When it comes to entrepreneurship, there are two seemingly mutually exclusive ways to get started. The first is doing a proof of concept while you keep your day job. The second is putting everything on the line and just going for it full-time.
Proof of concept is testing out a business idea before going in all the way. This is a wise thing to do: no matter how solid your business plan is, and no matter how good people think your idea is, you never really know if it’s viable until you get it out there and start selling. So, the logic goes, if it doesn’t sell, go back to the drawing board, and if it does, then decide if you want to quit your job and go for it.
Then there’s the concept of putting it all on the line and just going for it. The logic here is that you’ll be more willing to climb mountains and overcome obstacles if you simply have no choice. In other words, if you have a way out, you’ll take it. If you don’t, you won’t.
So what should you do? Test… or just do it?
I tried both. My first few business ideas all went the proof of concept route. None of them really worked. Then, I got a new idea, and I decided—rather foolishly when I look at it now—to just go for it. My first few months of being a self-employed consultant were brutal, but then things started to take off.
I have a few theories. Bear in mind that I’m a service provider. If you’re selling widgets, the reasons may be different.
Theory 1: People can tell if you’re part-timing it and people want to work with pros, not part-timers. They can sense when you’re a bit stressed on a call because you’re calling from a conference room at work. That negative vibe works against you.
Theory 2: People respect dedication. When you tell someone you’re doing your thing full time, they may admire you. They may appreciate your guts. They may also assume that you must be really good at what you do. All of these things could help you get new business.
Theory 3: People like working with dedicated people. When you’re all in, you’re all in. That’s the only thing in your mind. You’re not worrying about your project at work or your performance review. You’re just thinking about your client. You’re available for that call when they need you to be available. People appreciate this.
I’m not sure if it’s one of these theories that explains it, or all three. All I know is when I chose the logical path (test), nothing happened. And when I chose the emotional path (just do it), things took off. The latter option takes guts, perseverance, and a lot of foolhardiness. In my case, the risk was worth it. I guess one way to look at it is this: if it doesn’t work, you can always go back to a day job.