Ever dreamed of running your own company? Going to work when you want, paying your own salary, making all the important decisions? Some people see that as the ultimate American dream, and our current economy makes starting a business easier than ever before.
Let me stress the relativity of the word “easier.” If you want to start a business, you can expect to be working almost constantly. It takes a lot of time and energy to be your own boss, and there are very few days off when you serve as the engine that keeps your company running. As rewarding as it may be, few things are harder than launching and keeping a business afloat.
Fortunately, thanks to brilliant innovators and the accessibility of technology, anyone with the passion and drive to become an entrepreneur can start a business right away. Is there a growing industry you want to join, or a homemade product you want to sell? Everything you need to get started is right at your fingertips.
While a business owner’s work is never done, here are the first three steps you need to take to become the CEO of Your Own Company, LLC.
1. Have an Idea
If you’re able to start a business without a solid strategy, you’re a prodigy the likes of which this planet has never seen. You can’t launch a startup for the sake of launching a startup, so you need a stronger motivation than “own a business” before you dive in.
For everyone with just a glimmer of an idea, start developing your concept. The earliest stages of starting a business offer the most excitement, as this is the part of the process where you’re allowed to dream. Whether your dreams are big or small, you have the freedom to dream about what kind of work you want to do and how you want to do it.
The hardest part of the early strategizing is when your left and right brains start debating logistics. Almost invariably, money questions will try to kill the vibe, and you might feel like there’s no chance you can follow through with your concept. This is the point when people with a strong idea keep fighting, and those who don’t really have a good grasp of their business head for the hills.
If you think you need to have thousands and thousands of dollars ready to go, you should take a step back and think about how you can change your business plan to match the resources you already have. As an example, let’s say you want to open an art supplies store. Your immediate necessities might include a bunch of art supplies and a store, right? If that’s how you view this undertaking, you have to invest in lots of inventory and start renting a shop. That’s a lot of money upfront, and that will naturally scare a lot of would-be entrepreneurs away.
The solution? Get creative during your dreaming and planning phase. Of course it’s hard to open a prototypical store in a downtown area, and that’s why the today’s brightest minds are doing things differently. Most successful companies, big and small, achieve success because they do business on their own terms. People do this by being innovative, but also by allowing their situation to dictate some of the steps they take.
As soon as you let your immediate circumstances inform how you plan to start a business, the overall concept takes a clearer shape and becomes a lot more feasible. If it’s impossible to rent a store space, you need to either operate out of your house or do everything online; if you can’t stock your shelves with the art supplies you want to sell, you can work via pre-orders and make purchases as needed. It might not line up with your initial vision, but it’s a way for you to get started.
For many, rethinking the original business concept seems like defeat. If that’s the case – if a change in your plan makes you want to quit – I would guess you weren’t that committed to running a company in the first place. Remember, this process takes a lot of work and puts you through a lot of ups and downs. One of the first downs will be reconfiguring your idea to make it feasible. If you really have the drive to launch a business, you’ll keep at it and make the pieces fit.
This is why developing your business model is no small matter. We all have great, exciting ideas that charm us for a day, two days, a month, maybe even a year, but then become a little stale and lose their luster. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to give that exciting idea a strong foundation. Take the concept that inspires you most and then think about how you can realistically make it happen. Once you’ve done that, the following steps become much more manageable.
2. Build a Website
I would never describe myself as a technology genius. My expertise is in personal finance and wealth management, and that’s where I put most of my brain power. However, I understand the times we live in, and I accept that tech is now a cornerstone of every industry.
Over the years I’ve started a few different websites, and I’ve learned something new with each one. Through it all, my main takeaway has been that the process is easy enough for anyone to figure out. If you’re willing to learn and ask questions, there’s no reason you can’t develop the skills needed to create a functional website.
For anyone pretending they can start a business without a web presence, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Yes, you can work as a mechanic or sell any number of things at a local market without the internet’s assistance, but a website can only help with those endeavors. If you want to compete with other businesses and see your operation grow, a URL of your own is essential.
If you have the money, you can definitely pay for professional web design and take all this computer stuff off your plate. However, I’m gearing this post toward the under-funded business owner, so let’s dismiss the more expensive option. Once you start making money and need more functionality from your site, we can have another discussion about hiring an expert; for now, you’re doing it on your own.
