This September Realise Marketing turned 5 years old. As a self-employed business owner and consultant, I often get asked why I decided to start up my own business and my tips for other consultants and freelancers. So I have scrolled through my most frequently asked questions on this topic and have written 5 tips for starting out on your own. Good luck!
1. Get a plan in place
It goes without saying, but it won’t surprise those of you who know my strategy-focus that I’m an advocate of good planning. Plan your business with the same rigour that you put into work on a regular basis and prioritise it wherever possible. Plan financially to ensure that you have the funds to be able to support yourself whilst you grow the business.
For me, it turned out that there were several contracts that I could commit to in the early days before deciding to leave my employed position to start out on my own. However this might look for you, ensure that you have considered how to reduce some of the risks that are behind many startups failing in the first 12 months.
Many entrepreneurs like to have a business plan in place, which of course is a must if you need to pitch to investors or banks. Personally I found that using a business plan template regardless helped to consolidate in my mind the business positioning, target audience and service offering.
2. Carve your niche
In reality, our niche has really been honed in on over time, but the values I created and overall service area still ring true today. Deciding on your chosen industry, ideal audience and service offering early on can really pay dividends, even if it ends up starting broader, you can niche down with more time and experience under your belt.
As your projects are completed, it is likely a niche will emerge; an area which you truly enjoy and your clients receive a lot of value from. Tied up with positive word of mouth, results and testimonials your niche should be what you become known for. Over recent years, our marketing audit, strategy and recommendations services have really come into their own and customers now come directly to us based on recommendations of others.
3. Research your market
It can be a little tempting once you have formulated your plans to jump straight in, but an important step is to road-test what you think you know with a few hard truths. Do your industry and competitors results appear to tie up with your assumptions? Are there any tools that you can use to see if what you are planning is a growing or dying trend, such as Google Trends for search? Are there any micro or macro factors that could impact on your plans?
Discuss your business plan with trusted friends, colleagues or mentors to check your thinking and have the chance to re-align plans if necessary. An external partner is likely to be less emotionally invested and able to help you think logically and practically when it comes to your hopes for the business.
4. Get comfortable with failure
One of the key benefits to owning your own business is the ability to test and pivot as quickly as needed. Although you shouldn’t need to do this regularly, to try and fail and re-align and try something else is the backbone of many an entrepreneur. To be a successful business owner you need to become comfortable with being out of your comfort zone, and the possibility that something is an experiment rather than a done deal.
We often say in marketing that a proportion of the budget should be allocated to testing, and in a similar way the same needs to be applied to your business. For example, you may feel that there is a market in a particular service area, but something changes or doesn’t work as planned and you need to quickly re-group and adjust your plans. The ability to be tuned into these things is more important than getting things right first time, as this is often how growth happens.
5. Develop long term relationships
Whether a service or product-based business you cannot underestimate the importance of developing long term relationships, especially with your customers. For example, I have always made an effort to connect with people I have worked with in the past on LinkedIn, and keep in touch where possible. Helping others without expecting anything in return is also a really nice way to be an active member of the community in which you operate. A popular way to do this in thought leadership is to join in conversations in your niche and offer free help and support to others.
Since I began teaching marketing in 2016, I have also found helping aspiring marketers to grow and develop to be very rewarding. I continue to do this online as well as in person, for example through the LinkedIn Career Advice hub, which facilitates conversations and mentorship with non-connections on LinkedIn.
I hope that this helps you to develop a plan and get started with your new business vision. If I can be of any further help to you or you wish to discuss further please email me or connect on LinkedIn. Happy business-running!