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Running a business can have a profound impact on your life and the lives of those around you. But before you can start a business, you have to start a business.
Choosing to start your own business can seem daunting, if you’ve never done it before. Fortunately, there are many other entrepreneurs out there, and you can benefit from the wisdom they have gained from their successes – and their mistakes.
These 13 time-tested steps will help you get started – whether it’s your first or your tenth – with tips on finding and validating the idea of making money by coming up with a shipping strategy until the final launch of a product or service.
- Make the most of your time
- Determine the business idea
- Confirm your business idea
- Find a business name
- Make a plan
- Understand business finance
- Develop your product or service
- Select a business structure
- Research licenses and regulations
- Select your software systems
- Find your business location
- Plan your workload and team size
- Run your business
No matter how ambitious your business goals are, you can still start a business in your spare time, working around the current commitments in your life. Not everyone can quit their full-time job and keep starting something, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get started.
For example, you could start a full-time handmade business or start a blog that you later turn into a business.
Finding a business idea is something you can systematically approach by relying on proven approaches that have worked with other entrepreneurs. Whether you want to start a small-scale investment business or want to include everything in your idea, the best way to find a product for sale involves strategies like:
- Excavating your personal interests. What do you like to do in your free time? Are there any products you can sell that relate to your hobbies, or would that solve your usual frustration?
- Exploring existing products. Check product reviews to see if there are any common complaints about popular products and see if you can identify market failures.
- Take advantage of trends. If you notice that a particular product seems to be popping up everywhere or you have a great idea to help you leverage a popular product, they can make great internet business ideas.
Remember, all you need is one idea to get started. Many successful businesses have started with a signature product and from there expanded to complementary goods.
Checking your business may sound difficult, but it’s really just a matter of testing whether customers are willing to pay for your product before you spend too much time and money in it – and it’s important to work no matter what business you start.
There are many ways to validate your business, from simple to complex. Here are some tactical examples that can help you figure out how to estimate market demand before you go too deep.
There are other ways to evaluate product ideas, but when in doubt, start selling as quickly as possible. Learning from customer feedback and understanding how your products are used are invaluable when growing a small business.
Get PopSockets, now a ubiquitous way to keep your smartphone securely in one hand. Initially, David Barnett designed PopSockets as a way to manage headphone cables. It wasn’t until he saw the students in his class using PopSockets to get the most out of their phone that he realized the unplanned value that customers saw in the product. That insight helped PopSocket sell more than 35 million units.
Work on finding a name for your business that clearly lets you know what you are doing, it’s short and memorable, and it’s no longer used in your industry. This is not an easy task, but it can be accomplished with a little effort and imagination.
Name generators can help you compile a list of unique ideas, and there are plenty of time-tested naming best practices you can rely on to make your own list.
A strong name usually has several characteristics:
- Short and simple. You want customers to be able to remember your name quickly, and the best way to do this is to avoid long names. One or two words are ideal, though three to four short words can be worked if they produce a memorable phrase.
- Different. If your market research shows that everyone in your industry seems to have similar names or rely on similar elements, it might be helpful to avoid them to come up with a name that really stands out.
- Original. In addition to avoiding similar names, you will need to make sure your business name is not already used by a competitor. To do this, run a free trademark search in the countries where you do business, and be sure to check Google and social media sites. (The same goes for URLs, so search for your domain name before registering anything.) Even if someone has not registered a trademark, in many countries they can legally challenge your use of the name they used for business. in the same industry. If you are unsure, it is best to consult an independent legal advisor for advice specific to your situation.
Writing a business plan helps validate and formalize your idea and can simplify the process of creating a business by making you sit down and think things through.
A classic quote that relates specifically to the business plan process is, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” your ideas while creating your plan.
If you’ve never done so, here’s an extensive guide to writing a business plan and business plan template to help you structure your thoughts.
When creating your plan, pay attention to the sections on competitive analysis and SWOT analysis. While nothing can replace validating your idea by confirming that people will pay for it, the research involved in completing these sections may be further proof that you are on the right track.
The common goal of any business is to make money, which means that cash flow is an integral part of running a business. You will need to understand some basics to get started and scale that knowledge as you grow.
There are plenty of companies you can start with just a small startup cost, but others will need money for supplies, equipment or physical space. A clear view of your total investment – before you spend a cent – should also help you make important projections, such as when you will break evenly.
Before you spend a cent, a clear indication of your total startup costs is required.
If these calculations show that you will need more funds than you can afford to spend out of your own pocket, you can look at financing options such as a small business loan or crowdfunding campaign.
