How to Prepare for the Life of an Entrepreneur (While still at your 9 to 5)
When I was at my in-house UX design position at Favor (and before that at RetailMeNot), I always knew in the back of my head that I wanted to become an entrepreneur. As that vision crystallized, I realized that I needed to start preparing for that life immediately. Just because you’re not an entrepreneur yet, doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking like one! Looking back, there several things that I did that prepared me for the life of an entrepreneur that I live today. I want to share them with you so that you too can prepare for the life of an entrepreneur!
Before we dive in, I want to mention something for the college students out there. All of my recommendations below are going to help you get settled on an amazing trajectory into entrepreneurship in the future. However, if you’re planning on developing your skillsets at an in-house job first (like I did!), this article is a great resource for you. It’s one of the best career guides for new grads that I’ve seen and will walk you through exactly what you need to set proper goals, create budgets and execute on a transition plan into the real world!
1 | Write down your vision, and put a date on it
If you want to become an entrepreneur, you need to set a date to make it happen. That date doesn’t have to be tomorrow… it could be five years from now! Having that date as a long-term vision will help to bring things into perspective for you today. It’ll help you clarify what you need to do now to prepare for the life of an entrepreneur. It’ll help you make day to day decisions that will be in favor of that vision.
I recommend putting this date somewhere in your home where you can see it every day. This should be a reminder to you about the life of entrepreneurship that awaits. Every time you see it, your subconscious mind will be put to the task of making it happen. It’s magical!
2 | Become a voracious reader
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur is this: READ like your life depends on it! So many people have gone before you and built multi-million dollar empires. Many of these people have written books with their first-hand knowledge of entrepreneurship. It’s the next best thing to sitting down and talking to that person one-on-one, right? So wouldn’t you want to absorb that information now while you prepare for the life of an entrepreneur?
These are some of my favorite books that helped me prepare for entrepreneurship:
3 | Listen to entrepreneurs speak, constantly
You are the average of the people you hang out with. This is a fact. And if that’s the case, wouldn’t you want to “hang out” with and spend time with entrepreneurs? Obviously, you can’t actually spend time with all of your favorite entrepreneurs, but you can find a few who have done YouTube videos, Ted Talks or even podcasts.
Listening to entrepreneurs speak and absorbing their thought process is a powerful alternative to actually hanging out with them. This is something I did (and do) constantly. I would listen to 1-2 entrepreneur videos/audios of some sort every single day.
On the outside, it won’t look like much is happening. It won’t even look like you’re working hard to prepare for a life of an entrepreneur. But, a lot is happening on the inside. Your mind is shaping new neural pathways needed to act and think like an entrepreneur. These seemingly little changes are crucial if you are serious about entrepreneurship.
These days, my favorite way to “hang out” with entrepreneurs is to listen to Podcasts. These are the podcasts I’m currently listening to:
- The Tim Ferriss Show by Tim Ferriss
- Awesome with Alison by Alison Faulkner and Eric Robertson
- Pursuit with Purpose by Melyssa Griffin
- Market Beautifully by Haley Burkhead
4 | Master your skillsets
This tip is probably the most apparent and self-explanatory. The best way to prepare for the life of an entrepreneur is to master the skillsets in your niche. Your goal is to learn and absorb and grow as much as you can inside the company you are at today, so that when you leave to become an entrepreneur, you can shine as an expert in your field.
Go deep in your industry. Learn about all the nuances and ask tons of questions. Your goal right now is to become the go-to person at your company for the particular job you do. (Bonus: becoming this person right now at your job will very likely get you a raise!)
When it’s time to go out on your own as an entrepreneur, you’ll have this array of skills in your toolbox that you can whip out anytime and wow people with. You won’t have to worry about whether you are an expert or not, because you spent this time at your full-time job becoming that expert.
5 | Take on projects that stretch you
As an entrepreneur, you will be working on many or all aspects of your business. This means you’ll do everything from tracking finances, to making a sales pitch, to hiring. So, a fantastic way to prepare for the life of an entrepreneur is to work on projects that will stretch you. Work on projects that are out of your comfort zone and not necessarily in your wheelhouse. When you do so, you’re going to be automatically cultivating new skills and building knowledge that will be useful for your entrepreneurial future.
I got the opportunity to do this when I was at Favor. My role there was UX designer but I had the chance to be part of Favor’s culture committee and define the core values of the the company. This was a huge undertaking and not necessarily related to my role in product development. Even so, I was excited to take the task, because I learned a great deal about creating culture at a company and how to make sure the team members buy into that culture. These learnings are great for me now as an entrepreneurs when I’m hiring team members and subcontractors. I want to make sure they all buy into my mission and fit the culture that I’ve cultivated so far.
So try it out, take on that huge cross-functional project to improve customer retention or streamline the operations logistics. Your future business will thank you for it!
6 | Collaborate with team members in different departments
In the same vein as the previous idea, I recommend working with as many team members at your current company as you can. Projects can help you expand your skills and experiences, but so can team members.
Working with team members from different areas of the company gives you a chance to see how they think and understand their jargon. It’s valuable to know how a marketing manager operates or how the sales cycle works so you’re somewhat familiar with the spaces. This knowledge can be priceless when hiring for these roles or even performing this tasks as an entrepreneur.
7 | Cultivate good relationships with your colleagues
Aside from a stronger skillset, the most valuable thing I’ve walked away from my in-house design jobs with has been the relationships I’ve created. As I’ve worked with different people, they have grown to trust me. This is big when you’re working with someone day in and day out. However, it is a game changer when you’re preparing for the life of an entrepreneur.
Believe it or not, these people you’ve cultivated relationships with will be in your corner. If they like you and liked working with you, they will most likely want to help you! Imagine that!
I’ve seen time and time again in my career where someone I worked with previously helped me by making an introduction to an important person or future client. And it all started with me building and developing a good relationship with that person.
8 | Build a strong network
To add onto my previous nugget: not only do you want to build strong relationships at your current job, but you also want to develop relationships in your field outside of your current job. This network is a resources for you. It’s a resource for advice, referrals, employees, and projects. You want to start caring for and nurturing this resources NOW.
One of the ways I built up (and maintained) a strong network was with a networking spreadsheet. I had a list of people I liked and really wanted to keep in touch with or learn from. I would write their name on the spreadsheet and a short description of how I knew them. I would then make note of the date I last saw them or spoke to them. Next, I would set a date when I wanted to reach out to them next and make a note in my calendar. This way, I was being systematic and purposeful about building my relationships. Keeping in touch with my network made sure that I was someone who was on the top of mind. If someone I had built a good relationship with ever met someone or came across an opportunity that would be a good match for me, they would likely remember me and make a connection!
To get you started, I’ve put together a little networking spreadsheet that you can borrow and use as your own! It’s simple, easy and will help you get one step closer as you prepare for the life of an entrepreneur. Click below to link to the spreadsheet and grab your copy now.
Starting something like this today will have a huge impact on your future career as an entrepreneur.
Alright, friends, I hope you feel confident about your next steps to prepare for the life of an entrepreneur. It’s not as far away as you think and you can start working towards entrepreneurship NOW! I’ll be over here rooting for you!
Got a question? Have other ways you’ve prepared for entrepreneurship? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment!