Once you’ve decide to join the freelance or self-employed working world it can be difficult to know where the heck to begin. For me, it was an approach of a small (£200) project with an ex-work colleague – influencer outreach for Glastonbury 2010 (!!) – which prompted me to set up a website (which is now in its 5th or 6th iteration) and formally offer my Marketing services as a business to the world.
It seemed like a no-brainer. It was a profession I had 10 years of experience in, and I knew I could take some shortcuts by utilising my existing network of contacts.
These days I like to think it’s slightly easier to get yourself ‘out there’. With the Social Networking aspect of businesses, especially online businesses, you can define and target your audience much easier and in new and exciting ways. It’s a great time to start a business, as long as you’ve explored and defined who and where you want to be.
Heres how I got started in my Small Business:
Figure out what you want to do
This might sound like the obvious one, but what do you want to do? Working for yourself from home can be a lonely business, so it’s important to embark on a new career that you will enjoy. Think about where your experience lies: if you’re a blogger you’ll be experienced to advise brands on their social media, if you were a book-keeper in a past life how about offering this service to one-man bands? If you’re a talented artist or designer you could remotely advise on interior design or if you were a copywriter in a past life why not look at writing online content for agencies?
Have a look at what others out there are up to for inspiration – here are some of my favourites:
– Keepsakes from my Sewing Room – soft toys crafted from baby clothes
– Squeak Daily – a daily email with recommendations for kids and grown-ups
– Fauxlaroids – your photographs printed digitally as polaroids
– Baebox – the confidence-building subscription box for pre-teen girls
– Team Hen – non-tacky hen party gifts and favours
– Little Spree – a blog working on the affiliate marketing model with stylish products for children and parents
Create your brand
This one I think is important as it sets the tone for the clients you want to attract and the work you’d like to do. First you need a name that’ll define what you do – and if you’re going to work with this business name for a few years you don’t want it to grate. I chose A & Co purely because A is (obviously) my favourite letter and I work collaboratively with others, hence the ‘Co’.
You can hire graphic designers for a reasonable amount of money to create logos for you (try People Per Hour or Fiverr), and there are plenty of freelancers out there who are able to create websites: it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Previously I’ve used talented Laura Redburn AKA Cardboard cities for illustrations and my very own consultancy creates websites for small business start-ups.
Look like a business
It really doesn’t cost a lot of money to give the impression that you’re a business. Start buy registering a URL with a provider like TSO, who will also help you set up web space if you require it. I always recommend setting up your email through Google, who provide an email service for businesses through Gmail, which includes Google Docs and Cals and is an all-round lovely organized way to set up the backbone of your comms.
Write a business plan
This may never see the light of day, at least not in its original state, but a one or two-page business plan is a great way to set out your objectives and methodologies. You should include in a business plan the problem you intend to solve for your customers, your business summary, the service you’ll provide and your intended business model. Here’s a great guide from Future Girl Corp.
Use your contacts
Your new clients or customers won’t just appear: you need to go looking for them. Put some feelers out, you never know who may be looking for additional support in their business. Email old clients, old employers, friends, members of the PTA, your best friends dog: everyone. I find that people love supporting small businesses and such a huge amount of work comes from personal recommendations so this is one step not to miss out.
Network, network, network
See above: you need to work your contacts! Every town has a wealth of networking groups, mine has some that are digital-specific which are perfect for me. Start by checking your local chamber of commerce listings.
Start as you mean to go on
You might not be making stacks of money just yet but it pays to be organized when it comes to your admin. This means a spreadsheet detailing your incomings and outgoings for tax purposes – don’t forget, if you’re working from home you can claim a portion of your household bills back, as well as expenses such as internet and mobile phone – and setting up an invoice template. Keep all your receipts somewhere safe (my first year in business mine all lived in the pocket in the drivers side door of my car – not good) and consider getting an accountant if the idea of tax freaks you out too much.
If you’re a small business what piece of set-up advice would you give?