Bookkeeping must be one of your main financial tasks as soon as you are ready to start shopping for your business. Accurate records of your income and expenses will help you keep an eye on cash flow and later allow for a smooth transition to working with an accountant or bookkeeper.
To make the process even easier, consider opening a special bank account and credit card for your business. Having your personal and business finances separate makes it easier to tax your business and can help you automate some of the steps.
Shop the capital. It helps approved merchants obtain the funds they need without prolonging bank approval or giving up part of their business.
Profit above all. A book designed to ensure that your business profits, no matter what type of business you are.
Accounting tools. Apps that work directly with Shopify to simplify accounting processes.
You have done the work and you understand the finances – now is the time to delve deep into the product or service you want to offer.
For a product-based company, developing your product could mean using one of three general approaches.
- Creating your own product. Whether you are producing a handmade product or a genuine manufacturer product, developing your own product for sale can help you stand out in the market.
- Customizing an existing product. With print-on-demand capabilities, you can add your unique designs and ideas to products including T-shirts, leggings, towels, backpacks and more.
- Couponing product choices. Dropshipping is a way of stocking your store without creating a new product, so you can start selling almost immediately without managing inventory. Get tips for starting your Dropshipping business.
As you develop your product, keep in mind your overall costs when pricing. Although the price of your product not only affects costs – and there are many factors that influence the pricing strategy – it is important that the product is profitable.
Your business structure affects key parts of your business, from taxes to business to your personal responsibility. Choosing the right structure means balancing the legal and financial protection you need with the flexibility of different options. It’s an important decision and you should think carefully about it before you start a business.
Choosing the right structure means balancing the legal and financial protection you need with the flexibility of different options.
Business structures vary depending on your country and area, but the two common types – which may differ under different names in your country – are sole ownership and association. Self-ownership is great if you are the only person involved in the business and it is usually the organization with the least effort that you continue, but remain personally responsible for the business and its activities. You can even hire employees as a sole proprietorship, but this will require your employer ID, which means registering your business.
On the other hand, if you opt for a more formal structure like a corporation, it is easier to involve more owners in the business and you are not personally responsible for the business – but there are more paperwork and steps involved in starting and maintaining corporations.
When it comes to choosing a business structure, there are several factors to consider.
- Where is your business located? Your country’s laws show the different business structures you can form. Whether or not you need a business license to get started.
- What kind of business do you run? Some structures are more appropriate for companies of a certain size or within a particular industry. There may be times when you need to restructure your business to partner with new partners. For example, it is not uncommon for large companies to seek suppliers or partners to engage with them.
- How many people are involved? If you go solo as a sole proprietor, you may be able to look at simplified options. If you have a business partner or multiple people who own the business, you will need to look at more advanced options to ensure everything is set up and shared properly.
An accountant or lawyer can help you evaluate the various options available in your area and in the process of setting up your business.
No one wants to end up in trouble rightly. Your business is subject to the laws governing business in your area, as well as the laws and regulations specific to your industry. For example, a food business must comply with specific licenses and regulations to handle sales, but it must also pay attention to the legality of its marketing efforts and trademark and copyright laws.
With so much knowledge and a lot specific to your location and industry, it is worth consulting with an attorney to get advice before starting a business. Investing time and money upfront to get legal advice can save you from considerable headaches along the way.
One of the best ways to reduce the heavy lifting involved in running a business and setting yourself up for future success is to choose software that can help you automate or simplify the things you need to do.
Often when you choose the right software systems, you will be able to set them up once and run them effectively with a little bit of ongoing work. Consider software that will help you manage the following:
- Accounting. With multiple options to help you keep track of everything from a meal with a business partner to a large number of supplies, accounting software is one of the best ways to get your business started on the right financial foot.
- Email marketing. A good email marketing tool will help you stay in touch with your current (and future) customers and ensure that you can send the right messages to the right people at the right time.
- Ads. Paying for ads is often a business expense, especially online, but there is marketing software that can make it easy for you to make the most of your advertising budget – no matter how much you have to spend.
- Project management. Even if you are a sole proprietor, a place to plan your work and keep track of important tasks can help you plan your work. Tools like Trello and Asana can help.
- Website or online store. Choose a platform that lets you easily manage all the critical tasks involved in running your business. Look for a theme that supports your product lines to ease downloading and order management. To get an idea of what you’ll need to do, here’s an extensive list to get you started.
Free Course: Introducing Shopify. Learn everything you need to know about running Shopify, a step-by-step video walkthrough from a six-figure shop owner.
Your business plan will help you determine what space you need for your business. If you sell print T-shirts on demand, you may only need to find space in your home for a small workspace, desk and laptop. On the other hand, if your business requires personal retail space, you will need to find a place to rent.
