Most people are open to starting a business, but often times they don’t know where to start. Being your own boss can be an exhilarating thought, but are there drawbacks? What is involved in starting a small business? Here are 4 ways to become successful and profitable if you decide to venture on your own:
1. Practice Before You Go Into Business Full Time- Many successful business owners start companies with a skill they know well, and have tested the ground first while having a paid job. Classified sites like craigslist and kijiji can allow you to walk before you run. You can gain all the knowledge of having your own company before officially signing any legal documents.
- Parts? How Much Do They Cost Overall? If you know how to sew, offer to make slipcovers, or patterns on craigslist, asking an amount you feel is worth your time. Why does this work? It allows you to test the waters. How long does it take you to complete a job, while working a full time job? What prices do you feel are fair and reasonable? You will also quickly determine how much parts cost, which can effect the overall profit margin.
- Asking For Money, Countering Offers– Offering your services for free or at a reduced rate allows you the experience of being on your own, and getting paid from your services. Approaching people for work, and negotiating terms and pricing isn’t something you practice working for someone else. These skills need to be learned. “Experienced Carpenter Looking For His Next Two Projects” Being the hobby person looking for a small paid project has benefits.
- Seasonal Slow Work? Working a side business also allows you to learn first hand if seasonal months play a role. Do people hold back from spending during different months? Would you have to plan to save profits for months that are slow? Before you quit your job, and invest in dozens of products, you should know how much money you can count on before quitting that job.
- Time and Gas Can Cost You- is something we often don’t think of when it comes to planning out a business. Though, it sure can add up, taking away your profit margin, and time. Would you have to see a client before getting offered a job? If so, in some busy cities, rush hour can shave off 2 or more hours out of your day. How much would it cost for gas back and forth from the job site, or picking up materials? For some people this isn’t a factor, for others it can weigh heavily on the bottom line. If you can utilize skype or Go To Meeting to interact with clients, do it.
- Recommendations– Starting small as a hobby business also allows you to also compile a list of recommendation letters, which allows you to get bigger and better jobs. Don’t be shy about asking for customer referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked. Referrals make it easier to get in the door with new customers, and could make a difference between paying your bills, or dipping into your savings in the months ahead.
- Accept That Learning Comes Before Earning -Identify the areas you need practice in, and then decide to learn it yourself or hire an expert and learn as much as you can from that person.
2. Cash Flow – Get It Going NOW– Get your cash flowing right away. This can be one of the hardest things to do, because it forces you to just get out there, offer your services and get paid for it, before you are ready. Cash is essential to move on to other projects, and to complete those projects at hand. More or less, you want to generate ways to get money up front, or through out the month, so your cash gap will never be an issue. Think about logos, interior colors, car detailing, shop signage down the road. Focus on getting the money coming in first and foremost.
- Many professional services asks for deposits on work up-front, with balances due on delivery.
- You can develop programs where customers pay an up-front monthly fee to insure delivery or availability of items they will buy on a repeat basis.
3. Focus On Marketing and Sales With 30% Of Your Time
Focus a good portion of your efforts into marketing your business. Good leads convert into sales. Too many entrepreneurs focus on getting their brand right before they start to generate leads. I think many of us are guilty of this. After you get the ball rolling, you can always tweek things later.
- Capture Their Attention In Ads or Phone Calls- Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about 6 to 8 seconds. f you successfully engage them, then you only have a little over a minute to really sell them on your product or service.
- Think Locally, Not Global- Once you get the ball rolling in your local area, it will also allow you the contacts to reach farther.
- Land A Dozen Sales With The Same Customer Over Time– Consider setting yourself up to getting repeat sales from your customers.
- Network – get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people. Talking with those in related businesses can generate the buzz for you if you are genuine, trustworthy, and seem to be professional in your business.
- Create Buzz- Write a guest post with links back to your blog. Expect people to google you. Allow them to come across a few articles showing your capabilities and knowledge.
- Stay In Touch With Your Customers– Social media is another way to keep the communication channel open. If you don’t have a daily blog, blog on twitter, or on your facebook profile, and keep it professional. Daily tips can provide your customer base with some learning knowledge, so when it comes time to offering your services, you show up in their feed. Don’t get into politics, or moral issues, keep it on your niche market.
4. Don’t Discount Your Services- It can be easy to close a sale by offering a discount, but don’t do it. When you discount your services, you are taking money directly out of your pocket. Instead, create added value to your products or services. Be prepared with an answer what those added values are, that others in your field do not. Be ready for an answer, and don’t say anything more. Silence forces the other person to talk, and make a decision. Holding to your price points also relays the message that your service is well worth the money.
