Unemployed? Learn How To Start Your Own Business

I started my own business in 2011 after being laid off from a local college as a department head for nearly 10 years. The recession hit both Florida and my industry (interior design) very hard.  In the county that I live in, thousands of people lost their homes due to foreclosures and ended up homeless or semi-homeless living in hotels. Sadly, homeless and semi-homeless people do not re-design their homes.

I had worked very hard at the college all those years. I had put in long hours, missed precious time with my family, dealt with a long commute, and I felt I had nothing to show for all my hard work. The college has since shut down.

I found myself suddenly unemployed. For some this transition happens all at once, for others, we either know its coming or hope to escape our full-time job long before the actual day.

Here are some tips on how to start your own business after unemployment

1.Document Your Entrepreneurial Journey

Get your thoughts in order first. Take a few minutes each morning to journal your goals, frustrations, and plans. At first your frustrations may consume your thoughts, let them flow out all over paper as a release then turn the page and start writing about your new goals and plans. Document your journey – use a notebook or a tool like Evernote to document your journey. I use Evernote and keep folders called Morning Pages, Night Pages, & Burning Questions (see #13) You’d be surprised how often I refer back to earlier notes when similar issues arise.

2. Evaluate Your Assets and Strengths

Take out a notebook and write down everything you have that can help your start-up. Start with your friends and family are they supportive and helpful? They are a valuable asset to you. Then move on to things like a car that runs, a laptop, a nice digital camera, and a smart phone. Next write down all the skills and personality strengths you have that can help your business.

3. Ask Yourself A Power Question Each Day

What is the one thing that I can do today to make some money to support myself and my family? This may lead to selling extra items laying around your home or looking at websites like Guru or Upwork to see what services you can offer.

4. Figure out your “Burn Rate”

Scott Gerber in his book Never Get A Real Job  discusses your burn rate. Your burn rate is the amount of time you have to get your business rolling. If you are suddenly unemployed this burn rate is shorter than for others who are still working. Look at ways to lengthen this time, if you need to. Could you get a roommate or move in with a family member? Could you cut costs on eatting out? Or going to Starbucks? Look at your lifestyle, how can you change your lifestyle to increase your burn rate?

5. What’s Your Unfair Advantage

Believe it or not, you have an unfair advantage that no else has. This unfair advantage is the people know.  If you are not currently on LinkedIn, set up an account. I have a full course on LinkedIn called LinkedMagic. Take a look at your Linked In, Twitter, or Facebook accounts and think about who you know and who you would enjoy working with.  Write down 21 names and then write down how you can create a Win-Win scenario for both of you. In my program, I call this the “Lucky 21.” This is a group of people that you connect with and share what you are doing at any given time. Is there a service that you could provide them?

6. Test the Market

This is something that I do now but I did not know when I started out. Ask the question, “What’s the quickest, cheapest way I can test if the public really wants what I am offering?” Tim Ferris in the 4 Hour Work Week calls this “testing the muse” and he used different online techniques to test market. If something doesn’t test well, adjust it and try it again or look at doing something altogether different.

7. Do NOT work for Free

For some reason, people will think you can work for free during a start-up. Don’t go there. You can work out trades for things or services if you like or a lower rate but working for free sets an uncomfortable precedent for both of you.

8. Network – Network – Network

Look for groups in your area to mingle with other entrepreneurs. Meet-up.com is great for this. Attending free or inexpensive MeetUp’s helps you understand the pulse of your community and spot opportunities of work you can do for others. Online groups on Facebook and LinkedIn are another good place to network.

9. Start Small – Very Small

You may have it in your mind that you need a huge advertising campaign and a new computer or a new food truck… Figure out ways to work with what you have at first… Look at ways to borrow or lease things your start-up needs rather than purchase. Look for free or super cheap tools for your business. Google provides a service called Google Voice which is FREE phone number. Vistaprints will print business cards for the price of shipping. Services like Skype allow you to have free conference calls. Make a list of all the free or super cheap services you can use refer to it before you purchase. This will increase your burn rate.

10. Find Mentors

A mentor can be a person who has been through a start-up that you can actually talk to or they can be authors of inspiring books or inspiring blogs. People are going to give you lots of advice some that you can use and some that you can save for later.

11. Study Specific Topics – “Just in Time Learning”

This was a challenge for me because I love to read so I began to read everything. It is important to figure out what area of your business you need to focus on and only read about that topic. For example – if you are going to a lot of  networking events read about networking and connect with people in person an example is Never Eat Lunch Alone by KeithFerrazzi or Work the Pond by Darcy Rezak don’t read about SBA loans.

12. Shift Gears as the Market Shifts

It’s important to shift gears when your business is stalling. Currently, the economy is shifting and changing rapidly.  If you find that you business is stalling,  not making a profit, costing you a lot of time, and not bringing in much money you must change your approach. There is nothing wrong with trying a new approach until it starts bringing in money. Far to often, we find ourselves wanting to provide goods and services to a public that is not interested in those goods or services. Think about cassette tapes, it would be hard to start a business around cassette tapes right now. What can you do with cassette tapes now? Make a robot… Teach people how to transfer casettes  to PC… make a retro iPod holder? As a small start-up business, you can quickly shift gears and do something new where big corporations have a hard time with this.

13. Ask Buring Questions

As you’re in start-up mode, you will have questions. I found that I did not know who to ask these questions. I had no co-workers, no boss. Who do you ask? I started writing them down in an Evernote folder and when I had a chance I would ask people who knew the answers or sit down and research them. Sometimes when I am in a networking meeting, I will scan my list of “burning questions” on my phone and ask key individuals those questions after the meeting.  I will say something like this, “I have been curious about… perhaps you could shed light on this for me.”  Most people will be impressed that asked them such a meaningful question.

14. Bread and Butter Money

When I worked for an architect in Kansas City, we used to do these frequent site evaluations for what seemed to me like pennies. I asked my boss why we did them, he said that it was “bread and butter” money. Puzzled, I asked what’s bread and butter money, he said it is small amounts of money, but frequent amounts of money, that keeps our name in front of the client for bigger projects. Can you think of a small task or project you can do for clients that may lead to bigger projects?
Starting your own business after losing your job can be difficult but it can also be very rewarding.
Please hang in there and share this article to help others out.
Kimberly Design Love