Being a business owner is the great American dream. I have found myself increasingly surrounded by people who have a yearning to join the not-so-secret society of entrepreneurs. Many of those people know they want to be in business for themselves, but have yet to wrap their arms around the thing that will put them in business. I am going to attempt to answer the question of “Where do I start?” for those of you that want to be in business, but are not sure where to start dipping your toes.
You are uniquely qualified to run a business that is unique all to you. You as a person have had experiences and frustrations that make you the right person to take an idea and run with it. Now that you have started on this path keep your eyes and ears open for business ideas.
It might be a complaint that you hear from your friends over and over or missing link or something you want to see different in the world. There is no magic method for discovering the idea that is right for you to turn into a business. But the more you keep your head working on the problem of starting the right business, the more likely you are to find the idea that will sing.
Start a document in Evernote, or Google Docs, or wherever you keep notes and make a list of ideas as they come to you, even the dumb ones. Eventually you will find one that you can’t let go of and when you tell people about it they say “yes”.
I have a dream of starting a cooking blog that teaches people how to cook who have no cooking experience. For me this is a passion project that I want to turn into a profitable business. I talk about IntroKitchen all the time. When I pitch this idea to people a funny thing happens, and they start brainstorming with me. They tell me what they would want out of a business like that. This is especially helpful because often I am pitching it to my target market, they are presenting me with gold and don’t even know it.
I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, read a lot of articles, and talked to a lot of people about business and entrepreneurship. The one thing that I’ve heard over and over is that you will be more successful if you are excited about the thing you are building. If no one paid you any money, would you still want to do it? If the answer is no then you might want to move on to a different idea. Getting something started is hard, and it’s even harder when you aren’t excited about it. The best businesses are ones that are run by passionate people.
Earn1k is an online course designed for entrepreneurs to help them get their feet wet. The idea is to zero in on a business idea and start shipping so you can start making money.
One of my good friends who owns a math tutoring business got started with this course. She said that a lot of the course in the beginning is focused on finding the right idea for your business. It’s a great place to start and it can get you thinking like a business owner. There are also really practical lessons in this course like how to write a business plan and putting processes in place.
Writing a contract can be daunting. However, there are lots of resources out there on the internet for contracts. The one thing you should keep in mind is that you will most likely not be able to just download a template and fill in your business name. Every business is different and will have different needs in a legal contract.
My recommendation is to draw up something that is more or less in the right direction of what you need it to say. Once you have your rough draft of a contract I would send it to a lawyer to review and edit. By doing it this way you are saving yourself a lot of money, as it will likely take a lot less of the lawyer’s valuable, expensive time. And, you’ll get a solid contract that will actually protect you.
It is very much worth it to use invoicing/accounting software rather than trying to float by on spreadsheets and PDF invoices. I like to work off the assumption that you are building an awesome business that is going to be huge. Using professional software now will ensure that it will scale with you as you grow. You will also save yourself the headache of figuring out a new system when you don’t really have the time.
I’ve tried a couple of different accounting softwares and ended up landing on Freshbooks. I’m not an accountant and I run my own books. Personally I found the traditional software difficult to use as a non-finance person. I’m sure that Quickbooks is all kinds of complicated-business-accounting awesome-sauce, but right now my business isn’t complicated.
I love that Freshbooks has an app so I can invoice and enter payments right on my phone. They also have the most ridiculously amazing customer service, which is beyond helpful and responsive. On multiple occasions I have had reps go above and beyond researching problems for me and helping me navigate some accounting nuances that were lost on me in the beginning.
I really wish that someone had told me that I would spend more time “running the business” than I would on the thing that started the business. For me, in the beginning, I felt really guilty when I would spend an entire week doing research, editing contracts, sending out quotes, and meeting people. Because in my head I thought that I should be spending 40hrs a week doing design work. That just isn’t how it works. You will spend more time running the business, and that’s ok.
I really wish that someone had told me that I would spend more time “running the business” than I would on the thing that started the business.
Really you could start at episode 001 of his podcast and listen all the way through. This guy, Sean McCabe, has owned three businesses. He is wicked smart and has a lot experience you can learn from. Below are some of my favorites as it relates to becoming an entrepreneur.
I’m not even going to recommend specific podcasts. Just start this one from the beginning. Try not to be intimidated by the fact that these guys are so successful and so young. Remember that even though they are in their 20’s both of them have been running businesses since they were teens and have 10+ years of experience in business.
I’m a member of the Freelancers Union. It is a group that is part advocacy, part support, part resource, and part union. I have very mixed feelings about their resources, for example their contract template is horrendous and you should never use it. There are forums and articles for you to look through and ask questions. It’s a good place to look at if you are thinking about starting a client/service based business. I just warn you to have a filter on the forum stuff. There are lots of people in there with bad practices.
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