A Few FAQ About my Business and Blog (Interior Design Business) –6th Street Design School
-Kirsten Says Start A Blog “I started working on my blog in about October of 2009 and I started my business that following June right after I graduated from college. Starting the blog was essential to building up clients. By the time I graduated I already had done a few consults. My blog and my wonderful readers gave me the confidence I needed to start my business“
-Kirsten Says Professional Photography Sells- “If you are serious about your business then I think hiring a professional photographer to shoot your work is a must! It makes such a difference. I’ve been able to work out trades with all three of these ladies so that has helped to keep cost down.”
– Kirsten Says Have A Good Savings Account Built Up – “The only unforeseen cost was due to a client I had who ended up returning a bunch of items that I couldn’t return so I had to come up with the money. Every now and then you might run into a client like that but most understand the way things work and will be really good about reimbursing you for things. And we always discuss upfront what they can and can’t return. Luckily I had the money in my savings account to cover it. Otherwise I would have been in HUGE trouble since it was thousands of dollars worth of stuff.”
– Kirsten Says Network – “I love interacting with other bloggers as often as possible. It’s such an amazing feeling to connect with people that just “get you” and totally understand the whole blogging world. In Utah there are always blogging events being thrown so I’ll try to go to as many of those as I can. I also like to email bloggers that I’ve never met and meet up for lunch if we can. It’s really important to meet as many people in person as possible.”
– Kirsten Says Reach Out And Email – “I have to work really hard to get noticed and get my name out there. I will often email other bloggers and websites projects that I’ve worked on and usually that results in me getting featured on their site which generates more readers which generates more clients.”
Building My Interior Design Business: What I’ve Learned – Emily A Clark
– Emily Says Start A Blog – “I actually went about it backwards and started my blog first, which grew into my design business. I thought about design all of the time and what I could do to make my own house look better. So, on a whim, I decided to start blogging about things I liked and ideas I wanted to remember. Never in my wildest dreams did I think thousands of people would actually want to read it every day.”
-“I didn’t have any specific marketing plan when I started, but it turns out my blog—more than anything else—has been beneficial to growing my business. I’ve done no local advertising, yet most of my clients come directly through the blog. Blogging is almost a side business—definitely not an afterthought at the end of the day, but I do love it.”
– Emily Says- Get The Job That Gives You The Skills – “I had the good fortune of working for a store manager and visual manager who took the time to teach me lots (how to pair patterns together, how to do floor plans, even how to pronounce the names of certain pieces of furniture. It was a crash course in design, and I loved it. I didn’t love the hours of working retail but it gave me experience working with real clients, going into their homes and listening to what they wanted”
– Emily Says Work for Free. . . .At First– “When I decided that I would start working for myself (almost) two years ago, I basically just put myself out there. I honestly just hoped to get two (non-family/non-friend clients) within the first three years. (I’m not a great goal-setter. . .) I worked really hard on my house, knowing that it would be my best portfolio. And, I volunteered my services to a few friends, making them swear I could post the progress on my blog. It was great practice and gave the illusion that “real people” actually thought I was good and reliable”
– Emily Says Determine Your Rates “A wise designer once told me that your hourly rate should also take into account the time you spend getting ready, driving there, paying a sitter and ultimately being away from your family. If you’re making zero profit and working non-stop when you could be spending time with your family instead, you might want to reevaluate. The other thing I’ve had to learn is that hiring a designer is a luxury, not a necessity. Your time, your ideas and your input are worth something. It’s not your obligation to work for every single person who asks for help with their home. “
– Emily Says Have A Presence On Twitter Or Facebook “I would strongly encourage you to have an online presence on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the best opportunities and exposure I’ve received have come through online relationships I’ve made through these outlets.”
– Emily Says You Won’t Have A Business Unless You Try – “I guess the bottom line is to just try. If this is what you want to do, then as with anything else, quit being scared and see what happens.”
Toby Montague -Ten Things I’ve Learned From My First Year of Business- The Guardian.com
(Toby is the founder of Crunchd, a social network connecting people who grow their own food. In January 2011 he quit his job at an investment bank and started Crunchd from his home in Saffron Walden, Essex.)
– Toby Says A Business Mentor Can Really Pay Off – “My mentor is an old family friend who is now retired but was in business for years and he’s been incredibly helpful. He’s kept me very levelled: it’s easy to get ahead of yourself sometimes and he’s very good at keeping the focus on where it needs to be.We try to catch up once a month. There are times when we catch up once a week and there was a stage where I was calling him two or three times a day when things were getting quite crazy.”
– Toby Says Prioritise Your Money- “With anything I buy, in the back of my head I’m thinking: “OK, I’m buying that now, but what else could I use that money for?” It could be spent on something like stationery or postage stamps, or half an hour of web development to make the site better. At first I don’t think I took budgeting very seriously. I’d go off for a weekend away or buy something that wasn’t necessary. But I’ve now realised that all I really need is three meals a day, heating in my house and the internet to go with the business. I’ve had to become a lot more frugal.”
