Starting one business taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. Starting two businesses taught me even more because I was able to compare both situations and see why one worked so much better than the other.
Since I’ve had a couple of different experiences when it comes to small business entrepreneurship, I thought I’d share my findings. Hopefully, these lessons will help you avoid some of the mistakes I made when I started out!
Here’s what you need to do to start a successful business:
1. Understand your target audience and make them happy.
Whatever you do, don’t try to please everyone. Seriously – it will kill your chance at running a profitable business. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one – and that’s definitely not good for business!
The only people you need to please are members of your target audience. Create a persona that you can use as a reference and work on pleasing that one person with your products/services and marketing efforts.
2. Find an existing need, and be the best at solving it.
Successful businesses are built on great ideas – ideas that directly address a pain point of a target audience.
Think about your business idea for a second. Is there a market for the product/service you’re selling? Are you solving a very specific problem for a specific target audience?
If you can confidently answer “Yes” to those two questions, there’s a good chance that can turn your idea into a thriving business!
3. Plan ahead, but not too much.
Starting my current business was both spontaneous and planned. I always knew I’d start a copywriting business and work from home full-time, so I spent a lot of late nights beforehand researching the best way to make it happen. I also picked up several copywriting clients in addition to my full-time job before I ever launched my business, so I was able to gain some experience handling clients and projects on my own.
However, I didn’t save a year’s worth of money (not even close!) before I jumped into entrepreneurship. I didn’t have an amazing website right away. I didn’t have enough clients to pay the bills.
But I still made it work. If I had planned ahead much more, I probably would have just been wasting time. I knew that I was taking a risk, but it was a calculated risk, so it worked out.
When you’re starting a business, know that there is no “right time” to do so. You just have to go for it. Do your research ahead of time and make sure you’re at least somewhat prepared, but don’t waste too much time sweating the details – you’ll figure those out later.
4. Get ready to work your ass off and encourage yourself along the way.
Starting your own business will require a lot of late nights, tough decisions, and stressful situations in general. Make sure you’re mentally prepared for the challenge and the workload.
Be sure to remind yourself often of why you wanted to start your business in the first place so you can get through the tough times. Also, save positive reviews and feedback that you receive from your clients / customers – that way, you have something uplifting to look back at later on when you’re feeling inadequate or discouraged.
5. Trust your gut when it comes to the people you choose to work with.
All of my current clients are awesome. I’m serious – they’re easy to work with, they never disrespect me, and they pay me promptly.
It’s no coincidence that I only work with clients like this. I have gone through some less-than-ideal situations with difficult clients in the past, and now I refuse to tolerate certain behaviors. I trust my gut – if I have a bad feeling about a potential client, I simply won’t work with them. Of course, I base these “gut feelings” on my past negative experiences like being disrespected, being low-balled for my services, and being paid ridiculously late.
Make sure you don’t put yourself in an unnecessarily stressful situation by working with someone difficult. I don’t just mean clients – I mean co-workers too. If you choose to hire someone, be sure that you can trust them and that they have your best interests at heart.
6. Do what you’re best at.
The first online business I started involved me sewing head scarves and hair bows and selling them online. And guess what? Before I started my business, I had never even touched a sewing machine, much less used one to create something.
So, as you can imagine, it was tough. Even when I had learned how to sew sufficiently well, I never really liked it. As a result, I burnt out pretty quickly.
Then, I realized something: I’m not good at this, and I don’t enjoy it… so, why am I doing it?
Now, I run a copywriting business, which plays much more to my strengths – writing and marketing. It’s a lot more successful and enjoyable!
The point is, you should figure out what you’re good at – if it’s something you enjoy that can help you make some extra cash, start an online business! I’ve known plenty of writers who have started successful blogs, crafters who have opened up profitable online stores, and other talented people who have succeeded with business ownership. You can do it too!
7. Outsource the tedious tasks if you can.
You’re starting a business because you want to get paid to do what you love, right? So, don’t waste time on the tasks you don’t enjoy when you can simply delegate those to someone else. Hire someone who is talented in the areas you need help with, and you’ll be well on your way to success.