For the first time maybe… ever, entrepreneurship is sexy. For years, being an ‘entrepreneur’ meant you were basically a bum who hadn’t found his or her way yet. Just this morning I drove past a billboard promising a new business, “crafted live and in person with Tony Robbins and Gary Vaynerchuk”. It’s ironic that this billboard has replaced the former lottery jackpots that used to reside there.
Here’s the best news you may ever receive about your journey to entrepreneurship: If it’s meant to happen, you won’t be able to stop it from becoming a reality. A lost job, a dramatic firing, the decision to finally quit—the pull is too strong if entrepreneurship is in your future.
There’s so many advantages (and challenges!) to breaking out of the 9–5 routine, but venturing forth on your own can be such an overwhelming prospect. Luckily, the process can be broken down into a simple, actionable to do list.
Here’s my seven step process to starting your own business:
First, you need to decide what product or service you are going to offer your clientele. Perhaps you already have some skills you can leverage, or an idea for a product, or maybe you have a talent you want to exploit. Just make sure that your offering solves a frustration or a need for a group of people, and you’re good to go!
So many people make the mistake of starting with the PRODUCT first. You can have a product idea, but you should be really clear about the problem you’re solving and then move on to refining the product (aka solution).
The second step is to make sure your business idea is marketable. Do this before you go all crazy with a full product line, custom website, and business cards. Do some research to see who else sells your product, research the demand for your service, and start building a following before you launch. Ultimately, you want to make sure your product or service is going to sell (and sell well) before you make a huge investment of time and money. Click here for more ideas on how to go about validating your awesome new business idea.
Regardless of whether your offering is familiar or something no one has ever seen before, you’ll need to refine and tweak it after initial feedback. If your product already exists on the market, you need to find a way to put your unique spin on it. Can you change how its made, do it better, offer more value, or meet a need that isn’t currently being met? There’s lots of options, but it’s up to you to figure how to position yourself in a new way.
You’ll need to decide what type of business structure is best for your endeavor. Sole proprietorship, limited liability company, cooperative, corporations… there’s lots of options out there. They all have pros and cons depending on how much money you expect to make and what type of legal/financial protection you’ll want for your business. Choosing the right structure can be complicated, and it’s best to consult with an attorney to cover your legal bases. If you’re not sure where to start, click here to get my free guide Legalize Your Biz, which walks you through the basics of starting your business on the right foot.
Once you’ve decided on a business structure, it’s time to get your EIN (Employer Identification Number) number. An EIN is like a social security number for your business. In some cases, depending on your business type and needs, you’ll also need a DUNS (Dun & Bradstreet) number. A DUNS number tracks your business (instead of personal) credit score. Your EIN number is used to open any bank accounts, Paypal accounts, to connect to payment processors like Stripe, and on the W9s you’ll send to your clients and for filing taxes. You can use your EIN instead of social security number on all your applications from now on. Score!
It’s finally time to start setting up your little corner of the Internet! By now, I hope you at least had a landing page for collecting emails, but now it’s time to truly establish your online presence. Don’t forget to snag your Google business listing, Facebook business page, and user accounts on any social media networks you want to have a presence on. You don’t have to be fancy (skip the super snazzy video montage on your site, for example), but you DO want to have a clean, professional presence.
Now that you’re “official,” start your marketing efforts. Getting yourself out there and building name recognition can be done in a number of ways: network in Facebook groups, pin like crazy, speak at local gigs, do guest podcast interviews and blog posts. The possibilities are nearly endless, but the most important thing is to be your genuine self and offer value to anyone you meet. You can add value to their lives by providing them with helpful resources or by matchmaking them to others that can help in ways you can’t.