10 things to think about before starting a small business

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So you have the big idea. That feeling of excitement and anxiety in the pit of your stomach. You time is now and you’re going to GRAB it with both hands.

Starting a new business is amazing. Better than amazing even. But before you ride off into the entrepreneurial sunset, it’s worth taking a deep breath and putting a few important things in place. You see as easy as it is to set up a business, it’s just as easy to get it wrong. And nobody wants that. Particularly not me.

Here are a few important things to consider as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey.

The Basics

This might seem obvious, but your business needs a name. You could use your own name, or something else entirely, just make sure it’s available. You don’t want prospective clients to end up on somebody else’s website because your names are too similar. If you’re in the UK, check Companies House Web Check Facility to see if there’s a Limited Company already registered in your chosen name. Also jump onto a domain name provider and check if the url is available. Now don’t get too disheartened, most names are taken so it may take a few goes to settle on the name for you. Once you do, buy up all related urls to secure your brand.  
You also need to decide on a business structure (sole trader, limited company, or partnership), and register the company with HMRC. You can find more information on that here.

Do your research

You may think you have this innovative idea, when in actual fact there are already 50 other businesses doing that same thing. Explore what’s going on in your industry. Who are the competition? What is different about the way you approach your work? What makes you stand out?
You also need to research your target markets. I don’t buy into the whole “ideal client avatar” philosophy, but I do believe you should have a general idea of who you’re targeting. Find out what problems they’re experiencing, and how you can help find a solution.

Create a business plan

Business plans are a bit stuffy, however it’s a good idea to create one at the start to get clear what you’re all about. You may well need it anyway to open a business bank account. It needs to describes your core business offering, objectives, revenue streams, marketing strategies and financial forecasts among other things. It’s a really effective way to get super-clear on your business idea, prevent potential problems, and measure your progress. Think of it as a road map to success. 
The Strategy On A Page by Deri Lewellyn-Davies is a good place to start and far less stuffy than the traditional business plan.

Don’t forget the money

Take a look at your personal finances. How much investment does your business idea need? Do you need to source funding, or can you cover it yourself? How much does your business need to earn to cover your expenses?
Try to start your business with good financial practices from the get go. That means making budgets and tracking every penny of income and outgoings. Start with a simple spreadsheet.
I find setting financial goals really motivating, and I always advise my clients to set goals that feel challenging – it makes you work harder! Also map out your products and services on a spreadsheet, add in the cost and forecast how many you’d like to sell each month. This will give you a clearer idea of what income is possible and which products or services you need to promote to ensure they are sold. 
A healthy money mindset is something many business owners struggle with, especially if they’re just starting out. If that sounds like you, I’d recommend you read Get Rich, Lucky Bitch and get to work on that!

Get online

Ok, we’re getting to one of my favourite points. Developing a web presence is invaluable when you’re starting a small business. It’s a super low cost way to raise your profile, and engage with the people you want to sell your wares to.
Start by registering your business domain name, and setting up a website. Think of your site as the hub of your business – it’s where you’ll be sharing everything about your company, from product launches and informative articles to the history of the business and contact information. And it’s the one place you’ll drive everyone to when you post on social media.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on a new website, this ready made website from JJ Miller will start you off nicely.
Because yes, you need a social media presence. I know it can get pretty overwhelming what with the sheer quantity of platforms out there, but start small. My series of handy social media hacks should help you out with this. But start small, with one or two social media platforms. Get that working for you and grow out from there. Don’t make the mistake of creating a profile on every platform or you’ll spread yourself too thin.

Identify who you want to be working with, and enter their world

We’ve already touched briefly on client research. And again, this isn’t about dreaming up a full profile for an imaginary customer. This is about figuring out where to spend your time. If you want to sell products to new mums, you could look at local parent and toddler groups, or online support forums. If you want to work with millennials, you might have to give Snapchat a whirl. Your target client base will only find you if you’re hanging nearby.
When you’ve figured out where your people are, start adding value for FREE. That means helping with any struggles they might be having. Writing relevant blog posts. Offering advice, or handy tips and tricks to deal with a particular problem. That’s what makes you memorable, and establishes you as an authority in your niche.

Map out every aspect of your business

To make a success out of your small business, you need to know the ins and outs of everything that has to be done. Admin, pitching, product development, marketing, accounts, customer service, PR… this is all just as important for micro-businesses as it is for big brands. But that doesn’t mean you need to do it all. You will not be working in your zone of genius if you’re trying to get everything done by yourself. When the time is right, think about outsourcing some of that work. A well-trained VA can manage your inbox, deal with client queries, and run your social media accounts. A copywriter could research and write blog content, or draft your product descriptions. An accountant could save your life come tax season. In fact if there’s one thing you DO invest in at the beginning, make it an accountant. It will save you a lot of money and heartache in the long run. 

Schedule key dates

Make a note of all the important dates in your field. That could be national holidays, large-scale product launches, niche celebrations and more. Knowing these dates provides you with an amazing opportunity to capitalise on what’s already going on in the world. This calendar will provide the cornerstone of your marketing plan. 

Join a supportive community

Running a business can feel lonely, even if you’re not doing it alone. There’s always a lot to do, and most of that will probably be on your shoulders… and that’s why have a supportive peer group is so vital. Find a community of like-minded business owners who get it. Never underestimate the value of having someone around who “gets it”. I started my free Facebook group for that very reason (join us in Simply Smart Business here).

Learn, learn, learn.

The world of business is always evolving – as is every industry out there. No matter how successful you are in your field, there will always be more to learn, so don’t get complacent. Keep reading reports and articles. Listen to podcasts. Take online courses. Soak up that knowledge and apply it to your business. And when you can afford it invest in a mentor, these people really can  propel you forward and help you to reach your goals.
And if you REALLY want to learn how to grow a successful business, join my Simply Smart Business Academy, where I teach you everything you need to create, manage and grow a business online.


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