They say timing is everything, but is there a perfect time to start a business?
January sounds good, since it's the beginning of a new year. Starting young worked well for Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Maybe you should wait until you've secured financing, or the kids are in school, or you're vested in your pension at work. Or maybe, in fact, there's no time like the present.
Successful entrepreneurs describe having an instinctive sense that it's time to move from thinking about a business to actually launching one. Here are five signs you're ready:
1. You Really, Really Want This
As an entrepreneur, you can expect to put in long hours at all sorts of tasks, and it may be a while before you get paid. You'll need to convince people to become your customers or invest in your idea. You'll have doubters, naysayers, setbacks, and rejections.
You'll weather all of this far better if you are truly passionate about your business idea. Being unemployed isn't a good enough reason to start a business, but feeling driven to provide a solution to a problem is.
2. You Have the Time and Energy For a New Business
The best time to start a new business is when your life is otherwise relatively calm.
If your current situation includes a new baby, a wedding, a divorce, caregiving for a sick family member, a big move, or any other major life stressors, it may be best to wait until things settle down a bit and you can devote your full attention to launching your new enterprise.
3. You Have a Financial Plan
Your financial starting point is a business plan that shows—among other things—how much money you'll need to start your business, where it will come from, and how long you expect it to take for your business to become profitable.
Beyond your business plan, there are a few other financial issues to sort out before you take the leap. You still need to eat, and your student loan servicer and car insurance company aren't going to wait around for your business to turn a profit.
Decide how you'll keep your personal life afloat, whether that means accumulating a year's worth of savings, relying on income from a job or a spouse's job, or camping out in a family member's basement for free.
Your income from a startup will be far less predictable than your income from a steady job. Some people don't mind this, and others lie awake at night fearing the financial apocalypse. If you fall into the latter group, figure out how to deal with your financial anxiety so that it doesn't cause you to throw in the towel before you've given your startup a fair chance.
Depending on the kind of business you want to start, finding your first client or customer before you fully commit can be a good confidence booster and a way to generate some cash flow to continue your efforts.
4. You Have Support
Your plans affect the people you live with—spouses, children, partners, and parents. They may have to make financial or personal sacrifices to help your business succeed. Start your business after you've talked things through with them and resolved any major concerns.
It's hard to give your business the time and energy it deserves if it causes conflict and resentment in your relationships at home.
5. Your Gut Tells You It's Time
Plenty of would-be entrepreneurs hesitate for months or years, waiting for all the stars to align.
There's a fine line between jumping in without adequate thought and overthinking everything to the point where your business never gets off the ground. Listen to your instincts. If you've thought through the practicalities and you feel you're ready, it's probably time to go for it.
Starting a business of your own—whether full-time or on the side—can be a great move, provided you do so when the timing is right.