The overriding fear that emerges among aspirant businesswomen is: ‘I won’t be able to make enough money to survive.’ It’s the single biggest reason women don’t move from wanting to start a business to actually doing it.
Firstly, you need to understand your true financial position. How much do you need to make (rather than want to make) in order to cover your obligations? Add 20 per cent for wiggle room. This is a powerful exercise and will show you one of two things: either you need to make less than you thought; or you have no idea how you are currently surviving. It’s a real motivator for regaining control, setting up a business or, at least, finding ways to make extra income.
Now, look at your expenses. What, if anything, can be cut? You don’t need 101 subscriptions to things you don’t have time to use. Do you really need that massive TV package? Credit cards? Switch to a lower interest rate.
Now, how can you make extra money? Write a list of at least three things you could do to earn more that won’t impact too heavily on your time (you need those crucial hours for your business). Think about what you could sell: put old clothes on eBay; clean out your junk; rent out your spare room.
I don’t believe in frugality. I want to teach you how to make money doing what you love, but you will have a far better chance of success if you aren’t worrying about how you’re going to pay the rent or mortgage. Can you afford to cut down to four days’ work a week and use the extra day for your business? If not, how much would you need to earn on that day to make up for it?
List three ways that you could make up the shortfall (consulting; running workshops or retreats; selling products?). Put a fee next to each option and mark them out of 10 for being the easiest to start now. That’s where you begin.
Don’t leave your job straight away. I recommend running your business in the background for six months, to really understand your opportunities (check your contract first). I call it a ‘five to nine’ business; one you work on in the evenings or at weekends. You’ll learn which parts of your business you enjoy, and which parts make the most cash.
You’ll start to see your income rise, which will give you the confidence to put in more time and effort – and, ultimately, to thrive, not just survive.
Get ready for action
1. Filter: Identify what and who is important
2. Prune: let go of what is not important
3. Prioritise: Take what matters to the front of the queue
4. Focus: Do what you really love and do it well
Photograph: Louise Haywood-Schiefer for Psychologies