Claire Burdett - Starting your own business is the dream of over half the population, and most start ups are, at least initially, home businesses.
For you to realise your dreams there are certain key issues that need to be considered because the businesses that succeed have one thing in common – they acknowledge the need for careful thought, planning, and guidance. Don’t try and do this all on your own!
Here is my essential key points for starting and running a successful home business:
• Think it through carefully. Ask yourself searching questions about why you want to run your own business, do lots of research, and/or visit a business advisor or organisation, or hire a specialised business coach.
• Be aware that stating a business is like having a baby – all encompassing and financially and physically demanding for ages, while being totally fulfilling and ultimately rewarding.
• Build a support network. Talk to friends, family and established small business owners, join online communities and establish social media links with people who you like and feel an affinity for.
• Research, research, research. Make sure you have a viable proposition by researching your market and the need for your product and, if possible, test viability. Remember that to be successful in business you need to identify a need (the “pain”) and then provide the solution (“stop the pain”).
• Use all sources of free advice, such as internet sites offering business advice, such as http://www.funkyangel.co.uk, Business Link, Training and Enterprise Councils, local business groups and your local bank Business Managers.
• Take regular courses. This is particularly important if you have little or no experience, but even if you have some experience, then you will still learn a huge amount from any course you take. I aim for one every one or two months.
• Grab a grant. Investigate any grants that may be available. These can be a pain to research, however, so there are people who will research them for you. Find them by searching in your particular niche or talk to a business coach, such as myself, or to organisations such as Business Link, who will be able to put you in touch with people who can help you.
• Plan realistically. Do your business plan, your cash flow forecasts and make sure the breakeven point is achievable within the time you hope. Monitor your progress against your forecast. Allow time for sales to build, remember these won’t peak overnight. Ensure you have finance for the bills that will arrive in the meantime. DON’T overstretch. Empire building is fun, but too much too soon will bring it all crashing down around your ears. Aim to finish ONE major thing a month, instead of trying to do lots of different major things – because then NONE of them get done by the end of the month, nor the next month often. Again, a business coach will help you plan and achieve your goals in a manageable manner.
• Work out how much finance you will need – include every expense and keep records and receipts from the start, even if you aren’t making any money. Have a financial safety net in place.
• Don’t forget the legal side. Protect your products if applicable – brands may need registering and trademarking, written and published works may need copyrighting, inventions may need patenting. Understand tax (make good friends with your chosen accountant) and employer’s obligations, including public liability and employer’s liability insurance.
• Be wary of giving credit. If you do work that you don’t get paid in advance for, this is giving your client’s credit, so you must make sure that your invoices are clear and legally binding. Be realistic in quoting ‘payment required by...’, institutions will file invoices for that date before they are considered for payment. Make sure you are legally covered and charge for late settlement.
• Chase debtors regularly, and be firm. Big firms tend to be the worse, but expect everyone to try and stretch your payment terms in times of financial turbulence, such as now.
© Claire Burdett