With so many people quitting the traditional nine to five to work for themselves, has there ever been a better time to go for it yourself? Working for yourself means that you can choose your own hours, work flexibly around childcare and any other commitments and you can juggle your priorities on a day to day basis to best suit both your work and family life. It is easy to see the appeal, and with more and more people running their own business, there is also lots of support and advice available along with a thriving small business network to connect with. If you are considering taking the leap yourself, but are just not sure quite where to start, then here are our 8 steps to starting your own business.
Formulate your idea
The very first thing that you are going to need to do is formulate your idea.
Whilst you might have thought up something completely original, or spotted a gap in the market, it need not be as challenging as this. There are plenty of businesses that you can run that do not need you to be completely original in your idea. For example, you could freelance in the field that you are currently in, you could retrain for another profession or you could set up an online business. You might want to take a look at Working Mothers: The Jobs You Can Do From Home for further inspiration around this.
When you are trying to decide on what to do, think about what you love doing, where your skills and experience lie, what is practical for you to do and bear in mind the startup costs.
Develop your concept
Once you have settled on your business idea, you need to work on developing the concept.
Here you will need to start working on the specifics of the product or service that you plan to offer and fully think through the logistics of how you will run your business.
You need to think up a name for your new enterprise and at this point we would recommend that you check to see whether that name is available as a web domain. If it isn’t then now is the time to think again as a little further down the line you will want to get a website set up.
You can then start to work on your business branding, which should really help you to focus your ideas. The branding should include the logos, signs and design, along with your business’ values and mission statement. Your branding is the image and voice of your business so this is a key stage to concentrate on.
Present your idea to friends and family
You should now have a well-developed concept that you can present to friends and family. This is an opportunity to gain some initial feedback and thoughts.
You know those people in your life whose opinions you value and trust, and those are the people that you should be seeking guidance from at this point. They will help to shape your idea and they should be able to offer up some constructive criticism. This is a chance to pitch your business to people that know and love you, helping you to refine it and build your own confidence in talking about it. The next pitch is going to be to potential customers and, if needed, your bank for finance, so this is a great opportunity to practice whilst getting feedback.
This is also a worthwhile endeavour as a way to give a heads up to friends and family that this is the route that you are going down. They will be able to appreciate why you then might go off their radar for a while as you get everything started up and some of them might be able to pitch in and help you to get up and running.
Carry out market research
Before you go any further, it is a good idea to carry out market research. You need to ensure that there is room in the market for your new business and to sense check your product, services, prices and business branding.
There are several ways that you can go about this, and remember that you have already started to do this by talking to friends and family about it.
You could take to social media and ask for input there, either directly or by way of a survey. You could use forums to gain some feedback. You could hold customer focus groups, targeting those people that you feel are your potential customers. You could ask if you could ask a few questions at any groups that you already attend, such as your fitness class, playgroup or craft group.
The idea here is to get some initial impressions from people on what you are looking to do and you can then factor any feedback into shaping your business.
Arrange your funding and equipment
Now is the time to start making things happen. You are clear on how you want your business to look and have the endorsement of potential customers, so your next step is to arrange any funding that you need and get equipment and stock in place .
It is worth completing a full business plan, whether you need to get funding or not, as this will help you to think through the figures that you need to aim for and work out how you will achieve them.
Get your administration organised
This can often be a stumbling block as it can appear to be quite a daunting task. Do not let this stop you as there is plenty of support available out there, from free business advice at your bank to accounting software to take the hassle out of the bookkeeping.
You will need to ensure that you are registered self employed for taxation and regulation purposes, and this is very easy to do if you follow the guidelines provided.
Create your work environment
You are now registered as self employed so you are in business. One of the first things that you are going to need to do is create your new work environment.
For many of us, this is often in our home at this early stage. If this is the case, do try to make a designated work area, separate from your home and family life. Ideally you will have a room or outbuilding, but if this cannot be done, a corner or a desk can often work as well.
It helps to do this because you will feel more professional than if you are just working from your sofa, and if you have a desk or storage area you can leave things there ready to pick up the following day. You can put everything that you need there, which should help you to be more productive each day.
If you are going to need separate premises, you need to strike a balance between the perfect location and the perfect rental costs.
Attract those customers
Marketing a brand new business effectively is absolutely key. You might have the best name, idea, product and office, but if nobody knows about you it is all irrelevant. This is the time to start making a name for yourself and building a reputation.
Get a website up and running straight away and start using a social media channel or two, as they are free to use and often effective at helping you to spread the word.
You could then offer incentives for those early customers to encourage them to help you to spread the word. Word of mouth is a brilliant form of recommendation and should help you to build the foundations of your reputation.