To start, you have to decide where you’re going to buy your domain name and what company will host your site. There are a lot of options out there, though I’m partial to Bluehost.com. This company works well for people who only need one domain, as well as those who want to have multiple sites up and running. One of the biggest pluses with Bluehost is their customer service, as you can almost always get a support rep on the phone to help you troubleshoot or answer any of your questions.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how to build your website, because that comes down to preference, style and a million other variables. If you’re totally in the dark on how to start, either get help through customer support or head to YouTube. Thousands of hours of helpful videos exist for your edification, so you’ll have no trouble getting free guidance from the comfort of your own home.
As you start this leg of your quest to start a business, focus on why you need a website. At the very least, this is your digital calling card; for people to hear about your company and not instantly forget, you need some sort of homebase. Whatever it is your company does, a digital starting place will provide evidence of your existence while also offering useful information to potential customers.
Beyond that, you get to decide which bells and whistles you need for your website. If you’ve opted to forgo the physical location for your art supplies company, you should learn how to set up an easy-to-use online store. If you provide an in-person service, your site can educate people on the benefits of that service. Anyone selling knowledge and expertise will probably want a blog by which they can offer proof of their acumen.
While this may sound daunting to anyone new to the process, it’s really not that bad. Once you learn a couple tricks, you can actually have fun building your own website. You don’t have to deal with the actual coding (though you’re free to try), and you’ll probably be impressed with some of the things you’re able to do.
Once you have your website up and running, complete with pictures/descriptions of your product/services, things start feeling more legitimate. Anyone with an internet connection can find evidence that you did indeed start a business, and that should inspire you to keep putting in the work and developing your brand. This is a big step in moving from the idea phase to actualizing your dream, and you should feel pretty pumped after taking it.
3. Figure Out Marketing
When you see the word “marketing,” do dollar signs flash in front of your eyes? That’s not an uncommon reaction, and it makes perfect sense. Marketing is a gargantuan industry, and the thought of developing advertising for your own business probably makes the frugal hairs on your arms stand up.
This is another area where technological accessibility makes it possible for people without marketing degrees or endless resources to promote their operations. To start with, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the other social apps provide one of the most useful marketing tactics of all. Social media marketing blew up in the last few years, and while you have the option to pour a bunch of money into this type of promotion, you can also just get a Twitter handle for your business and start making some noise.
If you really want to market effectively, you have to go beyond repeatedly declaring the existence of your business. Fortunately, this can still be done without paying a premium, as long as you figure out how to create some decent content marketing. This scares a lot of business owners away, as they don’t trust themselves and worry they might advertise in a way that undersells their company. It’s good to be cautious, but don’t just jump to the conclusion that you lack the skills to handle your own marketing.
To start, what’s the purpose of your business? Do you make and sell goods, advise consumers, take care of administrative duties or help people with any type of planning? If you’re starting your own company, you already have an important skillset that can be used in your marketing. Infuse your promotions with the talents and qualifications you already possess, and you should be able to make advertising you’re happy with.
This is why content marketing is so much more effective than standard banner ads and business cards. Through videos, blog posts, podcasts and whatever other forms of media are accessible to you, you can spread the word about your company while offering helpful information to your target audience. Will it take time for your content to find that target audience? Without question. But you already knew it would be hard work to start a business, so this shouldn’t come as any surprise.
When done right, the marketing concepts you create will not only promote your business, they’ll also inform your business practices. Good marketing helps you develop a voice, which informs your brand and helps you find the right customers. Since your goal is to start a small business without spending loads of cash, you probably aren’t trying to market to everyone under the sun. Knowing how to direct your advertising efforts increases your odds of reaching would-be customers; focusing on the right consumer group also lets you make better decisions regarding the type of marketing you use.
These three steps, while distinct and separately important, relate to each other very directly. The idea for your business will define how your website operates, and how you present your marketing will rely on the type of website you develop. How you choose to promote your website will all come back to the business plan you formed in the earliest days, when this company was still just a flicker of an idea in your brain.
Fortunately, you don’t have to figure all this stuff out at once. You can start with the idea and think about it for as long as you want, then start toying with web design options. As those pieces start falling in place, you can consider how you can market to your ideal customer, and then refer back to your original business plan to see if things are progressing in a way that resonates with you.
It will be difficult every step of the way, but it will also be rewarding. If you stay motivated and persevere, you can start a business and wake up each day as your very own boss.