A lot of us fantasise about sticking it to the man, knocking the day job on the head and starting our own business. The idea of being your own boss is seductive and most of us will have thought about it at one time or another, indeed for some of us it’ll be something we dream about daily.
So if you’ve been dreaming about the ideals of going it alone, what do you actually need to do in order to turn it into a reality? There’s much to consider, and the decision to wave goodbye to the guaranteed monthly income of your day job is a big one. In truth, it’s something I’ve never had the bottle to do myself, although I’m lucky enough to really enjoy my day job and the work I do there complements the freelance work I do through CWDmedia.
But I got to thinking. If I was to go full-time with CWDmedia, how would I go about it? How different would it be to running the business part time like I do now? So I did some research. A lot of research, actually, and found plenty of good advice mixed in with a lot of flannel. So here’s my eight steps to starting your own business. This isn’t a bible, I’m not Richard Branson, and if you’re thinking of giving it a try then you should certainly do your own research as well, but this quick and simple guide should help you – it’s certainly helped me.
1. Get an idea (a good one)
It doesn’t have to be an original idea – I wasn’t the first graphic designer on the scene and I won’t be the last. But you should definitely come up with an idea that a) suits your skill set, b) fills a gap in the market, and perhaps most importantly c) will provide you with sufficient income that you can still pay your bills – if not immediately then within a realistic period of time.
2. Decide on a name
Not as easy as it sounds. Speaking as somebody who, along with three other musicians, couldn’t decide what to call our band for over six months, believe me when I say this isn’t always straightforward! You For a start, you want to be sure you’ll like the name in five years’ time. Make sure it isn’t too long winded unless you’re happy to abbreviate it with an acronym that rolls off the tongue – nobody wants to be constantly answering the phone saying “Good morning, British Broadcasting Corporation” when “BBC” works succinctly. Alternatively, a good rule of thumb is the fewer syllables the better.
3. Have a plan
To quote Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, “have a plan and stick to it”. It’s extremely important you spend time putting together a cohesive business plan. Not only will it serve as your route map when you put your wheels in motion, but it will be vital if you decide you need to secure funding from the bank or a private investor to help you expand further down the line.
Too many people believe that a company’s brand starts and finishes with its logo. Wrong. Getting your logo right IS massively important, but the corporate colours in your logo should be carried throughout everything else you, from your business card to your brochure, your website to your workwear. Your brand is your identity to the outside world, so make it count. Enlist the help of an able graphic designer (nudge nudge, cough cough) and have them look after everything from your signage to your letterheads. This way you guarantee consistency across everything you put in the public eye. A great example of this is the Xtreme Fitness gym in Cumbria. They came to me a few years ago, before the gym had opened, looking for logo and leaflet designs. When it came to kitting out the gym, all the equipment was branded with their logo and corporate colours so when a customer walks in they see a really strong and impressive brand. The rest is history – within 18 months Xtreme Fitness was voted the number one gym in the UK by users of GymBuzz and it continues to go from strength to strength.
>> Looking for a graphic designer, or someone to provide sound advice on building your brand? I can help – get in touch today.
Once you’ve got your brand sorted, you can start to think about how you’ll take your product or service to market. Who are you selling to? What are they looking for? What challenges are they facing in their jobs? How can you help them? Who are your competitors? What do they charge for the same products or services? How are your products or services different? Why should your customers buy from you and not your competitors? How should I promote my business and my products or services? What should my message(s) be?
These are just some of the questions you need to have answers for if you’re serious about making an impact, and they’ll require some research before you can answer them comprehensively. One things for sure though, you’ll certainly need a website. If I get a call from somebody trying to sell me something, the first thing I’ll do is check out their website. If they haven’t got one, the alarm bells start ringing!
You’ve probably heard of Sage accounting software. Well here’s a tip – check out www.quickfile.co.uk. It’s free, and really easy to use. You can send quotes, invoices, payment reminders, link it to your business bank account, and loads more besides. You can even use their smartphone app to photograph your receipts while you’re on the move to ensure your expenses get logged.
Stay on top of your transactions and keep them logged as you go to avoid the headache of re-tracing your steps the week before the tax submission deadline!
Should you decide to hire an accountant to organise your end of year accounts, you should ensure they are qualified in ACA, ACCA or CIMA. You’ll also need to register the business with the HMRC.
7. Open a business bank account
Having a business bank account makes your accounting much simpler further down the line, saving you time and money, particularly if you elect to appoint an accountant to organise your end of year accounts for you. It also makes it easier for you to borrow money from the bank, should you need to in future.
8. Create a fanfare
How are you going to launch your business? Just because your website goes live, it doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be inundated with enquiries – generally it takes a while. But you want business straight away, right? So you need to create a pre-launch buzz. Get on social media. Engage a reputable PR company who understands your business, your market AND is well connected with key publications through which exposure of your brand can drive traffic your way. Is it worth considering an introductory offer to encourage customers to spend?
Hopefully the above points have given you some food for thought. Remember, if you need help with branding, graphic design or marketing, I can help – get in touch today!