Starting Up and Running Your Own Business – Tips from One Who Has Been There
Hi, I’m Jack, and I successfully started my own business in computer consulting. Follow along with me on my journey—from that initial idea to carrying it to completion. I did it. Can you?
PHASE I – The Stage of Deciding Whether Your Own Business is the Right Decision
I had a job that paid a decent salary, but I had worked there longer than I wanted. Some of my ideas and suggestions were not taken seriously by my boss. I had always wanted to start my own business in computer consulting, but nagging thoughts were holding me back. Here’s how I worked through some of those anxieties:
Will I be able to support my family in my new business?
This was a concern of mine, as I had a comfortable lifestyle. If I was single, things would have been a little easier, but I had my family to consider. I sat down and calculated how much I would need to live. I set this amount as the goal amount I needed to make monthly in order to keep my business afloat. I started out with a plan. I took all possible expenses and figured out the number of hours I would work and the prices I would charge. I almost forgot to add in cost of telephone, internet connection, computer supplies, and legal costs which can sneak up on you. Here’s a great business calculator I found: http://www.businessknowhow.com/startup/startup.htm
Where will I conduct my business?
A few years ago, I never would have thought of working out of my home. But now, my kids were in school, my wife was working, and the house was quiet during the day. Besides, Internet businesses were becoming the norm and people now could conduct a large percentage of their business there. I decided instead of investing my money in leasing an office, I would work from my home during the day. I thought of where I would set up my home office, and picked a place that was free of distractions. I didn't want my clients to hear my children screaming in the background, so I made sure I conducted my business calls while they were at school. I did find it hard to transition from business life to home life, but soon learned to set a regular time to conduct business and inform my clients of this. I met my clients at their place of business or in a neutral location, such as a coffee shop.
Where will I get the money for the initial startup and how much do I need?
Undoubtedly, there will be startup costs for your business. My business is computer consulting, so my overhead costs were relatively low.
Besides my intellectual knowledge, I needed concrete things like a place to conduct my business, and office supplies. I also needed to consider the cost of advertising. I used some of my personal savings, but also inquired about bank loans and government programs for small businesses.Although I thought I could handle the initial costs myself, I wanted to be able to get money if I needed it. I found a good website, run by the government, which let me think and plan for my financial needs.
Where will my customers come from?
I had many friends and co-workers that supported and encouraged me before I set off on my own. However, once my business was fully registered and operational, some of those friends did not have a use for my services. Others were hesitant to give their business to someone that was new. I found I had to advertise and made use of the Internet resources for doing this. I also thought of all the companies that could benefit from my services, and began my cold calls. Although you may not think of yourself as a salesman, this telephone contact is one of the most important ways to let people know you are out there. I also made business cards, and made sure I left one with clients. News travels fast by word of mouth!
How will I advertise?
I thought about the different advertising venues – magazine, newspaper or on-line. I decided to go with on-line advertising as it offered the lowest possible overhead, while reaching the greatest amount of people. I started my own website, and got my name on sites that offered referral services for computer consulting. I learned about SEO (search engine optimization) and how it actually attracts clients to your websites when you enter certain key words. I also sought out free advertising – I had the local newspaper interview me for a feature on the business page.
What legal requirements do I have? I must admit this was the last of my considerations when I started my business. One day I attended a seminar on starting your own business, and the speaker talked about the legal paperwork involved. She gave resources for registering my business, deciding what type of business it was, and getting the proper documents in order. This was not my favorite part, but once you get the bureaucratic maze figured out, your business will run smoothly. You want to avoid any penalties for not following governmental rules! I found out it is advantageous to get a separate bank account for your business, and not to combine home and business needs. This was especially helpful to know since I was working out of my own home. Since I live in the UK, I found the following official site helpful for learning about government regulations: http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/infoAndGuide/companyRegistration.shtml
What if I fail?
This was a nagging concern of mine throughout the process. I had to remember that this was now my livelihood and others depended on me. I had one chance, and one chance only to make this dream a reality. I did everything possible to avoid failure – I kept a positive attitude, and mentioned my business in a positive, upbeat tone at every opportunity possible. I looked for new business EVERY DAY. They say that at start up you spend 80% of your time getting leads and 20% doing the work. This percentage gradually decreases as your business gets more successful. Luckily, I did not fail, and I am looking to expand my business.
I hope this insight and my own personal experience will help you start your own business. They say that the planning is 90% of the work. So, if I had one big piece of advice to give you, it would be to PLAN. Think of all the possible good and bad things that can happen, and if the outcome looks positive – GO FOR IT!
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