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Plan, plan, plan
Before you even start your business, however small it’ll be, you should create a business plan. This will help you to gain clarity and figure out where to start, as well as setting goals and planning figures.
Be ambitious, but be realistic! If you put a low, safe number, you won’t be as motivated to go for it compared to if you put a number that’s high but realistic with hard work. That applies to all goals!
Planning for this year, I wrote down an income figure that I’d like to aim for, and then ended up doubling it because I believe with hard work and discipline I can get there. I’m always up for a challenge!
For help on starting a business plan, visit the Prince’s Trust website
Keep track of your money
Use an accounting system from the very beginning. QuickFile is a great one that’s free, but if you’ve got some funds available from the get-go, then look into investing in something like 17Hats.
With QuickFile you can take photos of your receipts to import into QuickFile and sort out later (Read my post here for more information on how to set that up). It’s best to keep your paper receipts too just in case, but this way it’s easier to keep track of them!
You are not alone
There’s nothing wrong with asking for advice or help when starting up. So many business owners have had the same problems and fears, and you’ll find that there are many out there who would be willing to help you along.
It’s also a great place to start building business relationships that could lead to work and partnerships in future.
Stick to the absolute essentials
Be a master of one thing first, and then build on it. Especially when you’re just starting a business, it can be easy to underestimate how difficult things can be. By starting small and becoming an expert in what you do and how to run your business, you can keep control and expand easier.
Bear in mind that you’ll always be learning new things about your business and how to improve. Don’t wait until you know EVERYTHING to expand, because that time may never come! And that’s part of the fun!
A very inspiring and wise man told me the other day “learning is what keeps you young”. He said to always be trying new things, keep learning as much as you can, challenge routine and take risks.
Don’t become a workaholic
Whether you’re jumping full time into your new business venture or you’re a 5-9’er working around a full-time job, it’s important to look after yourself.
I feel like a hypocrite for writing this because since the beginning I’ve worked as much as I possibly could and I felt guilty if I wasn’t working. It’s only recently that I’ve forced myself to take breaks and to take time off, because when you stop to regain your energy and look after yourself, you come back more motivated like a business ninja!
I have to remind myself that nothing has to be done all at once. Every step I take is a step forward and I’ll reach my goals but it’ll take time. Working all hours of the day and burning out won’t get me there any quicker!
I hate to put a downer on things, but have you researched the market? Make sure there’s room for your idea and figure out what audience you’ll be targeting.
You may think it’s a brilliant idea (and it probably is!) but you need to research to determine whether there is a market for your idea.
Get online ASAP
I believe websites are essential for every business, and when you’re a new business it pays to look bigger than you are to attract more customers. You need to look professional and appealing to your customers, but a badly designed website can make them think the opposite.
Building a website doesn’t have to be expensive. I offer a starter website package for this reason, because I think that all businesses should be able to get a beautiful and scalable website even with a small budget.
I also have a course called Website Wonderland that teaches you exactly how to make your own website that looks great and makes sales.
I’ve written a post full of tips on creating a website here.
If your budget is really limited and you don’t want to or have the time to create your own website, a Facebook or Google+ page is a good place to start.
Don’t succumb to all of the courses promising you endless profits
There are so many courses out there now. I seem to be bombarded with them daily on Facebook, and it’s so easy to be sucked into their sales message. “Ooh! How to increase my profits ten-fold!? Yes, please!”
Courses are great, but all too often, people sign up on a whim because they’ve seen these awesome sales pages and then don’t get the time to do them, spend a fortune when a lot of the information is available for free if you have time to look for it, or it’s not actually entirely relevant to what you need to be doing.
Research courses thoroughly and figure out whether they’re definitely for you and your business before you purchase. A good way to do this is to read their blog, watch a webinar, speak to them directly and take the time to think about signing up to the course. Keep calm and ignore that “offer expires in 24 hours” message!
It’s important to keep track of your goals and progress so that you can keep improving, and a planner is a great tool to do this.
