• Ideas

Should You Start a Business?

4 minute read

Marty Nemko is a career and personal coach.

While the unemployment rate is down, it’s still tough to find a stable, well-paying job. So, many people are trying their hand at self-employment. Of course, at least half of new ventures go out of business within a few years.

Should you give self-employment a shot? Perhaps this internal debate will help you decide.

Person: I’m sick and tired of working for someone else.

Alter ego: And getting laid off by someone else.

Person: But most businesses go out of business.

Alter ego: And you have no experience running a business. Your odds will be really bad…

Person: But I’m smart.

Alter ego: But are you entrepreneurial?

Person: What does that mean?

Alter ego: Do you have the knack of determining if a business idea is viable?

Person: How do I know?

Alter ego: Well, have you come up with any good ideas that you later found out that someone else turned into a successful business?

Person: No but does it have to be an original idea? Chipotle wasn’t the first burrito shop. FedEx wasn’t the first competitor to the post office.

Alter ego: But they had zillions of dollars. Last I checked, you didn’t.

Person: What about one of those cloneable shoestring businesses Marty Nemko wrote about, like a chain of flower stands near a busy train or bus terminal?

Alter ego: I’m not interested in flowers.

Person: Then how about turning garages, basements and attics into useful spaces?

Alter ego: You know I’m no skilled tradesman.

Person: How about installing and removing real-estate signs, gutter cleaning, or window washing?

Alter ego: Too de-classe. Mom and dad would kill me, and most women wouldn’t go out with me.

Person: Okay, speaking of that, how about helping people create their online dating profile?

Alter ego: How’s that cloneable?

Person: Once you’ve learned how to do it well and your schedule is full, hire someone else, teach the person what you know and make sure payments go to you so there’s no theft.

Alter ego: How do I do that?

Person: Have people pay by calling you or using your website’s shopping cart, where the money goes into your account. Then pay your employee the agreed-on percentage of the take.

Alter ego: Those businesses seem kind of lame. What about some high-tech consulting thing?

Person: The more difficult, the greater the chance of failure. If you’re worried about status, realize that in becoming self-employed, you’ve instantly gone from unemployed worker bee to CEO. Besides, grow up—you’re too old to choose a career based on whether cretins think it has enough status. If they judge you based on that, you don’t want to have anything to do with them.

Alter ego: But we’re talking about mom and dad. I can’t dump them.

Person: Explain it with confidence and do well at the business, and I promise mom and dad will come around.

Alter ego: I’m still worried I don’t have a business sense.

Person: Then hire someone to help you develop the business plan, set up the biz and help you figure out how to keep your costs down and profit up. And your consultant will be there when you have a problem. The consulting fee will be well worth it.

Alter ego: What about a franchise?

Person: Too expensive. Usually it’s the franchisor, not the franchisee, that does well. Yeah, there are some successful ones but think of all those empty Subways.

Alter ego: I’m also worried I’ll procrastinate, won’t follow through.

Person: Now we have a problem. When you’re running your own business, it’s tick-tock. Every hour you’re not working, you’re making no money.

Alter ego: Maybe the pressure will make me toe the line?

Person: Maybe, maybe not.

Alter ego: Maybe if you hire someone to handle the office details, he or she will nag you into getting stuff done. Or maybe simply having that person around will motivate you. You don’t want to look like a loser in front of someone.

Person: Maybe, I’ll think about it. But maybe I should look for a job.

Alter ego: Maybe.

Person: (sigh)

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Write to Marty Nemko at mnemko@comcast.net

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.