Helpful development tips (in no particular order)
Always get your ideas down on paper or in an online document and refer back to it continually adding and deleting items when necessary. This information can be referred to as the project develops and will help keep all relevant points in one place. Not only is this useful for reference but will also inspire other ideas which will help develop the plan.
It is vital to have an idea of where you want a business to be in a month six months, a year and so on. This way targets can be set and noted if they have been achieved or not. It also helps a project to stay on track if the anticipation is to put it up for sale a prospective purchaser can then see how the business has progressed compared to targets.
Research! Identify your market seek out who your customers will be, what they will pay, source products or services price start-up costs, identify and study your potential competition.
A business plan must be connected from start to finish, make sure there are no gaps or that anything is left to supposition or misinterpretation.
It is easy to unnecessarily spend money on software that might not be needed in a business, certainly when starting out. If unsure as to what is needed in particular circumstances seek advice from an authority figure.
Never be afraid to take advice in private, on forums, groups or messaging there are many ways to reach out for paid and free advice. Remember two heads are better than one!
When starting a new business there will be issues that won’t be considered and others that will appear to be insurmountable. By talking through options and ‘what if scenarios’ with the likes of friends, family and advisers the path of least resistance and most likely to succeed can be identified.
It will never be possible to cover all jobs that need doing in a business as it grows. Hiring freelancers to spread the workload can improve efficiency and productivity of the whole business. Choose wisely what tasks to outsource thereby getting best value for funds spent and the hiring of skills that you can’t do yourself.
When considering outsourcing work it is vital to ask for and then take up references from previous customers of the proposed freelancer. This is to be sure you are engaging with a bona fide reliable supplier. It is all too easy for an unscrupulous individual to make claims that when investigated further do not stand up to scrutiny. This can save thousands of dollars and many hours of wasted time. Consider also doing a search for ‘freelancers name review’ which can also provide further information. Also look at their Social Media profile and activity to see if this provides further detail as to their suitability.
Take time out for inspiration! Ted talks are presented by speakers that have a wealth of experience in a wide variety of topics (do a search for subjects relevant to your area of interest). They can be inspiring and help you to consider matters from another perspective.
Studying what successful entrepreneurs are achieving in your sector is important to see what their experience has taught them and what you can learn from their knowledge. Where possible reach out to them and if they are approachable ask questions, but make sure these are kept concise and relevant to the topic in hand. If you do not get a reply just move onto the next person that might be able to guide you and when you are successful to help those just starting out on their business journeys!
Learning from success is important but it is also vital to study projects that have not achieved and see what can be learnt from these failures. Whether it is a service that does not perform as advertised, poor customer care or a product that has not achieved sales expectations add this information into your own planning to avoid such mistakes.
When starting any business finding customers is paramount, it’s what will make for a success or failure of a project. So time needs to be spent making contacts and publicising what you offer, this requirement is as relevant to online business as it is in the offline world. Avenues to explore can include networking events such as working breakfasts, exhibitions, business clubs and contacts. The most successful forms of publicity will always be word of mouth and recommendation so make sure to get testimonials from past customers, and publicise them.
You need to know what is going on in your sector of interest and one of the easiest ways to do this set up an alert on Google. An adjustment can be made as to how often items are sent to your inbox. To help fine tune the relevance of information delivered click the button ’flag as irrelevant’ if an item does not relate to your area of interest.
A good way to keep in touch with what is happening in your sector is to search for then join the likes of relevant Facebook groups, forums and Linkedin groups. By seeing what is being discussed and commented on will help you keep up with the latest knowledge. Take a moment to get involved when you have something appropriate and relevant to say. Ask questions, there is often a wealth of information and that subscribers are willing to share.
Always look to give back wherever possible, remember you started out once with little or no knowledge on the topics of interest. This can help set you up as an authoritative and person of note that can lead to further opportunities.
Local and national Governments can often have cash in their coffers that is there to be given out to business helping them improve the service or products offered. The topics covered cover a wide range including website development, customer care training, data protection compliance, marketing, research and development etc. Often these grants are not publicised very well and so you do need to regularly ask as to what is available.
Many Governments now recognise the benefit SMEs contribute to the economy and have business advice units that provide guidance for entrepreneurs when creating a business or taking it to the next level. Normally these services are free and can also be found to be a useful way of making new contacts.
These are a good way to make contacts in your areas of interest not only offline but also online through attending webinars (many are put on by Governments) to provide guidance for example on exporting.
Whatever sector you are considering starting a business in almost certainly there is or has been an example for sale. A quick search through the main ‘Business for Sale’ platforms will reveal what is available and a wealth of information will be provided. A word of caution, do not sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement unless you are seriously considering taking enquiries for the business further as you could end up in court when taking the information provided and using it in a way that is not compliant with the terms laid down in the NDA.
To attract new customers and retain old ones businesses will regularly email subscribers to their list. Apply to join a selection of these to learn what information they are providing (and most important) how the email is constructed. A huge amount of information can be gathered over time from these resources so make sure to have a swipe file where relevant subject matter can be placed for future use.
When starting any business money can be tight, but you are obviously starting because you have a certain ambition or set of skills. So consider trading your abilities for ones that you need in return, make sure there is a written agreement as to how the trade will work, but it can be a good way of overcoming skill blocks.
