10 Tips for running your own business
Updated: Apr 21
Running your own business can be all of the following: exciting, draining, liberating, stressful and rewarding. Still, it doesn’t matter whether you’re aiming to start up a shop or become the next Elon Musk – if you follow the 10 tips below, you’ll find your life – and business – will be made much easier!
1. RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS – START SMALL AND KEEP OVERHEADS LOW
Don’t spend any more than you have to on your start-up. Loads of big businesses start small: Laura Ashley began on her kitchen table, M&S started out as a market stall and Tesco was just a couple of local grocer’s shops in the beginning.
So, before you fork out, unnecessarily, consider:
Your office can be a laptop computer at your kitchen table
Don’t forget insurance, as your household insurance may no longer be valid if you’re working from home. This is something you’ll need to check with your current broker, as you may need to upgrade your insurance.
Set up a separate bank account for your business. It doesn’t need to be an expensive ‘business’ account, it can be an ordinary current account – either with your current bank or with a different provider
If you need to send any parcels, then try Parcel Compare – a fab website that could save you a fortune on package delivery. Its special comparison tool means you can find the cheapest shipping company for your needs.
Don’t assume that people will pay on time. Instead:
Cut down your waiting time by getting them to agree payment terms at the start
Don’t spend money now on an assumption that you’ll receive payment from your clients straight away. Plan your business expenditure so that you are not creating debt and are not dependent on anyone paying on time
Forecast your revenues and calculate your run rate to understand your business health and future earnings
3. MAKE A PLAN
As the saying goes: ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’.
Therefore, even if you’re just setting up as a freelancer, you need to give yourself a clear idea of your monthly costs and how much profit (or other income) you must generate to keep yourself afloat.
Work out what your monthly income need to be. Make yourself a chart for the next 12 months showing the growth in revenue that you can realistically generate and be clear on how you’ll generate those new clients.
The more you’re ‘out there’ touting for work the more likely you are to get the work. With the internet it’s possible to meet people without leaving your desk.
Join online networking groups and forums and start giving useful advice on areas directly relevant to your business. This raises your profile in a positive way. But don’t spend too much time on it – allocate a certain amount of time each week and stick to that.
Get business cards printed, get out to networking events in your area and make sure you take your business cards wherever you go – you can meet interesting and potentially useful people anywhere.
Have something beneficial that you can offer people when you meet them – make reference to it on your business card or on the website that your business card should refer new contacts to.
Don’t go out and try to ‘sell’ your business or your service. Networking is usually a two-way street, where you create support by being useful to people who then go elsewhere and talk about you in a positive light.
5. SALES, SALES, SALES
Don’t shy away from the sales and marketing aspect of the business. Learn how to do it. Study it and practice it. You will probably find it nerve wracking at first but get through it! Question everything you do in the business, asking ‘how is this going to make money?’ If it won’t lead to a profit, then don’t waste your time doing it.
6. AVOID BORROWING IF POSSIBLE
Lots of government pamphlets for new businesses devote pages to different forms of borrowing. Ideally though, here’s what you should do:
Try to grow your business organically. Use your own savings, or earnings from another business or income stream to fund it
Barter services rather than paying for them – offer up your skills in one area in exchange for someone else’s in another
If you want to go big time straight away and feel you need external funding to do it then put together a professional business plan and discuss it with your suppliers, customers, prospective customers and other ‘known’ potential investors before stepping into the shark-infested waters where venture capitalists and ‘angel’ investors roam.
7. SET UP PASSIVE INCOME STREAMS, WHERE POSSIBLE
This is money that comes in when you’re not working.
Automate as much of the selling process as possible by installing PayPal payment on your site and having non-physical products that don’t require any human fulfilment such as delivery or packaging etc – PDF zines, comics and documents for sale are ideal for this
Affiliate marketing with Amazon Associates is ideal if you discuss products on your website. If readers choose to buy a product that you’ve mentioned through a link on your site, then you get a small percentage from that purchase
8. GET ONLINE
If you haven’t already, get online. Use online services such as WordPress and Wix to build a website that is totally free.
Once your website’s up and running, here’s how you can keep visitors returning to your site:
Create a community of people by providing a genuinely useful, free, newsletter that’s sent out regularly
Provide useful content on your site that gives your potential clients the first couple of steps in addressing a problem that they might have
Include audio and video on your site and use that content on YouTube and similar sites to promote your site
Provide an easy response mechanism (e.g. blog comments or an email address) so you can find out what your community thinks and wants
Ensure your business is secure to prevent unforeseen losses with software such as antivirus or VPN.
Optimise your website for search engines (aka SEO). This is especially important for small local businesses. To get started, we recommend to check out this guide on local SEO. This covers most of the basic steps to get started with SEO.
9. DON’T BUY ADVERTISING JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE OFFERED A DEAL
If you need to advertise (and it’s better to promote yourself for free to start with) make sure your advertising is targeted, specific and within an advertising budget. Before exploring online marketing packages, think about the following:
Work out who your customers are, where they are, where they live, what they read, what worries them and what excites them.
Work out what the message is that you want to communicate so the right people will take action right away.
Decide what is the best medium to use to communicate this message to your market.
Take no notice of calls from advertising salespeople from publications you don’t know, even if they’re offering serious discounts and start telling you about all your competitors who are advertising with them.
10. HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY
Serious business owners set up with an exit strategy in mind from the start as this allows them to plan the business and know why they’re doing it – only then can they effectively plan how they’re going to achieve what they want.
Acknowledge why you’re in business – what’s the lifestyle that you want to achieve? Is this business going to help you achieve this? And at what point will you know that this has been achieved?
What kind of profit level do you need to reach to command a decent fee, and what will you have to do to create that profit? At what point will you want to sell the business or hand it over to your kids to run?
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