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Six Steps to Being Your Own Boss, Part 1

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a young Bill GatesMany people dream about not having to answer to someone else’s rules, not having to rely on someone else for income, and not getting the hated response to any question, “You should just be happy to have a job.”

The dreamer who wishes for an existence free from these shackles wants to be his or her own boss. MSN is offering six steps to becoming your own boss, and I’ll look at each one.

Step 1: Get Some Experience

Those who follow a vision with an entrepreneurial spirit are often eager to get started, willing to assume risk, and don’t want to listen to anyone who wants to ground them in reality. Let’s look at one type of budding entrepreneur.

Meet the the young aspirants. Perhaps they are fresh out of high school or college, or still in the midst of their studies. There’s an itch to start a business and make money. Bill Gates and Michael Dell fit this description when they were starting out. Unsatisfied with the opportunities that were available to them, they had talent and saw a need for what they would eventually create.

BASIC for AltairBut here’s the thing: they gained experience before venturing out on their own. Gates began programming computers when he was thirteen. His earliest programming jobs including writing calendaring software for for his high school principal. Another job earned him and a friend $20,000 — at age fourteen — for creating traffic-counting software. He adapted the BASIC programming language for the newly developed personal computer while studying at Harvard. His skills set him apart at the time, but he developed his experience working on jobs for other people.

Here is what MSN has to say about gaining experience before stepping out on your own:

If you’ve never clocked a day of work in your life, you might consider taking a job before striking out on your own — even if the thought of doing time in a cubicle makes you shudder. Work experience in the field you want to break into may be the most productive use of your energy. Think of it as a paid research position.

Learning about the real world is important, and you’ll be at a disadvantage if you try to learn about work while trying to run a company or function on your own. This is a way to mitigate the risk of a quick and painful failure.

Also, those who fund you want to see some experience. If you’re lucky and can fund yourself, you don’t have to worry about this, but most people who start a business will need to take out a loan or receive upfront investment. Those who can give money to you will want to ensure that their risk is minimized, and one think they will look for is experience in the field you are entering.

The number one reason why new small business fail, according to the US Small Business Association, is lack of experience. Listen to the SBA; here’s how the organization suggests assesing your skills:

If you know what you are interested in, list what you know about the field or industry… Concentrate on specific business information rather than general life experience. All experience will be useful, but we can only use the business experience when we are making a decision about what skills you may need to develop in order to run your business.

Let's open up a restaurant in Santa FeThe first step to being your own boss is to work for someone else first. Get some experience in the niche you want to work independently. If you want to, for example, open up a restaurant in Santa Fe, you might want to work for an established restaurant or chef first.

This is Part 1 of a series. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Updated April 12, 2011 and originally published May 23, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

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