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Before you make the transition into non-traditional work, you need to do at least five things. Some are easier than others, but all are crucial to your success. Follow these steps to ensure that when you finally take the leap, you make a splash instead of a bellyflop.

1. Have a clear vision and a plan.

Before you ever transition out of a job, you must have a clear vision for what your life will be like and what you plan to do when you make the switch. You should never leave a job without knowing exactly what you’re going to do and how it’s going to work! If you don’t know what business to start or how to turn your knowledge into income, but you know you really want to do this, read a book, take a class, hire an expert to guide you and help you figure it out.

Then, depending on the kind of business you decide upon, create a plan. This could be as formal as a business plan — a must if you’re embarking on a business that requires financing (which, frankly, most “businesses in blue jeans” absolutely don’t need) — but it could also be a less formal plan that includes what you’re going to do, a clear description of your target market, and a marketing plan. And make sure you scope out the competition!

The point is, have a very clear plan so you hit the ground running on Day One of your Big Adventure.

2. Save.

This is a big one: money. This is probably the most important out of the five I’ll talk about today. If you don’t plan ahead with your money and have enough saved up to live on while you’re building your “business in blue jeans,” you’ll get to a point where you panic and start operating out of that scarcity conversation I talked about a few weeks ago (“Are You Having A Scarcity Conversation?”). You’ll want to save up enough to cover living expenses for at least six months, which gives you a nice cushion and some emergency money.

When you’re figuring out how much you’ll need to live on, make sure you factor in what happens to things like your health insurance when you make the transition. At the least, do some research with a qualified insurance agent who can give you the lowdown on the pricing for some decent self-insurance plans.

You’ll also want to figure in enough money to start your business — and with a “business in blue jeans,” you don’t need THAT much, but you do need enough to pay certain professionals along the way. I work with clients all the time to help them figure out how much they need to sock away for their Big Startup Moment. This is a little different for everyone, but I can tell you that a “business in blue jeans” can be quite affordable to start — probably more so than you’d ever imagine.

How do you save up all that money? The truth is, you work. Yep, the chick who’s constantly telling you that you don’t have to work all the time is telling you to get a part-time job. Remember, this is a temporary measure that you’re implementing so you can buy yourself the dream life. There are several ways to do this, including freelance work that you do in your spare time and getting a part-time job, but however you decide to do it, make sure you put all the income from that part-time work into an account designated for this purpose.

My husband worked at his full-time job plus an additional part-time job for eleven months to save up enough money to live on so he could have his dream life. It wasn’t always easy and it required sacrifices. He got tired sometimes and didn’t get to do all the fun things he always wanted to do. But because his vision was clear and he knew exactly what he wanted to do, he was always able to stay motivated and on-track,  and persevere when he didn’t always feel like working.

A couple of tips for people contemplating the part-time job method:

  • If you can, keep your weekends free for rest and relaxation.
  • Figure out approximately how long you’ll need to work part-time to save up enough to live on and then make sure you take a little vacation about halfway in to rejuvenate.

3. Communicate with your friends and family.

When you work from home, especially immediately following your transition, friends and family think you’re on holiday. They may call in the middle of your work day, they might think you’re available for afternoon hang-out time, they may even ask you to do favors for them that they can’t seem to manage because they have a “real job.”

It’s crucial when you make a transition like this that your family and friends know what you’re doing. If you choose to set regular working hours, communicate that to the people in your life and let them know that during those hours, you’re “at the office.” And let them know that as a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats and have to do a lot of different kinds of work. For example, some of my friends think I spend an inordinate amount of time on social media sites instead of working, and I have to explain to them that the time I spend on Facebook, Twitter, and other similar sites (which actually isn’t nearly as substantial as it seems, I just happen to keep a browser open all the time) is actually work time for me.

You’ll find that some people in your life will be more understanding and supportive than others, but communication is absolutely key, especially when you’re doing administrative tasks where the income-generation isn’t always as easy to see.

When I work with a client who is in a relationship, I encourage the client to bring his/her partner to our initial meetings and consultations. In my books, I specifically encourage readers to read certain sections of the book to their spouses and partners, so everyone is on the same page. I find that this creates a stronger foundation for success, as it creates understanding and even “buy-in” from the partner. You’ll find that success is easier to achieve when you aren’t fighting a battle on all fronts.

4. Learn self-discipline.

While #3 is about external influences, this one is about internal influences. Non-traditional work requires one skill above all others: self-discipline.

I’ve had a few clients who were a bit overwhelmed by the freedom of a “business in blue jeans” at first. They go run errands or see movies in the middle of a weekday, hang out with friends, watch TV… it can be slightly maddening to have this new freedom. So before you head out on your own, you have to decide how you’re going to handle the flexibility.

At first, when you start a new venture, you do work a lot. You’re building systems, getting things set up properly, working with professionals on various aspects of your business, and it can take a lot of time. Sometimes it takes even more time than you’d work at a regular job. But there are a couple of things to remember about this: 1) you’re working for you now, so every single thing you do and every hour you put in is something you will benefit from, 2) you’re now working at something that matters to you, something you’re passionate about, and something you enjoy. Work becomes a very different thing when you’re doing something you love and knowing you’re going to benefit from everything you do.

That said, as one of my readers pointed out last week, you’ll still find that there are things you won’t like to do. This is where self-discipline comes in. Often, you can outsource the things you don’t like to do. Outsourcing is far more affordable than most people imagine. But even with the magic of outsourcing, there are still things you’ll do for your business for which you’ll need some self-discipline. In my case, writing is one of the things I’m really passionate about, because it allows me to share what I know with others. But as much as I enjoy doing it, it’s something that requires some self-discipline on my part. I could easily find about ten other things to do right now than writing. But I have a deadline and if I want to get this material out to you (and I really do), I have to have the self-discipline to finish this article, as well as the others I’ve agreed to write for other publications.

Sometimes, if you’re a free spirit and you know self-discipline is an issue for you, you just have to build in a structure to take advantage of your strengths. I have one client who has certain days when she wakes up and knows she just isn’t in a “working mood.” If she tries to push herself to work, she just wastes time and doesn’t accomplish a thing. So we built in a structure that takes advantage of the days when she IS in a working mood — she can work to hear heart’s content on those days, and stores up enough material and content so that her automated systems release that content on days when she doesn’t feel like working. Although this type of work style isn’t for everyone, this is where you can really see the power of the flexibility inherent in a “business in blue jeans.” One size and one style doesn’t fit all, but you can tailor a “business in blue jeans” to fit how you operate.

5. Be in the right mindset.

Before you embark on your adventure, you want to be in the right mindset. This includes a couple of things. First, you need to be in a “design your life” mindset. That means you have to be aware that every action you take is a part of crafting a life that you desire. So you must be aware and awake, because every action has a consequence. Decide to watch a movie this afternoon instead of ensuring you meet a client deadline, and you’ve just made a decision that may not craft the lifestyle you want (actually, by making that decision, you’re also making a clear action statement about what life you really want). So going back to #1, make sure your vision is clear, and be in the frame of mind to take actions to make that vision a reality.

Second, you need a mindset geared toward success. That means more than just waking up in the morning and thinking, “I would like to be successful,” and then going about your day. A success mindset is about envisioning your success and acting on that vision without hesitation, without excuses, without wavering.

Getting your ducks in a row before you make the transition to a “business in blue jeans” is absolutely critical to your success. Keeping at least these five things in mind and covering all the bases will give you a great head start and a foundation for success.

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