The recession was tough on a lot of people, and the results are still evident throughout the world. With inflation on wages no longer matching that on prices, it’s no surprise that more and more people are turning to the person they can trust the most – themselves. Whilst starting your own social led business is certainly no guarantee that you will raise capital (or at least a sufficient amount to sustain yourself), it’s worth putting everything you have into it, in order to attempt being successful. We’ve put together this handy guide to getting yourself on your feet…
Have an idea in your head of what you want to do? Now you just need to know what you want to achieve. There are so many industries to choose from that it can be potentially daunting to think about making one decision. This is the biggest step, and it needs to be done before you do anything else. You’ll need to do a lot of research into the industry that you’re going into, so it’s often advisable to choose one you’re already a little familiar with. You ought to find the perfect balance – plagiarising something existing will infringe on various laws, but there is no harm in seeing what has been done effectively in the past and creating something entirely unique off the back of it.
The next step you’ll need to make is discovering how to source and brand your product or services. There are plenty of great suppliers online which you can actually use to make large orders from, and they will often allow you to brand their products for your own purposes. Three fantastic ones are Alibaba, VapeLab and Global Sources.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that you’ll have to make some financial sacrifices, at least to begin with. The best thing to do once your idea is firmly in place is to draft up a Business Plan. You’ll need to establish how you’re going to afford the initial start-up costs, which could be costly and involve needing savings, and you’ll need to factor in things like how you’re going to pay yourself (and any employees, if you have any). You should also consider whether you really need premises to start with – if not, you can work from home, and set up a virtual office if need be, so that you still have a professional address and telephone number. Someone can forward your calls and messages to you, and it can often look good if you appear to be based in a big city centre.
Other options you could consider include finding an investor – for example, someone who can loan you the money or someone who will take a share in the business, or of course you can take advantage of crowdfunding, a modern take on raising capital. Family, friends and total strangers can donate money to you, and in return, you can assign them small rewards. Kickstarter is one great way of doing this – just make sure you can actually stick to your promises or you could face backlash (or even legal trouble!)
Go Big on Social
Social is a great place to kickstart your business. By leveraging your family and friends in the early stages on Facebook you can get great organic reach to start your sales or generate extra brand awareness. Use Facebook ads and Twitter ads sensibly too in order to grow your audience and reach.
Depending on your focus there are a number of platforms that you can use to get off the ground. These include the likes of Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google Plus, Tumblr and more. It really depends on understanding your target audience and where they interact most so that you can find them in the environment they’re comfortable in.
Make sure you give plenty of notice to your present employer. Even though you technically won’t be relying on them for a reference, you won’t want to risk them having any kind of negative impact on your new venture. You should also check within your contract as to whether you’re breaching the terms in any way – some companies have clauses which prevent you operating your own business if it’s in a similar field, or dealing with their clients, until a certain amount of time has passed. Perhaps consider whether you could even start your business on a smaller scale before leaving your secure job – it might give you an idea as to whether you could yet manage solely your business profits.
Do plenty of research on your competitors, employment law, and the industry itself in order to always be on top of your game. Finally, you need to register your business with the taxman, too, to avoid any trouble later down the line.
Marketing is so important, but it can often be overlooked. There are several aspects to this, from word of mouth to digital. From the get go, make sure you launch your product or service with impact. Involve family and friends, and any professional contacts that you can. Consider the type of business you have, and whether you can get somebody credible or famous to endorse the brand.
If you manage a good reception at the beginning of your journey as a business, you shouldn’t over rely on this for the rest of the duration. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you’re not competent in this area yourself, don’t even try. You don’t necessarily have to pay somebody to do your marketing full time, but outsourcing a freelancer or two to deal with everything from your SEO to your Social Media (no longer ‘optional’) can be all the difference between success and failure.
Survival Of The Fittest!
There will be many, many people doing something similar to you out there, unless you have managed to find a niche in the market. The key is to treat business like it’s a game of survival. Of course, many businesses of the same type can co-exist in harmony, it’s just a matter of finding an edge to set you apart. Your Unique Selling Point may well just be your goldmine!
Certain types of industries will be seasonal, others will be largely influenced by trends. One huge trend that has been working for business owners recently is that of selling E-cigarettes. With an increasingly health conscious public, websites like Ecigwizard have seen a lot of interest. However, before jumping on any band wagon, it is important to appreciate that you may well be saturating the market if you attempt to emulate success of existing companies. Other types of brand will perhaps always be relevant – people will always need things like gifts and clothing. Independent clothing lines are popular, and whether they’re smaller ones like Big Deal Clothing, or larger like Hype – these businesses ensure that they always play to their key demographic, and therein lies their notoriety.
Overall, there will be times things don’t go to plan, but to ensure you ultimately don’t fail, it’s important to learn from every single mistake. Good luck!