5 Simple Ways to Start a Small Business

tips for starting a business5 Simple Ways to Start a Small Business-The allure of starting your own small business can be irresistible. Setting your own hours, working from home, and being your own boss are just a few of the perks of self-employment.

Given these benefits, it’s no wonder that we’ve seen such tremendous growth in the small business sector over the past three decades. For instance, did you know that according to the US Small Business Administration, there are now 28 million small businesses in the US, and that these account for 54 percent of all US sales?

While this is an encouraging statistic for would-be small business owners, knowing how to go about actually getting a piece of this action can be tricky. This post will walk you through five simple ways you can start your own small business today.

1. Leverage your knowledge.

What many would-be business owners forget is that knowledge is a marketable commodity. Because of the jobs, interests and hobbies you’ve had, you’ve accumulated unique insights and knowledge that could be extremely valuable to others.

Here’s one example: Let’s say you’ve been working as a high school teacher for 10 years. During that time, you’ve developed a special interest in helping kids with remedial reading skills. In fact, you’ve even developed your own informal strategies for helping your students reach grade-appropriate reading levels. Imagine how valuable these strategies would be for school administrators looking to bring up district-wide averages? Or to parents looking to improve their child’s reading skills and grades?

Your unique experiences and knowledge may be the foundation for a successful career as a contractor or consultant. In addition to your current knowledge and skills, it may be advisable to pursue additional certifications or training. Then you can ask yourself who is looking for the help you’re offering, and start marketing your services as an independent consultant or contractor.

2. Look to your passions.

Steve Jobs once said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”

Running a small business can be a thankless job at time. There will undoubtedly be days when you wonder why you gave up the security of a 9 to 5 job for the emotional (and financial) roller coaster that is self-employment.

This is why it’s critical that you choose a business idea you’re truly passionate about. Passion is what will get you out of bed in the morning; it’s what will make your business a calling, rather than just a job.

Some questions you can ask yourself to explore your true passions are:

  • What activities or hobbies do I already engage in that bring me joy? Do you love to cook, fish or garden?
  • What interests or career fantasies did I have when I was a child? Did you want to be a doctor? A writer? A circus performer?
  • If I won the lottery tomorrow, what job would I continue to do for free?
  • What subject(s) do I love to read and learn about—just for fun?

When you choose a business based on your passion, your work ceases to be something you do just because you have to; rather, it becomes something that gives you energy and that helps you achieve a sense of fulfillment in life.

3. Solve a problem.

Figuring out what you’re passionate about is a critical step, but it’s only the beginning. The hard truth is this: Passion is important, but your business also has to be financially feasible.

Based on what you’ve discovered about your passions, you need to determine if there’s a viable business idea somewhere in there. Do some research to figure out if there are gaps in the marketplace that your business idea can fill.

The single-most important question you can ask yourself at this stage is, “What common problem can I solve better than anybody else?”  If you’re confident that you can provide a product or service that does this, you may have just identified a winning business idea.

4. Become a freelancer.

Your special skills and knowledge can also open many doors in terms of a freelancing career. Becoming a freelancer can give you the freedom to be your own boss and work from home, and may carry less risk than other business opportunities.

To become a freelancer, start by contacting businesses in your industry to offer your services. Provide them with samples of your work, and be clear about the expertise and experience you bring to the table. Participate in local and online networking groups, and be sure to let people know you’re available to take on new projects and contracts.

If you love your current occupation but are craving the freedom and flexibility of running your own business, freelancing could be the perfect solution.

5. Start an online business.

The internet has leveled the playing field, allowing individuals and small businesses to compete with larger brands online. If you have a product, service or skill that you can market and distribute via the internet, you can start your own online business.

Here’s a very basic overview of how to go about setting up an online business.

Set up a user-friendly website. If you’re planning to sell products directly through your site, you’ll need an e-commerce setup like those offered through Shopify or Magento. If you’re offering a service, include a portfolio or samples of your work, along with testimonials from satisfied clients. Be sure to include a quote request or contact form so visitors can easily get in touch with you.

Optimize your site for the search engines. In order to get traffic, your site needs to rank in the search engines for keywords related to your business. This will mean finding relevant keywords that your prospects are actually searching for, and then incorporating them into your website content. Here is a step-by-step guide to SEO keyword research using free tools.

Engage with your customers and prospects on social media. In their survey of almost 600 consumers, Hubspot found that people expect businesses to be active on at least three social networking sites. They’re most likely to look for you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, although this will vary depending on the demographic you’re targeting. Whichever social networking sites you decide to use, make sure you regularly share valuable content and are available to answer questions and to interact with your audience.

Provide a way for visitors to sign up for your email list. Your email list is your most valuable asset online. It allows you to regularly connect with your prospects, building relationships that will ultimately result in sales. To start building your list, sign up with an email management service like Constant Contact. This will allow you to add an opt-in box to your website, and to begin establishing regular communication with your subscribers.

Pick the right tools. One very important part of starting an online business is to pick the right tools to help make running your business quick and easy, leaving you to focus on building relationships and making important business decisions. I have partnered with MasterCard Business Network to identify great and affordable software tools to help you do exactly that. Here are three:

* SageOne:  This easy-to-use accounting software platform makes it easy to manage invoices and expenses.
* SiteWit: This allows your business to be found online quickly and easily, something that’s incredibly important when starting an online business.

* Mono.net: Use this software to create a professional website with a responsive design—fast!

All three together form a powerful suite of tools that will rapidly accelerate the growth of your small business. You can find them bundled together and value-priced here.

The term “small business” is a bit of a misnomer. Starting a “small” business can have a massive impact; not only on your quality of life, but on the marketplace as well. While the life of a small business owner isn’t always an easy one, the potential rewards are well worth the occasional blip in the road.
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