Whether unemployment is a reality or a worry for you, you're not alone. A May 2020 survey by the World Economic Forum found that 40 percent of Americans are losing sleep over unemployment anxiety.
Fortunately, many experienced professionals have a buffer that can help them tame those worries: their skills and social capital. The experience you've accumulated over your career can put you in a prime position to start a business and build greater job security.
"There has literally never been a time in history where we can make so much happen,” says Cathy Heller, host of the Don't Keep Your Day Job podcast and author of a book of the same name. Although the coronavirus pandemic and the recession have created challenges, Heller notes that barriers to entry for many businesses are low and that those with experience may have an edge in the marketplace.
Here are steps you should consider if you're thinking about starting your own business.
Decide on a direction
Think about what you do well, and don't let uncertainty affect your perception of your value, says business writer Elaine Pofeldt, author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business. And if your goal is to get out of your current line of work and start something new, acknowledge that, too, she suggests. The skills you've accumulated over your career can usually transfer to another line of work. Small-business owners are typically confident in their abilities. Indeed, a 2019 survey by lending platform Kabbage found that 82 percent of successful ones did not doubt they had the right qualifications and experience to run a company.
In some cases you may want to go in a completely different direction for your next act. That's what Faith McKinney, now 54, did in 2010. She was a janitor for the United States Postal Service when she decided to work on her bucket list, she says. She joined a networking organization, and after the organizer moved away, she stepped in to run it. She found a mentor who helped her improve her public speaking skills. And McKinney kept putting herself out there, ultimately meeting a cameraman for a local web magazine who needed on-air talent and gave her a shot. Because of her relentless skill building and fearlessness, she now works part-time as a television producer in Indianapolis. Kinney didn't want to give up her day job, but she has a side-hustle small business that she loves.
Look at the landscape
Once you've decided on the direction you want to go, research how your abilities can meet a need in the marketplace, Pofeldt says. So what will set your business apart? Investigate potential competitors and gather information about prices. “The quickest way to figure out what to charge is to ask other people at the same professional level as you,” she says.