Thursday, 15 December 2011

Start Your Business With A Penny

So you’re just starting out and need a little money to get your cash flow going, how to do it? Well that’s the tricky part, banks aren’t lending and business angels are looking for the investment of a life-time. Go limited then? Looking for family and friends to invest can be awkward and most people are looking to save money right now, not risk it. And trust me, right now, when you’re starting out you’re a risk! So you want to fund the business yourself and limit the damage to your own bank balance, here are some simple tips on how to do it:

-Lead the frugal life. Sounds great fun! Well maybe not, but trust me this is one easy thing we can all do. Cut back, it may have to be a little or a lot but it can be done. Yes we see those glamorous entrepreneur types, but that’s not how it is at the start. You’d be surprised the wealthy are known for their penny pinching and shrewd spending habits. They literally do save the pennies until the millions come rolling in!

-Know your assets. Some of your expensive purchases house, car, those you’ve put sneakily on your credit card so they don’t wipe out your bank balance, they’re assets surely? Nope, if you are paying back monthly and with interest these are your liabilities. Although it might not be possible to get rid of them entirely, I don’t want to make you homeless! Pay them off as quickly as possible and avoid loans in future.

-Turn green, and not with envy! This can save you loads of money-grow your own food, cut your household bills, use your bike not the car and recycle, reuse, regift. All of these put together can give you massive savings.

-Make your money work harder. You pay back interest on loans, but make sure you are getting interest back on your savings to compensate. Yes rates overall aren’t great at the moment but with some research behind you there are a couple of little gems. And remember use your ISA first, so you don’t pay tax on your interest!

-Coupons and Cutbacks. Price comparison sites are your best friend, you can find some great discounts. There are also many group purchasing, cashback and voucher sites that are worth checking out, see if you can use any together to lower the price further! Think about the opportunity cost of every purchase and work out how much certain purchases cost you over a year, that 60p chocolate bar you have everyday for example, over a year that’s costing you £219!

How to manage your money, set yourself a budget. Keep it simple, work out your income and outgoings, work out what expenditure you can cut out or at least cut down. The figure you are left with is what you need to save and not spend! Work it down to a daily budget so you can keep track of what you spend easily.
If you try all of the things above it will greatly help you raise the first couple of hundred pounds you need for materials, equipment or marketing. It will also help you practice the skills you will need to manage your company’s cash flow and keep within budget.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Live Your Life The Way You Want To

Why run your own business, it’s a lot of time and effort right? Well true you will have to work some long hours to get things going, but it can be terrific fun when it’s a project that you are fully behind. I’m sure you’ve done enough over time in your day job, this is no different just in the end – you get the pay off! Ultimately though running your own business will give you full control over your working life as well as just your leisure time and in the end this control will give you freedom, the freedom to work when you choose, to have more time at home or with your family or for the ambitious among you more time to work on your own business and create something fantastic. It will also give you the chance to work in your own way, in the end you should have great fit between your personal and working life as you are not constrained by the traditional 9-5 model. Maybe this is the time you will spend with your family and then evenings will be the time you focus on your work.
To achieve all this, decide on your aims, is working for yourself to allow you to spend more time with family or are you looking to live in the nice house with a flash car? Remember all self-made millionaires started off just like you now, there’s nothing different about them, no unique skill, they are just ordinary people who made their business idea work.
Decide on your aims, make them specific so you can stay focused. Now break down into small steps how to get from where you are now to where you want to be, this will not only help you visualize your target, it will help you break the process into manageable steps. Work out exactly how much money you need, so for that nice house or the car what would the monthly repayments be? All of a sudden it doesn’t seem so impossible, right? Create a board of all the things you want and look at this regularly, I’ve even heard of people visiting the homes they want but can’t afford to help get them in this mind set! Set your targets high, this may make it seem all the more difficult in the beginning, but thinking big never hurt anybody and this will stretch you to your full potential. Challenging yourself will only help to motivate you and begin to think more creatively about problem solving! Every time you achieve one of your steps write it out on an achievement chart so you can see as you progress.
Anyone really can live the dream, it’s all about mind set. Challenging yourself in the ways set out above will help you develop a positive attitude to self-improvement and create a great sense of achievement. What you do now could have a major impact on supporting not only your lifestyle choices now, but right into the future. Remember you don’t have to stick to the conventions set out by others, starting afresh in a career or business of your choosing can be really exhilarating and help you enjoy each day.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Online Alternatives

Not sure about the hard sell but want to earn some extra cash, give writing online a chance. The business start up: share a topic you love and promote products your readers will find useful. For this you must have patience to see any return on the time you spend writing and the ability to write interestingly and informatively about topics that people want to learn more about. Write about niche topics that interest you, become known in your field. Share your expertise in your subject with readers so they build trust in your opinion. Don’t be too pushy or people won’t read what you have to say but be convincing if you are recommending a product. Be ethical in the ways you promote goods, and be clear if you are benefiting if your readers purchase something, rather than claiming to conduct independent reviews for example, this is a big no no and readers won’t return if they feel they have been tricked or misled. And the number one rule, always publish original content!

