For a lot of people who are having trouble finding a job, starting a business may be a smart choice for keeping your skills sharp, staying involved in your industry, and possibly even launching a new career. But starting a new business can be a full-time job in itself. As someone who has started his own business, and have helped friends start theirs too, here are a few important things for you to know:
1. You don’t need a big office or a lot of equipment.
If you’re in the service industry or the knowledge industry, all you need is a laptop and a cell phone. You don’t need an office; you need a quiet spot at home, a favorite coffee shop with free wifi, or even a co-working space. If you do need an office and equipment, consider buying used and on the cheap. Or better yet, rent an office in a shared space, where you share common areas, office equipment, conference rooms, and someone to answer phones.
2. Most things can be done online.
Before you spend a lot of money buying all kinds of software, look for any free or inexpensive programs available instead. For example, rather than buying Microsoft Office and Outlook, try Google Docs and Gmail. Rather than spending $10,000 to have a new website designed, hire someone to design a WordPress blog for $1,000, and you take care of the content. Oftentimes, for more specialized software like Photoshop, there are even free versions with fewer features that do the things you need the most.
3. Remember, your primary focus is sales and marketing.
Your other primary focus is actually fulfilling what you sold. If you sell T-shirts, you need to print and ship them, but you also need to sell and market. Don’t get too distracted by the details that don’t make you money. Don’t procrastinate by going to every networking meeting you can find, joining community groups, mucking around with the books. There are a lot of things you can do about your business, but there are only two things you should be doing for your business: selling and shipping.
4. Hire someone to do the things that take away from your primary focus.
Like most businesspeople, you’re not good at everything. You didn’t start a business to do accounting and bookkeeping. You didn’t start it to fill out paperwork, or do inventory. Hire someone to do those things for you. Outsource your bookkeeping to professionals — they’re good at it, and they can do in an hour what would take you five. Hire a high school student for $10 an hour to do your inventory. Outsource all of the things you can that take away from your primary focus on selling and shipping. Because if you can spend that time selling, you’ll more than make back the money you’re spending to outsource your unwanted tasks.
5. You don’t HAVE to be incorporated, but it’s a good idea.
Being incorporated will protect you from possible problems with your business, whether financial or legal. Being an “Inc.” or an “LLC” will protect your personal assets from legal and financial trouble. You can do a lot of this yourself — visit your state’s attorney’s general website — so it may not be necessary to hire an attorney.
About the author: Duncan Alney is the president and founder of Firebelly Marketing. He is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and photographer, and he’s working on his first social media marketing book, which will be out in late 2012. Duncan has lived on 3 continents and in 5 countries, but is proud to call Indianapolis home.
Photo credit: nicksarebi (Flickr, Creative Commons)