So you’ve thought of a groundbreaking new business idea that’s going to bring in the big bucks, perhaps after reading an inspiring start-up quote, but now you feel completely stumped as to how to make your idea a reality.
Although you do not need any special training to run your own business, and many of the ins and outs will be learnt on the go, the following tips will assist you in the initial setup period.
1. Become an Expert
As more and more people gravitate towards becoming their own bosses and running their own businesses, you must find a way to stand out from the crowd. If you are interested in creating a unique type of business in a niche market, it is imperative you are considered an expert in the field. As you will be the first (and, hopefully, only) voice in your market, you must know your subject matter inside out. Whether your subject is a hobby you have always been involved in, or something you must educate yourself on via others’ research and ideas, you should know absolutely everything about your topic of choice.
Your business idea should be one which holds great meaning to you, and draws on your existing skills and interests. Just because there is an opening in the market for a doggy dating service does not mean you have to plug that hole, though!
2. Research, Research, Research
First things first: be absolutely sure that no one has already thought of your idea. You do not want to run around telling your friends and family about your brilliant new invention to then only be crushed when you realize it has already been done.
While it is not a problem if a similar business does indeed exist, you need to differentiate yourself by either delivering the same service but at a faster and cheaper rate, or offer something they are missing.
Conducting market research will give you a clear understanding of the current state of the market and where to find your target customers before launching. You do not want to find yourself sobbing bankrupt in an empty store after realizing too late that all your business should have been coordinated online.
Create an elevator pitch, meaning you should be able sum up your business idea in layman’s terms in 60 seconds or less. It should provide a quick overview of your business, including the problem which your product or service solves, your target audience, and what separates you from the competition. Your pitch should be simple and succinct, and not bore your listener to tears.
3. Draw Up a Business Plan
Your business plan should project three to five years ahead and include details of your company profile, management structure, goals, the products or services on offer, and market research analysis.
Having some clearly defined goals and a rough timeline in place will do wonders for your productivity and accountability. Many people dream up great business ideas but never follow through with them as they spend too much time daydreaming. Even worse, many businesses fail in the early days because their founders start imagining retiring on a beach somewhere while sipping piña coladas rather than focusing on the hard yards that need to be put in first.
4. Reach Out to Helpful Contacts
If you have any existing contacts within the industry or can think of anyone who might be able to help you, shoot them an email. What’s the worst that could happen?
Attend industry events and pass out your business card to anyone who will take them. Get a feel for what your potential customers are looking for, and try to pinpoint what would drive and motivate them to purchase your product. Attending trade shows is also a great way of meeting competitors and understanding their business models. You will quickly see what works and, also, what not to do.
5. Find a Mentor
Locate a mentor who has successfully launched their own business, preferably in an obscure field. Take them out for coffee or a beer (people are more likely to spill their winning formula if slightly intoxicated!) and pick their brains about how they set up their business and made it profitable.
6. Decide How to Launch
Unless there is an extremely high demand for the product or service you plan to offer – and, no, that doggy dating service doesn’t count – it is best to initially launch your business on a part-time basis. Whatever you do, don’t quit your day job!
Use your regular job to provide a financial buffer, and devote all your spare time to your personal business. This may involve working every minute and leaving your significant other wondering whether they are involved with a ghost. Again, choose a business subject which you are extremely passionate about, or you will quickly lose focus and motivation when faced with long hours and little return.
If you are launching a service, your initial overhead costs will be very low so you can commence your business at any time. However, if there are products involved, you should build up a moderate amount of savings first to ensure you do not go bust after your very first order. Consider finding investors or applying for a small business loan, if necessary.
If you plan on hosting client meetings or hiring staff, say bye-bye to a large chunk of money needed to furnish an office space.
7. Register a Trade Name and Create a Logo
Deciding what form of business entity to establish (for example, sole proprietorship or limited liability company) will determine what income tax return you must file. It is important to immediately register for taxes to prevent yourself being thrown in jail before you even make your first sale. Check the local tax rules as well as license and permit laws for your state or country.
Deciding on a name and drawing up an easily identifiable logo is a critical step to starting a business. Having a strong brand identity will provide you with instant credibility, even if you lack customers. You can then add this logo to your business card, website and social media channels (see below). Your branding should match the personality of your product or service, provided that personality isn’t “drunk frat guy”.
8. Start a Website
These days, everyone – and even their grandmothers – is on the Internet, so you would be crazy not to have a functioning website. Having a website provides your customers with immediate access to you and gives them a clear overview of what your business is about. Make sure your site looks professional and leaves a good first impression.
9. Set Up Appropriate Social Media Channels
In addition to a website, it is important to create social media accounts for your business. While you could spend all day sucked down the rabbit holes of Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, and whatever the latest network of the day is, start with the basics by setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts.
10. Ask Your Family and Friends to Spread the Word
You will become that annoying friend for a few months but, if your friends truly love you, they will support your business. Post information about your business on your personal social media accounts and ask your loved ones to share your posts with their own friends and family. You can provide some sort of incentive for doing so such as a discount on a service, a free product, or eternal foot massages.
11. Market Yourself to a Specific Audience
If you are launching a niche product, it will likely not appeal to the masses. Find an industry publication or website, and advertise towards a specific group of people. Hopefully, you will initially be able to make a few sales via your own support network after the irresistible promise of foot rubs, which will then give you some revenue to put into an advertising budget.
12. Reach Out to the Media
Finally, produce a press release about your business. Ensure it contains something newsworthy such as an open day, a special giveaway, or a picture of you in a clown costume. Although it will take some persistence, and you will feel like a nuisance, try to get through to a media contact to ensure your release does not get lost among a sea of press releases flooding their inbox.
See Also: 7 Things You Need to Start a Business
You are now fully equipped with the tools you need to launch an innovative and successful business. Let go of any remaining fear and enjoy the ride to that ocean-view piña colada!
Have you recently started a business in an unexplored field? Do you have any more tips you’d like to share with those of us in the process of starting a business? Let us know in the comments section below!