By: Steven Biehl
Thinking about jumping into the world of small business ownership? You’re not alone. According to the Small Business Administration, an average of 583,500 Americans have decided to do so each year since 1999. Kicking off a venture of your own is a bold move. If you’re holding onto your day job, it’s a great way to make money in your spare time — and if you play your cards right, it can even replace your current career.
The best way to start your small business is to do so with thorough research, a well thought-out plan and deep-seated passion.
Here are seven practical tips for helping get your startup off the ground:
- Choose the Right Niche or Industry
Whichever niche or industry your venture falls in, makes sure it’s really in your wheelhouse. You either need to be extremely passionate about it or have specialized expertise — ideally, both.
If you don’t know a serpentine belt from a timing belt, getting into the auto repair industry is going to require too much of a learning curve for you to be successful. Make sure you’re passionate and knowledgeable about your business before pulling the trigger.
- Get Your Financial House in Order
Once your industry or niche is chosen, get to work on firming up your own finances. Budget your money, work toward eliminating personal credit card debt, get an emergency fund in place and see where you stand on your retirement savings.
You’re about to embark on a serious roller coaster ride, and the more control you have over your personal finances before you take the plunge, the better off you’re going to be.
- Invest Your Own Money — When it Makes Sense
If your business requires $100,000 in working capital just to get out of the starting gate, you’re probably going to need a small business loan or help from angel investors or venture capitalists. If you don’t need quite so much, try investing your own money.
Don’t cut yourself so short you can’t pay your monthly bills, but by shouldering some startup expenses on your own, you set yourself up for greater financial success down the road.
- Get Social for Marketing
When it comes to advertising, save some serious money by going social. Social media marketing is a free and powerful tool with unprecedented reach.
Get started with Facebook and Twitter, and explore LinkedIn and YouTube, as well. You should also dip your toe into the Pinterest, Google Plus and Instagram waters. There are a great many platforms with which to advertise your business — explore as many as you can and find the right fit for you.
- Go Solo If Possible
You’ve got to wear many hats as a small business owner, and you should be careful not to take any of them off too quickly. Only hire additional employees after you can’t keep up with your work. Doing so too early can mean wasting precious dollars.
Be as productive as you can on your own, and consider hiring freelancers as opposed to full-time staff members in the beginning. You can reach profitability in a shorter period of time by doing so.
- Save Money on Startup Costs
Write off expenses associated with finding a location, incorporating your business and getting market or demographic analyses done. See IRS Publication 535 for more information.
Get your office supplies for free by participating in the rewards program at your preferred retailer. After paying full price for things like pens, pencils, printer paper and more, you receive that money back in the form of a rewards coupon the following quarter. There are plenty of additional ways to save money on startup costs — just research the Internet for help.
- Make Your Time Count
One overall strategy that can give you a much greater chance of success? Effective time management. Cut back on your Internet surfing, TV watching and any other time-draining activities that are part of your current lifestyle. Work from an organized to-do list every day and save multitasking for minor items only, focusing your efforts on major projects one at a time.