Always dreamed of being your own boss and/or working from home? It’s not all odd socks, conference calls in pyjamas and unloading the dishwasher at lunchtime; there are sure to be some tough times ahead and there will probably be times when you’re tempted to pack it all in – but if you’re smart-working as well as hard working then you’ll be maximising your chances for success and the very rewarding sense of achievement!
Below are some pearls of wisdom which we hope will help you in your new venture. Good luck!
1. Write a Business Plan
You might not even know yourself what the plan is for your business, and it might change very frequently in the early days. That’s OK! Your first ever business plan may only ever be read by you, so it doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish – the key thing is the experience of writing it, and you can always rip it up and write another (much better) one from scratch afterwards. Before you get bogged down in the day-to-day running of your business it’s really important to make a note of your short, medium and long-term goals. If you can, write it as if it’s being sent to a real investor; by that I mean justify every assumption you make and make sure you back everything up with facts and research.
Even if you are the only one who ever reads it, the exercise will help you massively and may help you to realise mistakes – or even new possibilities – as you drill down further. Plus, it will make for hilarious reading 5 years later. Get help writing a business plan.
2. Ask Friends & Family For Help
I’ve shamelessly stolen this idea from Jonathan Ford’s blog. It’s a great way of getting over those early-day hurdles like not having much budget to market your business, and being unsure of exactly how you want to do that if you’re still finding your identity as a business. That makes it quite hard to get the initial snowball effect going – so use your friends and family to help get the message out there and find some new, real customers.
Have a read of his blog and then draw up your own “Nifty 50” list!
3. Technology can make your life a lot, lot easier
We live in times where technology makes a lot of things a lot easier! Why not use it to your advantage in your new business? Used wisely, technology can increase your efficiency hugely and help you to get in front of more people for a fraction of the cost, as well as transform the image of your business that you portray to the world. Have you ever wondered how many businesses which look big and established are actually run from domestic kitchen tables whilst the baby’s asleep in the corner and the cat looks on disapprovingly?!
- Get a professional-looking business phone number to separate work and personal calls, and to avoid looking unprofessional or un-established by advertising just a mobile number. Using a VoIP service like Vonage means a normal landline phone can just plug into your Internet router, and it also has a mobile app so you can make/receive calls when away from home, still using your business number.
- Get a great website designed for your business – our packages are superb value and the best way to get yourself established online. You can start small and add to your website as your business grows!
- Use the same domain name for your business website and email. Nothing looks worse than asking people to email your business on a Gmail or Yahoo email address, and a .co.uk domain name for a year costs less than a trip to a coffee shop, so there’s no excuse! We can get you all set up to use G Suite to host your professional email address and other productivity tools – just get in touch.
- Tools like Xero and Receipt Bank can remove the hassle out of managing things like receipts, invoices to customers and from suppliers and calculating numbers. It also makes running the “money side” of your business really quick and easy, and makes you look much more professional than making a rubbish-looking invoice in Microsoft Word every time! Speak to your accountant about these tools, or find more information at http://www.jonathanford.co.uk/xero/
4. The best ideas aren’t always brand new!
Not every “new business” has to be a “new idea” – otherwise there would only be one of everything, and it’s a big wide world out there. Not that new can’t be great – but remember that selling something brand new can be an uphill struggle and require a lot of resources. It’s not always best to be first because you’ve got to do a lot of explaining and convincing.
If you’re struggling with this topic, thing about an existing product or service where you can add something new to that, or maybe just that you can do better or cheaper (whilst still being good)?
5. Being good at doing something is very different from being good at making a business out of something
Being your own boss might sound great, but is it for you? There are many more elements to running a business which are in addition to simply providing the service. You might not have anyone telling you what to do, but that also means there may be no-one to give you direction.
So, have a long hard think about whether it’s a good idea. Hopefully the answer will still be yes, and if it’s not a resounding “yes” then is there someone you can team up with who has the skills? You don’t want to live you life regretting never having given it a go, but you also don’t want to regret having given it a go!
6. Never Stop Self-Assessment
I’m not talking about your business tax returns here! It’s useful to look at your business with a critical eye now and again and see how you could be doing things better. Speak to your customers, too, and don’t be afraid to ask them for feedback on how they think you could do better. A friend or family member can be helpful for this too, although be sure to ask them for honest feedback and tell them you won’t be offended.
For this reason, it might be best not to ask your Mum – there’s no use in someone just saying “that’s great, well done, I’m so proud of you!” if there are actually lots of areas for potential improvement you haven’t spotted, or worst yet – major problems!
7. Be a Dragon in your own mind
If/when the time comes to look for an investor for your business, don’t be unrealistic with your expectations regarding equity; it’s like cheap bin liners and washing up liquid – a false economy! It’s far more valuable to own 20% of a multi-million pound company than to own 99.5% of a company turning over £10,000 a year. Extreme example, but it still amazes me how many entrepreneurs turn down investment because they want to hold on to more of their company, thus devaluing the very thing they’re trying to increase the value of!
It’s also a good idea to try and think like an investor from day one – what would impress them, and what would put them off? Try and stick with the former and avoid the latter!
8. Make Sure You Understand Your Customers (If necessary… ask them!)
You might think you understand your customers, and I suppose to be fair you might – especially if you yourself are part of your target demographic. A lot of new businesses, however, think they understand their customers but sadly don’t, or at least don’t understand them as fully as they thought.
Depending on your business and what is relevant to you, you may benefit from understanding things like age, gender, interests, background etc. to determine what your customers want/need, why they would buy it from you and not a competitor, and how much they’re prepared to spend. Also, ask yourself this vital question: is your aim to be the cheapest in town, or the best?
“Build it and they’ll come” doesn’t always work! Take a lean approach to constantly innovate, improve, change, etc. based on customer feedback and what they actually want. Have a read of The Lean Startup for some excellent advice on how to innovate and determine your customers’ needs in order to create a successful business.
9. Leave The House!
Get out and meet like-minded people, and go to events in your local area. You’ll go stir-crazy if you sit at home all day! Depending on where you’re at in your business journey, it might be a good idea to join a co-working space like Avenue HQ or other startup incubator so that you can get some other human contact during the day and “colleagues” to have a bevvy with after work on a Friday. These places often give you access to mentors and financial/funding advice, as well as helpful events and networking opportunities.
10. Learn from your mistakes – and keep smiling!
Mistakes are fantastic opportunities to learn! Failure shouldn’t be seen as a dirty word – if we were all afraid of failure then some of our best advances would never have happened. Ever wondered why WD-40 is called what it is? It’s short for “Water Displacement, 40th formula” – so it sounds like it took 39 failures to get to the right mix, but just think about what a success that product is now.
So that’s our 10 Tips to help your new business venture. We wish you all the very best of luck and hope it’s a huge success! Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help you set up a new website, create a promotional video for your business and help to promote yourself on social media. We look forward to working with you!