How to get past the stumbling blocks of starting a start-up – part one

Starting a new business can be an exciting time and, dare I say it, one filled with confusion.

There’s so much to think about, to plan and put into place that it can easily feel overwhelming.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel – every business owner has been in the same place and, more than likely, ignored the same advice, made the same mistakes and wish they’d paid more attention to their established counterparts.

Before I start to highlight the key considerations of starting a new business, I want you to think about your ‘why’.

We all have our own ‘why’

why we started our business
why we chose self-employment over working for someone else
why we feel we have something to offer our clients, etc.

That why is going to be uniquely yours, but it is important that you’re aware of what it is as it drives you forward in everything you’re going to do for your business. The services you offer your target audience, how you deliver and what you’ll charge. It’ll all come back to your why.

I started Banks’ Business Solutions because I wanted to work flexibly around my family with a business that wasn’t location dependent. This meant I could spend valuable time with my children and husband, travel whilst working to enjoy new experiences as a family, and be able to provide for my loved ones with a reliable business.

Consider your ‘why’ and take it forward a notch to identify your unique selling point

Your unique selling point is usually connected to your motives for starting a business, so take a moment to consider how your why fits in with what you’ll offer your clients.

My why – working flexibly around my family, turned into my USP of being able to support my clients virtually with the admin and related tasks that prevented them from spending time with their family and friends.

Your unique selling point distinguishes you from your competitors and is often what will make a client say yes to what you’re offering.

If you’re planning on working in a competitive industry, such as being a virtual assistant, then you need to have a think about all the things that make you unique both as a person and as a business.

It’s true that people do business with people.

So, even if your services or products are identical to others out there you are completely different. Your skills, experiences, knowledge and way of getting things done all contribute to your USP.

That’s why identifying your target audience is crucial when starting a new business

You want to work with clients that are on board with who you are and why you do what you do.

That means you need to drop the ‘I want to work with everyone that’ and ‘my product is for anyone who’ right now. Pitching to everyone usually results in getting no one, or those nightmare clients that you really want to avoid.

Again, think back to your ‘why’ and consider which group of people it can help best.

It’s quite normal to help people that are like us but several steps behind us in their personal or business journey. A life coach will help people who are experiencing difficulties that they probably experienced and found a way through, for example.

Sometimes we start a business because we found a way to defeat a frustration or two and want to help others with those same frustrations.

So, who are your people?

Have a good long think about your ideal client and make a note of everything you can about them. Their age, gender, lifestyle, education, career, etc. This will become your ‘avatar’ that you can refer to whenever you plan a new service, product or marketing campaign.

Consider the competition but don’t let them dictate what you do

Yes, you’ll have competition and it can feel like you’re never going to get ahead with your business when other people are doing what you are already.

Just remember that no one else is you – so what they offer is never going to be the same, and sometimes competitors can become friends and refer the clients that don’t belong to their target audience (and vice versa).

It can be good for research purposes to scope out the competition, see what they’re offering and how they are marketing themselves. Just remember that they have their own why, USP and target audience – so blindly copying them is going to get you clients that aren’t the right fit for you and your business.

Which is why branding for your business is so important

How you market yourself and your business is what’s going to get you the right customers i.e. those that are a dream to work with.

That doesn’t mean you have to invest thousands in a graphic designer creating a stunning logo, bells and whistles website and promotional materials. They’re a nice to have but are not essential for a new start-up.

You do need to be clear and consistent with what you’re offering though.

A brand identity is simply all the things that mark your business as yours – the colours, images, fonts, through to the language and tone you’ll use.

It can be helpful to think of your brand as a person.

What kind of colours would they wear, how would they talk to their friends, how would they describe themselves to strangers?

But you do need to factor in what your target audience would expect to see and hear too – what would they wear and say in a meeting with your ideal client?

A good website is important for a start-up

But it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

A few pages outlining who you are, what you offer and how people can contact you is a good start. Although I always recommend having a blog that’s updated frequently as this helps your SEO and enables you to expand more on what you do and how you can help people.

You can discover the five things I believe are essential for every website to have here.

One final thought to leave with you in the first part of my guide for starting a startup…

Minimise the amount of time you spend thinking and planning.

Many new business owners spend such a long time sitting down and planning, making lists, and researching that one of two things happens:

  1. it takes them months to get off the starting block and put the ideas into action
  2. they get scared by all of the ‘what ifs’ and give up on the idea completely

Planning is important, but you need to put it into action and remember that you will make mistakes, even the best-laid plans can fail.

Spend half a day a week on the planning and goal setting for your business and the rest of the week putting things into action and delivering the goods.

Part two will be published next month so make sure you look out for it!