Turn your skills into income successfully

You have amazing skills that people can pay for. You know that there is a demand for them. But maybe fear holds you back. You rehearse in your mind all the failure cases you know. So and so went into self employment and failed. Maybe you even tried it in the past and failed too.

The truth of the matter is that the school system prepares us to be employees, to work for someone else. Unfortunately, there are not enough jobs to absorb the hundreds of thousands of Kenyan youth who join the job market from tertiary colleges and universities.

This is further compounded by the fact that the skills to equip people to employ themselves are intentionally left out of the curriculum. That explains the high failure rate among those who start businesses, with over 400,000 businesses closing annually in Kenya. 

The good news is that just like any other skill, the skills required in order to become successfully self employed can be learned. 

Do not risk taking the route to self employment when you are clueless about what it takes to build a successful business. How will you structure your business? How will you finance the business until it breaks even? How will you get clients?

Another major contributing factor to the very high failure rate of startup businesses is  unrealistic expectations. Someone starts a new business and wants to be making profit before the end of the first month. If money is not flowing by the second or third month, they close shop and go try something else. After repeating the same cycle 2 or 3 times, they conclude that business does not work. 
Know what to expect
I like to compare building a business with farming. You buy or lease a piece of land. That costs money. Then you fence the piece of land and hire people to cut down trees and bushes and to landscape the land. Cost. You still have not started earning yet. You buy seeds or seedlings and fertilizers and pay laborers to plant. Cost. Zero income yet.
Probably six months are gone since you embarked on farming and you have been spending money without earning yet. Then you nurture your young seedlings, weed, water the farm, keep away pests and wild animals. Then when the crop is ready you invest in harvesting, storage, marketing and distribution of your produce. All that costs and still you have not earned anything.
A new business takes on average six months to a year to begin paying you and longer to break even and move into profit. The first 2 years of a new business are characterized by uncertainty. It is actually a time of survival only. If you had not prepared yourself adequately for the journey ahead, you are likely to give up and quit. Many new businesses close at this stage.
Increase your chances of success
It is critical to prepare adequately before venturing into business. Market research will make or break your business. Is there a market for what you want to offer? Is the industry you are getting into growing, stagnant or is it going down?
Relying on the opinion of just one or two people who are in that line of business is not market research. You need to be clear about the market you are targeting and who your potential customers are.
You also need to understand the customers you are targeting so analyze some dynamics about them such as age bracket, geographical reach, income bracket, lifestyle, what motivates them to buy, who they are currently buying from and how you plan to dislodge them from the competition.
Analyze who your competition is and how you plan to position yourself in order to beat them. You will need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the competition in order to be able to dislodge some clients from them.
Far too many businesses fail because people embark on the journey blindly, basing their decisions on another individual’s business only. Do not venture into a certain business simply because you saw your neighbor or a relative succeeding in it.
Do your research properly before you make a decision to venture into business. It is your business to research everything there is to know about the industry you are venturing into. Never grope in the dark and expect to reach your destination safely.
Market research
Doing market research does not have to be complicated. You can spend a day online researching through Google, social media and other online sources. You can visit the website of other players in the industry and their social media pages. You can also take note of what is reported in the media.
You could also conduct the research physically. Maybe you want to venture into the beauty industry. Visit a number of beauty salons and make your observations. Listen to conversations about the business too. 
Make a point of visiting those places for a period of time and not just a one-day thing. There are different seasons in a business and also diverse factors at play so do your research over a period of time.
Learn from people who have succeeded in the business as well as those who failed. Pay special attention to those who failed because you want to avoid the mistakes they made. Wise people do not wait to learn from their own mistakes; they learn from the mistakes of others. 
You can learn a lot simply by making observations and engaging people in conversations as well as taking note of relevant discussions on social media so do not be intimidated by the idea of doing market research. 
There is no shortcut to doing market research. You have to do it if you want to increase your chances of success. You do not put your money, time and effort in something you don’t understand. Knowledge minimizes risk.
Building a successful brand takes time
If you have done your homework well and know that there is a need in the market place for what you are offering, keep going even when it takes months before you first customer makes a purchase. That is why it is always advisable to either have adequate savings to take care of you for at least one year or to start a new business on part time basis and only go full time once it can sustain you.
I normally do not consider a business failed unless I have done it consistently for at least a year and I have given it my all; learning, growing and making modifications as I become wiser. If you are not getting the results you desire, you might need to invest in some skills, outsource some functions or probably get yourself a coach. 
Working hard at your business day after day is not enough to unlock the doors to success. To become successful, you have to constantly invest in yourself. The number one reason why many new businesses fail is the unsuitability of the business owner(s). To become successfully self employed, you need to work on yourself; your self confidence, resilience, mental attitudes and they way you think, your communication and interpersonal relationship, networks, etc.
You have to constantly push yourself and get better; manage your time better such that you accomplish more in the same period of time, become disciplined such that you do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not. You complete the most important tasks first before you move to any other activity. You become more efficient, get things done faster, achieve more, make better decisions, etc.
If you work hard doing things the same way day after day, month after month never learning new skills or improving yourself in any way, then you should not be surprised if your business fails.
Bringing in a strategic partner, someone who will bring more value and complement you, might turn the business around. If a business is failing evaluate all aspects of it before you give up on it and quit. Take a hard and honest look at yourself. Do you have what it takes to build a successful business? Don’t continue with things as they are then expect different results.

I have put together a 90-day coaching program for people who are ready to venture into business. Book a free session here to assess if this program is for you. 


Financial Independence Africa