By Carol Cassara – Contributor & Midlife Wrangler
This is #5 in my series on Making Your Dreams Come True. My dream is to give workshops and I’m working the program right along with you. I’d love to know how you’re doing—hope you will tell us in the Comments section.
“I run on the road long before I dance under the lights.”
You’re probably wondering, “Aren’t I already prepared for reality?” And the answer is, “not necessarily.”
If your plan involves something you’re passionate about, a plan’s been drafted and you’ve done a little research, you probably feel pretty comfortable pushing ahead. Not so fast—there’s another important step. Ask yourself the question: “Am I prepared?”
Do a skills assessment: What’s required to succeed at your new venture? List everything you need to know how to do. Should you brush upon making presentations? Learn how to write advertising? Do you have an automated system like HootSuite for social media posts? Think about gaps in your knowledge base before you pull the trigger. Read books, take courses and talk to professionals who can help advance your skills. Or….hire help.
Make or buy? That’s the question. While do-it-yourself means less money out of pocket, it’s often more time consuming. Time is money, something many entrepreneurs underestimate. I faced the same question a few times, including in setting up my website.
I knew for sure that I wasn’t interested in designing my own website. It’s not intuitive to me and it would take me longer to learn and then do than it would take others. It would also be super-frustrating. I mean, I practically had a breakdown removing the SIM card from my old phone so I could insert it in the new. No, doing my own website would not be a good idea. But I had strong design ideas.
So I looked around for a web designer. I did online research (useless) and got recommendations (bingo!). When I found a reasonably priced web designer whose portfolio I liked, I interviewed her by phone. It seemed a match and I worked hand in hand with her on my new site. I specified the vision and design, she made them reality.
It wasn’t super-cheap, but it was worth the investment. Sometimes, it’s smarter to invest in professional services than to take the time that struggling alone will cost. My designer and I have an ongoing relationship. She maintains the site when needed, and I’ll refresh the look with her every year.
On the other hand, I’m a writer who had a long career in corporate communications. I felt pretty secure in my promotional skills and knew I didn’t have to buy that service.
Be brutally honest with yourself: what do you have the time and knowledge to do and what should you get help with?
Professional services: I’m a big believer in paying for professional services. Sure, you can find simple contracts free on line, but they won’t necessarily protect you from the specific risks of your business. If contracts are required, ask around to find a reasonably priced attorney in your area. It could save you big, in the end.
Set up your business with a good accountant. By all means, use Quickbooks or another program day-to-day, but there are probably a few things about businesses and taxes you don’t know. Protect yourself by getting professional help at the front end.
Your nest egg and your budget: You’re probably beginning to see that making your dream come true on a thin shoestring may not be practical. You’re going to need some capital. The hard truth is that most new business fail because they are undercapitalized.
Every startup requires cash. There’s no way around it. I’ve read the same stories you have about entrepreneurs starting up on minimal cash by running up their credit card accounts, living in their offices, working 20 hour days. This is the time to ask yourself how practical that is for you.
What you need is a budget. What’s it going to cost to run your business day to day and have you the cash needed to get going? You’ll need enough money to carry you until revenue starts coming in, and a contingency plan if that doesn’t happen fast enough.
Be realistic about what it will take to get going. Most of us aren’t going to live in an office nor will we work 20 hour days. Base your budget on real numbers that reflect how you are most likely to work.
Credit cards charge usurious interest rates—they’re a method of last resort to me. Better to visit your local bank and check into loan possibilities.
You might be able to access the Bank of Family. But be cautious here. One of my friends did that recently—a grown woman over 40 years of age-- and found her family then felt free to weigh in on whether or not she should take a vacation or even have a monthly housekeeper. You know your own family—would asking them for money create problems in the long run?
Preparation is half the battle when starting a new business. It fleshes out your business plan and road map. It provides enough security so that you can focus on execution.
Ben Franklin always had sage advice about everything. He noted, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”
So—take the time needed to prepare. Assess your personal skills and the budget needed. Add that to your plan. Fact is that at any age, all the rules still apply. But in the second half of life, we have more knowledge, more confidence and maybe even more savings to apply to a new venture.
You’re getting close!