How to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur

Making the transition isn't easy but it is possible

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Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The rewarding feeling of making profit and positively changing someone’s life excited me and kept me motivated.

My professional life, however, did not start the way I exactly wanted. In fact, I made the mistake of listening to people who told me that I couldn’t start a business without having prior work experience in the corporate world. That stopped me from achieving some of my goals and put them on the back burner for a while. While working in the corporate world I continued to run a fashion line I had started a year before I joined, and also launched my consultancy.

Thankfully, I didn’t stop myself from becoming an entrepreneur, and soon jumped back into my new career. I ultimately quit my corporate job, and I am now happily managing a number of businesses full time.

Even though I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, making the transition from a full-time employee to a full-time entrepreneur wasn’t easy. There are many adjustments from losing a good steady source of income to changing your work routine and going from a fixed set of hours to your own flexible time.

Before you leave your nine-to-five job, make sure you consider a few key points:


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Are you ready to be a full-time entrepreneur?

The decision to take that leap is not a light one. It took me a long time to make sure that this is something I can do full-time and that it’s not just a romantic idea floating in my head. It also took me a long time to completely understand that it won’t be easy, that it won’t be a predictable business, that especially in the beginning it will hard, and that I will be working often more than nine-to-five.

It is also important to ask yourself why you want to become an entrepreneur. Is it because you just want to quit your job, or you are genuinely passionate about your idea and want to bring it to life?

If your answer is yes to the first part of the question, then I’m sorry to say that starting a business shouldn’t be a reason just because you hate your job. It takes a lot of commitment, hard work, and more effort than what you may be investing in your current corporate job to start a business.

Better to start slow than fast

When I discuss my business with some people, they assume that it went somehow fast: that I got up one day, submitted my resignation letter, walked out the corporate door, never looked back, and the next month I made a whole lot of money. I wish it did, but that is just a fantasy, and reality is often different. I didn’t get up one day, rent an office, and hire a bunch of people. I started slow, steady, and built each stage with careful consideration.

In fact, this is how I believe it should be done: nice and steady goes a long way.

Fine-tune your idea

One of the hardest questions I had to answer in the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey is how to correctly describe what I do. It is a simple question, but one that has many layers. How is it different? Are there others doing it? If there are others, how are you different? Before you go ahead and print your flyers, think this part through. Have a clear and direct description of your business and what it stands for.

Essentially a business should be there to help solve a problem, or fill gaps in the market. My favourite businesses are the ones that make our lives easier, save time, and help us achieve our goals. Finding your differentiating factor will involve a lot of research, both on a local and at an international level.

I developed my business idea before I quit my job. I knew exactly what I wanted, and what would make a difference in the market.

If you are dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur, take my advice and learn from my experience. Take things slow and seek advice from those who have experience in the field. Be very sure that this is how you see yourself working for the coming period. It won’t be easy. But, believe in yourself. You can do it!

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati entrepreneur, who manages her creative consultancy in Abu Dhabi.