8 things you need to know when starting in business

8 things you need to know about starting your own business

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.

4. Branding

Xtreme Fitness, Cumbria
Image courtesy of Xtreme Fitness, Cumbria

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.

5. Marketing

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!

6. Accounting

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!

Top 10 Reasons your Business NEEDS a Website

Before I start, yes - I know this is 2015 and not 1995... the benefits of having a website for your business should be apparent to most people.  Amazingly, I find some companies I talk to still think a website isn't necessary for their business and that they've "managed alright without one so far".

To them, I say this: you're wrong!  There are umpteen reasons why, if you don't have a website, you NEED to get one.  And the same goes for those of you who do have a website if it's five years old or more.

Here's my top ten reasons why YOUR business NEEDS a website:

1.  24/7 coverage

When you lock up at the end of the day and head home for a well-earned rest, your website is still online showcasing your products and/or services and selling the benefits of your business to potential customers.  With more people viewing websites on the move with smartphones and tablets than ever before, it's a no-brainer!

2.  Business perception

If you look the business, think the business and act the business, people will think you're the business.  NEVER underestimate the importance of your image - nobody wants to buy from a website that looks like a five year old did it (no disrespect to five year olds!).

3.  Yourname@mywebsite.co.uk

As much as you may like your mrtickle69er@yahoo.com e-mail address, you'll be taken far more seriously with an address that originates from the same domain as your website.

4. It's your online brochure

It's great having a snazzy, professionally designed brochure.  Ok, I'm bound to say that as I've designed loads of them for many different clients.  But one area your website can succeed where your brochure may struggle is in personality.  Everything from the subjects you blog about to the way you talk about your products or services and the tone of voice you use throughout.  People buy from people, and your website provides a wonderful platform to show that not only do you do great work, but you're human like the rest of us as well.  Oh, and you can update your online brochure anytime, which you can't with a printed version!

5. Downloadable content

Want to grow your mailing list?  What simpler way than to provide your visitors with useful, meaningful content?  Ask them to provide you with a few details in exchange via a simple form and hey presto - your mailing list will expand before your eyes.  And better yet, they're all opted in so it's fine to send them promotional mailshots!

6. Market reach

As soon as your website goes live, it's accessible to anyone around the world connected to the Internet.  There could be a market for your work somewhere you least expected it, and your website is your gateway to finding it... or it finding you.

7. Establish credibility

Similar to point (2).  A well-structured and beautifully designed website, coupled with quality, meaningful content will define you as an authority in your field and result in business coming to you, reducing the amount of time you need to go out and find it.  Post enough useful content and you can even influence the market(s) you operate in!

8. Promote your offline presence

Even if you don't sell your products or services online, you can bet your last fiver that people will still be searching for them online.  Think about it - if you're looking for a plumber, do you still reach for the Yellow Pages?  Of course you don't - you probably go straight to Google like the rest of us.  A website is essential for picking up that business, even if someone is just looking for a number in order to give you a call.

9. Good customer service

Tired of answering the same questions from different customers all the time?  A Frequently Asked Questions section enables you to provide this information up front, putting your customers in a position where they're ready to make an informed purchase.  You can provide loads of information on all kinds of topics, all of which will reduce your customer service costs too - bonus!

10. Press releases/news

We live in an instant world.  When I was growing up, I was told "today's news is tomorrow's fish and chips paper".  These days, today's news is today's fish and chip paper... or at least it would be, if it wasn't for more and more people consuming their news online.  Take advantage of this and publish your latest business news on your website.  Circulate it to local, regional, national and industry press and let it drive the traffic back to you... then just wait for the phone to ring!

As I said at the start of this piece, there are many many reasons why you NEED your own website and those listed above are just a small selection.  If you don't have a website for your business yet, my question to you is: why wait?

 

Get a website quote today!

If you'd like me to design a website for you, get in touch and let's get started!