A lot of people dream their whole lives about working for themselves, but they never actually take the plunge and get started.
Are you one of those people? Don’t be. If you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit inside you, don’t leave it there unattended. Let it out, and start living the life that you’ve always dreamed of. It will be worth it.
Starting your own business is extremely exciting. There are tons of advantages. As you think about your current job, more and more things will pop into your head that will be benefits of self-employment, running your own small business. You won’t need to have a boss, or office hours, unless you want to, and you can set your own rules in all aspects of your business.
THE 15 STEPS CHECKLIST TO STARTING YOUR OWN SMALL BUSINESS
All that said, success can’t just happen overnight. There needs to be a plan in place. If you’ve been thinking about starting a small business for a while, you’ve probably already gone through some of the steps below, without even knowing it. Here are 15 steps to take when you want to start your own business:
1. FIND AN IDEA
This is really important, of course. No business has ever been started without an idea. That’s the truth. Usually the idea will come from things that you’re passionate about, things that you’re already really good at, or things that you’ve got a high level of familiarity with. If you’ve thought about starting a small business before, chances are you’ve already got this part taken care of. If not I have written a post about creativity techniques to find your idea or browse through proven online business ideas.
2. RESEARCH THE IDEA
Of course, you’ll want to make sure that there’s a market for your idea. There’s no point starting a business if there’s not going to be anyone to sell your products or services to. Look at the market that’s out there already. Are there lots of competitors? Is there room for another one? How can you be better than the others out there? Take the time to think it through and you’ll be glad you did. If you want to find out more in idea validation read my blog post on it.
3. WRITE A PLAN
Put your thoughts to paper (or screen, it’s 2016, right?) so that you’ve got a concrete idea of how your business will look and the direction it needs to take. Think about as much as you can and create a plan that will help your business grow and get to where you want it to go. Of course, plans can change as time goes on, but the more detail you can put into your plan now, the better off you’re going to be in the long run.
4. ALLOCATE MONEY AND TIME
This isn’t going to happen on its own. Every business that exists already is the result of someone putting in a serious amount of time, and probably some money too. Depending on the business idea that you have, the amount of money will vary, but don’t cheap out. The more you put into your business to make it run professionally, the more you’re likely to get out of it. You’re investing in yourself, after all, right?
5. CHOOSE A LOCATION
Whether you’re going to run a bricks and mortar business, or an online business, you’re going to need to figure out where it’s going to be. If it’s bricks and mortar, you’ll need a physical location, and if it’s an online business, you’re going to need to find a physical place to get your work done.
6. FIND A NAME THAT WORKS
Now, don’t spend too much time on this task. Limit it to an hour. Come up with a business name that represents something that you stand for, and something that will be simple and efficient for your business to use. During this process, of course, you’re going to want to find a free web domain, so make sure you pick a name that you can get a web address for. No matter what kind of business you’re starting, you’ll need a website, so make sure you can get one.
7. FIND YOUR FIRST CUSTOMERS
Sometimes, the hardest part can be getting your first few customers. It’s not like they’re just magically going to appear, is it? Find a way to target the people that are going to want your products or services, and get them to buy something. It’s okay to start small, remember. Once you get your first few customers, things will start to snowball if you keep going.
8. DETERMINE THE LEGAL STRUCTURE
This part’s not all that much fun, but it’s important. Find a lawyer that works in business law and enlist their help to set up your business so that it’s all on the up and up legally. There are a few things that you’ll need to think about in this area, so make sure you get some experienced help to make sure that all the right I’s are dotted and the right T’s are crossed.
9. GET A BANK ACCOUNT
You’re going to start making some serious money, right? So, you’re definitely going to need a place to put it. Start a business bank account so that you have a good financial setup that keeps your personal money and your business money separate. A lot of banks can offer help to small businesses, and there are a number of ways that bank accounts can be customized for the specific needs of your new company, so listen to their advice and choose the financial products that are best for you.
10. BUILD A SUCCESS SPREADSHEET
When it comes to your business, success is the number one goal and the reason for trying to start your business in the first place, so you should make sure that you’re keeping track of your success. A great way to do this can be with a simple spreadsheet. On one side you can track your goals for various objectives and targets, and then on the other side you can track the measurable successes that match up with those goals. This will help keep you honest as well as serve as a visual part of your business plan, reminding you of what it is that you’re setting out to achieve.
