Starting out and Promoting your Business
Working for Yourself
The idea of working for yourself can be rather appealing to some. The thought of being your own boss and being able to be a bit more flexible is particularly handy if you have family commitments or serious hobbies.
Running your own business has it's negative points too. Getting regular work, supplies and sorting out your own income tax can be a chore.
But if you weigh up the pros and cons of working for a company or starting up on your own, and decide to go with the latter, where are you going to begin?
There are many business ventures to choose from. Some can be set up straight away with minimal qualifications and money. Others require business plans, equipment and liability insurance. Do your homework first.
Check out the competition in your area. This is a very important first step, not only to see if there is enough business to go round (if any at all), but you also want to avoid poaching clients. This won't make you very popular and will effect personal relationships within the community, and may risk your reputation of being a 'trustworthy business person'.
You then need to know if you suit all the requirements for the job. Just because you work for yourself, doesn't mean you don't need to prove your skills or qualifications.
If the business you're setting up requires training make sure you've had it. You may need to be certified and clients like to see that.
Check your financial situation as this is vital. You may need to invest some money into equipment, a vehicle or a website. Liability insurance (if you need it) will also come out of your own pocket. But don't worry - it's all tax deductible, so put it all on the books.
Talk to your bank or lender if you need to borrow. Bigger businesses require business plans which are well thought out and clear. If your lender can see you've done your research and there's a profit to be had, they might just be generous with you. Badly drawn up plans with no research on the type of clients you will attract, the area you intend to work in and no maths skills could end up being rejected.
Do you need a business partner or premises? You will need someone you trust who has a good business head. Look at your strengths and weaknesses and find someone to compliment that. If premises are required you may need to rent a shop, office or warehouse unit. If you want to work from home, check with your mortgage lender or landlord first. You don't want them to put a stop to it after all the hard work has been put it.
Every business is different, so check and double check first. You need to register your business, find a unique name (that hasn't been taken), then of course, get some business!
This is a must, especially in this day and age. People in need of a service generally look online first. It's quick and more convenient than skimming through the telephone directory
There are many ways to get a website. You can set up your own, by signing into existing blogging sites and creating one. Wordpress or Blogger are easy to use.
You can buy and register your domain name so that no one else takes it and it makes you look professional. Use the name for your email address too.
Once you're set up, you need to fill it with content. You can ask a friend or pay someone to do this, or do it yourself.
Put relevant information on your front page. The name of your business, what you do, a catchy photograph or image and a short blog. You will have a contact page with your contact details, and an About You page, describing yourself. Make sure you really sell yourself, making you seem friendly and approachable, professional and skilled.
If you don't want to make your own site, you can pay a professional to do this for you. They will have SEO knowledge and know what keywords to use, get you back links, submit your site to online directories (to get you found easier) and market your website to be found on the search engines.
Check companies before you part with your money though. Some may overcharge, offer thousands of backlinks (which will spam your site and in the long run do it more harm than good) or simply scam you. Check online reviews and telephone them. If you can't get hold of them, be suspicious.
You should be given access to update your website too. If any small changes need to be made you can simply do it yourself, hassle free.
Word of Mouth
It is surprising how many people you will chat to about what you do for a living who will either require some work from you, or know someone who might.
Wherever you go, always get talking to people. It may be at the school gate whilst collecting your child, in a queue in a shop or at a party. Spread the word about.
Hopefully friends, neighbors and family will also do the same on your behalf to get you promoted.
If you are polite, confident and outgoing without being forceful, people will remember you and feel happy to approach you in the future.
Always carry business cards around with you. Have them in your bag, car, wallet and plenty at home. If someone wants work, they'll need a contact number.
You don't have to get them professionally done either. If you have a PC, you can print them off as and when you need them. Make them look attractive and clear with a logo or image on.
Going door to door with flyer's works for some and not for others. It depends on your business. If you choose to do this you may get a couple of clients out of it, but you'll have to go round a lot of houses.
Having said that, seeing a flyer with your business name and logo on may get you recognized in the future.
You may be better to put up your flyer in local shop windows and notice boards. It will save you time and many people will still see it.
Get permission from the shop manager first. You also may have to pay a small amount each week it stays up. Target areas where there is a good client base or many people go. Supermarkets, fish and chip shops or community halls. Even place them in doctor's waiting rooms or hair salons if appropriate.
It may seem like old hat now, but it's worth getting yourself in the Yellow Pages. Some people still use them.
If you use a car or van for your work, get a sign on the side. It makes you look like the professional that you are and it's great for advertising.
You could go a little further with your promotion if you wish, such as radio adverts or on screen (in clinics, shopping centres or children's play centers for example).
When you get an enquiry, find out where they heard about you. If most clients are using the same method, then focus more on that.
It could be trial and error before you get your feet off the ground.