For many people, the idea of running their own small business is highly appealing. The satisfaction of creating something from scratch and being responsible for your own earnings (rather than working hard as an employee somewhere only for someone else to keep all the profit) can make building up and managing a business of your own a very rewarding path. That is not to say of course, that it is easy. Here we look at some different factors to consider when looking at starting up a small business.
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What personal qualities make a good small business owner?
Because a small business can be just about anything, there is a small business role out there to suit just about anybody. What makes a good freelance software developer will be different from what makes a good taxi driver or cake decorator – age, education, background and personality need to be matched to the business itself. However, there are certain qualities that will make your life as a small business owner easier whatever you do. The most crucial is self motivation. Many small business owners work from home or in a similarly casual capacity, so you need to be somebody who really wants to work or you may find it hard to get started and put in enough hours to make the money you need. It is a well known quote, but part of running your own business can be working 80 hours a week for yourself so you don’t have to do 40 hours a week for someone else. This isn’t the case for every type of work, of course, and many small business owners find it produces a great work life balance, but to achieve that you need to be disciplined and avoid procrastination.
Making the leap
Some people decide to start a small business as a life change after years of employment – maybe as a result of losing their job, or starting a family and wanting more time at home. Others run their businesses in parallel with doing a job for extra money, or because they have an idea they want to put out there. There are many, many people of all different sorts who make the leap every year to owning their own business, and with the right support, planning and approach it doesn’t need to be a terrifying prospect.
What will your small business do?
When deciding to start a small business, you may find that you have an obvious set of skills to put to work, or an industry you especially want to work in. You may even have a new and exciting idea. If you don’t have any of these things, this doesn’t have to stop you making a small business a success, but you will need to carefully think about what you can offer. You may find you have valuable skills you hadn’t even thought about using professionally, such as writing and proofreading or the ability to sell. Alternatively, think about things you enjoy that you could learn to do to a professional standard – things like photography, catering or hairdressing are examples of things where you can set up on your own after a course of study.
What are the costs going to be?
The costs of setting up a small business vary hugely depending on what you are going to be doing. Do you need premises to operate from, to hire staff, or to buy stock? Some businesses can be built up for very little, especially those where you can work from home or on a mobile basis, but even then you may want to consider the cost of tools (including computer equipment and website subscriptions if you are looking at starting an online business), and any advertising, branding or design you may want to buy. If you believe you will be looking for a business loan or any other kind of funding, it is best to start working out the costs as accurately as you can before looking at financial products or approaching lenders.
Market research, promotion and advertising
The good news for many types of small business in modern times, is that market research, promotion and advertising can be done very effectively and cheaply using social media and other internet research. Whether you are looking at the feasibility of opening a new restaurant in your town or looking to market your wedding photography business to friends of past clients, there are plenty of ways for the resourceful small business owner to take advantage of things like Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Rather than traditional media you can often do this kind of promotion yourself for free, and it is far easier to target your ideal customers this way once you know how. It can really pay off to get as familiar as you can with social media and build up a strong, well written, well branded web presence. If you are not confident with this, there are plenty of books and websites that can help you learn, or alternatively you can look at hiring freelance writers and designers to help you get established – these are not generally that expensive and can make a huge difference to the visibility of your business on the web.
Measuring success and tweaking your strategy
Throughout the lifetime of your business venture, it is important that you stay in tune with the health of your business and regularly review whether you need to do anything to boost it. The bottom line isn’t the only measure of success, though it is the biggest one, so also, if appropriate to what you are doing, look at things like feedback, reputation, and performance against other similar businesses operating in your market. Once again, social media can be great for this kind of investigation. You should have an idea of how well you need to be doing and whether or not you are succeeding or failing against a realistic expectation of your performance, and if you are falling short, rather than panicking, look at practical ways to improve. These could include diversifying to offer more products or services, putting more time into marketing efforts, or trying to appeal to new markets. Of course, you may also need to tweak if things are going better than expected, perhaps by bringing on more people.
Running a small business can be one of the most rewarding ways to make a living, and with the right idea, planning and strategy you could soon be on the path to a boss free life.