I recently worked with Nadia Finer to design her Pure Profit Planner. With over 300 pages it’s a pretty chunky planner but it’ll definitely help you to keep on track and boost those profits!
With yearly, monthly and weekly sections, this planner helps to keep you moving forward and to determine the tasks that will get your business booming.
Do you love what you do?
I believe passion is a large part of any successful business. You need to genuinely love what you are doing so that you don’t lose interest or motivation along the way. Plus, if you’re not starting a business so that you are doing something you love for a living, then why are you doing it?
Also, you’ll attract many more customers when you’re selling with passion rather than selling simply with the aim to make money from them.
Let go of fear
Even now, I waste so much time worrying and procrastinating because I don’t know where to start with a project or if the project it’s huge and scary. I used to resort to watching ‘just one’ episode on Netflix and hoping that it’ll sort itself out when I come back to my desk. But no, of course, it doesn’t!
The best way to tackle fear is to face it head on! Break a task down into tiny sections and just get started. Or ask for help if you need to! There’s always a solution.
And while you’re at it, let go of the fear of failure. If you hit a hurdle, pick yourself back up again and keep going. Rather than burying any failures in the back of your mind, make sure you assess it and see what you can learn from it so that you succeed next time.
Shout from the rooftops
“Hello! Brand new business right over here, with just what you need!” Write a marketing plan and start marketing straight away to make your target audience aware that you exist and to push your business full speed ahead.
The press is always interested in a new story, like a start-up business, so get in touch with newspapers to share your story. Keep it brief and to the point, with the main information in the first paragraph. Offer an exciting headline and make sure you include a photo! Journalists are super busy people and can’t reply to every email they get, so follow up if you can with a phone call and don’t be afraid to keep sending new press releases even if the first one didn’t get published.
Represent your business wherever you go. It’s your baby and you’re darn proud of it! Talk about your business, build relationships and give out business cards. Be your own perfect employee!
New businesses almost always underprice. When you research about pricing, you’ll see all sorts of calculators online that say something like “add up the cost of your materials and time, then times by 2 for wholesale, and by 2 again for retail” and you’ll think that’s crazy! But actually, that’s what you need to be doing. Please don’t underprice just to get sales! Price what you’re worth.
Research your market and determine the prices people are willing to pay, the prices your competitors offer and what is reasonable for you when you take into account your own costs and time.
If you can, speak to a business coach or mentor about your pricing. They will help to review your prices and ensure that you’re pricing correctly from the beginning.
As your business grows and you get more and more experienced at what you do, your prices should reflect this.
Take time to experiment
Unless you’ve done it before, running a business is completely alien. At first, you’ll think it’s great to be working at home 24/7 in your PJ’s, but honey, you need to get out more! 😉 Organise time to spend away from work, meeting up with friends or even going to the gym, so you get a break and avoid becoming lonely or isolated.
Experiment with times of the day to see when you are most productive and organise your schedule around that. Yes, that’s right, you don’t have to work 9 – 5 if you don’t want to!
Also, experiment with environments. If you’re meeting up with friends and going out but still feel isolated when you’re working, try a co-working space or even take your work to a coffee shop.
When you’re just starting a business, it’s easy to think that you’ll make money straight away and that you’ll be speeding through your to-do list, but it’s not that straightforward. Things take time and things take money.
By overestimating how much they will cost and how much time it will take, you can avoid being out of pocket or overworked. Plus, isn’t it brilliant when you find you have spare time or money?!
Now for the boring, but super important, stuff
- Register with HMRC as self-employed, a limited company or a partnership depending on your situation
- Make notes of important dates e.g. when your tax return is due, and make sure it’s completed in plenty of time
- Look into business insurance and any insurance you need that is specifically relevant to your business e.g. my insurance as a designer would be different to a cake business
- Find out whether you need to register with the ICO
- Research local laws and requirements for your type of business
Small business interviews
I love hearing about new businesses and helping where I can! Get in touch if you’re just starting up, I’d love to meet you!
Also, I’m starting small business interviews on my blog soon and if you’d like an interview please email me.