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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.


Fed-up with the daily grind of the ‘9 to 5’? Running your own show can be a tempting proposition, but do you have what it takes to be your own boss?

The popularity of television shows about budding entrepreneurs like Dragon’s Den has highlighted the rising popularity of self-employment. Whether you are a young entrepreneur with a sure-fire idea, a busy parent looking for a more flexible career or an early retiree with no inclination to simply fade away, self-employment can appear to be an attractive route to achieving riches while following your passion.

While statistics show that a good number of businesses do not survive beyond their first three years, a quick glance through any Rich List is proof that a good business idea can be extremely profitable. Even if you don’t end up earning millions, with the right preparation, skills and attitude, you can build and grow a successful business.

But while we may relish the idea of overseeing our own destiny and carving the career of our choice, the self-employment route may not always be our best option. Here are a few suggestions to help you move in the right direction.

Challenge your Decision

If you are already in a paid job, you should think carefully about your reasons for wanting to leave.  Are you running away from the difficulties of your job or are you actively choosing to change your lifestyle for a positive reason? If you want to leave your job because you’re stuck and not progressing, are you doing all you can to improve your skills, use your network and look for more challenging opportunities both within and outside your company? 

Ask the Tough Questions

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 on whether to hire you, usually based on interviews or tests.  If you are opting for self-employment, you should interview yourself and be as thorough and objective as possible! 

If, after asking these questions, you are still intent on becoming self-employed, it is vital that you take time to research and to plan and that you keep working while you do so, to keep some income coming in.

Analyse your Entrepreneurship Qualities

Opinion is divided about whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Whether or not you believe you have the ‘e’ factor, it is important that you ask yourself some key questions and that you have a very clear idea about where your strengths lie. 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 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?
Get your Plan Right

As with every area of your career, preparation is vital. If you want to set up your own business, you need to first create a business plan. In terms of your business idea, you should ask yourself:

  • How aware are you of the market you want to enter and your competition?
  • How will you make money from your idea?
  • Is there an existing market or is this an innovative product or service?
  • Is your product or service 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?

Just as you had to learn the skills for the job you have, consider 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. Careful questioning will also highlight areas that you need to address to ensure the success of your enterprise.

Find Support

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? Family is often the first resort for financial support for entrepreneurs, so you should aim to get your nearest and dearest on-side with your plans. Rather than being defensive when family or friends challenge your business idea, address their concerns and objections by preparing detailed financial plans that show that you have done your research and that you have a viable business opportunity.

Even with family backing, it will be important to create business networks to support you as you go forward. Research network groups in your sector that can give you valuable links to expertise, information - and new clients!

Get Your Timing Right

Before you print off your resignation letter, make sure that you have done all the planning possible to get your business started. 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 with hard work and careful planning, your business should succeed.

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