IT’S A TRAP! Moving from Paid Employment to Self- Employment

If you ask the average working professional, their long-term dream is a version of the typical ‘leave my job, start my business and become a billionaire within five years’ folklore. Glamorized versions of stories of heroic exits from paid employment into amazing business success accentuated by social media have helped to increase the appetite of the average worker to explore this adventure.

While some people are actively pursuing this dream, some, on the other hand, are very averse to the idea of leaving certainty for uncertainty. People in this category are more conversant with stories of many people who made the attempt and failed woefully while at it. So we have two groups of people on both ends of the spectrum; those who are eager to leave and those who will never attempt to leave. In the middle is where the majority of the population is- they are okay with working as employees within organisations.

My article today does not address the majority in the middle but the two groups at the two extremes as highlighted above. I will like to share some thoughts with you that will be of benefit to you if you ever fall in any of the two groups. The truth is that most working professionals are faced with this option of making the transition at different points in their career. I also faced it at a point and like the few, I decided to make the move. I decided to pursue my dream and for the first two years after that, it looked like I signed up for a nightmare. I do not regret making the move when I do and because of it, I am in a much better place advising working professionals about ‘if’ and ‘how’ to go about making the move from paid environment to self-employment.

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I was a senior manager working in the banking industry in Nigeria and was earning quite well. By the time I was 29, I headed one of the core human resources functions for the bank across the group. At a point, I was earning close to a Million Naira monthly, had been given a mortgage to buy a house at 5% interest rate per annum (compared to 22% commercial rate) and was well on my way to making more senior levels within a short period. The challenge, however, was my heart was no longer in the job. A series of events had convinced me that there were certain entrepreneurial opportunities that I could take advantage of beyond where I worked.

This leads me to the thoughts that I will like to share on this topic:

Have a very good reason for wanting to make the transition: Not every reason to leave your job is a good one. I think the worst reason you can have is to leave a bad boss or a bad organisation. While you should not stay too long enduring a bad environment, your success as a business owner cannot be driven by a desire to escape. Ideally, it should be driven by a compelling business opportunity that has been validated and not just a passion one has. You need to ensure that your idea will not only give you a sense of fulfilment but will also be able to generate revenue that is sufficient enough to be called a business enterprise. When it comes to business, do not run it alone on passion, run it on a validated business model.

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Get the support of your key stakeholders: The journey you are considering embarking can be a very lonely and difficult one at different times. One factor that breaks even the toughest players is when those who are closest to them are not supportive of the work they do. I cannot underestimate the impact of this factor. These people, when they are with you on this, can be the source of greatest encouragement and support as you transition. Getting them on board requires that you show them the viability of the opportunity and not just the strength of your passion.

Do not break away from existing relationships: Usually, your first set of customers are those who have already known you. I have seen many people, in a bit to transit, cut off from people who know them already. Your current colleagues can be your new clients. Be intentional about nurturing them while you work so you can earn from them after you have left.

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Build new relationships intentionally: Recall that I mentioned earlier that what you are transiting into is a business and not just an expression of your passion. Please learn this truth- Business is largely driven by the relationships you have. When your customers are looking for a solution, if they do not know you, they will not call you. You have to be intentional about networking.

Plan and make sacrifices: every transition comes at a cost. You will have to plan for some initial adjustments in your lifestyle at the beginning till you can afford it. Whatever the cost that is required, be willing to pay it. I had to sell off my house to pay my mortgage. I had to leave my high paying job just to pursue my dreams and today, it’s all worth it

There are a lot more thoughts I can share but I will leave you with these ones.

Remember this, if you are planning to transit, let the pull of your possibilities be your reason and not the pain of your present circumstances. All the best!

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