If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own business in a field you’re passionate about but don’t know where to start, this guide is for you.
Having your own business in an area you’re passionate about is immensely rewarding: You’re more likely to get wealthy than if you work for someone else and you can be more selective in the hours you work, who you work with and how much you take on. There’s also something about it being all yours. When you’re the one in charge, and you’re doing something you love, something amazing happens: Work no longer feels like a chore and you’ll actually be excited to do it.
This is how all of us should live our lives: If we’re going to spend a third of our days working, it might as well be interesting.
Below is a guide to get you started on your dream business. While there’s a lot more involved than what I lay out here, my hope is that it’s enough for you to take the first steps:
Decide the business for you
What do you love to do? If you’re not sure, you can try this exercise: Take a piece of paper and draw two lines down them so that it is divided into three columns. In the first column, write “Used to Do” at the top. Underneath that title, write down things you used to do that you enjoyed. These can even be activities that you did as a kid such as draw, play with animals or play baseball.
At the top of the second column, write “Currently Doing” and write down some activities that you do now that you enjoy such as reading, jogging or visiting museums. For the third column, write “Would Like to Try” at the top and write down some activities that you would like to try but haven’t yet. For every column, think of as many activities and hobbies as you can. Even small things like drinking wine or coffee or planting flowers matter.
Look for a common theme between at least two of the columns. Maybe you used to go canoeing as a kid and would like to try kayaking. Maybe you enjoy baking and would like to take some cooking classes.
Then draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Once you find a common theme—like cooking, gardening or winter sports, for example—then write this word in the middle of that circle. Then draw other circles coming out from that circle to create a bubble diagram. In those secondary bubbles, write possible careers associated with your main word. Be sure to do a search online for other ideas you may not think of. Repeat this process with any other themes you found in your three-column chart.
Once you have ideas of possible careers associated with your themes, then you think about which ones you would really enjoy from day-to-day, and cross out any businesses that don’t meet this criteria. It’s important to think about this possible business from all angles. Often, people like the idea of running a business but don’t think about what it would really be like to run the business each day, including potential problems you could face.
For example, if you want to own a coffee shop, you’ll have to think about issues like what to do if an employee doesn’t show up for work or they’re caught stealing; what to do when a customer is unsatisfied; what to do when your supplier doesn’t deliver as scheduled and more.
All businesses face problems, by the way. It comes down to what kind of problems are you comfortable dealing with and will the reward of having your business outweigh any issues that might come up.
After you’ve narrowed down your list of potential businesses, you will want to do some general research to find out what it takes to start that business. Some answers to look for are, how much money would it take to get it started, what kind of help you would need and how easy or difficult would it be to launch. You can also look at other people who are doing what you want to do. How did they do it?
One more thing to consider is your personality type in terms of managing and working with people—as in, would you like to manage a large company with hundreds (or more) employees one day or do you prefer a more solo career? One misconception is that you have to have a large team to make lots of money. That’s simply not true. And the larger the staff, the more headaches and hassle you’ll inevitably have.
I’m someone who prefers a small team. I use contractors to fill the holes of any work I can’t or don’t want to do myself and I keep this team as small as possible. I know that the bigger the team, the more problems that can arise. Small means I can keep my business more nimble and efficient.
Decide your business’s purpose
I believe that every business should think about its purpose and how it’s going to best make that emotional connection with the customer.
Even if your business is going to be selling pencils on Amazon, you can still write ad copy (the words you write to describe your item) that is compelling and makes the potential customer want to buy your item or choose to buy from you instead of someone else. Your purpose in this case, is to provide quality pencils to people who need to purchase them, such as the parents of kids who need them for school or someone who uses them to sketch. Maybe this quality comes at a great price or maybe the price is higher but so is the quality and design. Maybe they’re colorful or have and interesting pattern on them. Whatever it is, think about how you want them to feel when they get your pencils—like they’re getting exactly what they need to get the job done while, perhaps, doing it in a stylish way that reflects their personality. This is the emotional “catch” of what you’re doing.
Always think about what it is your potential customers are seeking when they come to you for your product or service. For example, I know that you have come to my blog because you want more—more money, more time, more happiness, more fun. And I work everyday to try to provide you with that. It’s what I keep in mind whenever I choose which article to write and how to write it. If I were to lose sight of this desire, my site would fail.
Make a list of initial costs needed to launch
If you’re going to launch a business, you need to have an idea of how much it’s going to cost you. A lot of people don’t think of call the costs associated with starting a business. Here are some costs to consider:
- state and local licenses
- training programs
- website design, hosting and maintenance
- business cards
- marketing materials
- marketing events
- membership to industry organizations
- taxes—including sales and income
- shipping of goods
- rent for professional space
- computer equipment
- internet service
A list of these potential costs isn’t there to deter you. On the contrary, it’s giving you a better idea of what do prepare for so that you can budget accordingly and increase your chances of success. And some of these costs can be spread out, such as paying for website hosting monthly and hiring contractors as needed.
