“How can I start my own business?” The Question Every Talented Professional Will Ask at Some Point (Unless You Give Them a Reason Not To)

Last week  I discussed how leaders and business owners who are running amazing organizations don’t need to worry about their best people having side hustles in this new gig economy.

On the flip side, if you are running or working for an organization and it is not a great place to work, I have been giving fair warning to employers, “It is your job to build an employee experience where people want to work. It is important to know that we have a talent shortage and that you are a valued member in short supply.”

And believe me, it’s on people’s minds. One of the top questions I get asked is: How did you make the move into entrepreneurship?”

It’s a relevant question. About 50% of us are in the gig economy in Canada and this is a trend worldwide. It’s an easy way for professionals to test the waters of entrepreneurship and to discover if it is right for them. You can experience it in low-risk ways, such as being part of a marketing team, or setting up an e-commerce business, or speaking at events in your evenings. There are many shapes and forms to entrepreneurship today, and it doesn’t have to carry a risk for individuals but does allow them to experience if it is a good fit for them.

For businesses, this is a good thing.

  • If it’s not a good fit, your top talent will stay employed full-time
  • If they like it but have a big mortgage or risk-averse, you can at least keep them part-time
  • If they are good at it, they can bring those intrapreneurial skills to work with them
  • If the workplace isn’t a good fit or unhealthy, folks will leave on their own versus presenteeism setting in

If you’re the employee or leader considering this, how do you set yourself up for success? Here are a few tips. And employers, take note, as this is helping you to better understand the landscape of the gig economy.

1.You Already Have All the Formal Education You Need

One of the biggest barriers I hear from folks is: “I just need X certification/degree and then I’ll be ready.” In 99% of cases, I disagree. What got you hired will get you hired again (by an employer or client in the gig economy). You don’t need anything else. And this includes a business degree (trust me, I don’t have one!) Now, some guidance from a coach or some virtual programs on entrepreneurship might come in handy, but you don’t need to be a bigger expert in your field. You just need to own your expertise. This is where I see the biggest gap (which is why in my virtual program we deal with this early on to squash the fears and actually build the brand around your expertise).

2.You Can Still Have a Great Lifestyle

Some worry about their lifestyle going down the drain by having a side hustle. They assume they’re going to be working even more hours in their business, taking time away from fitness and having no time for their partner or kids. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Have you watched Netflix lately? Cut that out. Do you scroll and scroll through Instagram or Facebook? Do you run errands more than once a week? There’s your found time. Consolidate that time and use it. You may find, by making more efficient use of your time and making better choices, you actually work fewer hours in your job and side gig!

3.You Can Afford It

I often hear folks saying that they will start their business when they can afford it. When they’re retired. When they pay off their house. When their kids go off to post-secondary education. I said this too! If that’s what you want, amazing! However, if it’s a limiting belief that you can’t do it until then, know that you can. It wasn’t until we had a family crisis that pushed my decision to move into entrepreneurship formally, but you know what, I had been working in the gig economy for years, being asked to speak, facilitate retreats, and train. I would take a vacation day (cleared with my boss of course) or do it on a weekend. It didn’t hurt financially, it brought in extra cash (although looking back I way undervalued myself in price…but that’s for another post). I felt wealth in other ways too; I always felt grateful to be able to do work I loved, learned something new, and had perspective how great I had it with my employer. You can afford to do your side hustle now for sure, and, if a lot is on the line like it was for me, the question sometimes becomes, can you afford not to become an entrepreneur?

If you are concerned about feeling disloyal to the organization you work for, remember, you’re not necessarily abandoning your profession. You don’t necessarily have to leave at all! Employers and leaders, if you’re worried your best people will leave, give them the space to learn and grow from these new experiences! In the succession planning world, we used to have to pay to have our employees get stretch assignments; their side hustle may fill that need for them at no cost to you!

Here are some tips to help you along with thinking about building a business on the side. One of the most interesting, and sadly, ironic things that I have seen over the years during team consultations, keynotes or when people are struggling in their job, I remind them that the people who work part-time are usually the most satisfied people in the whole place.

Sometimes this can be a both/and solution, cut back your hours, have a job share, or work part-time. As your business grows, it doesn’t have to be in one world or the other. It’s a very limiting, fixed mindset thinking to believe it’s an either/or.

So now you may be wondering: What are the things that I can be doing to investigate this and to move ahead? Here are a few tips:

1.Listen and read.

Fuel your knowledge by listening to podcasts and/or reading books about entrepreneurship, marketing, and sales, etc. There are specialized podcasts and books out there that are amazing. The value of the content is tremendous. If you have some questions and specific recommendations for podcasts or books, just pop them in the comments below.

2. It’s a side gig! Enjoy it.

As I mentioned before, this can be a side hustle. By seeing it this way, you have very little financial investment and stress attached to that which, allows you just to play, and fun, and experiment with your business idea. Experiment to see what you love and what you don’t. Then if you go full-time, do only what you love by specializing as an expert in what fires you up, delivering the “how” in a way that best fits your preferences and lifestyle. Then subcontract out the rest!

3.Always Find the Win-Win!

Be very intrapreneurial in your organization. Volunteer to do projects (things that you want to learn about and interest you), contribute more than is expected, seek out collaborators that you can learn and grow from. For example, to work for yourself, you’ll need to be able to pitch companies and speak confidently about your products and services; perhaps there’s something you can do with the communications or sales team at your current workplace to learn and get comfortable with this skill set? The more you’re able to practice the skills where you are, the more you’re able to see if you like it or not, but also be able to learn. Your workplace is a learning laboratory. Whether you’re learning it to only invest it into your workplace, or even your own future too, it’s a win-win.

4.Speak up.

If there’s something that you don’t like about your workplace, that you would stay if it weren’t for this thing, then speak up. What concerns me is when people make the leap to entrepreneurship it’s kind of like jumping into a new relationship just because they’re so different from the last person that you dated. If you choose to move into entrepreneurship part or full-time, you want it to be for you, for your passion, to serve a need, as opposed to that scarcity and just trying to escape.

5.Frame the plan.

Consider the context or a framework in which you need to learn, and grow and think about your business. I have a great resource for you – the Genius Greatness Biz Blueprint. Discover from it how you can clarify your professional credibility, education, and experience that will make you stand out and get hired. Identify the customers and industries want to keep or start working with. Identify what could potentially be a marketable business, how to build out product offerings, how to identify clients willing and needing to buy from you, and a few tips around sustainability in business as well. It’s all the things I’ve learned through big investments in coaches, taking programs, being mentored and trial and error over the last four years.

Did you find this valuable? Why don’t you subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss a single weekly VLOG.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve