Starting your own business isn't as difficult as it sounds.
About half of all private sector workers are employed by small business owners, and all of these ventures started with one thing: a great idea.
So if you've already come up with a great business idea, you've taken the first major step to starting your own business.
Of course, it's not quite that simple. Here are a few additional things to consider before you get started:
1. Pursue Expertise
The first thing any small business owner will tell you is that she's an expert in her field. You should be, too. If you want to start a landscaping business, for example, you'll need to know how to operate all the necessary machinery. If you want to start an accounting practice, you'll need to be agile with a calculator.
Identify your talents and expertise, and make sure they align with what you want to do. If you're having trouble with this, ask family and friends for help. They might point out talents you've overlooked or underestimated, or suggest industries your expertise may transfer well to.
2. Do Proper Research
Once you have a business idea that you are personally suited for, research it. How much are startup costs? What are your financing options to gain small business capital? How and to whom do you plan to market your business? What can you project for sales and revenues?
Research is vital; however, too much research can be the death knell for a great plan, since it can keep you from getting off the ground. Plan as best as you can, but expect to handle some things on the fly.
3. Create a Budget
Creating an effective budget will keep you accountable for initial expenses, and will help you pay off those expenses as soon as possible. Typical items in an initial budget include startup costs and monthly maintenance expenses, along with projected sales and revenues. Though some of these numbers will only be estimates, it's important to have a plan in place. This budget should be reviewed and adjusted on a regular (weekly or monthly) basis to make it more relevant.
4. Save Money
Frugal money management is key to your success. To begin, think used. Computer equipment, office furniture and other supplies can be purchased pre-owned at deep discounts compared to new ones.
Also, consider bartering your expertise with other professionals to get services like web design or maintenance at a discount. For example, if you're a computer repair whiz, offer to troubleshoot or optimize the computer systems of a web design specialist in exchange for the design of your site. Adopt a frugal mindset in your personal life as well—every dollar you save is one more to invest in your business.
Begin your marketing efforts by taking advantage of free options. Give your business a presence on social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Chronicle your activities and offer advice on your own blog. Otherwise, the type of marketing that will be most effective may depend on your business model.
Investigate methods like direct mail, email marketing, flyers, pay-per-click advertising and paid ads on social media sites to see what might work for your business. Always track your marketing campaigns to gauge their effectiveness.
Networking can be a cornerstone to your long-term viability, but by no means do you have to wait until you launch to start. Connect with other professionals in your industry to generate sales leads, to combine marketing efforts and to get inside tips and industry information. To locate these professionals, check out the website Meetup.com or your local chamber of commerce.
7. Value Customer Service
Once your business gets going, plan on wearing a lot of hats. You'll be the owner, the accountant, the marketing professional and more. But never let the customer service aspect of your business fall behind. Building a solid customer base in the beginning can accelerate your success and save you from failure. Set the bar high when it comes to customer service: Deliver your product or service in a fast and friendly manner, and never hesitate to offer a refund to anyone who is less than 100% satisfied.
If you're willing to work hard in the beginning, your small business can expand to the point where you can walk away from your current day job and make a living doing what you love instead.
David Bakke started an online reselling business and is also a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance, a resource to help readers improve their "financial fitness" and build wealth.
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