– Toby Says Don’t Take Things Personally– “Feedback on the site has been instrumental in how it looks and works. Initially I was sensitive to negative feedback, but I learned very quickly that somebody giving their opinion isn’t wrong and that I have to value that opinion. You have to appreciate both negative and positive feedback.”
– Toby Says Make Bookwork A Routine – “I learned to keep on top of admin, accounts and expenses. I ended up having to collate just over two years of receipts and I’d never want to go through all that again. I have to make sure things are kept up to date, so now I do all my expenses every week and it takes me 15 to 20 minutes. I now take photos of my receipts and use JotNot Scanner Pro, a document scanning application”
– Toby Says Don’t Cheat Yourself “If you’re working for yourself, everything that you do has a direct impact on the results of the business; you have to become a lot more efficient in what you’re doing. I’m up at 5am and will work all throughout the day”
– Toby Says Network Everywhere, And Have A Call To Action Ready – “I ended up sharing a taxi with a lady in Bristol and we had a long chat about Crunchd, which resulted in her giving me a huge amount of feedback. Having a business card at the ready is really important – you don’t know who you’re going to meet.”
Aaron Nace – 6 Lessons Learned From Owning a Business –phlearn.com
-Aaron Says Capital Is More Important Than You Think- There are two very important parts to running a business: Time and Money. Use either poorly and your business will fail.
–Aaron Says What you put in, is what you will receive. “It is pretty easy to see what people care about. The most precious things people own are time and money. Take anyone you know and analyze how they spend their time and money. You will find out very quickly what is important to them. How do I spend my time and money? I have made over 300 free videos on Phlearn helping people learn photoshop and photography, each video takes more than 2 hours to record and produce. Anyone who meets me will know immediately that I spend all of my time on Phelarn. I sold a nice sports car to raise capital for Phlearn, and I spend very little money on myself. I care about Phlearn, and that is very easy to see”
-Aaron Says Get Help- “Here is a secret to business: Do exactly what you are good at, and get someone else to do the rest.Getting help is a good thing, but it will also come with added responsibilities that you may not be used to such as delegating. Delegation is a skill that takes working on constantly, and very few people are naturally good at it, but it can be learned. Don’t micro-manage, but don’t leave people completely on their own.”
-Aaron Says – Your Going To Be Working Harder Than Ever- “When you are working for yourself, you will never work again because you are doing what you love”. This is only partially true. The full truth is that a lot of what you are doing will be what you love, but there will be a ton of things you are going to hate doing as well. The discipline to do the things you don’t necessarily want to do is a very important part of succeeding.”
“Even a photographer like Terry Richardson who shows up to every party in Hollywood still has to come home and edit and post everything he does to his blog”
“Giving up all of this free time, not keeping your money, and busting ass is all worth it as long as it pays off in the end. To make sure it pays off in the end, you have to first know what the end is. That is called a goal.”
Dana Brownlee 7 Sins of Newbie Entrepreneurs –Entrepreneur.com
Dana Says Not Having Enough Cash Will Cost You- “Not setting aside enough cash reserves to support yourself. I believe that one of the reasons why so many small businesses fail within the first few years is NOT because the business model isn’t viable or the entrepreneur isn’t “good enough” to make the business work, but it’s the fact the financial ramp up time is a firm reality. Most entrepreneurs simply run out of money to support the business and/or themselves before the business is profitable enough to sustain itself”
Dana Says Trying To Do Everything Yourself Is A Mistake- “If you try to do EVERYTHING yourself, you’ll not only run yourself into the ground, your business will suffer, because you don’t bring sufficient expertise in every area. Your time is money. Think about where you must personally invest your energies. Should you be developing and refining your content, products and services, cultivating relationships with key clients and stakeholders, developing credibility within your industry? No one can do this for you. That said, others can develop your website, handle your public relations, develop templates for your newsletters, make trips to printers and copiers and perform random administrative functions. Utilize them“
Dana Says Pricing Your Product Or Services Too High Or Low Can Be Detrimental- “ Years ago, I’d been submitting proposal responses annually to a large governmental agency. After about four years of consistent rejections, I got a tip from a colleague that my pricing was too low to be considered seriously. That year I doubled my pricing on the same classes and was selected for the first time. On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t want to charge $20,000 a day and expect to get the job”
Do your research to see what others are charging. It’s much smarter to offer value pricing initially, prove your value and then raise prices over time”
“You may also consider providing different pricing options to increase the likelihood that you’re offering something within your client’s price range.”
Do you have any tips of your own? Leave Your Comments Below…..