WHAT IS AN “accidental entrepreneur”? The answer is: a person who never expected to be self-employed or thought of herself or himself as an entrepreneur.
An accidental entrepreneur is not a born or natural entrepreneur, or even someone who is comfortable, at first, selling products or services. Accidental entrepreneurs don’t set out to be entrepreneurs; rather, they find themselves working on their own by chance or reluctant choice, and only gradually come to find that they enjoy it. At that point, they realize that they need to learn what they don’t already know—everything they can, in fact—in order to make their business a success.
Here are a few examples of accidental entrepreneurs:
• A communication specialist takes a retirement package, and a few months later she agrees to do a project for her former boss. The boss, enthused about the specialist’s work, recommends her to someone in another company. Soon she is working on projects for three companies. One day it dawns on her that she has a consulting business. This is fine with her. But so far this work came strictly through referrals. How can she market herself to other companies?
• An engineer has not been able to find work in the high-tech industry and needs money to pay his mortgage. He takes a substitute-teaching job at a local school and discovers that many of his students need tutoring in math. He starts an after-school tutoring program and discovers that he really enjoys working with students, especially those who are math-phobic. He realizes that he could build a business around this. But how?
• A therapist, counselor, or coach finds herself enjoying working one-onone with clients and wants to build a private practice. She keeps her “day job” while slowly developing a referral base. At some point, she knows she wants to do this work full-time, but she doesn’t have enough clients to support herself to this degree. What steps does she need to take in order to accomplish this goal?
• A corporate refugee has a vision of living a quieter life, away from the city and the long commute. She manages to move with her husband to a