a typical occurrence. (You also have to be extra careful not to give away your ideas.) Think long and hard about what your timeline looks like and what is realistic for you. How long can you rely on savings? Do you even want to tap into them?

7. I protected myself:

I filed for an LLC (there are several other ways to register your company). Any accountant can educate you on those. I also have a very specific contract with everyone I work with that protects me. That’s because when you are selling intelligence, success can be defined in different ways. You may have provided the best consulting for a particular client and that company could still easily fail. Is that your fault? No. There are many factors that contribute to failure. Maybe they didn’t listen to your advice? Make sure that you consider what happens when things go south.

I’m still in the early stages of my business, and I certainly have a lot to learn, but one thing I can say for sure is that pushing myself beyond my comfort zone was the right thing to do. I wish that I had a crystal ball to know how this will work out. Will I ever fulfill my new dream? Who knows, but I can tell you this, I won’t regret trying.

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