“The job market in South Africa is tough; if you’ve got security and a reasonable income you better be thankful and stick it out.”
If you haven’t experienced this first-hand then you’ve probably heard it from enough friends and business associates to know that being a fulfilled salaried employee is a rare occurrence. No wonder then that working from home, being a freelancer or running start-ups has evolved into the new pinnacle of success, replacing the dream of the corner office and swanky business cards.
Ernest du Toit, chairman of the Direct Selling Association of South Africa, says that issues affecting our economy are the same issue likely to further discourage job creation by corporates.
“It is an environment in which direct selling is becoming an increasingly popular way for people to supplement or earn an income,” explains du Toit. “The number of people involved in direct sales grew by 5.5% from 2015 to 2016 to 1,1m and sales increased by 13% to R10,93b. We anticipate this growth to increase exponentially as more people look for opportunities and more companies seek better and more efficient ways to sell.”
Du Toit warns, however, that there are certain guidelines every self-employed entrepreneur should keep in mind, whether you’re working in direct sales or not.
#1 Be honest with yourself
Regardless of what you are doing, it is likely to involve some sort of selling. Whether that is selling your product or just creating a space for yourself in the market by networking and getting your brand out there.
Before you get too enthused about flexible working hours and the prospect of more money consider how comfortable you are with asking family, friends, acquaintances or strangers to listen to your sales pitch or marketing angle. Although the rewards can be considerable not everyone is cut out for the sales slog so often involved with being self-employed.
Be guided by your knowledge, interests or passion. You’re far more likely to be successful if you are operating in a market you know and are enthusiastic about. A bonus is the fact that knowledge of a sector allows you to share your insights and observations on social media and build new networks, so important in this digital, and social age.
#3 Do your homework
Once you’ve established the segment you are passionate about operating in it is time to do the initial slog. Determine if there are any licences or permits you will need to operate, do you need to be accredited with an industry body?
Important: If you are looking into direct sale sit is important for your protection, to check if the company you are planning to associate with is listed on the Direct Selling Association website by searching by company or category.
Before embarking on this journey of being self-employed it is a good idea to calculate what your overheads will be. Can you afford them? Then also determine what support you might need? Are there association meet-ups you can join on a regular basis, groups on Facebook and other social media to discuss ideas and industry trends? It is a good idea to find these groups and connect with the individuals operating in the industry already.
You may be enthused about embarking on your dream job, working in a sector that interests you and being your own boss, but as with most other careers, success doesn’t come overnight.
It will take time to build a customer base and you’ll need to invest time and effort in order to generate the returns you want. Also remember there is behind the scenes work such as placing product orders, doing paperwork and attending training sessions in order to improve and grow your business.
“Set yourself reasonable goals and targets. Initially start short-term, a quarter, six months, a year. As you progress you may evolve to a five-year plan. If you can, find a mentor who has some experience in the field and test your goals and assumptions with them,” advises Du Toit.
Becoming a self-employed entrepreneur isn’t a shortcut to success. It will demand drive, professionalism, commitment to personal development and an enduring enthusiasm and perseverance. The bonus is the unprecedented levels of opportunity and flexibility.