While it sounds like a great idea to venture out on your own and create your own business from the ground up, there are some things you need to do first before you become an entrepreneur.
Maybe you have a great business idea, but the ability to execute that idea into something that others want to buy is a completely different thing. Most entrepreneurs have not actually trained to be one. Instead, they often quit their regular jobs and wing it, figuring they will learn as they go. But that doesn’t have to be you.
Here are a few steps to take before leaving your 9 to 5 to make you more prepared for your entrepreneurship.
1. Look for needs that aren’t being filled
When Debt.com chairman and serial entrepreneur Howard Dvorkin first wanted to work for himself, he looked for a business opportunity where he could fill a need and one that would provide help to those impacted by it.
As he noted in an interview with The Huffington Post, “When I left the corporate world to help Americans get out of debt, I saw both a business opportunity and a noble cause.” 
“Back then, credit card debt was just being recognized as a serious problem. The experts and nonprofits who were supposed to help weren’t embracing the latest technology,” Dvorkin said. “Many credit counseling agencies I encountered had a three-month waiting list just to see a counselor. Expediency was a major reason why I invested in and embraced internet outreach and education. People need help fast and the internet allowed them to get on the right road quickly.”
Look for something similar you can make a difference in, where other companies or entrepreneurs have not.
2. Develop your personal brand
By building your personal brand up first, including a clear picture of what you stand for and the values you represent, you can get more people interested in the eventual business brand that you will develop, making it much easier to gain traction for your startup. Your brand can create the foundation for credibility and respect that can then be parlayed into your business brand.
Since it can take time to establish a brand, it’s important to start working on your brand in advance. Build a website, blog, and any other channel where you can start establishing yourself as an expert. You can do this while working a traditional job, building up for when you’re ready to make the transition.
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3. Take business and financial management classes
You may not have learned these skills in your present job or even in your personal life. These are critical skills to have in place before becoming a full-fledged entrepreneur because they provide the necessary framework for smarter business decisions that can impact the health and sustainability of your future company.
While you don’t necessarily need to get a business degree, it doesn’t hurt to take the time to learn the theory and application of it. Many universities now offer classes in entrepreneurship that could prove beneficial for your future plans.
Increase your financial knowledge. If you have had to pay off debt or if you are just not familiar with company finances, this is the time to take classes and learn more about personal and business finance. It’s important to learn about cash flow, expenses and income, taxation, and even employee payments.
4. Get out of debt (and save up)
There’s no guarantee when or if your new business will be a success. That’s why you should put yourself in a healthy financial position before taking that leap. You will need to pay off your debt, including credit cards, and auto loans.
Make sure you can trim your monthly expenses down to a minimum and create savings that you can live on for a while until your business is still getting up and running. You won’t be able to be an entrepreneur, start a business, or get funding if your own financial house is not in order.
Is credit card debt keeping you from success? Learn how to get your debt under control.
5. Find a mentor
Work with someone who has been there and done that in terms of starting and operating a business, preferably in your field. They can assess your strengths and weaknesses that could impact you as an entrepreneur. They can offer recommendations on what you need to improve upon and where you can get assistance within these areas if they cannot directly help you.
A mentor can also connect you to others who may be interested in helping you develop your business idea while also assisting you with ramping up your networking expertise.
6. Do your research
Even after you have a business up and running, research will continue to be necessary, including studying your audience, marketplace, trends, and competition. Doing this research in advance of taking the plunge into entrepreneurship becomes good training for what will be an ongoing process once your idea becomes a fully formed business.
Preparing in advance will also provide a better picture of the viability of your idea and whether you should proceed or pivot toward a new direction. This research can also help you identify the best free resources for marketing, advertising, and overall business operations.
7. Build your technical skills
Since so many businesses operate online or, at the very least, require a website, you must learn some technical skills. You don’t have to be a web developer or programmer to be an entrepreneur but it doesn’t hurt to learn some coding (or at least know what the technical words mean) and understand how to use various online tools and software.
This can help you work with those who are technically inclined so you can tell them what you need and also understand what they are telling you. Knowing what is available as a resource and how it works can also help you put together the best technology to build your company and make decisions about future technology. Learning this in advance can even help you by allowing you to get some of the work done yourself so you can stretch your budget that much further.
8. Remember: demographics don’t matter
Age has been one of the ways people have tried to illustrate that there is an ideal entrepreneur, especially noting that those in their younger years fare better. The truth is, there is no ideal entrepreneur.
An Entrepreneur magazine article illustrated some interesting facts related to age and the ideal entrepreneur. The article noted research from the Kauffman Foundation, Founder Institute, and Duke University that concluded the average age of an entrepreneur is 40 when they launch their startup. People over the age of 55 are more likely to create a high-growth startup than those under 35.
The article also listed a wide range of wildly successful entrepreneurs who started incredible companies:
- Facebook (20)
- Microsoft (20)
- Apple (21)
- Google (25)
- Twitter (30)
- Amazon (30)
- Tesla (34)
- Oracle (35)
- Netflix (37)
- Zynga (41)
- Walmart (44)
- McDonald’s (53)
The Kaufman Index did find that there were more men in entrepreneurial roles than women. However, the Index concluded that this was not a predictor of the ideal entrepreneur but solely based on opportunities provided to both genders.
9. Adopt some entrepreneurial traits
While there isn’t a demographic that illustrates the ‘ideal entrepreneur,’ there are some common traits some of the most successful ones share:
- They are passionate. Many never bore with what they’re doing. They always strive to do more, make improvements, and get the most enjoyment out of it.
- They are risk takers. Not afraid of failing. Ready to face uncertainty head-on. The ideal entrepreneur is even excited by some risk. However, they do not dive in without first evaluating the risk. They assess and re-assess whether it’s worth it.
- They believe in themselves and have elevated levels of confidence. Think Elon Musk who has the self-belief to think he can do anything. Which is why he’s taken on things like the electric car, the self-driving vehicle, and rocket ships that return to Earth. Others don’t believe these things are possible. However, he’s completely confident he will succeed.
- The ideal entrepreneur is disciplined, works hard, and is completely dedicated. They’re more likely to be almost stubborn in their focus and determination to work around the clock.
- They can adapt. Be flexible. They understand that change is very necessary. The ideal entrepreneur can even pivot in what they’re doing if their idea is not quite right for what the market demands.
- The ideal entrepreneur is effective in money management. They realize it takes time to succeed so they must be careful in terms of how they spend.
- They are constant planners with everything in their lives. However, these ideal entrepreneurs also realize they can’t plan everything because the unexpected often happens. That’s when they defer back to their adaptability trait and the backup plans they had tentatively sketched out.
- The ideal entrepreneur understands the value of connections and goes after all networking opportunities. Whether for themselves or others. They see networking as a way to acquire more knowledge, experience, funding, talent, or business.
10. Start in on the sweat equity
You’ll never work as hard as when you first get your business going. It requires more effort because you won’t be a known commodity among investors. Essentially, you’ll have to bootstrap your business.
This means doing pretty much everything yourself, including cold calling, customer support, billing and accounting, and even some coding. In training for that role, it’s a good idea to start in with the sweat equity well in advance so you get used to working long days and months on end to achieve what you’ve been dreaming about.
It’ll also teach you how to do more with fewer resources.
Limited capital can actually be a good thing because it forces you to wait a bit longer. And, in that time, you can get in some essential training on what it means to be an entrepreneur rather than rushing into it and learning on the fly. Even with training, there will be stress and challenging times, but that will always be part of being an entrepreneur.
Having savings to fall back on, however, is always important.