Make a list of things you need to do to get your business started
What are the actions you need to take to launch your business? What do you need to do first, second and so on? Make a list and check the items off as you go. Here is a list of some of things your business may need:
- name your business
- get a logo
- get a website
- design marketing material
- order business cards
- join networking groups
- join online groups (Facebook, Meetup etc)
- create your online profile (Twitter, Instagram, etc)
- create marketing materials or ads
take photos for your website and marketing materials
- secure funding
- file state and local licenses
- open a business bank account
- find distributors
- source products
- find contractors
- hire employees
Don’t worry about doing all of these things before you launch. I’m all about getting things off the ground as quickly as possible. I launched this site with five articles written and a logo and website design I wasn’t entire happy with. But I did it anyway. I knew I would add more articles and fix the design later. I knew I would figure out marketing and networking later as well. It’s easy to get caught up in the small details—or even feel too overwhelmed—and never launch. I encourage you to launch before things are “perfect,” knowing that you can improve your business as you go.
How to Launch Your Business On a Tight Budget
You don’t have to have a lot of money to launch a business. I launched both my education and wellness businesses for less than $500 each. I did this by being very stingy with my money. I was launching both of them at the same time and didn’t have a full-time job so I had no choice but to be frugal.
I learned some tricks—some of them the hard—to launching on a budget. Here are some of my favorites:
Wait to file the your local paperwork, such as a state license, if possible:
Why? Your business may not go anywhere and if it doesn’t, you just wasted money. Just because you registered a business, doesn’t mean you have a business. There is much more to business than filing paperwork. Get other things in place first such as sourcing product, funding if needed, a professional-looking website with good content, contractors, etc.
Once you have at least some of these in place, then you can file the paperwork with your local city or state to make it official. Lots of people get the idea to start a business but then nothing ever happens. That’s why it’s better to wait to see if you’re actually going to move forward. Plus, you may decide to change the name or nature of your business once you’ve taken a few of those other steps.
Use free software programs whenever possible:
Three that I’ve used many times are Inkscape and Gimp for graphic design and Open Office to create text documents and spreadsheets.
Find good contractors who need the work:
If you can find contractors who know what they’re doing but will accept less pay than what you can charge the customer, then this is going to help you grow your business tremendously. With both my education and wellness business’s, I was able to hire people for a rate that 65—70% of what I charged my customers. This gave me a decent profit margin for the services offered. A lot of my contractors were people who were good at what they did but they just needed more work. I knew how to get them that work and it was a win-win situation. Although all of my contractors were local people I hired in person, you can find great help online for a lot of services, from billing to website design and more.
Use contractors and freelancers only when you can’t do it yourself:
This is a good rule of thumb if you have the time but are on a tight budget. But if you lack time but have the money, hire people to do the work instead.
Use free images online:
Google images, sign up with a stock photo site, unlimited for a month and then download tons of images, then cancel. Adobe Stock and Shutterstock, for example, each allow you to pay $249 to download up to 750 images for a month. If you map out your website and marketing materials ahead of time, you can have an idea of the type of images you will need for the foreseeable future. Then you can download 750 images that first month and then cancel your plan.
Look for free trials and special offers:
Lots of companies out there want your business so always search for a coupon code or special offer for larger and more long term expenses, such as web hosting and printing. One discount I used recently was for this WordPress site, I received a coupon code in my email for 20% if I upgraded to the professional plan by a certain date. I was already planning to upgrade to this plan around the same time so the coupon was a nice bonus.
Start out small:
If you have big visions for your business, that’s great. But this can be expensive and mentally overwhelming. My advice would be to think small and grow gradually. If you try to take on too much, too quickly you’ll be like a ship taking on too much water—you’ll sink. It’s better to budget and grow your business one careful step at a time.
Even if you end up with investors backing your business, I recommend launching on a shoestring budget. It’s easy to waste money. Businesses—even very large ones with millions and sometimes billions of dollars—dissolve all the time due to overspending. Don’t let this happen to you.
Turn Your Dream Business Into a Reality
I hope after reading this article that you realize that your dream business doesn’t have to stay as just a dream. You can turn it into a reality with careful research, planning and budgeting. The biggest thing you have to remember is to take action. So many people talk a good game of starting a business but never do anything about it. I think this is a shame. I always wonder, what are they waiting for?
It’s easy to find excuses: I’m too busy right now, I have relatives who are going to be visiting soon, I’ll wait until my kids are a little older, we’re in the middle of remodeling our kitchen…Pick your excuse of the day!
I could have made excuses when I realized I wanted to start my previous two businesses or when I decided I wanted to start this blog. But I realized that there would never be a perfect time. Life will always be full of complications, unexpected events and busy work. I invite you to start your business in spite of all of these things. If this is your dream, you can’t ignore it.
Remember time is money, too. Each day you put off launching your business is another day not being in full control of how you earn your money. Do you really want to go the rest of your life letting someone else dictate when you get a raise? When you own your own business you can give yourself a raise simply by working a little harder or smarter.
When you’re in charge of your own business, you’ll feel a freedom you’ve never had before. You’ll get to decide the hours you want to work and how big you want your business to be. You’ll find that the sky becomes the limit—and the beauty of it all is that you can soar as high as you want:)