You’ve made the decision and are joining the ranks of people running their own businesses with dreams of leaving the 9-to-5 behind. You have a great idea, know you want to make money and need to start finding customers and selling them your stuff. So what do you do next?
For me, that was the hardest question to get my head around.
In my day job I have many years of experience and would class myself as an expert in what I do, however, as a new business owner I feel like I am very much at the other end of the learning curve. I love to learn and have made good use of some great tips and tricks I found in books, blogs and Facebook groups but am also conscious of the risk of “information overload” if I spend too much time on Google. There is so much information out there on every conceivable topic which could easily lead to me spending precious time learning about loads of things that I can’t immediately apply (it may be a bit ‘advanced’ for where I am at the moment) and then spinning on the spot doing nothing with what I have learned. If this sounds like you too, then hopefully the following basic things that have worked for me so far will help you move forward – without the overwhelm!
Having been an employee for the last 18 years, there was loads of business knowledge locked up in my head already – the trick was working out what I could reuse for my own business and actually make a start rather than just continually planning (aka procrastinating!) and making no progress.
What was most useful for me at the very beginning of my journey was:
1) Getting myself a business email.
At work my email addresses have always been firstname.lastname@example.org so for minimal cost from Gmail/Gsuite I got myself a new email address just for my business. This keeps things separate from my personal stuff which stops me getting distracted when responding to my business emails, and looks professional which helps me build trust with clients. It also weirdly made having a business real for me – something tangible to prove it existed when I was getting off the ground.
2) Setting work hours.
A big selling point of working for yourself is that you can choose when you work right? Flexibility is great but you need to treat it as you would office flexitime – set yourself some core hours and make them non-negotiable. Even if you commit to just 1 hour a night and 2 on a Saturday & Sunday afternoon you will be surprised how much that will move your business forward. You can then choose to add more or less hours in each week depending on your schedule.
3) Turn up each day.
If you had a heavy night out and didn’t turn up for work the next day there would be trouble. The same is true of not turning up for your own business. You may not think it matters as it is just you working on it so what harm can taking a few unplanned days of here and there actually do. Loads. Your employer wouldn’t survive long if staff failed to turn up and put the work in and neither will your business. Employ yourself in your business, work it like a second job and hold yourself accountable to turn up and work.
4) Planning your work tasks.
In your day job I am guessing you don’t arrive at your workplace each day and then sit there thinking up something to spend your time on? You have a list of things you need to do so you will have developed a routine to get them all done in the time available. Do the same thing for your business. Look at the work hours you have set and plan what each one is for – this could be a mixture of writing content, delivering your thing, making new contacts – whatever is right for your business. Make your plan of daily, weekly and monthly tasks and get them done.
5) Identify YOUR customers.
Your employer will operate in a niche market – doesn’t matter if this niche is plumbing services in a particular town, B2B consulting, people going on holidays – it is still a niche. You need to find your niche rather than treating everyone with a pulse as a potential customer. Who does your particular business speak to? Who would be your ideal customer? What benefit would they get from buying your thing and working with you? Get clear on this and it makes things a whole lot easier. For example, writing a successful email pitch or blog article aimed at all people everywhere of all ages about getting in shape is a lot harder than writing for a 40 year old woman with 2 kids who wants to get fit for a beach holiday in 3 months.
6) Get you/your thing/something out there!
Are you that person who has already decided on their full palette of brand colours, had business cards made, has bought all the stationery and has a beautifully arranged home office but not actually done anything else with your business yet? Still waiting for the timing to be right or the stars to align or to fit in around other things you have going on (I will definitely start on Monday!), or for things to be perfect? Colour coordinated paperclips does not a business make.
Again taking a look at your day job, you will see that it revolves around selling goods or services to make money. The truth is that you also need to have something to sell to your niche market or you are just going to hone your skills in the art of getting ready. You need to make something! Create a course, a plan, a blog you can share and get it out there. Once you make a start it gets easier. Think of it like getting into a chilled pool on a hot day – you can inch your way deeper and dislike the cold water creeping over your skin or you can just plunge in and soon find the water is warmer than you thought.
Take some time to go through the above steps and also think about what you can reuse from your own past experience to help you in the next step of your journey.