How much experience do you need to start your own business?

“I’d love to start my own business, but I don’t have enough experience”.

I’ve had this conversation with so many women who’re unhappy in their current jobs/situations and feel an itch to do something different, to make a change. 

In this blog I’ll cover some common misconceptions, to help you see you already have enough

  • You don't need more time
  • The qualifications / skills you've already got, are fine
  • It's ok not to know everything already
  • It's fine if you're not #1 expert in the world
  • Just because you're good at something, that doesn't have to be your thing - enjoyment is more important 

Lets look at these in more detail:

The Myth of Time

Misconception 1: You Need X more months

The answer to “When do you think you’ll have enough experience?” is very often somewhere between “6 months”, to “5 years”

Time alone holds the key to having “enough”. 

Thinking about your own experience, remember a time you interviewed a candidate for a job role - where did you put your focus, was it on the skills and experience they had acquired in their career so far? Ask them to recount a specific time they delivered something or overcame obstacles. Or did you simply exclude them because they’d only spent 16 months not 22 months in a role?

I was worried about having enough experience when someone pointed out that McKenzie consultants are fresh out of university and are being paid to help businesses in the areas I wanted to focus on & they lacked what I had in spades, boots-on-the-ground experience. 

Map out your total career, how long have you been doing what you’ve been doing? This is enough.


The Myth of Qualifications

Misconception 2: You Need a certificate

You may feel that you need an official qualification before you start your own business, or an official course to prove you understand something. 

While I was still ‘Boss Lady’, I wanted to better understand the process of creating a Customer Journey Map (a way to visually represent something like a person buying an item from a website, and plotting all the interactions along the way). It was a relatively new tool/process at the time - I decided that I could get an Agency in to lead the project and I’d learn what I needed on the job. I didn’t need to attend a course using some imagined case study, this hands-on practical experience gave me what I needed to put all the theory into place. 

If you feel you need to understand something a little better, there may be an opportunity that exists or one you can manufacture (like I did), that gives you what you need, rather than a course.

When I decided being a consultant was a good path for me, I started looking up courses on ‘how to become a consultant’, to achieve some certificate that I could publish on my LinkedIn profile/website. I felt I needed this to make it ‘official’ in some way.

I had a career coach at the time, who asked me “Why do you feel you need this? You’ve 20 years of experience, why do you need a certificate?”. She had a point. It was a lack of confidence, not a lack of certificate that was holding me back. 

 If the default feeling is ‘sign up to a course’, take a moment to challenge this, is it completely necessary, is there an alternative that gives you the confidence you need to move forward? 


Misconceptions 3: Need to know all of the things

One of the most common misconceptions is that you need a lifetime of industry experience to start a successful business. While experience can be beneficial, it's not an absolute prerequisite. Starting a business isn't about knowing everything from day one; it's about being willing to learn and adapt along the way.

You don’t need to know all the things about all the things. 

Thinking about your current role, you’re not expected to know everything about everything, it is perfectly natural to ask for opinions, research and find the best alternative with current resources. 

When I first considered becoming a consultant, I’d spent 20+ years in the Telecommunications industry - I worried I lacked experience across other industries. 

My very first client was in the Media industry, fresh eyes allowed me to ask different questions and spot opportunities. Something I initially saw as a major roadblock worked in my favour. 

You don’t need to be an expert in all things - working for yourself, you’ll still be able to ask questions and admit you don’t know, but given all your skills and experience, you’ll be able to work it out.


Myth of Expertise

Misconception 4: You need to be the most experienced

It is natural to start comparing yourself to others in your industry/field of expertise. Start focussing on the things you lack, identifying all gaps in your knowledge and you’ll then try to plug those gaps… getting yourself into a YouTube spiral/course signing up / book buying frenzy.

This was my experience, and I have a bookshelf full of books to prove it. 


You may be considering ‘doing the same thing’ as someone else who’s been doing that for 5 years as a self-employed person, but your approach, reference points, and the way you solve problems are different from mine. This isn’t bad or good, it’s just different and you’ll each appeal to different types of people/businesses/brands. 


Overlaying Enjoyment

Misconception 5: Focus on what you’re good at

Another myth is that you should prioritize experience over enjoyment. While expertise can be crucial, your passion and enthusiasm for your business idea are equally important. Starting a business is a challenging journey, and it becomes much more manageable and rewarding when you genuinely love what you do.

Think about it this way: if you're genuinely passionate about your business idea, you're more likely to stay committed, learn quickly, and persevere through challenges. Passion can often be a powerful substitute for experience, driving you to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge as you go.

For more than 15 years, I was responsible for building communication programs that involved sending direct mail, letters, emails, and texts. I became an expert, speaking at conferences around the world about Customer Relationship Management (CRM), talking about open rates of emails and engagement. 

I’m excellent at whipping up an email, but it wasn't something I really loved anymore. 

My business focus is on process improvement, sometimes that involves auditing emails/communication programs.

Just because you’re excellent at something, this doesn’t have to mean this must be the sole focus of your business.


Get out of your own way.

These are just some of the common misconceptions that hinder aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly those who are considering making a career change. 

 By dispelling the myths surrounding the need for more time, formal qualifications, or encyclopedic knowledge, I'd recommend individuals recognize their existing capabilities - and if starting your own business/becoming self-employed is something that has always been on your mind, have the confidence to take the first steps to investigating if it's right for you right now. 

 You're unique & you've enough experience - stop getting in your own way.

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