Small start-up businesses have had a huge resurgence in the past 5 years. Since the US recession and ever so slow recovery, people of all walks of life have started needed additional income or are so worried that they will be laid off that they are turning to self-employment at unprecedented numbers.
At the same time, you really want to give your business time to develop before leaving your steady paycheck so here are a few tips on how to start your business without having to lose your job, especially if your “job” is something that you really can’t or don’t want to lose, such as being a stay at home mom or dad (which is most definitely a full time job!)
#1. Start small. You can start almost any business at home. It is important that you plan for being bigger, but in the really expensive things, like offices, phone systems, equipment leases, etc. you do NOT need to do that. What are the things you must have?
1. A great business card (VistaPrint is my go-to for all this type of printing, first 250 FREE)
2. A great printer, scanner, fax machine (an HP All-In-One is my personal choice, about $400)
3. A business license from the Department of Licensing in your state. $59-ish
4. A computer – you can get a decent computer for under $500
5. Internet access — about $50 a month at its most basic level
6. Website — WordPress $0
7. Blog — if you are doing on line marketing this is a must have $0
8. Facebook page and Twitter accounts, Linked In profile for a professional
#2. A budget
What is your plan for making money. If you are a weekend cabinet maker, then how long will it take you to make cabinets for someone once they order them? Can you take 2 orders and get help if needed? How much money do you need to make to make ends meet? In other words, how much do you want to make from your business and how long do you want it to take? Then double the amount of time. Remember to include your materials and build your hours into the cost of making the cabinets at the expense it would be to hire someone to do it. To make that clear, cost of the labor is no more than what you could hire someone off of Craigslist to do it for (plus taxes and insurance).
#3. A Plan
This is more about the time. If you have a job you will have a harder time marketing at networking meetings and other mid day opportunities. So you will have to be creative in finding your niche market and reaching them. So get creative and make a plan that works in your schedule.
Look the part. If you are a house painter, do not go do bids in your suit straight from the office. Never tell folks this is your hobby business. You can show up in your nice car but make some comment about the truck being in at another job site. You are a house painter, that is who you need to be when you are with your customers.
If you are a house painter and you are trying to change to something more business suit like, then go to Nordstrom’s (or you best local department store) and try on some outfits. Get a sense of what makes you look and feel like a million bucks. Then take a picture and go to Good Will, or your local Value Village and find the pieces for pennies on the dollar. You can look fantastic for under $50 with the right wardrobe choices.
#5. An Offer
What do you do? What can you do for your customers? This is the most important piece. You need to have a strong, compelling offer that soothes a pain your customer is experiencing. Remember that we are all over busy, so saving them time, stress, or $ are easy top-of-the-pile issues. Then there are, looking or feeling better.
Call this whatever you like, courage, chutzpah, confidence, or boldness… you must find that spot in yourself where you can approach strangers and open your mouth with a smile and build a relationship.
Practice your opening in the mirror. When I get started on something new, I always write out a 1 sentence way of saying what I do. That is the most common question you will get, and sometimes you will only get 1 sentence – or 30 seconds at some networking meetings. So you need to be prepared to say it really well and get your point across. Give them benefits, not services. If you clean gutters for your new business, you want to tell them that you will prevent water damage and flooding, quickly, and leave the place spotless.
Tell Everyone you know!
Just make an announcement when you are ready to get started. Tell everyone. “ I am starting to do roofing on the weekends and if you know anyone I will give them a great deal and great service. “
They may not know anyone right away, but give lots of cards out and you will surprised how many calls you will get if you keep going.
#7. Stay Focused on What Matters
To not lose your job, you need to stay focused on it. So keep your attention where it matters. When you are at work, be at work and do not try and sneak other business in on company time. That is the single most common reason that bosses don’t like people to start other ventures. It takes your attention away from what you are doing. So keep doing a great job there.
At lunch, before work, and after work, you can return calls, follow up and plan marketing meetings. Use the weekends to fulfill your promises to your customers. And take at least 1 day off to rest. Exhaustion is not going to work in the long run.