Before you leap into entrepreneurship…

Maybe you’re working away and wondering what it would be like to be your own boss someday. Maybe you’ve already started the process and are nurturing your dream on the side. Or, maybe you’re in full swing growth mode and wondering what the next phase of your business will look like. Regardless of the entrepreneurial phase you’re in or how great having your own business is, I’m just going to say it: it’s tough work. It’s like raising a baby. Some days – most days – your whole world revolves around its growth and wellbeing. You lose sleep over it. It feels like you’re constantly feeding it.

And here’s the reason why. Having a business is more than just birthing an idea. It’s about cultivating it, putting your boots on the ground and making the magic happen.

Here’s the scary part. According to Bloomberg, 80 percent of entrepreneurs fail in the first 18 months of starting their business.

Here’s the good news. You don’t have to be one of them if you can get beyond the idea phase of entrepreneurship and put in the work.

Let me clarify, I didn’t go to school to become a business expert. I do PR and marketing. But I’ve worked with a lot of businesses, particularly startups, and I’ve even been one. These are some things I’ve learned over the years.

You have to understand the core of your business
I love planning. I plan my outfits for the day. I get a rush from putting together a marketing plan and seeing how all the different strategies and tactics come together. And Excel is my best friend. But unless you’re a trust fund baby or living with really generous parents, you probably need money to survive. In other words, you can’t keep talking about how you want your business to look in 10 years. At some point, you have to get started. Forget for a moment about what the market will need in a decade. What is the need right now? And how can you fill it? That’s where you need to be. You can always grow from there.

Choose your partners wisely
The variety of ways you can align with other companies is endless. You could contractually partner with someone. You could have a strategic alliance. You could start a new division under an existing company. You could bring on an investor. The point is, when you’re successful or you have that fresh entrepreneurial energy, everybody wants a piece. Test these relationships before you commit to anything. Know their backstories. Do your homework. You’re putting your name and goodwill alongside theirs, and it can literally make or break you.

Use the PR tools at your disposal
Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Create a social media presence. Understand what makes you newsworthy. Have integrity. Take care of your clients and customers. Never underestimate the selling power of a smile. All of these things are free and build your brand.

Work your contacts
Not every business meeting is going to immediately mean new business, but it is an opportunity to remind people of your brand and what you offer. Networking is just as important as knocking out proposals!

Stay within your budget
What do you need to be able to operate your business? Now challenge yourself to think of how you can get away with less without sacrificing quality. I used to have an awesome copier. I needed it. It could staple documents for me. How cool is that?? It saved me those precious 2.5 seconds before I had to leave for a meeting. Fast-forward to startup reality, and you realize copier companies don’t give contracts to people who have been in business for less than 90 days. (They’ll let you take out a loan to buy one, though. Lucky you.) And you know what I realized in those 90 days? I really don’t make that many copies. Like not even close to what I thought I needed. And that’s $130/month I get to keep in the bank.

Don’t forget to give back

Here’s what financial expert Dave Ramsey has to say about giving:

“Giving liberates the soul of the giver. You never walk away feeling badly. Whether through a tithe, charitable contribution, or gift to a friend in need, give away at least some of your money. Not only does it generate good, but it generates contentment. Remember, no one has ever become poor by giving.”

Maybe you can’t afford to give money. But if you don’t have clients, you have time and talent. Find something you’re passionate about and pay it forward.