Although every week there's a story about the new startup that's going to change the world, not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. Maybe you think it's too great of a risk, you don't want to be the boss or you like your job now. Whatever the reason, working for a company run by someone else is what works for you and makes you happy. I understand that and enjoy my own "corporate" job a lot.
Still, when I decided to launch a side business a few months ago, I did it with the intention of someday striking out on my own. In the short months that I've been working on my side business, however, I've realized that I've learned so much that is valuable to my corporate job.
Running a small business introduces a slew of new tasks you've never had to deal with before. From marketing to sales to product development, you have to learn quickly how to perform well in areas that you might not have any prior experience in. So what do you do? You read books and articles. You attend webinars and free events. You ask your friends and family. You take all the options available to you and you learn.
Yes, you can choose to learn new skills relevant to your current or future position at any time. But having your own business helps you learn in two important ways.
- The first is that owning a business forces you to learn new skills that might not seem relevant to your current position. For example, if you're a writer for an online magazine you might wonder how marketing or sales skills can help you? The truth is that learning to market and sell your skills is one of the best things you can learn to succeed in any career. But it's hard to see that when you're only looking at a very specific set of skills related to your current position.
- The second way a small business helps you learn is by giving you motivation. You might decide that learning a new language will help you with your career but after one week of listening to the correct Italian pronunciation for ciao, you're done with Italian lessons for good. But with a small business your motivation comes from your own desire to succeed and see how far you can go.
For example, I literally woke up my husband from his Saturday afternoon nap (seriously wrong) to tell him my Klout score hit 40! Did I care about my Klout score 6 months ago? No. Does hitting a Klout score of 40 make me rich? No. But I started with a score of 25 and somehow made it all the way to 40 with just the knowledge that I gathered about creating an engaged audience from articles, ebooks and webinars. Plus, of course, trial and error!
Beyond skills, a side business provides you with experience—the ever-elusive unicorn that professionals struggle with getting. Imagine that you're ready to move into a new position after two years at your company, but your boss tells you that you don't have enough management experience to be considered for the position you want. That never happens, right?
Now imagine the same scenario, but during those two years at your company, you also ran a side business where you had an intern (or two) help you out. Bam! Manager experience plus an impressed look from your boss.
The truth is that experience can't be learned or bought. Only time performing a skill over and over again can give you experience. Six months of experience adds credibility that isn't there when you use the example of that one time (for 4 hours) when you had to manage five people at the city's last 5K race.
Confidence is gained when you overcome something you fear or you succeed at something that was difficult. I can honestly say that everyday working on my side business provides an opportunity for either or both.
Earlier this week I submitted my first guest article to a company that wanted something to spark discussion and prayed they wouldn't hate what I sent in. The next day when I found out that they loved it, my confidence hit an all-time high.
As your confidence grows from your success, you begin to take greater risks and that position that seemed out of your league before, now looks like a better fit worth chasing. Then the cycle repeats itself. You gain more confidence, take more risks, and have more success.
Go For It!
The fear of failing is a strong motivator for many people to avoid putting themselves in a situation where they are entirely accountable for the success or failure of something they've put their name on. So starting even a small, side business can be intimidating.
If that sounds like you then keep in mind, that you can gain new skills, experience and confidence from other activities besides running a side business like starting your own organization/club, putting together charity events, or even starting a blog. The main point is that you are in charge and that your goal is to grow what you've created.
You might not consider yourself an entrepreneur, but take the chance and reap the rewards. For help getting started with a side business, check out Ryan Robinson's 10-step infographic.
What new skill or experience could push your career forward?