Becoming an entrepreneur can provide you with the means to increase your income substantially and give you the freedom that many people dream of having.

If you are working for another company and are thinking about transitioning from office life to full-time freelance, follow these steps to decide whether the entrepreneurial lifestyle is for you.

Step 1: Find Your Passion

Identify what kind of activities and hobbies mean most to you. What gets you excited? Make a list of possible businesses you can create from your passion.

Only list those businesses that you are confident that you could dedicate a significant portion of your time to working on them. If you do not have strong positive feelings about the business that you start, then you will not be able to put in the effort necessary to make it successful.

Step 2: Research

Before moving forward with your business idea, take the time to research each item on your list to see if there’s a need for what you plan to offer. Analyze your results, and narrow down the list to just three business ideas that according to your research are viable for your start.

Don’t forget to interview successful business owners that are in the same industry as your top 3 choices. See if you can shadow them for a day, and ask questions about their field.

Step 3: Identify Your Target Market and Competitors

At this point, you should have a clear idea of the type of business you’re going to launch. Now, your focus should be on your target market. They are your customers, the people that are going to buy your product or service.

The next step is to figure out, who are your customers? And, what are their pain points? To stay in business, you need to offer a product or service that they actually need.

Ask yourself, how is your business going to help them? Research some more to answer that question and create your buyer persona. A great tool to start with is the MakeMyPersona generator from HubSpot.

Once you’ve done that, identify any competitors who offer a similar product or service. Use that research to determine how to differentiate your business from your competition.

Step 4: Goal Setting

Come up with a list of goals for your business that outline what you want to accomplish during your first year. Go one step further and make them S.M.A.R.T. goals. What are S.M.A.R.T. goals?

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic, results-based).
  • Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

SMART goals are very popular because they are easy to understand and follow through.

Here’s an example:

I wish to grow the Social or Nothing blog from 10,000 pageviews to 55,000 pageviews by August 31, 2017.

Simple, right? Give it a try to set meaningful, actionable goals that you can actually achieve.

Step 5: Develop a Business Plan

It’s time to start putting things on paper in a form that you can continuously refer to track your progress towards reaching the goals you set.

You can use any business plan template or software that you’re comfortable with, but I’ve included below a couple of resources for you to help simplify the process.

Step 6: Find a Mentor

Enlist the help of a mentor or counselor. You could probably use some guidance and advice while you are getting your small business off the ground.

Find a mentor on local small business groups and professional organizations. Also, check the social media profiles of people you admire, or hire a business coach to help guide you through the launch of your business.

Step 7: Start Your Business

Before you leap into entrepreneurship, test the waters while you’re still employed. Work in your business at lunch, after work and weekends. See if you enjoy being an entrepreneur and running your own business.

Build a safety net so that when you quit your job, you’re not struggling to pay bills. Put at least six-months of living expenses in your savings account so that you can fall back on if you need it.

When you’re ready, begin to transition from your current job into your lifestyle as an entrepreneur. Use the marketing section of your business plan to guide you as you start to promote your business to potential clients.

That’s all you need to launch. You made it. Go hustle!

Becoming an entrepreneur requires patience. You need to pick an idea, research it, find your ideal customer, set goals, and plan before you can launch your business.

The work doesn’t end there, you will work longer hours than at your current job, and it may take up to six months to a year before you see the fruits of your hard work. Don’t let that stop you! It’s a rewarding and flexible way to make a living.

What about you? Do you have any advice for someone starting a business? Let us know in the comments.