A case for a slow-and-steady business build
It’s 3 am, and inspiration strikes. Or you’re in the middle of morning coffee. Or you’re on the commute home, tired from slogging away at someone else’s dream. It hits you — the Big One. The Big Idea for the business that’s going to take you from working for someone else to writing that resignation letter and going all in to take your idea from a dream to a reality. And I applaud you. I love it, I really do. I know the feeling. Because I was there four and a half years ago. But don’t quit your job just yet.
Don’t go all in
We hear a lot of advice about throwing yourself 100% into something. To give it our all. To succeed, you have to invest every waking hour into what you’re doing. But when you’re getting ready to launch a business, I think that’s terrible advice. So don’t quit your day job just yet if you have one.
I’m an advocate for slow and steady building. For testing the waters, validating ideas, and refining service models and products. It’s less risky, but you can still reap many rewards.
I launched my freelance writing business in July 2018. And it was a bit on a whim. At the time, I was working full-time in higher education. I ran a large program and held a director’s role in my division. I made a good salary, and I didn’t have a lot of spare time. But I knew I wanted to use my writing skills more because I was passionate about writing. And I wanted to monetize my writing. But as someone who had never sold my writing services to anyone before, I needed proof that there was demand and that it was a viable business model.
Why I want to Start a Business so Bad
After I stumbled across a CNBC article about Fiverr and a young woman’s success story on the platform, I thought that Fiverr might be my ticket to building my business. That would be the easiest way to get started. And I was right.
In a matter of about three hours after reading that CNBC article, I had a profile and three gigs set up on Fiverr. In a matter of a few days, I had my first orders. And then some more. And then it got crazy. Eventually, I scaled to $3,000 a month. And then $5,000. Then $10,000. Then $20,000. All in part-time hours. And all while I was still working my full-time job.
Building for the long haul
I’m a calculated risk-taker. I’ll take risks, but not until I’ve weighed the outcomes and have some sort of proof that I can succeed. So even though I started making an income freelancing that many people would have left their jobs right away for, I wanted to be absolutely sure that my success wasn’t a fluke.
So I built my business for four years alongside my full-time work. This gave me the flexibility to experiment and try new things without dire consequences. I was able to launch new services, try new pricing models, and collect feedback from my clients. After nearly a year of sustained success where my monthly income freelancing far exceeded my full-time job’s income, I finally felt comfortable calling it quits at my full-time job.
And I’m glad I took this route.
Avoiding costly miscalculations
When I first started my journey in freelancing, I was pretty certain that I also wanted to dabble in social media management in addition to writing. I thought that social media management would be my bread-and-butter service. I quickly learned I hated it.
Now imagine if I had this idea stuck in my head that I was going to launch a social media agency, and I threw a bunch of money and time into it, only to discover it was awful. It could be a devastating blow to my confidence and future success. But because I started small and in a way that allowed me to experiment with services, I learned that I really didn’t like the management piece of social media, but I did like writing captions. So I shifted my service to offering writing captions and bio content for social media, but not the scheduling and follower interaction piece.
Give your business the respect it deserves
Starting small allows you to gain confidence, build your skills, and discover what works and what doesn’t. It allows you to validate business ideas and refine them. And it allows you to start bringing in an income that you can then reinvest into your business. You can then pay to get that website done or purchase other resources you need to grow. It gives you room to experiment and fail without dire consequences.
While it can be challenging to take this approach due to time constraints you may have, it is entirely possible to do it. I built my business around a busy career where I often worked more than 40 hours a week. I was also writing my dissertation and had a busy social and personal life. But I knew it was something I wanted, so I intentionally carved out time in my day. I treated my budding business as a business. And that’s important. Schedule your time to work on your business in your calendar and stick to it. That consistency will help you build success and momentum to grow it into something special.
And before you know it, you can finally quit your job.
When we have a great idea, it’s tempting to go all in. But in the heat of the moment, we can make decisions based on emotion, not logic. Give your idea and passion time to develop, to grow, to transform into something that is sustainable and that you can realistically measure. Taking that small step back and not going all in right away can mean the difference between failure or building something that stands the test of time.
So don’t quit your job just yet. Have faith in the process and keep that resignation letter in a draft folder just a little longer.
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