Starting a business from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, but it does take planning and work. Here are the first and most important 10 steps to take when starting.
1. Evaluate Yourself Honestly
- What kinds of things are you good at?
- Does public speaking or making presentations make you nervous?
- Are you good at accounting and numbers?
- Can you handle the rejections you will get when selling or cold calling?
These are very important questions to ask yourself, it’s also helpful to get other peoples opinion about their perception of you in each of these situations.
Whatever you come up with for your evaluation, that’s all it is, an evaluation of where you are now. It is just a way of identifying both your strength and weakness.
2. Evaluate Your Idea
If your business idea involves a new product an existing product or service, it needs to be evaluated. This is technically called market research.
Can you build a prototype for people to use if so is it the best option. If a prototype is not possible as in a service business, then offer a highly descriptive presentation of the business plan complete with it’s unique benefits and how it’s different from the competition.
3. Identify Your Target Market
Once you have an idea that is a potential money maker, the next step is to identify your target market. Your target market is a particular group or segment of the population that is most likely to buy your product or service. Identifying this group early will also help you to determine whether there’s enough demand for your business.
In order to define the market for your home business idea, consider taking a funnel approach where you apply filters to narrow down your market. For instance, someone with visual creative talents and photo editing skills can work as a graphic designer. By taking a funnel approach, the graphic designer’s market takes shape:
- Who will most likely require your services? Small businesses that need images for advertising
- What is their age range? Small business owners between 25 and 55 years old
- What is their income? Ideally, someone generating the country’s median income of $56,156 annually for long-term business
- Is your business gender or culturally specific? No
You can continue this line of questioning until you identify the group of people or businesses that are most interested in your product or service.
4. Research Your Competitors
As an entrepreneur, you need to know the companies operating in the same market so you can differentiate your business from theirs.
Here are a few tips to gather information about your competitors:
- Conduct a Google search – Use Google to find local competitors. Visit their homepages and take note of their business models.
- Use social media – If you can’t find competitors on Google, you might find them on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
- Post a job ad – 51 percent of employees are open to leave their current jobs. Take advantage of this stat by posting a job ad that looks to hire employees of your competitors. You can find out how your competition operates from one of their employees.
- Call your competitors – If all else fails, you can always try calling your competitors and ask them about their businesses.
By knowing your competition, you are one step closer to finding an unmet demand in the market.
5. Test Your Idea
Next, you’ll want to test your idea to see if it has the potential to work. Your business idea may sound good on paper, but you wouldn’t know for sure that you have something that works unless you put it in front of your market. Here are a few tips to evaluate the viability of your idea:
- Limited Scale-Find trade shows, festivals, and other types of events where you can sell your product or service to a relatively small group of people.
- Work Part Time-It would be wise to use your free time to evaluate whether your idea has the potential to generate income before jumping into it Full Time.
6. Come Up With a Budget
With a viable business idea, your next step is to estimate how much you need to get started. The Small Business Administration estimates that you can start a micro business for as little as $3,000, or possibly even less. Of course, costs vary depending on the nature of your business. If you are not paying for an office or a store, your main concerns are equipment and marketing.
7. Create a professional website
If you’re offering any type of business service, a digital presence will help you get more clients and add to your professionalism. Websites can be setup for with little skill and cost, there are thousands of professional website templates online for free that can help get your business website up within a few hours. It’s essential you use a professional domain name for your business website, such as the name of your business or your own name. Online domain search tools like instantdomains.com will help you save time by checking if your website name is available for registration.
8. Make it public
Don’t keep your business a secret. Tell as many people as you can. Call your friends. Explain it to your family members. Make it public. Telling people will help you in several ways. For starters, it will give you extra energy. More importantly, it might help you land some of your first customers. People in your network could make valuable introductions.
9. Advertise your business
If you are willing to put in the work, there are several ways you can advertise your business for free or little money. The most important part of getting free advertising is that it requires your time.
Here are some of the most common free advertising options:
- Submit guest blog posts to relevant blogs. You will get a free link back to your own site.
- Order free business cards from Vistaprint – Most importantly pass them out.
- Set up a free WordPress website.
- Submit your business to Google.
- List your company in free directories related to your niche.
- Offer an introductory free consultation or free evaluation.
- Host an event. Recruit sponsors to cover your costs.
- Frequent forums where your customers hang out.
- Network with others and get free word of mouth marketing.
- Make connections and promote your business through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and the like.
- Build your email list from day one. Email is still one of the most effective marketing channels.
- Include your website, Facebook page, and Twitter handle in your email signature.
- Write an eBook or a report and use it a promotional gift item.
- Comment on blogs with a link back to your own website.
- Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and use it to drive free traffic to your site.
- Develop an iPhone or Android app for free and include your branding within it.
- Post an ad on Craigslist.
- Write articles relevant to your niche and distribute them to article directories.
- Publish press releases. Prlog offers free press release distribution.
- Wear your ad. Print your brand, URL, and phone number on your T-shirt, so when you are out in public people will see.
The above list might seem overwhelming at first, but it is doable. Take it one step at a time. Track and measure your results.
10. Determine Legalities
Certain types of businesses are required to have specific permits or licenses. For instance, if you want to start a restaurant, chances are you will need a liquor license. If you are not sure if you will need a license or a permit, the Small Business Administration makes it easy to find out by providing a way to search your state and your business type to see if one is needed.
Nothing will hurt your chances for success more than believing in the – false – idea of overnight success. You are doing yourself a disservice believing it. Most businesses take years of development before they become successful. There are countless cases of “get rich quick schemes” both online and offline. They promise you everything you want to hear. Quick and easy money with little or no work. It simply doesn’t exist. You can start a business with no money, but you can’t start one without hard work, strategic thinking, and patience. Expect to spend months even years to build your business instead of days. Persistence and education is key.