People start their own businesses for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s a lifelong dream. Sometimes it’s a desire to have more control over one’s time and money. Sometimes it’s just old-fashioned necessity, like if you’ve been laid off from your job and are having trouble finding a new one in your field.
But if you’re highly skilled in an area that isn’t business management, you might get overwhelmed by all of the moving parts, responsibilities, and legalities of owning your own business. The good news is, you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, if you want your business to succeed, getting good counsel from people in the know (not friends or family who have never had a successful business, or failed and learned from starting their own business), delegating when possible, and using any tools at your disposal is a must.
Here are our top five tips for starting your own business:
1. Hire the Right Business Coach
As you start out as a business owner, you’re going to encounter all sorts of issues you didn’t even know to expect. Some seasoned professionals have been through the same obstacles before, and many of them have developed coaching businesses to help other entrepreneurs navigate them. So why reinvent the wheel? Hire a coach to help you out!
Business coaches can help you with both the big picture and with nuts and bolts. They can help you brainstorm and discuss your big ideas in an encouraging, non-judgmental way. If you’re overwhelmed by all the practical aspects of running a business (legal paperwork, billing, scheduling, etc.), they can help break it down for you into manageable steps.
And if you are having trouble following through on the steps you know you need to take to reach your goals? A coach will be there to hold you accountable to yourself.
We often act in this “business coaching” role for our clients, combining our knowledge of legal, insurance, financial and tax systems with the support you need to get your business up and running, is a powerful combination.
2. Set up systems for task and time management
If Post-it notes, scribbled appointments on napkins, and strings tied around your finger are the bulk of your scheduling system, they are eventually going to fail you. As a business owner, your time is incredibly valuable, and organized task lists and easily editable calendars are going to help you make the most of your most valuable asset, your time.
We favor a process of time management called “time blocking” and we’d be happy to teach it to you, as it’s the number one tool we use to get so much done, and do it in a way that allows us to love our lives and our business too.
On the electronic side, there have never been more free calendar apps and task and project management tools. At minimum, you’ll need: a calendar to sort out your appointments, a quickly accessible contacts list, and a task management tool. There is even some software that incorporates all of these things into a single program that syncs to all your devices.
Are you more of an analog person? Treat yourself to a beautiful physical planner, or stock up on index cards if that’s what you prefer. You could also do an internet search for “bullet journaling” and learn to use a method that many professionals swear by.
When you were someone else’s employee, you may have been able to hold all of your meetings and obligations in your head. Those days are over. Choose your time and task management tools and keep them by your side at all times.
3. Marketing, marketing and more marketing
As a business owner, you absolutely must be willing to market yourself, and educate your community about who you are and what you do, so they can make a decision to work with you and/or buy your products.
However, your time is limited, so be strategic about it. First, think about where your client or customer base spends time—whether that is on an online platform or at local clubs or organizations. (Your business coach can help you figure this out.) Be ready for a little trial and error in the beginning, then choose the place where you can build the best relationships with the tightest community that is the most likely user base for your services or products.
Once you have found where your people are, commit to communicating with them consistently with educational and entertaining content, and then develop a strategy to get them to “opt-in” on an email list that you own, so you aren’t at risk of losing your connection to your community because your “platform” for communicating, such as Facebook or Instagram, changes the rules up on you.
4. Find and partner with the right accountant or financial advisor
Remember—your time is your most valuable resource. Some business owners may think they can handle all their business’s accounting and finances on their own, but that almost always means spending hours and hours trying to learn a whole new set of skills. On the other hand, choosing the wrong accountant or firm to set up your business structure can end up costing you more in taxes and fees; so do your homework, and don’t just go with the cheapest option.
We can help you to find the right bookkeeper and get them trained up, so you are using your bookkeeper properly, and they are interacting with your tax advisor in a way that gets you maximum tax benefits from starting your business.
5. Hire a (virtual) assistant
When you first start out, you’ll be doing it all, including paperwork, scheduling, invoicing and tasks you didn’t even know you would need to do. You might think this is something you’ll be able to keep up long term, but it will probably make you really tired really fast, and get in the way of steps you need to take to grow your business.
Prepare yourself for the possibility that, at some point, you’re going to need to hire some help to free up time and stay on top of your non-administrative work. Fortunately, a virtual assistant can help you with the detailed bits of running a business for just a few hours a week. Some assistants do specific work, like billing and receiving. Others offer a wider net of assistance and do everything from managing your calendar to writing content for your blog.
That means that even if you have a small operation, you’ll still be able to afford a little bit of help if you need it. And the services are scalable for when all that freed-up time helps you make more money.
If you are just starting out in business, you may want to read the LIFT Manifesto, a guide about the $1,000,000 (yes, million dollars) of mistakes I made when starting my businesses, so you can learn from my mistakes, and not have to make them on your own. You can read the LIFT Manifesto here.