Thinking about starting your own business? Congratulations! But, before you get too excited, let me give you a reality check. First of all - you can do this. You just need to be smart about it. It’s going to be hard, but if you have the proper foundation in place prior to opening your doors, you’ll have a better shot at success.
I was lucky enough to have a few entrepreneurs and business owners in my life when I went down my entrepreneurial journey, so this is a compilation of advice that given was to me, and a few things I had to figure out the hard way.
Do everything below BEFORE you open your doors:
1. Plan ahead financially. Don’t quit your day job until you have enough resources set aside to float yourself for 6 months. Trust me - you will have tons of money going out and very little coming in those first few months. If you can grow your business on the side, without getting fired, do it.
2. Find a mentor. There are organizations in every community focused on supporting new businesses through their journey. The insight and support you get will be invaluable.
3. Create a business plan. It’s critical you crunch the numbers and know what you need not only to survive, but to be successful. If you’re taking on a loan to get started, it’s even more important. No investors or banks will even speak to you without a solid business plan.
4. Register your business and open up your bank accounts. Get a credit card for your business. You may have to open it in your personal name, but that’s fine. Keep it separate and designate it for business use only. It’s important to do this prior to incurring any expenses, otherwise things will get twisted and you’ll be in trouble when tax time comes.
5. Get proper accounting software, and actually use it. There are inexpensive and even free programs you can get that can be run from your phone. Receipts can be stored digitally - you really have no excuse to mess this up with all the technology available to you.
6. Consult a lawyer. There are likely many things you aren’t aware of and you need to protect yourself - especially if you're creating contracts, going into people's homes, etc. You may need insurance, among other things.
7. Get a website, logo and business cards. If you can do a website yourself, great. Whether you're doing it yourself or hiring out, there are some really important things you need to consider and plan for if you want the project to be as successful as possible. You can not have a business today without a decent website. You also need a logo and business cards to be taken seriously. If you're an online-only business, you can skip the cards. But if you'll be attending local networking events, the cards are a must.
8. Start building your social media presence. At minimum, get set up with Facebook and Instagram and start posting. Share and talk about things your clients would be interested in. If you have no idea where to start, consult with a professional who can at least get the ball rolling for you. In today's world, existing on social media is basically mandatory.
9. Join local networking groups and attend their functions. Pass out your business cards and talk about your business like it already exists. Get comfortable talking about your business, and try to make some connections - don’t focus on what people can do for you, but focus on what you can do for them. This is how you build long-lasting relationships. Don't let fear stand in your way.
10. Enjoy the ride. Don’t forget why you started down this path. It isn’t going to be easy, but it’s going to be an adventure. Don’t give up or give in. There will be bad days and good days, but remember there is light at the end of the tunnel, once you get a few customers under your belt. Focus on the journey, not just the destination.
I maintain a regularly updated list with FREE online tools every entrepreneur should know about. Check it out and bookmark that baby!
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