Hannah Martin, Co-Founder of Talented Ladies Club, kindly shares her tips on starting a business. Do you have a great idea and want to start your own business, but feel overwhelmed by how much you need to think about? If so, don’t worry, we completely understand how you feel! When you’re starting out in business there is SO much to think about that you don’t know what to tackle first. And you’re worried that you may overlook something important. Since launching our own business, Talented Ladies Club, we’ve interviewed over 150 women, many of whom have launched successful businesses doing what they love. We’ve also built our business from scratch ourselves – learning lots of lessons along the way. As a result, we have identified 10 steps that you need to take when starting a business. They are: 1) Test your idea However brilliant you think your idea is, you need to give it a real world test. So find people who are similar to the type of people who would be your customers, and find out what they think of it. And really listen to what they say – even if it’s not what you want to hear. If you need to, be prepared to modify your idea, or even go back to the drawing board completely. It’s much better to find out now if your idea isn’t quite as brilliant as you first thought, than six months later when you have invested time and money into it. 2) Name your business Every business needs a name, but pick yours carefully. Make sure it’s not already been taken, especially by a similar business, and that it won’t offend anyone (unless that’s your aim!). Also check whether you can get a domain name for it. If possible, go for a .co.uk, .com or other relevant domain. And check that your name makes sense when written as a URL. 3) Get to know your customers Who’s going to buy from you? One of the most important steps in starting a business is identifying your target market. The more you know about them, and the problems they have, the more relevant and powerful your marketing will be. So find out as much as you can about your ideal customers. Where do they live? What do they do? What interests them? What annoys them? How can you help them? Really get inside their lives. 4) Get a web presence Most businesses today need some kind of web presence, whether it’s a website or just a Facebook page. If you can’t afford to pay a designer or developer to build a site for you, you can use a free website builder, such as Wix or Weebly, or start small with a Facebook page. Whatever you use, make sure that it looks professional and your branding is consistent. If you can afford it, we highly recommend getting a professionally-designed logo. (If not, you can always use sites like Fiverr.) 5) Work out your marketing message How are you going to tell people about what you do, and convince them you’re the right business for them? A good place to start is by considering your USP, your unique selling point. What is it that you do differently or better than anyone else? And how is that a benefit to your customers? Once you’re clear on this you can make sure that everything you write somehow conveys this. 6) Where will you sell? If you’re selling online, how will people buy from you? The easiest way to get started is to sell through online marketplaces (like All By Mama!). It’s easy to set up an account and start selling without the outlay of creating your own shop site, and they already have a captive audience of eager shoppers waiting to view and buy your products. If you sell services, you may want to consider joining a professional directory or network, as that’s where potential clients are already looking for people like you. 7) Plan your marketing Great marketing doesn’t just happen – it’s usually carefully thought out. That’s why we always recommend creating a marketing plan for your business, however small your business is. This allows you to consider all options, and develop a strategy in which your marketing efforts work together. It also stops you wasting money on ad-hoc marketing opportunities, and ensures you can test everything properly to see what works, and what doesn’t. 8) Get social Social media is a fantastic free marketing opportunity for you. Find out which sites your ideal customers use (choose a maximum of two), set up a page or profile, and get networking. If you’re new to social media, start reading up on how to use it properly for business (we have several helpful articles on our site) or even invest in training. Then set aside time every day to manage your sites and interact. Many businesses have taken off simply through using social media well, so it’s worth spending the time on. 9) Make sure you’re legal! If you’re starting a business, you need to let HMRC know. So decide what structure you want your business to have. Are you going to be a Ltd company, or run it as a sole trader? Either way, make sure you’re clear on what you need to do. It’s also a good idea to start a separate business bank account. It makes bookkeeping easier and you’ll look more professional. 10) Write a business plan Once you’ve completed the previous nine steps, get it all down in a business plan. A business plan is a great exercise for fledgling businesses. It gives you a structure to consider every aspect of setting up a successful enterprise and will help you spot any holes in your logic. There are many free templates online you can use. Our personal favourite is HSBC’s free business planning tool. Hannah Martin is co-founder of Talented Ladies Club, a magazine-style website with advice and inspiration for freelance, business and career mums.
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