Never let it be thought that online and offline business can’t learn from each other, by picking up knowledge from one sector this can help put a project way ahead of its competition.
Whatever business you are in if it requires customers to make contact then a point of contact is a must and most importantly keep it up to date with relevant content. This way it will give prospective customers confidence that you are active and they should also be able to see work examples that would be relevant to their requirements. A blog can be incorporated into a website if required or it can have its own standalone web presence.
This topic can be fraught with issues so it is better to thoroughly research any matters that are relevant to your business before they arise. Such issues can include using images or copy that you do not have the right to use, passing off or fraudulent use of trademarked and copyrighted images or goods. There is probably nothing much worse for a business than having a stop and desist order served for using assets for which the appropriate approvals are not in place. If in doubt it might even be worth taking specialist legal advice to be sure all business activity is compliant.
It’s useful to ask an independent person look at what you are proposing to offer a market to assess whether the product is suitable and relevant. Irrespective of whether you operate in the online or offline world seeking advice on sourcing or creating appropriate products for the target market is vital. Guidance on such matters can be provided by someone that has appropriate experience this could be a friend, family member, Government funded adviser or perhaps a mentor sourced through a local business group or online forum.
Pin this information age people have ‘a yearning of learning’ and your audience will be no different make sure to regularly provide fresh information about your business, products, services or industry news. This will help to keep them engaged and interested in what you are offering, encourage your followers to share your information which in turn will increase your reach to prospective new customers.
In the terms and conditions of payment platforms there can be the option for the operator to go freeze or close your account without notice. This will result in you not being able to access your funds on a temporary or permanent basis. A number of online business people have reported this happening to their accounts which has severely impacted on their business activities. Consider operating your business through several accounts and platforms so that if one is closed or ceases operating then you have alternative resources at your disposal to use and the business can continue trading.
Relying on one customer is never a good idea and similarly if all your income is reliant on one platform to generate advertising revenue this is also a high risk strategy. Large organisations can close your earning capacity in an instant so always have several other options available which can be brought into use if one cease trading or accepting your business.
Experience shows it is better to build your own list from content and product sales that your customers relate to rather than buying in a list from an agency. The reason is quite simple by providing information relevant to your market this will attract prospects interested in what you offer. Whilst buying names and addresses from an agent might look fine in that they can segment lists by interests and ‘similar products previously purchased’ the reality is there will be a high level of churn and the list won’t be enthusiastic about what you offer.
One of the biggest problems an entrepreneur will have is that of time management which in itself leads to being less productive and this can will often have an impact on how a business develops. Plan out your hours, days, weeks and months so that time is allowed for answering emails, research, completing orders, customer care, attracting new customers and time out etc. Only by planning your time will you be able to focus on bringing the best of your abilities to the tasks in hand.
In this multi-media era it is difficult to keep on top of all the platforms available where your business can have a presence. So make a plan which identifies how often you should add content to the different platforms. It could look something like this: blog once a month, Facebook twice a day, Twitter once a day, Linkedin once a week and so on. Create the plan in a spread sheet where you can tick each item as it is completed.
Before starting your business consider what would be a suitable name. To be sure that it is not already being used research via several search engines to see if the proposed name appears. The reason for using several search engines is sometimes information will appear in one location but not others. Next go to a domain seller site that has a search facility and see if the domain is available. Another search can be carried out where business names and companies etc. are registered.
Make sure to have all required registrations in place before the start of trading. Failure to be compliant can lead to fines and delays in starting to trade. Also research if insurance for trading or liability of products etc is required and be sure to have this in place prior to trading. Take professional advice on these and other topics such as whether your business will be a sole trader, partnership, Limited Company or alternative format.
Take professional advice to be sure of using the correct process when registering to pay business tax and suitable software packages for profit and loss accounting. Many locations have business groups created to support SMEs (small and medium size enterprises), often this assistance is free or at a subsidised cost. These groups can provide guidance on who to approach that will have the relevant knowledge.
Open files to record details of all contacts (carry out research to understand what will be Data Protection compliant). Have one file for suppliers, contractors, advisers etc and one for customers so that if there are queries these can be easily accessed for information. Consideration should also be given to using an auto responder to create lists of current and prospective customer emails that can be mailed with offers and relevant useful information.
Working from home has a great appeal to it, however the difficulty is that there can be many distractions, how focused will you be and is this going to be an issue? Firm rules have to be put in place as to working areas, procedures and times/hours of work. Also will you be manufacturing physical products, if so will a health and safety assessment need to be carried out?
One of the biggest fails of any business is when data is not backed up or not stored in a separate location. Whether it is a website, email list of customers, product files or designs risks to your business are all around. When a computer crashes has a virus infection or perhaps there is a fire or theft it is vital to previously have had the foresight of having back up files and records. This should be regularly done and consideration should also be given to whether the back-ups are also secure!
With the majority of business relying on computer power and storage in one form or another it can prove very costly if data is compromised or lost. Take steps to ensure all computers have suitable protection against potential threats, seek advice and look at reviews to decide on what is the most suitable program. Then be sure to regularly update it and run checks on your systems.
A number of online traders have of late complained that the payment processing platform used to take on site payments have suspended or even closed trading accounts sighting failure to comply with the platforms terms and conditions. This has left the traders unable to access their funds. It’s a good strategy to maintain several ways of accepting payment online this way if one system runs into problems there are alternatives available.