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ImageDear Helen

I am fed up with working for other people.  I have a great idea for a business of my own but I keep getting negative comments from people who see it as high risk and who keep pointing out the number of businesses that fail.  I am an optimist and I know that I can succeed in business. What is your advice?

Laurence, Bristol

Hi Laurence

While statistics show that a lot of businesses don’t survive beyond the first 3 years, you just have to look around you to see the numbers that have succeeded, so it can pay to be an optimist!

However, you should think carefully about your reasons for wanting to leave your job.  If it’s because you’re stuck and not progressing, are you doing all you can to improve your skills, network and look for more challenging opportunities both within and outside your company? 

If you are intent on becoming self-employed, I would suggest that you take time to research and plan and that you keep working while you do so, to keep some income coming in. 

Even if you think your business idea can’t fail, you should try to identify all the major considerations when contemplating setting up your own business.

  • How important is job security and a predictable future to you?

  • Do you prefer to have set hours for work and leisure activities?

  • Do you need some one else to organise you?
  • How good are you at networking with people for business?
  • Are you good at coping with rejection?
  • Do you have lots of stamina, good health and patience?

Analyse your motivation for self-employment carefully and honestly.

  • Is about seeking independence and being your own boss?
  • Are you motivated by the idea of creating something for yourself?
  • Are you motivated by the idea of controlling your working future?
  • Do you think it will earn you more money?

When you apply for a job, someone else makes the decision whether to hire you or not, based on interviews or tests.  For self-employment, you have to interview yourself – so be as thorough and objective as possible. 

In terms of your business idea, you should ask yourself:

  • How aware are you of the market you want to enter and your competition?
  • Is your product or service really viable as a business or is it more of a hobby?
  • How compatible with your personal goals is your business idea?
  • Does the business idea play to your strengths and weaknesses?
  • If not, how will you address the areas of weakness?

Being self-employed will impact both on you and your family and you should therefore also consider whether the use of your home or other assets is involved and, if so, will your family understand and support the implications?

Just as you had to learn the skills for the job you have, have you considered your own personal development needs, such as selling, business planning and basic accounting? Identify the skills you will need and how competent you feel to run your business.  It will also highlight areas that you need to address to ensure the success of your enterprise.

In short, research your idea, speak to people, network and get advice before you jump off the employment ladder.  Gather all the necessary information, assess fully all the risks involved, communicate with everyone who will be involved, plan your budget and set time goals.  Starting your own business can be an extremely rewarding experience, but be prepared to work hard and with careful planning, your business should succeed.

Remember that you can   contact us for more detailed advice and coaching on changing your career and moving into self-employment.

All the best!


Voted Candace Business Woman of the Year 1997, Helen Dupigny is a Director and co-founder of Working Plus, (www.working-plus.com) a Careers Management and Diversity consultancy and creator of the award-winning ‘Six Steps Career and Personal Development Programme’. A Sierra Leonean based in London, Helen is also the author of ‘Vicissitude’, a guide to making life and career changes.

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