Are you toying with the idea of starting your own business? If you’re thinking of leaving your full-time job or turning your talent into a side hustle, you’re not alone. These days, it seems like every second person is doing their own thing. Whereas many of our parents stayed in the same job for 20 years, we’re looking for more flexibility, more satisfaction, and let’s be real, more income.
So if you want to be your own boss but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you.
Refine your idea…
Every business begins with a good idea. The first step is deciding what you’re going to do, and why. What are you great at? What makes you happy? Are you creating a product, or offering a service? Who is it going to benefit? If you can, find a niche – this not only makes it easier to focus, but it helps clients to see you as an expert. It also gives you a chance to get used the whole running-a-business thing. It’s smart to start small!
Once you’ve settled on an idea, think about how you can make it stand out in the market. There might be hundreds of people doing what you want to do, but with a bit of creativity, you can make it different.
Register your business…
Next up: admin. To operate legally, you need to register your business. Before you do that, decide on a company name. You might already have the perfect name in mind, and that’s great. If not, brainstorm! Sit down and word vomit onto a piece of paper until you find something that sticks, and ask your family and friends for ideas. Research other company names for inspo, and to double-check nobody’s already taken yours. While the name should reflect your product/service, don’t agonise over it. Your business can run under a different name than your company name (confusing, we know), and you can always change it later.
Moving on to registration. In Oz, you’ll need an Australian Business Number (ABN) – even if you’re the only person in the business. (Seriously, why aren’t we taught this stuff in school?) An ABN identifies your business to the tax office (yay) and other official bodies. You can apply online for free, and they’ll ask for your Tax File Number (TFN), personal info and proof of identity.
Within a few weeks, you’ll know whether your ABN has been accepted, or if you have to provide more info. When that’s done and dusted, head to Crazy Domains or GoDaddy and buy the domain name too – aka the website URL. Then pop a bottle of bubbles to celebrate: your business is officially legal!
Top tip: At this stage, you might want to set up a separate bank account for your biz, too. If you’d love a checklist for all the legal stuff, this is a good one.
Create a business plan…
Now that you know what you’re selling, focus on how you’re going to do it. That’s where a business plan comes in. It’s basically a blueprint for your business. It might be one page or it might be a booklet, but really, it’s just about getting your thoughts down on paper so you have something to refer to (and update as your business grows).
Grab a coffee and your laptop, and open up a Word doc. Then, answer these questions:
- What am I selling?
- Why am I selling it?
- Who is my target customer?
- What is my point of difference?
- What’s the demand for this product/service?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- How do I envision the future of this business?
- What are my goals and objectives?
- What’s my action plan? (Bulletpoint the tasks you need to do to achieve those goals).
- What are the financial needs of the business? (E.g. Office space, computers, phone bill, travel).
- What tasks will I outsource or hire people for?
- What’s the market like? Do some research! Look at your competitors, and other companies doing cool things. Think about gaps in the market, and what challenges might arise.
Top tip: Starting a business doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money, but you will need to spend some to get everything set up. While you’re doing your business plan, figure out if you have the funds to cover start-up costs, or if you’ll need to borrow money. If you do, look at investors, small business loans and crowdfunding.
Build your branding…
This is the fun part! You have a name, ABN and business plan, so the next step is building a brand identity. Your brand is your promise to your customer. It sets you apart from competitors, and tells your customer what to expect from your products and services.
The base of your brand is your logo – and it’s worth investing in. Ask around for references for graphic designers, and then chat to them about your brand. When you find one who gets you, they’ll then create a few logo concepts to choose from, and tweak them until you’re happy. Once you’ve signed off on the logo, you can then start on your packaging and promotional materials – like your website.
Customers have high expectations of websites, so it’s worth hiring a designer/web developer. In many cases, WordPress is a great Content Management System (what we call the ‘back end’). If you’re selling products, you’ll need a shopping platform: Squarespace and Shopify are slick and simple to use.
While you’re at it, create your social media accounts too – we know you’re pros on that! Depending on your business, you might do Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat.
Promote your business…
If you don’t tell people about your business, how will they find out about it? Marketing is the key to success. There are a few ways to go about this. First up, build up your social media presence: start posting authentic, professional photos of your products, services, and what’s happening behind-the-scenes. Social media marketing is low-cost, and you can DIY for the most part, at least at the beginning. Update your LinkedIn profile (clients stalk, too!), and sign up for trade publications and e-newsletters so you can stay in the loop. Advertise your services on freelancing sites. Carry your business card everywhere, and say yes to networking events – you never know who you’ll meet. Your marketing strategy will get more sophisticated as time goes on, but this is a good start.
Surround yourself with support…
Support is everything. So, surround yourself with people who want you to succeed, and who you’d trust to offer advice or even just listen. They don’t have to be in your industry, though that’s helpful too when it comes to the specifics – since they’ve been there, they’ll be able to talk you through challenges and strategies, and introduce you to new contacts. Explore community networks, too, such as Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine. They’re full of, well, like-minded people, who are there for inspo and perspective. Take the tips you like, leave what you don’t, and do whatever feels right. It’s your business – how cool is that?
Words by Katia Iervasi.