11. BUILD A WEBSITE
In this day and age, a website for your business is critical. It’s not even an option, really. You need a website. When people are looking for almost anything now, their first stop is the internet. Your website can be a vehicle that brings traffic to your business and helps you to drive revenues. You can use your website as a tool that brings people directly from search engines such as Google to your business. The better your website looks and the more information that you have on it, the more likely they are to choose you over your competition. It’s a lot easier today than it ever has been before to have a professional website built. You don’t have to start with the best of the best, you can start small and affordable and still end up with an excellent finished product.
Another reason why a website is important is because of trust. It’s hard for potential customers to learn about your business if you don’t have a website. They want to know about you, they want to know about your business, and they want to know that they’re making the right choice with their money. If they can find out about everything that you stand for, what you’re all about, your previous work, great testimonials, and so on right from your website, they’re far more likely to trust that you’re going to do a good job for them that meets and exceeds their expectations.
If you don’t have a clue on how to build your own website, check out my handy 5-steps startup guide here. If you are a decent web designer already check out my 50+ list of best practices to make your website even more awesome.
12. LOOK FOR PARTNERS
Businesses don’t exist in a vacuum. One business on its own is a lot less likely to achieve high levels of success than a business that knows how to find other companies or organizations to work with, and how to develop those partnerships in a way that can help increase their customer base, and in turn, their profits. Consider ways that your business could benefit others, and then think about what you would like from others in return. With that information, you’ll be able to start looking at potential partnerships that can have a huge positive impact on your bottom line.
13. START MARKETING AND SALES
So now that your business is up and running, you can really start to put your plans into action. The key to your business’ success, of course, is going to be in the quality and value your customers get from your products or services, but your success will also be directly correlated to your marketing efforts.
Think about all the different channels that you can reach with your marketing techniques. There are a number of great ways that you can market your business today at a very low cost. Of course, your website, as we’ve already discussed, is a great tool to use to market your brand, but there are others. Social media marketing, for example, has become extremely valuable in the world today, and this type of tool can be used at a minimal cost with a maximum return on your investment.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to marketing your small business. Being different without going too crazy can help you stand apart from your competition and catch peoples’ attention. Marketing leads to customers, and customers lead to sales. It’s a great transition that you’ll definitely be able to benefit from.
If you want to learn the basics in online marketing, check out my post on this topic.
14. CARE FOR YOUR EXISTING CUSTOMERS
Your existing customers are incredibly important. You need to make sure that you’re taking care of them. There’s a rule of thumb that you should keep in mind, and you may have heard of it before. It’s called the 80/20 rule, and it refers to the fact that 80 percent of your outcomes are most likely going to come from just 20 percent of your inputs.
What this rule refers to specifically in business is that 80 percent of your business is going to come from 20 percent of your clients. The key is to find the most lucrative clients to be part of that 20 percent, and then hang onto them, because they’re going to be the ones that give you the most consistent business and the most consistent revenue.
15. TRACK YOUR SUCCESS
You always want to know how your business is doing, so keep a close eye on things. Monitor your business activities and goals closely, figure out where your revenues are coming from and where your expenses are going to, and always keep your eyes open for new ways to build revenue and achieve more success.
AND THEN … EXPAND AND SCALE
So now that you’ve done all that (are you tired yet?), you can start to look at the next stages for your business. If you want to keep achieving success, you’re always going to want to keep one eye firmly focused on the future. Keep doing what you’re doing in the present, but keep in mind that the things you do today will affect the ways that you’ll be able to expand and scale in the future.
You’ve probably got a good idea as to how much expansion you want to undertake with your business, and how big you want to get. Not every small business owner wants to be the next multinational corporation, and that’s fine. The key is figuring out what level of expansion is best for you. If you’ve started a bricks and mortar store, should you start another one in a different city? If your business is based online, is it worth hiring more staff to take on more projects? Keep these questions in mind and you’ll be able to grow at the right pace that won’t put your business in jeopardy. If you want to know more on how to scale I highly recommend learning some growth hacking techniques.
All of this might seem daunting at first. Starting a small business is definitely a challenge. But it’s a great challenge, and one that you’re definitely up for. After all, this is your dream. By following the steps above, you’re going to be well on the right track for success, and soon other small business owners will be turning to you for advice, wondering how you got to where you are now.