Considering starting your own company? Read this first.

When it comes to our working lives, a lot of us have dreams of starting our own companies. It’s a fairly common dream to have, especially for a generation that values doing what they love, but starting your own business is far from an easy task. There’s a lot of hard work, dedication, and failure before you succeed. You knew that already, didn’t you?

Here are a few key pieces of advice that an aspiring entrepreneur needs to know:

Fill a Need …

This is probably already an obvious point, but your company should fill a need. Even better, it should solve a problem! Whether you’ve found a solution for a glaring hole in a process that’s been used for years, or developed something completely new, your business should add value where it’s needed. If your company addresses a point of concern for a certain customer or industry, you’ve got your target market ready-made.

Do Market Research

When you know who your market is and what they need from you, you will be better able to serve your customer base. Doing your research will also help you customize and tailor your services and products to the unique needs of your customers. Another tip is to look at what your competitors are doing and see what is missing from their offerings.

Follow Your Passion

The most important thing to consider when aspiring to be an entrepreneur is what you want to do. Regardless of how great an idea may be to anyone else, if you don’t feel passionate about it, you’re not going to get off the ground. Even though something may be practical, choosing your path based on practicality rather than passion may get you somewhere you don’t want to be, or it can be a recipe for failure.

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Passion isn’t everything when it comes to business, but the energy that passion brings to your work can take you a long way. Even if your profits are low, the tasks are dull, and the air seems to have gone from the room, your passion is what will bring you and your team a second wind. It will get you through the dark times.

Just Go For It …

Working to develop your business and put out the perfect product is great, but if you keep waiting until you’re ready, you’ll never get going. There will never be the perfect time to launch your business. Put aside your fears about imperfection and just launch it, already. Everything you have now is enough to get you started, and once you’re actually up and running, you’ll find you have all the momentum you need to keep innovating and growing your business.

… And Fail Up

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”

Michael Jordan said that, and while it’s become something of a cliché, it rings true—especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. Nothing great was ever built on a first try, and your company won’t be an exception. Though it’s a given that you’ll fail a couple of times, you can make sure that each time you fail, you fail up. Failing up means you’ve learned from your mistakes, and each time you set out to try again, you take all those lessons with you until you succeed. As long as you have the drive, and are able to learn from your mistakes, each time you fail will be valuable.

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Don’t Forget About the Business Plan …

Following your passion and working on the day-to-day aspects of your business can be all-consuming, but you can’t let your drive to create a great product get ahead of your need to develop a great business. While the traditional hundred-plus page business plan may be out the window in this day and age, there are still things you need to have in mind when setting out on your entrepreneurial endeavor.

Start with a large end goal, and break it down from there. Consider product or service diversification, growing your team, marketing and branding efforts, and taking care of the necessary legal issues for small businesses and startups.

… But Keep an Open Mind

It’s tempting to go into your small business endeavor with a plan you think is absolutely airtight, and to stick to it. However, your company doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and not everything is going to go exactly the way you planned it. A ton of outside factors will play their roles in your business’s development, and you should let them. It’s fine to have an idea of the path you want to set out on, but if you keep an open mind when it comes to your path, it could lead you to somewhere great that you never even considered.

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Always Be Yourself

It’s easy to judge yourself and your successes against other people’s, but it’s OK to be different. Actually, it’s probably necessary. You shouldn’t be an identical copy of someone else’s company. If you model your whole business and its development after another company, not only will you be a copycat, but you’ll also likely end up disappointed.

Success looks different for everyone, and what worked for Steve Jobs at Apple or Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook will not necessarily work for you. It’s great to use other companies’ successes as case studies and learning opportunities, but remember to apply their experiences to yours, don’t replicate them exactly.

The thing to know about being an entrepreneur is that your drive and your dream are what will keep you going. You have to be your own biggest fan. If you believe in yourself and your ability to reach your goals, you already have everything you need to get started.