Blueprint to Starting a Business –from Ideas to Implementation.
Starting a business, where do I begin? Information overload. I’ve complied what I’ve learned over the last 8 years of being on the internet to get you headed in the right direction when thinking of starting your own business.
1. Write down a list of services in your area that could be filled.
2. Write down a list of what your hobbies, interests are.
3. Research and see if there is a need for the service. Check if there is competition. If there is, see if you can do something easier/better/different. Is there a problem you can solve for your customers? In our area, I would love a delivery place that offered healthy foods such as good old fashioned green beans with a hamburger instead of fries. Research a need in your area and see if you can fill it.
Research the laws in your state. If you’re thinking of starting a bakery, check with your local health inspector to find out what is allowed. If you’re thinking of running a business out of your home and will have customers pick up orders, make sure and check with your local business zones. Some areas may not allow excessive traffic, it’s best to do your research.
4. Once you’ve decided what you want to do, research the business name and make sure it’s available. You’ll need to register it with the state. Most states allow you to do this online for a minimal fee.
5. Taxes- get legal. If you’re selling a product, see if you need to collect state sales tax. In my state, I collect taxes on products purchased in my state only and then forward to the Department of Revenue once a year.
6. Business name-buy a domain name. This usually costs less than $10 for a year.
7. Hosting-ask friends and family for referrals. I love my host. Uptime is very important as well as response time. I host with a smart entrepreneur who owns her own servers and monitors them regularly. If there is a problem or I have a question, I know that she is one email or phone call away. I don’t get referred to another person for another issue.
8. Create a website. There are tons of ways to do this. There are many templates you can find, both paid and free. I’ve used both, plus created mine from scratch as well as paid to have my website created from scratch. (http://www.valentinecreations.com did our template.)
9. Shopping cart-How are you going to sell your product/service? There are as many shopping carts out there as there are ways to start a business. A free shopping cart that is easy to use is http://www.mals-e.com . It integrates easily with http://www.paypal.com . Paypal also has their own shopping cart and buy now buttons. When considering a shopping cart, look at the features that you are going to need. Are you selling 20,000 different products? If so you’ll need a shopping cart that lets you use Excel or other programs to upload information. If you’re selling 10 or even 50 items then mals-e will probably work for you. Mals-e creates a html button to insert into your page. The customer is taken to a secure form where they input their payment information.
10. Are you secure? If you will be accepting credit cards, you will need to be certified PCI compliant for credit cards. Some shopping carts take care of this for you. I currently use http://www.ultracart.com and they offer PCI compliance with their cart. I have a SSL certificate that I pay a yearly fee for. To get the certificate, I had to prove who I was and get it verified. This protects both you and your customer.
11. Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)-Learn it and keep learning it. This is how you get the best search engine results, which can mean the difference between your business making a profit or losing money. If your website is optimized correctly Google and other search engines will find you and send traffic to your website, resulting in more sales. Cricket’s search engine optimization class is the best and it’s free!
12. Now that your website is up and running and you have a working shopping cart, it’s time to advertise. When you built your website you used keywords that others would find you with, right? It’s important to understand that just because you have a website up and running, it doesn’t mean customers will magically find you. There are many new websites going up every day so yours has to stand out. You can start by adding original, unique content using your keywords. To find your keywords, use a keyword finder. Google has a free one. Another way is to brainstorm. What would you type into Google to find you? Who needs your services? Who is your target market? Where can you find them?
13. Accounting- set up a method to keep track of sales and expenses. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or even old fashioned pen and paper. Quickbooks is a popular program that is easy to set up and maintain, just do it from the beginning or you’ll spend time backtracking to put information in.
14. Marketing plan-Create a map of where you’re going and how you are going to reach your goal Get your free business marketing plan workbook.
15. Ideas- Keep track of all your ideas. I write them down and put them in my folder of ideas that could be implemented with time and money.
16. Have a support system. I have a fabulous group of women who have their own specialties. I’ve learned so much from them. When I’m having a bad day I can go to them and vent. It’s extremely important to have a support system in place. Realize that you can do this but it will be hard work, long hours and little pay up front.
17. Work, Love and Enjoy- My best advice comes from Kay Green, work your business like a business every day. Set up a business schedule and stick to it. Work on your business every day. My friend and mentor taught me this. She went from one product to having a storefront and being a leader in child safety and baby products, all within less than 10 years. I’ve learned so much from her and truthfully I wouldn’t be writing this without her guidance over the years.
18. Read these tips, make notes and read it again. Remember that although this is step by step, it can be accomplished by doing more than one thing at once. When you’re an entrepreneur you will wear many hats. If there’s something you don’t know, reach out to your network and ask for help.
Terra Williams is an entrepreneur who balances a home, career, husband, and four kids. She offers scratch off stickers and free scratch off templates to create your own scratch off tickets.