Starting a new business? If you are, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, these past two years have been banner years for people launching a new company. Perhaps they were quitting jobs as part of the “Great Resignation.” Or, maybe since folks working from home had more time, or maybe it was just more people realizing that they wanted to pursue their dream of being their own boss. Whatever the reason, 2020 and 2021 saw a surge in the number of new businesses starting.
Most new businesses are one-person businesses, at least at first. Your new business is likely to be just you, too. So I asked my readers – small business owners and consultants who’ve “been there, done that” – to share some of their best suggestions for starting and running a one-person business.
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Here’s some of their best advice:
Keep bank accounts and credit card transactions for business separate from personal ones
In addition to opening up credit and bank accounts for your business, Jennifer Croshal, a CPA, also suggests consulting a tax professional to help you understand the tax implications of your new business.
Why it’s good advice: I was heartbroken to see so many one-person businesses not get COVID-19 relief funds just because they didn’t have a business bank account. And I’ve seen many small businesses not get all the help they needed after a fire, hurricane or earthquake because they didn’t have adequate financial records. Maintain good financial records and keep those records backed up in the cloud in case of emergency.
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Figure out – and write out – what value you bring to a client
You can only create a profitable business if you fill a real need or desire of a customer, points out Bill Odell. Before you start, analyze what value you offer that enough customers will pay money for.
Why it’s good advice: Bill’s pointing out an important truth. All too often, first-time entrepreneurs launch a business because they have a passion or a personal need they want to pursue. But that doesn’t mean there’s really a market.
Get in the ring and go!
You don’t need a fancy website or logo, says Helena Bouchez. “You just need the barest-minimum website that says what kind of problems you solve and for whom – and why you’re qualified.”
Why it’s good advice: All too often, a startup entrepreneur will spend all their time (and a lot of money) trying to get just the perfect website or perfect company name or logo instead of just getting out there and starting their business. That leads to the next suggestion …
Have clients and relationships in place BEFORE starting your business
You may wonder how you get clients if you haven’t started a business yet. The answer? Get out there and make sales, Isaac Kremer says. Lots of wannabe business owners spend years planning their businesses (and hey, I’m all for planning – I wrote a bestselling book about business planning).
Why it’s good advice: Going out there and talking to prospective customers helps you understand what you can really make money selling.
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Start small and get experience to grow
A lot of first time-entrepreneurs target big customers first, points out Marti Lemos. But you need to learn to walk before you can run.
Why it’s good advice: Big companies are the hardest customers to land and to keep. Instead, get out there, land some small customers, learn what the market wants, adjust your pricing and get better at what you do.
Create a process for developing proposals
Develop templates for proposals, processes and spreadsheets you expect to use over and over, suggests Jim Howes.
Why it’s good advice: Not only will this tip save you time, but it’ll help you focus, too. Jim goes on to say your proposal template should include “defining scope of work, pricing, scheduling, and all the language to cover changes, liability and the legal stuff.”
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Anna Hay has loads of other good advice:
- Stay focused and do your research.
- Create a mantra or motto for your business.
- Be open to changing your target audience.
- Reach out to your local small business development center (SBDC).
Why it’s good advice: Anna recognizes you need to have a clear, genuine focus for your business, but must also be willing to pivot if the market demands it. And check with your local small business development center. They’re a fabulous, free resource!