It’s been one year since I bit the bullet and set up my own business. As many graphic designers do, I have always done freelance work here and there, and this gave me a taste of self-employment. Then in January 2017 I switched my freelancing job up a notch by launching my own design business and boy has it been a roller coaster of a journey so far. This time last year I was clueless, scared I was going to fail and didn’t have very many clients… all to be expected when you’re starting off!
Thinking back, I would have loved the chance to sit down with someone who had conquered his or her first year of business and had come out the other end with success. Well here I am! Happy to say business is great! I’m still learning and figuring things out but I have come one hell of a long way and learned a lot from it.
Not that long ago, when I was starting off, I remember feeling overwhelmed that I had so much do to get business off the ground. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day; take things one step at a time. If I had the chance to jump in a time machine and give myself advice one year ago I would say to focus on these 3 key things…
1. Create a Preliminary Business Plan and Strategy
I say ‘preliminary’ because if you are starting your business from scratch, it will change a handful of times in the first few months, and that’s perfectly natural, it should be an experimental phase, so embrace it. Starting with a business plan will help give you direction and focus. You should include a mission statement, your ideal client/customer, and your short-term and long-term goals. Once you have defined these, try to come up with actions that will help make your business plan a reality.
Revisit and tweak your business plan again and again. A few months in you will most likely have diverted from your original approach. So keep learning and re-stratigising as you go. Once you have more experience you will have a better idea of what you are doing and what you are working towards. When you are feeling more sure of your business it would be a good idea to write a more in-depth business plan.
2. Take Advantages of the Resources Around You
Starting a business can be lonely and isolating but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are so many resources to support you with advice and guidance. The perfect place to start is with family and friends. I personally got a lot of support from my Dad whom I found very helpful to bounce ideas off of. He is savvy when it comes to numbers so he was able to help me wrap my head around finances and taxes.
I would also hugely advise investigating what local business support is available to you. Discovering my Local Enterprise Office dug me out of a rut when I was ready to give up. I availed of one-on-one mentoring session with a business advisor who helped me build a marketing strategy. I had no idea this service was available to me until I went and enquired. So it’s important to research and see what is available in your area. Networking events are a great way to build connections, learn from each other and simply enjoy comparing stories with people who go through the same ups and downs of running a business.
3. Do Everything in Your Power to Let People Know About You
Tell everyone you know about your business, your family, your friends and your acquaintances. It’s not always the person you’re talking to that needs your services but they could know someone who does and then go on to mention your business to them – it’s simply a domino effect. You never know who knows who! Attend networking events and get chatting to everyone, again even if the person you’re talking to isn’t your target market, if they’re impressed they may mention you to someone who does need your services. You may also network on business forums or groups online.
Create an online presence now! It would be ideal to start off with a simple website and I would highly advise it. A Squarespace website is perfect because they are easy to manage and update as your business grows. Identify also what social media platforms will reach your target audience and start being heard there.
You may be surprised to hear me advice at this point you don’t even need to have everything perfectly branded. In fact if you are unsure about your business plan I would hold off on doing a full branding. Start with a very minimal image; keeping it simple gives you space to grow and develop. Then when you are surer of you business plan and mission a few months down the line you can think about getting a full brand design.
If you’re starting your own business and feeling a little lost, or want to get more perspective on your strategy, I hope reflecting and working on these 3 areas will help give your business the push it needs. Running your own business is stressful at times but can also be incredibly rewarding. If you’re embarking on a new business venture I wish you the very best of luck!
If you’re starting your own business let me know in the comments which of these three steps you struggle with the most?
Or if you have been running your business for a while now, do you agree these would be your top three steps? What would make your top three?