26 years ago today was my last as a full-time employee for someone else.

I left the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC to start my own business, what is now The Word Factory.

A few tips for those of you considering a similar move:

  1. Do the math. Before you cut the cord, talk with your banker and accountant about the cash flow and tax implications of your decision. Making financial mistakes before you even get going makes it even harder to succeed. Don't have a relationship with a business banker or CPA? Take care of that right now.
  2. a dollar sign icon on Margot Lester's The Word Factory blogDetermine your rates. Based on the information you get from your experts, figure out how much you have to charge to make a living. I know that sounds obvious, but I still meet tons of folks who did not think about this ahead of time and discovered too late they couldn't make a living based on their skills, experience or geographic price levels. Your local Chamber of Commerce can help you research going rates for your service in your area.
  3. Know your goals. Nothing wrong with wanting to run a lifestyle business that gives you all kinds of freedom. Own it. But if you have financial requirements/obligations, think of yourself as a business owner/entrepreneur and act that way. The mindset informs your intention which drives your results.
  4. Book icon on Margot Lester's writing coach pageFront-load a book of business. It's never too early to drum up work. Once you've decided to take the plunge, start talking to a few folks who could be your first customers. Don't just ask them for work (or advice or whatever). Ask them for referrals. One of my favorite questions is "who do you know who's looking for services like mine/has problems I can solve?"
  5. Find your space. A quarter of a century ago, there were few coffee houses and no such thing as "co-working". I carved out some space in the spare room and got to work. That might work for you. It also might not. If you think you need dedicated space outside your house, shop around and find an option that meets your needs for atmosphere (steady din, library-like quiet), access (drop-in when you need it, full-time private office, shared space) and budget. My pro tip: Buy the least access you can afford and see how it works. No need to sign a lease if you discover you just need "respite" office space.

I could go on. After so long in the game, I've got tons of tips and advice. But these are the magic beans -- the things I see most people getting wrong or only half-right as they embark on their own entrepreneurial journey.

Good luck and have fun!

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