How To Set Up A Small Business

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.

set up small business

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?

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  1. Oh my goodness, I’m so late in thanking you for the mention! Great article. I’d recommend everyone set up a small business. It’s great fun. My main piece of advice – find your passion/something you love because it will become your life every waking hour, and when it is, it doesn’t feel like work :) And also – don’t spend a fortune when you start out. Launch and test out the idea. If it’s well received and the sums add up, then invest your money then, and invest wisely.

    Posted 10.28.16 Reply
  2. I’m so happy to see you writing about this kind of thing Alice – the businesses you’ve mentioned look really interesting, varied and at different stages of their evolution. I have two recommendations – first up is a practical one: invest the time in setting up all your documents, images and everything you have in an online space like Google Drive, Box or Dropbox. Why? Because you never know when or where you might get into an opportunity to talk with someone about your work. You want to be able to easily show them something that will pique their interest from your phone. It’s a short hop from there to ‘if you give me your email I’ll send you a link to it’ and then you’re off on a relationship with a direct link to someone who could be very useful to you in the future.

    My second recommendation is to be what is currently being referred to as being “Laser Focused”. What it really means is that you need to be bloody minded about yourself and your work. If you’ve made the decision to do it, be ruthlessly committed to it. Seriously. We might all be our own worst critics, but there’s no one – absolutely no one person who can sell your business, your skills, your services and your products like you can. I couldn’t get away from the selling in the first business because there was no one who was as ‘into’ it as I was!! Now, with Hope House Press I can write and articulate and disseminate my thoughts on our awesomeness and other people leverage it for us and share it, which is a beautiful place to be in.

    Finally, as an extra bonus tip – following on from Rosie Shelley’s wise words, I totally recommend that you take photos and screenshots of your first efforts. You’ll look back in six months and think “OH MY GOD, HOW / WHY DID I PUBLISH THAT??? HOW FAR HAVE WE COME SO QUICKLY???!!!!”. It’s always good to have your own yard sticks to measure progress ;))

    Posted 10.28.16 Reply