The process of starting a business is often romanticized in popular culture. This romantic version makes it seem like all you really need to become an overnight sensation is an idea and some belief in yourself. While these factors certainly are part of the equation, expecting your business to blow up based on wanting it to work alone is naïve in today’s market.
The good news is there are thousands of people who have experienced their own entrepreneurial journeys firsthand who are willing to share wisdom. Knowing what to expect can help you set your expectations and hit the ground running.
Here are just a handful of the many things you should know about starting a business.
You Will Likely Need Funding
Starting a business tends to be more expensive than you’d think. Even those hopeful entrepreneurs with some savings set aside to launch their businesses may discover their business could benefit from an extra influx of cash somewhere down the road.
Of course, the exact amount you’ll need depends on the scale and nature of your business — including physical space and equipment, legal costs, inventory expenses, marketing, etc. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a guide on exactly how to estimate your starting costs so you can get a realistic idea of how much you’ll need to launch, sustain, and grow your company. Even small businesses typically need a few thousand dollars to get off the ground.
Once you have a reasonable idea of how much you need, it’s time to decide how you’ll pursue that funding — usually either by asking investors for backing or by applying for one or more loans from lending companies. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, so consider all angles before trying to raise those start-up funds.
You May Need to Delegate
As much as we all want to envision ourselves as superheroes capable of handling anything and everything that comes our way, the truth is we’re all working with limitations on our time, energy, and expertise. At some point, most entrepreneurs hit a point where they benefit more from delegating than from holding onto responsibilities — either in the form of hiring more employees or outsourcing certain business functions to third-party experts.
It’s tough to give up any bit of control when it comes to the company you’ve built from the ground up. However, delegating the right way will maximize quality, minimize costs, and free you up to focus on whichever core business functions at which you excel.
According to the experts at The Balance Small Business, here are some common responsibilities small business owners either delegate or outsource to others:
- Social media marketing
- Customer service
- Order fulfillment
- IT services
As Verizon Small Business points out about starting a business, it’s impossible for you to know everything about running a company. It’s actually smart to bring in other experts to fill those knowledge gaps and empower yourself to focus on whatever you do know.
Feeling overwhelmed but not sure what you should move to someone else’s plate? Consider your strengths and passions. What do you want to be spending the most time doing? Anything left over is probably your strongest candidate for delegation. Just be sure to vet any individuals or companies thoroughly before handing them the reins to any of your company’s tasks.
Marketing Is Make or Break
Entrepreneurs often focus so much on the “what” of the business — that is, the products or services their company offers — that the “how” takes a backseat. The truth of the matter is that you can have the most incredible product lineup in the world and still get zero sales if your target audience remains unaware of its existence.
As one expert advises for covering all your bases, it may help to think of marketing in terms of four categories using the PESO model:
- Paid: physical and/or digital advertisements for which your company pays
- Earned: marketing conducted via media and influencer exposure, like brand ambassadors
- Shared: messaging occurring across your organization’s social media accounts
- Owned: your company’s own communication channels, like your website, blog, and newsletter
One area that’s easy to underestimate for small businesses is content marketing. Creating engaging, quality content can pay off in the form of boosting your search engine rankings — putting your business on the map for members of your target audience seeking out relevant products and services. Great content also helps you bond with your customer base, positioning your firm as trustworthy, authoritative, helpful, and chock full of personality. In other words, content marketing can help you forge relationships with potential and existing customers.
One especially popular content marketing method, blogging, can work in synergy with your social media platforms — linking people back to your blog where they can consume fresh and unique content. As Business 2 Community notes, a captivating blog post with a compelling call to action can motivate people to engage with your brand in desirable ways. Just be sure to avoid making content that’s so “salesy” that it becomes off-putting to visitors. The first aim should always be providing genuinely interesting and useful content rather than trying to make a sale.
It’s Normal to Feel Lonely Sometimes
Although feeling lonely can seem like a unique and isolating experience, the truth is that entrepreneurship can be very lonely — and many have felt this way before. If you’ve ever felt this way or if you ever do, remember that you’re actually far from the only person affected by the immense responsibility, long hours, and trailblazing mindset often required to run a business.
The key? Build a community, even if it’s a digital one at first. Connect with others who understand exactly what you’re going through and are willing to provide reassurance, advice, anecdotes, and support. Avoid getting so wrapped up in your work that you forget to nurture yourself, the human behind the company.
There’s a lot more to know about starting a business, but these tips cover some of the main bases.
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