How (not) to go independent

People in almost any profession can go independent--but the experience might not be what you expect. Photo: Maison Moderne

People in almost any profession can go independent--but the experience might not be what you expect. Photo: Maison Moderne

“Going independent” can mean a lot of things: you might be launching a novel startup company, setting up a legal framework in which to sell your products or services, or opening a business on a preexisting model (like a café). Regardless of your situation, you’ll run into challenges. Here are four things to watch out for.

Administrative headache

For many, the biggest hurdle to going independent will be the paperwork: figuring out how to structure your company, setting up social security contributions, sorting out your taxes, etc. Mathias Keune, cofounder of Ourbike, recently set up a company and has some good news: “Luxembourg is a great country in which to go independent because it offers so much support. If you go to the House of Entrepreneurship, for example, they explain everything: how to start a company, all the basic stuff.” Indeed, the HoE offers guidance for startup hopefuls, but also for anyone wishing to set up a freelance business or a brick-and-mortar shop. The process may be annoying, but guidance and experts are available. Use them. 

Taking the plunge

For many would-be entrepreneurs, the very first step is quitting a job--a job that is inevitably more secure than going independent could ever be. Quitting might even be your main motivation. Either way, it’s scary and you’ll want to be secure in your decision and to do it right. One key thing to remember is this: even if you’re striking out on your own, it’s important to build up a community of supporters. Develop your ideas and plans with the help of professionals (there are such things as business plan coaches), crowdsource help if you can, and talk to as many friends and advisors as possible.

Adding some reality to your dreams

In a November interview, Delano asked Fit 4 Start coach Michel Blumenthal about the biggest mistake that entrepreneurs make. “Most entrepreneur candidates,” he responded, “are too in love with their idea and believe that everyone else will be as well.” In other words, they’re unprepared for a lukewarm reaction to their product or service--which is near and dear to their hearts--and don’t respond well. One remedy, the coach went on, is to have some humility: “One needs to be ready to adapt an initial idea to the market reality.” His advice is for startups, but could be extended to entrepreneurs of other stripes as well. Although your vision is crucial, some opportunistic tweaks to your offering (or how you’re communicating it) could be what turns failure into success. 

Realising what you are

Some professions have nothing whatsoever to do with business, economics or marketing. Independents in these fields (e.g. dentists, teachers, journalists) are at risk of not fully knowing what they’re getting into. You want to focus exclusively on your area of expertise, but that’s impossible: every entrepreneur has to worry about accounts, competitors, advertising and so on. Both for success and for your sanity, it’s better to acknowledge this fact early on and to build it into your planning. How many hours per week should you spend on marketing? If it’s five, can you afford to “lose” that time? Is it worth it to outsource some of these activities?

Even self-sworn entrepreneurs run into a similar problem. In an interview with Delano in October, Guylaine Bouquet-Hanus, business manager at the House of Entrepreneurship, commented that “most business owners who are starting out tend to focus a lot on marketing actions revolving around the product or service and are putting way less effort on the monitoring of key financial statements.” Is that bad? Yes, it’s bad: “Running a business without collecting and acting upon [financial statistics] is equivalent to driving a car blindfolded.”

This article was originally published in Delano’s working in Luxembourg supplement.