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So you want to start a business?

Starting a business is an exciting and terrifying prospect. It’s a leap into the unknown, and you have to have faith in yourself and your abilities to take that leap.

Many people consider running their own business as the ultimate exercise in freedom. After all, being your own boss means you call the shots. All of them.

For some people, the decision to start their own business is made under less than perfect circumstances. Maybe you’ve been in full time employment all your life, and suddenly the rug gets pulled out from under you and you lose your job. Others simply decide that they are willing to take shorter term risks for long term rewards, give up the security of full-time employment and dive in to follow their dream and fulfil their ambition.

Whatever led you to this juncture, the prospect of going it alone can be both exciting and daunting. You need to decide what you’ll do, how you’ll do it, when, how, what hours, where, and how will you fund this fledgling business and get it airborne?

Don’t be intimidated. This is a big step and, like all major life changes, you’ll probably have to fight through the uncertainty, people with good intentions telling you this is silly, and maybe even a few sleepless nights doubting yourself to get up and running but, once you are, it will all be worth it.

So you want to start a business?

Start with time

You might not have the money right now to just set up and go, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and wait for finances to fall into place to get started. Sit down and write out a rough plan.

This may sound obvious, but name your business. This could end up being dead simple, a lot of fun, or a major headache. Make sure you put some thought into it. It will, after all, be how people identify you and making a change later on could have some repercussion on how easily existing customers find you online in future.

Build out your brand identity. Do you have a logo in mind? What colours will you use? What font? You need to make sure that people can easily identify your business no matter what material they are looking at, printed or online or just driving by. Consistent branding is important to your business identity.

Be absolutely clear on what you’re selling. Test the waters by selling to a small group of family or friends, maybe do a few test runs with sales to friends of friends. Get a feel for your customer base. Connect with people in the same line of business or find someone who has something you’ll need and find out if they’re interested in a swap of products or services. This usually works best with another business on the same level as yours. Nothing wrong with aiming high but you’ll have a better shot at getting somewhere with someone who isn’t a multi-billion pound giant.

Identify your customer. Who are you selling to? Where can you find them? Are they on social media? Can you begin a conversation with them now? Set up your social media accounts and make sure the name you use is about the same across all the platforms you're using. 

If you’re planning on setting up a website, consider writing a few blogs. That way you’ll have shareable content ready to go and you won’t need to worry about it during the initial whirlwind of getting the business going.

Come up with a bio. Who are you? What do you do? And more importantly, how does what you do help your potential customers. Sell the solution not the problem is still solid advice, and if you know exactly what problem you’re solving, it will be much easier to build your brand around it.

Money talks

Time to get serious about money. Make a list of all the things you will need to spend money on. From premises to vehicles to web domains to staff to stationary, you need to be absolutely clear on your initial outlay. You don’t need to start with exact figures, but you do need to know exactly what you’ll be needing money for, so you can build that out later.

Go through your list and assign priorities to each item. What must you absolutely have ready to go from day one, and what can you set up later.

Do some research and work out how much everything will cost. Set out a budget for at least the next 6 months and come up with a few worst case scenarios and make sure you budget for them. There shouldn’t be anything left unaccounted for here, and you should now have a very good idea of exactly how much capital you’ll need to get up and running.

Make a plan

Get to work on your official business plan. This will vary greatly depending on the type of business, where you’re planning to get funding from, and various other factors. There are plenty of templates around to get you started.

Use them to get the thought process going, and then tweak and refine to make it your own. You need to have a clear vision of who you are, who your customers are, how much money you’ll need and for what, and what your plan is for your business.

Write it down. Keep it brief by focusing on key points that will keep your business on course, but thorough. You need to be able to define your business, know who your competitors are and have a basic marketing plan. Consider everything but don’t get too bogged down in 100 pages of probably inconsequential details.

The small print

You need to make sure you have the basics covered. You’ll need an accountant, for example. And it wouldn’t hurt to get some protection in place for those things that could trip you up when you least expect it.

Having tax investigation and legal protection takes the weight off your shoulders of having to worry about it when you need it. FSB members have access to a 24/7 legal advice line, online legal documents and tax and legal protection as part of their membership package. Have a look at our full range of benefits to get an idea of what might come in handy for your small business.

Getting started is the hardest part. The truth is, if you wait until you’re 100% ready you may never do it. No time like the present. Take a deep breath and just take the first step. Soon you’ll find your momentum and be well on your way to being a small business owner.

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