Taking a chance on your own business venture takes courage and plenty of checklists, but it could be the most rewarding thing you ever do. Whether you’re sketching out your first business plan, or you’re ready to launch any day now, here’s a handy list of things to bear in mind.
1. Plan, plan, plan
A comprehensive business plan is essential. Even if your business is a pre-established side hustle that you’re finally taking full-time, you need to put together your long term business objectives. This includes working out exactly when it’s feasible for you to quit your day job.
A good business plan should outline your business, the market in which it will operate, and how you’re going to make money. Your plan also needs to lay out how your business will succeed over others in the marketplace. Further down the line potential investors might ask to see your business plan, so it’s important to get the details down now. Your plan is also a personal tool to help you understand what you want from your business. When you need to make business critical decisions, checking back with your plan should help you find your way.
2. Choose a name that’ll last
One of the first things you’ll need to decide is what to call your new business. Think about the practicalities: is your business name easy to pronounce, spell and search for online? Don’t choose something too similar to a competitor’s name, or a small spelling mistake could cost you business! If you have a pre-existing business name, consider whether it will scale effectively. Perhaps your current name describes what your business does now, but won’t make sense in the future. Once you choose a name, check the availability of website domains and any relevant social media handles to keep your branding consistent. If you decide to register your business as a limited company, make sure your name hasn’t been taken already.
3. Get to know your market
Before you launch your business, take some time to do your market research and size up the competition. Think about other companies making similar offerings to your own business. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Ask friends and family to help you review competitors, so you can avoid any biases and get a more rounded view. Looking at the current market will help you establish what customers like – and don’t like – about your competitors.
Before you launch, you should have a comprehensive price list for the goods or services your business provides. Price checking your list against others will ensure you’re not selling yourself short, or pricing yourself out of the market.
4. Spread the word
Work out how to describe your business clearly and succinctly: you need a clear business proposition that sets you apart from the crowd. Then you need to get the word out in a cost-effective way – that doesn’t take up all your time. The good news is that small businesses have access to more cheap, trackable marketing tools than ever before. If you use social media (and you should! It’s free and easy to run!) you might find the limited word count for your bio is a handy way to keep your business description short and sweet.
Expand your online and offline networks: make the most of professional platforms like LinkedIn, take like-minded business owners and potential customers out for coffee, and start building a community around your business. Networking takes time and there’s no instant payoff, but it could help you bring in new business further down the line. There’s no one way to market your business, so experiment with different approaches and remember above all to keep your marketing relevant to your customers.
5. Pace yourself
Growing your own business is a marathon, not a sprint. Above all, you need a positive attitude and plenty of resilience for when things don’t go to plan. You’re the engine driving your venture forward, so remember to look after your wellbeing and take regular breaks from your business.
6. Take care of your admin
Time consuming admin tasks can easily distract you from your business objectives. Start with the basics: set up a business email address, take out business insurance and find a suitable workspace if necessary. Most importantly, separate your personal and business bank accounts. It’ll be much easier to keep track of your finances, and if you’re running a limited company, you won’t be able to accept payments made out to your company to your personal account.
7. Seek out business advice
You don’t need to consult with a guru to get business advice; you can learn a lot from the resources around you. Watch YouTube videos about entrepreneurship (TEDTALKS are especially useful) read books, listen to podcasts and attend meet ups with other local business owners. Chat to entrepreneurs at different stages, they’ll help you prepare for the challenging and exciting journey ahead.
This article comes courtesy of ANNA Money, the mobile business account that does your admin. For freelancers, small businesses and creative types.