The prospect of starting your own business can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time! Freedom, independence, the chance to call the shots…these are all the things you hope for. But at the same time, there is risk involved, and choosing a business wisely is a huge part of your ultimate success. You have many options when starting a business…doing everything completely on your own based on an idea, investing in a franchise and following the rules laid out by the parent organization, or starting a direct selling business by purchasing a business kit and following the training plan laid out by the company and your sponsor, to name just a few.

All of these options have led to success for some people, while others have not been as successful and have lost time and money. Choosing your business wisely, therefore, is essential. And avoiding the scams that pretend to be legitimate is even more important. How do you know what is legitimate and what is not? Here are some tips:

  • Do your research – Look up the company online, and talk to people that are actually in that business. If the business has a social networking presence, find out what people are saying there. Check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the business, and/or the Direct Selling Association (member companies in the DSA agree to comply with a code of ethics.) Realize that you may find some negative comments about any business you consider, since it’s rare to find a business where everyone who tries it is successful. Some people are just more suited for a particular business than others. But are there more positive reviews than negative? What do people who are currently in the business say? What about the people who have left it? Understanding both sides will give you a more realistic picture of what’s involved in truly succeeding in the business you’re considering, and the type of people in the business who are successful.
  • How will you learn the business? – Does the business you’re considering offer training? Or will you have to learn everything on your own? Is training included or will you have to spend additional money to learn? Remember that learning the steps you need to follow to succeed is a critical component in your overall success, so be sure there’s a plan in place to give you the education you need and that you consider it as you plan your overall budget and investment in the business.
  • Consider the investment – What is the initial investment in the business, and can you afford to lose it if you’re not successful? A franchise is going to cost you a lot more than a direct selling business, and a business you start from scratch might cost less than a franchise initially, but doesn’t give you any support at all. How much will it actually cost you in the first year, second year, fifth year, and so on? How much can you realistically make in that time frame, and when can you expect to begin seeing profits on your investment? Is it worth the amount of time you will put in? Think about how much time you can realistically put in to make your business successful, and then base the amount of money you can make on what you can earn in that time frame.
  • Make sure you understand the business – Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand the work involved in becoming successful (and be sure you’re willing to put the time in to do it.) One of the biggest reasons people are disappointed (and unsuccessful) in a business they start is because they did not realize what they would actually have to do to be successful. They believed the hype instead of learning the facts. Lay out on a calendar the work you would do each day in your new business, and the amount of time you will need to invest. Consider the time for finding customers, marketing,  sales presentations, learning, follow-up, etc. Will you be happy spending your time this way? Are there any questions about what you would be doing? Ask questions, and make sure you go in with your eyes wide open.
  • Does it sound too good to be true? – If you’re led to believe that you’ll make a lot of money with very little work, be wary! Legitimate business opportunities lay out clearly the work that’s involved in becoming successful, and it always takes effort. If a business opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (Do your research!)

Owning your own business can be incredibly rewarding. But be sure you go in with your eyes wide open so you don’t spend more than you can afford and wind up disappointed. With a little bit of research, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and enjoy the experience of being a business owner!

Are you a business owner? How did you research your opportunity before getting started? Considering a business opportunity? What questions do you have? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!