Starting is often a challenge. It is the first hurdle you cross to become an entrepreneur. This article from Inc.com
We spend the majority of our young lives having others motivate and direct us – from parents and teachers pushing us to excel at learning, to peers inspiring us to push our limits and discover what we’re truly capable of, to loved ones causing us to look deeper into ourselves and develop who we are as a person, and where our moral compass points.
It’s understandably jarring when that’s all yanked out from under us during an important time, and there are few more familiar with that feeling than entrepreneurs.
For many, the journey usually starts with a hobby that turns into a money-maker. For weeks, months or even years, it’s something you do in your free time, off hours, and when you don’t feel like doing it, you don’t. But at a certain point – be it when you no longer have enough time to sleep, go to work, and do your project, or another catalyst occurs – you make the leap, and quit your day job.
That first day on your own is usually filled with activity, inspiration, and a euphoria mixed with trepidation. However, around the 14th day, you may start to feel frazzled, unorganized and, worst of all, unmotivated. There aren’t really any deadlines, and there isn’t anyone who will be disappointed in your failure except yourself. There likely aren’t enough clients or customers, either, and you’re not sure how to remedy that.
Here are 3 tips from an old pro on starting a business:
1. Make a Plan
You’ve heard this before, and I’ll say it again: do not, I repeat, do not try to run your business off the cuff. Even if it’s just you in your basement. Unless you want to stay in your basement forever.
In the first month of being on your own (if not beforehand), write out a business plan. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or fancy, and it doesn’t have to be venture capitalist ready. It just has to answer these questions:
What is your current product?
What kind of person buys your product? (Make sure you actually research this – no guessing allowed) Why do they buy it?
How much do you need to invest to create one project? Count money, time and existing resources in this equation.
Who do you compete with?
Why should someone buy your product over your competitor’s? Is it designed better? Lower cost? Easier to ship? More aesthetically pleasing?
What is your 1 year goal?
What do you need to do to achieve that goal?
Once you have this document written out, you’ll have a much better idea of what needs to be done for you to consider yourself a success as soon as possible.
2. Understand Your Finances
There’s a stereotype that entrepreneurs are always broke at the beginning, and it’s not totally untrue. However, in order to avoid disaster, make sure you understand not only your current financial situation – especially your debt and credit score – but also what you need to do should you require a loan.
Do your research and know what your best option is – be it a government grant or a small business loan, which will depend on what you’re using it for and what your credit score is.
When it comes to money, nobody likes to be surprised. Make sure you know your options.
3. Create a Marketing Plan
Yes, it’s really important to create a great product and fill a niche. It’s important to stay financially solvent and run a well-organized business.
But none of that matters if no one knows what you’re trying to do.
Create a marketing plan early on that works with your budget – even if the only thing you have to offer is time. Start with writing an “elevator pitch,” or a 1-3 sentence explanation of what you’re doing, and sharing it with friends, family and mentors. Ask them to be honest, and hone the pitch until it’s compelling.
The next step is to leverage your community. This can mean reaching out to those who are geographically close to you, or getting in touch with where your customers hang out. For example, if you make specialty shampoo, try giving some free samples to your local (non-chain) hair salons. Are you a writer? Start guest posting on blogs your target industry reads.
There are always free ways to get in touch with your audience.
These three tasks will set you on your way to success. Once your business has grown some roots of its own, you’ll start revisiting and revising your original thoughts, and that’s perfectly normal. The most important part is focusing yourself on what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to do it – even if that changes down the road.