You wish to be an entrepreneur, but don’t know where to start? Don’t panic. You’re not the first person to face this problem. Especially because there is no playbook for first-time entrepreneurs. One thing is sure though, the roadmap below can point you in the right direction...
1. Do you meet the conditions to become an entrepreneur?
Let’s make something perfectly clear before getting started: an entrepreneur isn’t necessarily someone who has the “idea of the century” and manages to raise millions in capital… Micro-entrepreneurs, franchisees, retailers, freelancers, farmers, architects…the type of business is irrelevant. They are all entrepreneurs from the moment they are legally independent and act under their own responsibility.
To become self-employed in Belgium, and before setting up your business, you must meet certain prerequisite conditions. You must:
- be 18 or older;
- not have been declared incompetent and not be on probation;
- be able to exercise all of your civil and political rights;
- be allowed to exercise all acts related to operating a self-employed business.
If you are Belgian or from an EU Member State or from Lichtenstein, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland, you can get started immediately.
If you don’t meet this prerequisite condition, you will need to obtain a professional card to be able to be self-employed in Belgium.
2. Not sure you have the talent it takes to be an entrepreneur?
The success of a business creation project doesn’t depend solely on economic and financial factors. It’s primarily a matter of your state of mind, starting with your motivation. Why do you want to start a business? What was the trigger? As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready to deal with a number of challenges. Are you able to handle periods of intense work and of stress, to recover in the event of hard times, can you learn from your mistakes and get back up, persevere...? Take the test and check that you have the right profile and motivation (and health!) to create a sustainable business.
List your assets on paper to check if they are a plus for your business. If you need to, ask your family and friends to get an even clearer picture. Other people often know you better than you think and may open your eyes to certain weaknesses. They may tell you that entrepreneurship isn't for you... If this is the case, tell yourself that entrepreneurship isn’t the only way to succeed in life...Some people just don't have the time, personality, family or financial situation to start their own business.
3. What is your project, exactly?
There are two types of situations:
- You already have a basic idea of your project.
Great, you can go directly to point 4!
- You want to go out on your own, but don't know in what sector.
Don’t think in terms of an idea, but in terms of a problem. The idea doesn’t matter. If it isn’t a solution to a frustrating situation or it doesn’t meet a consumer need, it won’t work. By thinking in terms of a problem to be solved, you can build a foundation which can receive many ideas. In fact, there is rarely a single solution to a given problem. Here are our tips to find a good idea.
4. Does your family support you?
You’ll have to talk things over with your family before launching into a company creation project. Their support, understanding and empathy will help you get through any hard times and will often be an essential part of your company's success. However, they first have to understand what is at stake in your project! Don't forget that those close to you also need your support!
5. Do you need additional training?
You don’t have to have a specific degree to become an entrepreneur. However, are you sure that your skills are in line with your project? Becoming an entrepreneur requires basic knowledge of accounting, management, taxes, marketing…First find out if you need to acquire basic management skills. This is a sort of mini-degree which proves that you have the knowledge required to manage a business. Some activities are also regulated and require additional professional skills.
Be sure to take additional training classes when you set up your business. They will raise your awareness about the skills and qualities required to head up a company.
6. Explore the business you want to work in
Take the time to identify the essence of your project, what your company will do, the specific nature of your services and how they will be different from those already on the market (that’s your added value!). You will have to gather information and numbers about the target market/sector, competitors, market needs, the number of potential customers, the consumption volume and current pricing through market studies. All of this information will help you set your prices.
Also try to answer the following questions at this stage:
- Are you planning to start your business alone?
- Would taking over a business rather than creating a new one be an option?
- Will this be your main business activity?
- Will you work at home or do you have to find business premises?
7. Test your idea
90% of new products don’t survive the first three years. You can avoid this risk with an MVP, prototype, pilot project, proof of concept, etc. All of these terms refer to the same goal: to perfect a product/service before putting it on the market.
Another way of testing your idea is to join an incubator, accelerator or a hackathon. Becoming a team member for a hackathon is an excellent way to get feedback on your ideas and the solutions you want to offer. Some people even meet a (future) business partner who has additional skills!
In addition, coaches and mentors are available for you at these events. They are there to provide their opinion about your project. If by chance you are the happy winner of one of these contests, and you receive a prize, it will enable you to continue working on your project.
8. Get help!
It’s well known that companies that receive help during their creation phase are more sustainable than others. There is a wide range of support structures in Brussels (check them in our tool on this website). They can help you at different stages of your company's development. Good to know: the services are often free or inexpensive. Identify the interlocutors that can help you from start!
In addition, these organisations provide many workshops and events, which will enable you to network. This is another aspect which can become very useful during your project’s development…
9. Refine your project: business and financial plans
As you move forward, and based on the information you collect from market studies, you will discover things that will improve your idea. Data analysis will inform you of the conditions of exercise of your business so you can take them into account. Include all of the information in your business plan.
Ensure that you have sufficient financial means to pursue your project and sufficient resources to be able to provide for all of your needs until you can start paying yourself a salary from the business. This is the purpose of the financial plan. It is the most important document. It translates the information collected during your preparatory work into hard numbers. You have to evaluate your charges and the needs to be financed as well as your potential resources (capital, allowances and subsidies, bank loans, etc.). You will also have to determine your revenue model and calculate your projected income based on the prices you set.
Identify the financial solutions and interlocutors the can help you from the outset: do you need a loan, want to obtain microcredit, launch a crowdfunding campaign? Do you know which door to knock on if you need a guarantee?
The format of your business plan isn’t important, but a well-documented and quantified project is always more convincing! You can always use our free tool: mybusinessplan.brussels.
10. Are you ready?
Many people dream of going out on their own, but never dare take the step. They prefer to continue living their comfortable dream. Other people believe that you need an ingenious idea to start a business, or need to be perfect before you can get going. You don’t have to be the son or daughter of an entrepreneur to become one or have a high-level degree. There just isn’t an ideal moment to get started.
In fact, you shouldn’t think about the obstacles too much because you’ll eventually drop the idea:. Entrepreneurship is first and foremost a state of mind that has to be cultivated daily. Everything revolves around having a positive attitude ready for action. If you have an idea for a company, get going now! But don’t forget that any project has to be worked on in depth and without interruption.