To help narrow down what you need from your business, consider these questions:
- How much space will you need for inventory? If you accept the delivery of thousands of items at one time, you may not be able to place it in your living room.
- Do you plan on offering personal retail sales? Although selling your home is certainly an option for your first orders, if a person is a personally important channel, you should find space that is comfortable and easily accessible to buyers.
- Will you pack and ship orders from your location? Depending on the scale of shipping operations, you may need more space than is available in your home office.
You may be able to run your business from the space you already have, especially if you do not intend to sell in person. If this is the case, here are some home office design ideas to help you create an effective workspace until your business is successful.
How much work will you have to do and what skills will be required to start your business? These are the basic questions that you will need to answer as they will guide both your timeline and your level of startup investment.
If you plan to do all the work yourself, you are limited by the time available to invest. If you are planning on hiring assistance, you will need to keep these costs in mind – as well as the time it takes to find and board a freelancer or employee.
Here’s an overview of the basic skills you’ll need to learn, know or employ when starting out.
There are many design decisions to make when setting up a business, from logo design to choosing your brand colors. Tools are available to help you make your initial decisions and guide you in the right direction.
- Logo. To build your logo, you can rely on a logo creator such as Hatchful or online image software such as Canva.
- Colors. Start with one of the many online tools that can create a color palette or use Hatchful to select colors for your brand.
- Website Design Starting with a professional theme for your site gives you a website based on best design practices.
If the standalone approach to setting up your store is too far out of your area of expertise, you can find professional designers by asking for recommendations from other business owners, or by looking for Shopify Expert.
Great photos are key to your business, especially if you’re selling online, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take photos of your products on your own.
There are also templates that you can use to mock product design, such as these make-up shirts.
Marketing is an integral part of your business and may require multiple skill sets. Start by deciding which marketing activities will have the biggest impact on your new business, and use the plans to build a list of skills you will need to execute them. For example, showing paid ads is a much different skill set than taking life photos to build your Instagram following.
Research and understand some of the most common promotional tactics used in your industry and see if you have the skills needed to implement them.
After the products have been ordered, how will they get from point A to point B? Make sure you have a shipping strategy that includes key details like:
- Price. Will you offer your customers free or reduced shipping or will they pass on the exact cost? This is a nuanced decision that affects many parts of your business, so it’s important to run the numbers and weigh the options.
- Packaging. Lighter packaging often means lower shipping costs, but you will need to balance the weight with protection. Cardboard, though heavy, is more protective than poly-mailers for many products.
- Locations. Will you be sending internationally, nationally or only locally? The answer will depend on your products and your goals – and it can change as your business grows.
Whatever your shipping strategy, Shopify Shipping is here to help you negotiate prices with USPS, UPS and DHL in the US and Canada Post in Canada.
Hiring help for your business
If you do not have the time or the skills to do everything you need for your business, hire help. You can find a virtual assistant for current, routine tasks or work with an expert on multiple projects involved, such as designing your website or your marketing plan.
Managing your load
Once you have a good idea of what is to come and who will finish the job, it is time to add a little project management to make your life easier. Consider using time management tools like Trello or Asana to write, assign, and track tasks. Time management tools are especially useful for keeping track of teams on a schedule, but don’t even underestimate the value of the structure to yourself.
You are ready for the last step in starting a business: startup. The preparation you have already made has laid a solid foundation to support your launch so that you can focus on marketing activities and first sales. However, an attack plan, especially while trying to build traction, can help make your launch even more successful.
Although each presentation will be unique, there are some elements that can increase the performance of the first few days of any business.
- Use a network. Promote your store primarily on free channels that are already available to you, which include your personal social media and contact list. Sending one-on-one emails with a support request, which can be as simple as social sharing, can go a long way toward gaining attraction.
- Consider offering a discount. Rewarding early customers with a discount code that fits your profit margins can help you get early, especially when your store is new and may not have many customer reviews or points with social proof.
- Test paid ads. Even if you start with a small budget, paid ads can be one of the most effective ways to get an edge over your ideal audience. Early testing and results-based learning can help you drive your first few sales and optimize your ad performance as you scale.
Start a business and make an impact
Starting a business is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Whether you want to introduce a product to the world to solve a problem you have, build a profitable business to be self-employed, create opportunities for people around you, or make extra money a month, these steps can help you realize your dreams.
Ready to build your own business? Start your free 14-day Shopify trial – no credit card required.
Thanks for visiting our site. As a way of saying "thanks" here's a FREE course on how to make $688 a day online using FREE methods: