Leaving the comfort and security of your 9-5 to pursue a passion is daunting, but it is highly rewarding if done right. Before you do, you want to ensure you’re prepared in every way possible. Female entrepreneur and best-selling author, Unsah Malik, did just that amidst the pandemic, and now she is sharing her top tips to flourish as a new business owner.
1.Asking for help or educating yourself further is a sign of strength, not weakness
Not even the world’s greatest entrepreneurs and billionaires know everything — that’s why they hire specialised staff to delegate responsibilities! You’re not any less ambitious or talented for seeking answers elsewhere or embarking on a course/taking up new reading material. If anything, it means you’re willing to take what is required to keep you ahead of the curb and on top of your game. It’s also worth noting that no one expects you to know everything either, even if it feels like that at times.
2. Specialise in a specific area by niching down before you scale
We hear a lot about scaling businesses, growing teams and expanding offices — which is all the fun and exciting stuff — but we’re rarely told what to do at the very beginning when resources and budget is tight. The smartest move is to avoid being the jack-of-all-trades. Pick what you’re good at, find your USP and competitive advantage, and make those key values apparent to your target audience. You don’t need to be a multi-hyphenate to prove you’re skilled. Ask yourself why people should see your product or service as better than others on the market… and then yell that answer in your content.
3. Take calculated risks
Taking risks is a big part of any business and the self-employed lifestyle. You already know this because it’s what every entrepreneur ever repeats. Some risks will feel more dangerous than others, and some will pay off better than others, but the real key is to be calculated. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket if the risk is too big to survive the current state of your business. Be logical about it. Write a list of pros and cons to decide what makes sense for you right now. Failures are inevitable, but the plan isn’t to consistently fail because you’ve refused to place a thought process behind all of your ideas and decisions.
4. Be strategic if you’re leaping 9-5 to self-employed life
We’ve all heard the ‘I woke up furious with my manager, handed in my notice with £5 to my name, and now I’m a millionaire!’ story, but that doesn’t mean we need to follow those footsteps. The chances of you becoming a millionaire off of £5 and not a single penny saved elsewhere is very, very, very slim. How much money will you need to be saved for you to feel comfortable for the next, say, 6 months” Or perhaps you’re someone with more responsibility and need to think about the year ahead The circumstances will be different for everyone. You also need to ensure your business is in a profit-making zone (for me, the margin needed to remain above 20% at the very least) and that you see the demand from your target audience. It’s one thing to be passionate and have 10,000 Instagram followers, but it can be a completely different thing to monetise it. I always advise on building your brand from the second the business becomes a ‘side-hustle’. You will never feel 100% ready if you’re used to the comfort of a 9-5, but you should feel confident enough when you leave.
5. Know when to let go and when to say no
The second something feels off, or you’ve realised you’ve exerted all of your efforts with no payback, it’s time to let go of the project. Learn the lessons, move on and apply your knowledge elsewhere. Everything won’t go to plan; that’s just life. The same goes for saying ‘no’. As you grow and eventually become recognised, you will see the number of opportunities coming towards you quadruple – but that doesn’t mean every single opportunity is right for your business or brand. Be selective, and don’t be afraid to say no. It’s your business and your life, so you should play by your own rules instead of allowing others to control your decisions for you.
6. Doubters will come and go
Naysayers never have nasty comments for people they perceive as failures. It’s always the ones who succeed who have unsolicited advice or unnecessary opinions are thrown their way. Understand that it is never personal; it’s a reflection of their own beliefs and attitudes. The only part you can control is your reaction, and 99.9% of the time, the best reaction is to ignore and move on. If you really need to vent, punch a pillow (well, it works for me) or speak to a friend who’s willing to talk it through with you.
7. You don’t have to fight to be at the top of every social media platform, but you should network
Social media makes people believe that the only way to be successful is to attract thousands of likes/follows/shares etc. across every single platform. This is far from the truth. There are people with very followers compared to big-time CEOs, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders who are making a killing from social media by focusing on their own audiences and the quality of their product/service instead (which, by the way, is the best way!). On the flip side, as an entrepreneur, it is important to network because that’s how you’ll attract opportunities right for you! Join groups, engage in conversations and find likeminded individuals to connect with. You never know who will come in handy one day or who you’ll be able to help.
8. Dealing with imposter syndrome Remind yourself of your ‘why’ and congratulate yourself for your previous achievements
Imposter syndrome is common for most self-employed people, but especially for those new on the scene. The next time you see your mind spiralling into a hole of self-doubt, take 10 seconds for 10 deep breaths and remind yourself why you’re doing what you do today. Maybe you want to make other people’s lives better, give a better future for your children, want to work in your own hours or be financially free… whatever it might be, there’s a reason why you started this journey in the first place! I also thoroughly encourage everyone to remind themselves how far they have already come and how many wonderful things they have achieved so far. Don’t downplay yourself. You have earned the position you are in today.
9. Digital is the way forward
Whatever the industry or niche you’re in, digital is both the present and future. If you haven’t optimised your strategy, take this as a sign to start now. Create a website, learn about social media and the world of online PR (my ebook covers this extensively… it’s not a quick read, and you’ll be required to put in some work and complete big tasks, but you’ll know everything by the end), understand how social media ads work, build a newsletter database and consistently provide for your online audience. If you stay stuck in old ways, you’ll become old news too.
10. Shift your perception of failure
Who says failure needs to be a negative thing” No smart entrepreneur, that’s for sure. We all fail. We all make mistakes. We’re all struck by challenges. We all have off days time-to-time. It doesn’t mean we’ve become shit overnight; it just means we’re human. Most of life’s lessons, including for your business, can only be learnt through failure. Failure is nothing but a sign that it’s time to change the direction and do even better. You’ll never be starting from scratch… you’ll be starting from experience.
You can find out more about Unsah Malik’s best selling social growth e-book, ‘Slashed It’ here.