Taking the Plunge into Entrepreneurship Harnessing your energy after a layoff can be the bridge to starting your own business, even in a challenging economy.

By Nacie Carson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Taking the Plunge into Entrepreneurship

In her book, "The Finch Effect," author Nacie Carson distills the best practices of professionals who have successfully adapted to a challenging economy. In this excerpt, she describes how harnessing your entrepreneurial energy can become the bridge to your own business.

Christin, 31, of Orange County, Calif., was laid off from her job as a digital music consultant in 2008. "I became so desperate that I even applied for minimum-wage retail jobs," she says.

After three months of trying to get back into the traditional workforce, Christin committed to getting herself back on track, just a completely different one. She shifted her thought process and started looking for a new opportunity. The result? She started Green 4 Your Soul, a one-stop shop for all things green. She'd been developing the idea for three years, but never had time to pursue it while working full-time.

Now, Christin is reveling in making her own schedule and running her own business. "I find that I work around-the-clock, including weekends, but I try to mix things up so I don't get too burnt-out or overwhelmed in one sitting," she says. "I never feel overworked like I did working in corporate America."

I have heard many similar stories from people around the U.S. who harnessed their entrepreneurial energy to successfully -- and happily -- strike out on their own. Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is particularly attractive to professionals who have seen opportunities in their industry dry up, get outsourced to foreign labor markets or replaced with technological solutions. It is also attractive to those who are itching to break out of the nine-to-five and pursue their passions as their occupations.

Related: Tony Hawk on Following Your Passion (Video)

At first blush, starting your own business in a down economy might seem like a bad idea. After all, if the huge corporate guys are teetering on the brink of disaster, why would a microbusiness fare any better? A September 2011 article in USA Today notes that the number of self-employed Americans has remained stagnant since the recession started in 2008, at just over 14 million. Financial concerns and a lack of confidence are the major reasons why people are backing away from entrepreneurial paths.

Christin acknowledges the challenges and benefits of entrepreneurship: "You are going to have to work harder since you are not working for someone else, but if you are doing what you love it doesn't feel like work. Because 24/7, you are getting the word out on your business. And if you do that, you can quickly build a following and a living."

When it comes to starting your own business, the news isn't all doom and gloom. Commercial real estate is down, making office space more affordable to lease. Thanks to the Internet, setting up an effective online marketing campaign is fast and inexpensive. With a higher unemployment rate, finding customers for a product or service may be no more difficult than finding a job. As far as the security piece goes, I beg to differ: With such high unemployment, it is hard for this observer to believe that a full-time job is any more of a sure thing than working for yourself.

I can't tell you that there is no risk to starting your own business. In any economy, some ventures will succeed and some will fail. Others will plug along unspectacularly until the creator moves on to a new project or sells it to someone who can make it succeed. How yours would fare is a matter of a million factors, including preparation, determination, passion and a healthy dose of luck.

Related: Is Starting a Business an Art or a Science?

If you are starting to consider that now or sometime down the road you might branch out on your own, here are some questions to help you consider how ready you are, both mentally and logistically, to handle the risks and potential outcomes of entrepreneurship:

  • What kind of capital do you have to fund start-up costs?
  • Do you have enough savings to buffer your personal expenses while the business is starting, and do you have a realistic sense of how long that will take?
  • Do you consider yourself disciplined, self-motivated and driven to succeed?
  • Do you prefer taking direction or giving direction?

Review your responses. Do you see any trends that give you pause about pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor? I have found that seeing your own written responses can help determine whether this is the right way to move your career forward.

When you take an entrepreneurial leap, even your best-laid plans are subject to greater than normal instances of Murphy's Law; that is to say, if it can go wrong, it will. So if you are planning to make the leap, you need to plan for extra resources to handle the inevitable arrival of unanticipated costs. Before you get started, it's not a bad idea to double or even triple what you think you might need to be on the safe side.

Successful entrepreneurship is about focusing on what problems you can solve, doing your homework and learning how to fail, successfully.

Related: Will 2012 Be the Year You Start a New Business?

The article is an edited excerpt from "The Finch Effect: The Five Strategies to Adapt and Thrive in Your Working Life" by Nacie Carson (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012).

Nacie Carson is director of development services at Cleaver and Co., a professional-development consulting firm in Boston. She is the author of "The Finch Effect: The Five Strategies to Adapt and Thrive in Your Working Life" (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012).

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