Firstly, let me congratulate you on making the life-changing decision to start your own business! I know you’ve gone through many phases to get here, so let’s look at a few fundamental things to put in place right now to ensure your first steps into business are strong and steady.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that starting a business alone can mean you are a sole trader, but you can also be a limited company, depending on your business needs. That’s a decision you’ll need to make though and I’m here to help if you want to talk through your options.
Step one – Why are you here?
A common theme of my business advice is to look out and prepare for ‘trigger points’. Those are the things that happen to motivate you into action. You were triggered at some point to become a sole trader, now you need to build on the reason why you’re doing this, and make sure you keep it front of mind.
Having a strong reason why helps keep you single-mindedly committed to the cause, preventing distractions and getting you through the difficult times.
Step two – Be honest with yourself
The next few months are likely to be challenging for you. It will take a while to get the balance of spending and earning right, so be honest with yourself about what your skills and talents are. If you’re spending more hours on learning how to use accounting software or marketing tools than on what your passion is or your technical skill delivers, decide whether you can outsource it so you can be more productive in your business.
Step three – Plan your activities
A business plan needn’t be a tome, but it shouldn’t be a short work of fiction either! You can put together a comprehensive business plan on one page though. Have a look at the one-page business model canvas which displays the nine critical business building blocks, including key activities and value proposition.
Your business plan may be required by third parties along your journey if you need to present to the bank or potential business partners later on, so it’s worth getting it started now and going back to build on it as your business develops.
Step four – Making it official
It’s time to tell His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that you’re trading, and register for Self-Assessment (and business tax if applicable). This will be how you file a tax return each year. Go to the ‘If it’s your first time registering’ section and register through your business tax account to set up your Government Gateway account.
You will need to keep accurate records of your finances and if you exceed the annual VAT turnover threshold in any 12 month period, you need to complete a VAT registration form. An accountant will normally be able to advise you on how to do this in consultation if you’re part of a good business networking group.
Step five – Research and positioning
Do you know your audience and their pain points? Understanding who they are and their pains, wants, needs and fears makes it easier to solve their problems with your product or service. It also makes it easier to work out where and when they’re most receptive to your messaging. Do you know what your competitors are offering and how they’re engaging with the audience? Remember, the reason for market research is to ensure you have the right offering, to the right audience at the right price and time, so be prepared to tweak your offering accordingly.
Step six – Getting the word out
Now’s the fun part! Getting out there to raise awareness of your business and skill set. Marketing yourself can be daunting, so keep that strong reason why in mind, and go for it! My advice is to stay within your comfort zone at this stage, because as you build your presence new opportunities for conversations and activities will present themselves. So, how will you get your message out there?
Online: Website, social media, paid for advertising, PR, emails.
In real life: Networking, leafleting, magazines, local advertising, business cards, stationery, speaking opportunities and exhibitions.
Let’s get started!
I hope this article has given you the thoughts and tools to move forward with confidence, but there is more advice and guidance available if you need it.
My next free webinar on business strategy and planning is on Thursday 16th March 2023 13:00 – 14:00. In one productive hour we will cover The Business Model Canvas, A One-Page Vision Activity Plan and 7 Systemised Steps to Grow Your Business on One Page.
Book via Eventbrite by clicking on the image below.
Read my article, ‘How to set a marketing budget’, for help with how much time and money to invest at this stage.
And if you need further assistance with how to start in business, including dealing with accountants or HMRC, budgeting, and getting your offering crystal clear, then let’s have a no obligation conversation. You can also download my four free business books for a good deal more advice.