Making The Leap From Corporate Leader To Successful Entrepreneur

In my research with women leaders and entrepreneurs, it’s clear that women are taking success into their own hands. Unable to get the freedom and flexibility they want to live a balanced life or close the gap on equal pay, many women are making the leap to entrepreneurship.

It doesn’t matter if you have a working spouse or you’re a single mom – women are getting tired of delaying the decision to be happy and have more balance in their lives and careers. If you happen to be over 50, your choices may be even more limited. It’s hard to find a great job in the corporate world at this stage – especially if you’ve opted out and now want to get back in.

If you decide to opt out and start your own thing, make sure you have a good strategy behind you. If you leap without a net and haven’t tested your big idea, you’ll struggle to get clients and earn a living.

So, let me make it super easy for you by sharing the three ways you can start your business, based on what I’ve learned after taking the leap seven years ago and what I’ve seen work (and not work) with the women I’ve coached.

There are three ways you can successfully make the leap from employee to CEO of your own company.

  1. Start a side hustle and let it grow.
  2. Test your idea, then leap.
  3. Take the plunge and build as you go.

There’s no one strategy that’s better than the others, but there are pros and cons to each. You can pick which suits you the best, but remember that this is as much a mental game as it is good business planning.

Three launch strategies – which one is for you?

1) Start a side hustle.

The upside: This is a great strategy for you if you’re not sure you will enjoy running your own business. This way, you get to test the waters first. Here you do your research on the side, get your idea right, and launch in a low impact way.

The downside: You have to be super committed to carving out time in your day to test your concept, develop your offering, and get clients. This is hard if you have a demanding job, and doubly difficult if you are a working mom. It can also be a half-hearted commitment to get started. If it doesn’t work, you can say you tried, but did you really give it the right effort, or was it fear that held you back? Low impact launch typically gets low impact results. Honestly, most side hustles never get off the ground.

2) Test, then leap.

The upside: You get to keep your paycheck while you are doing your research and concept testing. When you do take the leap, you are ready to hit the ground running. This is a great strategy for those who are super committed and organized and aren’t distracted with multiple priorities. Set a timeline for your launch. Have decision gates for a go/no go. Commit to going pro – it’s your mindset that will prevent you from taking action.

The downside: Like the side hustle, you need to commit to dedicating time to work on your new business, and that can be hard with a job and family. Watch out for the trap of becoming a serial student; consuming too much content online about how to launch a business will lead to confusion and overwhelm. Chasing the next certification after you are already certified in your field is just false progress and a fear tactic. You already know enough. You need to just do it.

3) Leap and build as you go.

The upside: Your new gig is your full-time job right from the start! This means you can accelerate your success. You still need to test and vet your ideas and can consult on the side. One part-time contract is all you need, and you can spend thirty hours a week building your business. Not having a paycheck to fall back on is a great motivator to hone and perfect your message and begin curating a powerful community of prospects, supporters, and strategic alliances.

The downside: You need to have money in the bank (at least six months of support) so you can develop a money-making business model. And no successful entrepreneur got there alone. Get a mentor to help you pave the way with the right strategies to accelerate your success. Find a powerful community of female founders to cheer you on. Know that starting your own business will kick up all your “stuff.” Be prepared with tools to master your inner game and overcome resistance and self-sabotage. What matters most is that you move forward with courageous action, even if you are afraid to fail.

Which path will you choose? Whatever you decide, you will need to develop the inner resolve to succeed and have a step-by-step plan to get you there.

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This Article first appeared in forbes

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