So you have the perfect business idea. Or the start of an idea. Or no idea, but you know you want to stop working for a corporation and start working for yourself.
Wherever you are in the process and whatever your reasons, running your own business is both a thrilling and terrifying adventure. A lot like a rollercoaster, most people love and dread it at the same time.
Just because you don’t have the money for a dedicated staff doesn’t mean that you can’t have a successful business. With some forethought and the use of modern technology, it is more than possible to run a business on your own.
If you’ve let anyone know about your plans to run your own business, you’ve likely heard “doom and gloom” statistics about likely failure. Most of those aren’t true, though. If you feel discouraged, keep this in mind: about 50% of businesses make it to their fifth year.
Looking for ways to make sure that your business is a part of that 50%? Here are the top 10 tips for running a successful business on your own.
Tip #1: Do Your Homework
Before you quit your job and take the leap into running a business on your own, take some time to get everything out in writing and do the necessary research. It will help to give you direction, avoid common pitfalls in startups, and help steer you as your business grows.
The top mistake that new businesses make is creating a product or service that isn’t in demand. Avoid it by doing all of your homework ahead of time and making sure that you have a market. This means that you need to complete market research and take a look at your competition.
If there’s no competition, perhaps you should look at why. Did you have a stroke of genius and come up with something no one else has thought of? Or is it something that other businesses have tried and failed at? If the latter is the case, there's no need to despair. It's easier to come up with a new idea at this stage then when you've already invested time and money. Just start brainstorming again.
You need to know your business, competition, and market thoroughly before starting a business. Learn everything you possibly can. If you’ve done your homework and think you have a solid idea, you’re ready for tip two.
Tip #2: Get It All in Writing
If you are going to be on your own, organization is critical. Get everything down in writing to give you a direction to start.
The first, and most fundamental, thing to get into writing is your business plan. It provides a basic rundown of exactly what you do. It is both useful for giving yourself direction and possibly attracting investors. You’ll also be able to sum up everything you learned in one cohesive document.
Also, get a budget down in writing. Take a look at the real numbers for how much it should cost. Give yourself wiggle room so that you don’t run into trouble should an unexpected payment pop up. This is especially true in the beginning when you are getting everything up and running.
Get your goals into writing as well. This will help serve as inspiration when you need it most. What do you want to achieve with your business? These goals can also be in the personal arena as well. Do you want more time with your family? Do you have goals for your physical or mental health? Goals, even personal ones, will help you run an effective business.
Get your plan in writing. This is what turns it from a dream to an actionable plan.
Tip #3: Make a Business Model
Now that you know all about your business, market, and needs, how exactly will you make money? A business model is a crucial component in running a business on your own. It will tell you the how when it comes to making a profit.
It used to be that people would purchase a product or service at a higher cost and companies would profit. Now, there are choices. There are various models to choose from depending on how you would like to run your business, where you’re located, what kind of business you are running, and what you are most comfortable with.
The classic business models include direct sales, franchising, and advertising-based. Beyond these models, some more recently popular ones include:
This is where the basic version of your service is free, but users can pay for an upgraded, premium version. LinkedIn is one example where the most basic content is free, but users can receive extra benefits for an additional fee.
Recurring Monthly Payments
Depending on your product or service, some clients run into the issue of sticker-shock that keeps them from purchasing your product. A common way that businesses get around their higher prices is by breaking up the payment into recurring low monthly payments. With the rise and ease of autopay features, this has become an increasingly popular option.
Percentage of Each Transaction
Amazon is an example of this model, where they receive a percentage of each sale that is made through their website. This is a pervasive business model amongst distributors but is also becoming increasingly popular for e-commerce and affiliate businesses.
Some businesses choose to price their services by customer range or volume usage limits. Although it doesn’t really work for consumer products and services, it can be an effective model in product environments, where the product may be used by one or hundreds of thousands.
Modern start-ups have innovated many new business models to make earning money as painlessly as possible for the customer, which is good for your bottom line. Choose the one that works best for your needs.
