Owning a business seems risky, but 8% of the working population take it on. That’s about 1 in 12 people. Some people are just born to do it.
What’s your impression of entrepreneurs? Do you think of business moguls lording over an empire? The person who owns your favourite coffee shop? Your old school friend juggling three jobs and taking work where they can get it? Maybe the latest innovator creating solutions to issues like climate change or social injustice?
If you thought about any of the above, you would be right. There’s no one way to be an entrepreneur, so what does the word even mean? It’s a broad term that covers a lot of different situations, but at the core it’s about people who want to be their own boss, are comfortable taking risks and good at spotting opportunities.
Reasons to take the plunge
According to experts, there are typically two reasons why people become self-employed: either through necessity (few job opportunities, challenging circumstances) or opportunity (having an idea and running with it). In the UK, about 80% of entrepreneurs do so because they have the opportunity. With our welfare system and free healthcare, making no profit for the first few months isn’t the be-all end-all scenario that it is elsewhere in the world. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but there’s a bit of wiggle room to try things out.
Be your own boss
Company cultures vary, but often working under someone can chaff. If you struggle with rules and regulations, or don’t like the idea of working towards somebody else’s dream, then you might think about working for yourself.
Other benefits of being your own boss include having control over your own schedule and being 100% responsible for what you get out of work. If you put in the work, you’ll reap the benefits. If life kicks you in the face, you can take a few days off.
Of course, that’s a double-edged sword. Being in control of your own life is great, but it involves a lot of responsibility. If you don’t work, you don’t pay the rent. If you make a promise to a client, you need to follow through.
You’ve got a great idea
Why has no one done this yet?
If you spot an opportunity that no one else can see, then why not run with it? Great ideas can come from chance, or from seeing an existing offering and knowing you can do better. Maybe you’ve seen a way to apply new technology in a different industry. Or you’re sick of waiting for the app you want to get created. If you think it’s a good idea, chances are there are other people who think so too. If your customers are already there, it makes sense, right?
Just make sure you do your research – make a business plan and conduct a financial forecast. Sometimes the reason ‘no one has done this yet’ is because it’s doomed to fail.
You want to make a difference
Some of the strongest motivators for entrepreneurs are that they want to advance social justice or environment and make the world a better place. You can do this within a company, improving the supply chain or hiring practices, for example. What often separates these people from entrepreneurs is that they don’t get the final say. It’s a lot easier to change a company when you own it. It also gives you more gravitas when persuading other companies to make the change too.
It’s not just about corporate responsibility, either. You could provide a product or service that helps customers (like a device to filter drinking water) or directly impacts your area of concern (maybe you run a mental health clinic).
You want to make money doing something you love
If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it won’t feel like work at all. That’s probably not totally accurate, but it does help. Perseverance is a key skill for entrepreneurs and it’s easier to stick with something through the bad times if you believe it’s worth it.
Find something you’re passionate about and stick with it. Self-employment is risky – you don’t get employee benefits like annual leave, sick pay or a pension. You probably won’t make money for a few months, maybe even years. Do you care enough about what you’re doing to get through those difficult patches?
Ways to do it
Okay, so by now you’ve probably considered whether or not you could be an entrepreneur, but there’s a few more things to think about.
First off, do you want to work alone or with others? If you want to share the responsibility, setting up a LTD company or co-operative may be right for you. If you’re okay going solo, then you might prefer to be a sole-trader.
Can you do it full-time? Often people start their business as a side-hustle whilst working or studying. Some continue to keep it as a second income and others grow it into a full-time business. Others still end up taking on employees and making it into a full-blown career. It’s always good to have an idea of what your ambitions are when starting a business. You can always change your mind later.
Are you willing to commit? Is it something you want to try out first, maybe doing a bit of casual work as it comes along, or are you willing to invest your time and energy into really giving it a go? Both options are totally viable, it’s just about choosing what’s right for you.
If you’re interested in whether or not you could cut it as an entrepreneur, we’d love to hear from you. Book in with a mentor and we can go from there. There’s loads of business support out there, but few that focus on those that haven’t started yet. Thankfully, UCLan students, staff and graduates get that support from Propeller, so you can move at your own pace.