(Entrepreneur) — Have you had it with your paycheck job? If you think you are ready to become your own boss, January is a perfect time to start moving toward what you really want to do with the rest of your life. I remember when I knew my next career would be as a small-business owner. I had my dream job, working as a television news producer in Philadelphia, the nation’s fourth-largest media market. People work their whole careers to get to top-market TV, yet I was getting headaches on the way to work in the morning.
I had thoughts of starting my own business since my undergrad days, inspired by Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Studios. Despite my entrepreneurial goals, I knew the value of getting business experience. After working for three television stations, I felt comfortable that I knew storytelling and production. Next, I had to learn how to run a production company.
I worked weekends at the TV station, so I had two business days a week to do freelance work for another production company. I enjoyed that work and I learned important lessons, such as how to price a job and how to budget my time between doing work and finding the next client.
My next move was to make a plan to leave my job. My biggest concern was making sure I was financially stable enough to quit my job. I took out a home equality loan and paid off all my bills, including my car. I took my lunch to work and stopped eating out to save money. I invested in some business plan software to map out my enterprise, but creating a business plan the first time was really hard. I eventually signed up for a business plan course. The class was great, and I was able to finish my plan. The class also made me realize that I needed much more business training. I quickly became a student of entrepreneurship.
In 1998, I launched Quintessence Multimedia, a video production company. People soon started asking me for business advice. After I gained five years of experience running my company, I began speaking on panels and doing workshops about marketing and how to start a business. In 2007, I branched out to do consulting work about small-business best practices.
After 12 years as an entrepreneur, having made many, many expensive mistakes, I believe that if you want to become a small-business owner, you need a 12-month transition plan to give yourself the best odds of succeeding.
The biggest difference between starting a business in 2011 and launching one a decade ago is that the current economy is brutal, and so is competition. If you fumble around and make costly mistakes, you’ll fail. According to the Small Business Administration, only half of new businesses survive five years.