Tip #4: Invest in the Right Tools
The significant part of starting a business in this day and age is the number of tools available to make your life easier. Even a few years ago, the technology available was too expensive for small businesses, but the lowering cost of technology has made it easier than ever to have the right tools for your business.
There are more apps, products and SaaS solutions than ever, which can make it difficult for you to decide which tool is right for your new business. Some things to consider include:
- Decide which processes you want to use a tool for.
- Compare the value of the tool against the cost.
- Make sure that the tool is scalable as your business grows.
- See how the tool can improve efficiency and make that process easier.
- Look for platforms that perform specific tasks well, instead of an all-in-one tool.
When you are in business on your own, tools are everything. They can help improve your marketing, sales, and service, while also making your job easier. Carefully weigh which ones are right for you to be successful.
Tip #5: Get Your Name Out There
Key to every business is a strategic and aggressive marketing plan.
The digital revolution has made it easier than ever to reach your potential customer base. Digital marketing makes it possible to attract prospects and get the word out about your business.
The key is in developing your platform to reach prospects. Although you can attract new customers through Facebook, digital ads, search engines, and email marketing, most strong businesses get their strategy down to a platform that they own.
Having your own website with high-quality, valuable content will help to attract customers to you. Most customers prefer to do research on their own, so a site with valuable content will go far in your prospecting efforts.
Tip #6: Nurture Your Leads
Your sales strategy is what turns a lead into a loyal customer. Even with a killer marketing strategy, without the right prospecting and sales strategy, your business will fall flat.
There are two types of prospecting: outbound and inbound. Outbound includes cold-calling and social spamming to reach people who have not expressed any interest in your service or product. Inbound prospecting works with a marketing plan to explore a relationship with leads that have already shown an interest in what you have to offer.
Small businesses do not have time to waste. It takes on average 7.5 hours of cold calling to get ONE appointment so it may be more effective to consider an inbound prospecting strategy.
Tip #7: Refine Your Strategy
There is always room for improvement in any business. Take regular inventory of your sales strategy to make sure that you are being as effective as possible.
Also, consider your territory management. Are you getting the most out of your time when you visit customers? Sales reps only spend a third of their time actually selling on average. Proper territory management will help make sure that you can spend the maximum amount of time selling and less time on routine tasks.
Likewise, an immediate response is important to most customers. In fact, 82% of consumers surveyed stated that "immediate" response was critical when they have a marketing or sales question. With the right tools, such as an effective callback solution, you can help satisfy your customers' needs.
Likewise, you need to take regular stock as your business grows. What may have worked well with a handful of customers, in the beginning, may bring disaster if your customer base grows into the hundreds or thousands.
Tip #8: Concentrate on Customer Experience
In today's market, businesses need a differentiating factor. The customer experience with your brand is becoming an increasingly important one, and one of your customers are willing to pay more for.
The customer experience is the impression you leave with your customer. It is how they will perceive your brand across the entire customer journey. Be willing to go the extra mile for excellent customer experience.
Tip #9: Be OK with Mistakes
Another common error new businesses make? Ignoring their mistakes and missteps. This is a nearly guaranteed way to a failed company. Entrepreneurs who ignore them and keep going will likely experience the same pitfalls again and again.
Every person makes mistakes, so that means that every business will make mistakes. You will probably make more than one. Take regular inventory of your business, get feedback from customers, and take an honest look at a customer experience gone wrong. Take your ego out of the equation and get used to making mistakes.
Tip #10: Don’t Neglect Personal Contact
No matter what kind of business you get into, there is always a time and place for getting out of the office. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting face-to-face time with clients and fellow entrepreneurs.
Personal meetings, events, and networking all have their place in a successful business. Whether it is scheduling a meeting, going to a trade show or fair, or a networking event, make sure that you are meeting people.
Starting a business on your own is actually a simple process. It is building and maintaining your business that requires hard work, effort and constant willingness to improve. It often requires long hours and the stress of responsibility.
And most entrepreneurs wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.