10 Quick Tips For Starting Your Own Business Jonathan Herrick The world is full of good ideas and bad advice. It takes a bit of serendipity to find one and avoid the other. If you think you’re ready to start your own business, here’s a quick checklist to run through. This list of tips is by no means exhaustive, but it should help you get started down this road of entrepreneurship. Have a worthwhile idea. Sound easy enough? It isn’t. A good rule of thumb is to ask a variety of people—not just people you trust, but various people from different backgrounds. Your friends and family may lie to you to avoid hurting your feelings. You can pitch your basic idea to them, sure, but also bounce it off strangers and acquaintances to see if they agree. Establish a budget. How much do you think starting your own business will cost? Double that number. Odds are your cost structure is going to be higher than you realize—particularly once you take into account overhead costs such as insurance, legal fees, office space (if applicable), website costs, marketing, and on and on… Start by analyzing the costs associated with your specific industry. If you’re dealing with investors, they’ll want to know the costs, so this is a worthwhile exercise regardless. Think about the legality of your small business. You’ll have to register with the government somehow, but the exact way will depend on your goals. This will affect your taxes, legal status and growth possibilities. You’ll have to understand whether you’re paying taxes as a self-employed worker, and/or paying income and salary taxes. Look up your options for establishing a small business in your own country and state or province, as they’ll vary from area to area. Spend time finding the right name. Again, whether you choose a descriptive name such as Pizza Hut or a synthetic one like Uber, ask around for feedback from your target audience. You want a brand and a name that taps into the emotions of your buyer and reaches a broad consensus. Once you’ve found a winner, check to make sure it’s not already trademarked and research online to make sure there are no obstacles getting ranked in search engines such as Google. If you run into a roadblock start the whole process over again. Welcome to small-business marketing! Make sure your website works. If you’re not hiring a developer—which we’d understand, as so many do-it-yourself CMS platforms exist these days with beautiful premade themes—then you still have to spend some serious time designing and troubleshooting your site. It will likely be responsive, which means you should test it on various platforms, operating systems and devices. Find a good a copywriter. A lot of people assume writing is easy, but nothing screams “amateur business” like boring copy and poor grammar. If you need, hire a copywriter to help create your website and some evergreen promotional materials and emails. The investment will go a long way. If you need photos, even just a few good product shots or headshots, consider finding a professional as well—these details can distinguish you from your competition. Get the word out there. This means doing whatever it takes—networking at events, going door-to-door to find business partnerships, getting involved in the community or even just simple marketing. Be shameless. Offer referrals, free samples, trials, anything to get your message out there. The important thing is exposure. Set up the right social media accounts. Contrary to what we just said about spreading the word everywhere, you want to make sure you’re marketing in the right places. Choose your social presence wisely. Facebook will be almost inevitable; Instagram is a good bet but not for everyone; LinkedIn might seem like a good idea until you realize how low the engagement rates are; don’t bother with Pinterest unless you have the time to dedicate and a subject matter worth showing off in vertical photos. Get to market quickly. The beginning stages are not the time to become a perfectionist. You should get your product out there quickly and gauge your customers’ reaction. Solicit feedback early on from as many people as possible and as an ongoing plan for improvement. Don’t forget to leverage tools such a CRM or survey tools such as Survey Monkey to streamline the feedback process. If you spend too much time honing your product before releasing it, not only will you possibly have wasted more time and money on a flawed idea, but you’ll have a harder time making changes. Accept failure. Don’t throw good money after bad, as they say—sometimes you have to know when an idea doesn’t work. Sometimes there are small tweaks you can make that will steer things in the right direction; other times the problem is more significant. In any event, you should always be flexible, and never let your arrogance get in the way of a compromise that could work out well for you. Be ready to pivot, change ideas and listen to feedback to adjust your business strategy.