For the hopeful entrepreneur, it can be easy to fall into the trap of merely dreaming about your personal business while trudging through the daily nine-to-five. It can seem impossible, but creating a business is a rewarding experience. We talked with three young, Black business owners for advice on making the leap from side hustle to self-employment.
Brooklyn editor and director Asha Boston of The Dinner Table Documentary says being able to discuss money is critical to success. “Get comfortable talking about it. Get into the habit of talking about it as often as you can because if you don’t talk about how you’re going to get paid, no one will,” states Boston. Seeking mentor-ship can be just as stressful as finding lawyers and an accountant and Boston suggests securing these two first before acquiring the right mentor fit. Boston continues, “Being your own boss comes with a set of responsibilities that you have to be ready for – fast. When you work a nine-to-five, you’re working to help someone else with answers to higher ups. When you’re the boss, you are the higher up.” Clocking in for someone else can help teach you a lot about office etiquette and relationships and those observations can be beneficial when you scale business to bring on employees of your own.
Boston also recommends setting aside money from current paychecks for any legal fees. “If you know what type of business you’re going into and what you’re filing as, use your paycheck for registration fees. If you know the name but not the type of business you want, use the money for your copyright or trademark and set aside $800-$1,000 for filing fees.” Free tools such as LegalZoom and the IRS website are great resources for estimating fees.
Lakeshia Wyche-Walker, owner of Unique Expressions by Keisha in Forsyth, GA shares her own advice, “Understand the market for your dream business. Is it limited to a particular time of year or tied to a specific trend that is currently popular?” Walker emphasizes that this is an important factor when determining the ability to transform your side hustle into a full-time venture, “My monogramming is seasonal, and when people grow tired of it then I’m left with no income. I wouldn’t leave my full time job for what I’ve determined to be a supplementary income and that works for my specific business.”
Darrell Johnson, a self-employed mechanic from Asheville, NC, suggests holding on to a part-time position with benefits when you’re just starting out with your own business. As a business owner you will be responsible as the sole payee of an insurance plan, so it is sound advice to keep at least a year’s salary saved away before embarking on your venture. Johnson also says, “Always operate with an idea of who your client base is and what sets your product apart. Walker adds to this point by emphasizing the importance of building your clientele and remaining open to change and reinventing your brand.
It’s also imperative to purchase your full name as a domain name. It is not necessary to attach the domain to a site right away, but purchasing it protects you from the risk of someone else purchasing it and utilizing it in a manner that may detract from your brand. Rather than paying a one-time fee, web domains are essentially rented for a time period. The domain fee must be repaid at each renewal period, and in some cases it is possible to reserve a domain name for an extended period of time.
Also, purchase an initial set of business cards to carry with you. Every setting can be a networking opportunity and having cards on hand sets an initial impression of preparedness to potential customers and investors. Business planning occurs in steps, but those steps must always serve a purpose in achieving an end goal.
Main image courtesy of CreateHER Stock