Squidoo/Hubpages- Use one of these well established writing platforms to get your articles noticed by search engines. They are both easy to use and incorporate easy to follow guides about how to write and how to monetize your article. Squidoo in particular makes linking with external websites particularly easy. Earn commission on any sales made from your article. Be prepared to publish a number of articles and update them regularly to keep them ranking highly.

Blog- Start your own writing page, choose any topic that suits you and type away! Be consistent and try to stay on topic, general blogs do not tend to perform as well. You need to build a loyal following who are interested in what you have to say. Update your blog regularly you don’t want readers to forget you exist. The most popular blogging platforms are Blogger run by Google or Wordpress both sites are easy to use and make posting blogs and designing your page simple. To make money you have to get a good following and a regular high number of hits, you can track your progress using Google Analytics. Once you feel confident your blog has been noticed offer businesses the opportunity to advertise on your page, make sure the adverts do not become overpowering though and keep them targeted and of interest to your readers. Another way to do this is to allow Google Adsense to list targeted adverts on your blog earning you money per click.

Affiliate Schemes- If you have your own web page, blog or belong to one of the writing platforms above join an affiliate scheme. Many websites run these now, including Amazon. Sign up to as many schemes as you like but keep on topic as to what you write about. When you visit websites scroll to the very bottom of the page to see if there is an affiliate or marketing partner link, this will show you how to sign up and how commission will be paid. Link with sites that have products your readers will like, if you talk about the products directly make it clear you will earn money from the sale.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Sell, Sell, Sell - Online

Do you want flexibility, to work at home? To work your own hours? Then the internet has opened up a whole range of opportunities for you. Your business idea: to sell goods online. For these types of business you need to be able to spot a gap in the market a niche, a place in the market you can call your own. You need to have confidence predicting markets and a great eye for figures. You will have to buy stock, the right stock and know that you will be able to sell it on for a profit. Otherwise you risk losing the money you invest. Build an online identity that users can trust, this can be much harder than businesses that sell face to face with consumers. You need to keep in contact with customers, answer their queries, provide a great service and this should help you gain the positive feedback that is crucial in increasing consumer trust and therefore sales. Be as informative and open as possible, in a shop a user can see and try any item, you have to recreate this using only words and photographs. Practice your writing and methods of photographing your goods in an interesting way to get customers hooked. Describe how the product looks, feels smell, how and when the customer will use it. What will it add to their lives, how will purchasing your product make them feel?

Selling platforms-

Ebay- The king of online selling. Most of you will have sold a couple of things on Ebay, but how to do it professionally? Buy in bulk, a great way to do this is at auctions. This will give you the volume to sell your products in a range of sizes and styles. List regularly so your items show up at the top of searches and experiment with titles and descriptions see which one works best then replicate this on your other listings. Decide carefully whether to use the auction, buy now or a combination of settings. Open a shop rather than selling as an individual on the site so once visitors have clicked one of your products they can see a full range. An alternative to Ebay is Price Minister.

Amazon- You don’t just have to sell books, Amazon is now a market leader in a range of products. Listing is easy and quick, but it is easy to get lost in the crowd. Pick a niche of books or product to sell. It is easy to see what competitors are charging for exactly the same product so be prepared to be competitive with your pricing and your feedback ratings will be key. Remember to send out a business card or promo leaflet with orders so shoppers remember to search for your store again.

Etsy/ Folksy/ Deviant Art- For the creative amongst you, sell your own hand made products. These sites are great for setting up a small online store to sell your crafts to a world-wide market. Remember to promote your store on other sites, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or a book marking site to gain a following. And get involved with the online community built into these sites including the blogs, teams, circles, treasuries, and forums the more you put in the more you will get out of it.

Zazzle/CafĂ© Press- Don’t have time to make your own products? But still want to create something unique or never seen before, use one of these sites. As long as you hold the rights to your image or design you can upload it onto one of hundreds of products. Keep strict control of your designs or allow your customers to customize them to their needs, the choice is yours. The best part? These sites handle the order fulfillment, payments, and returns. You just take a commission payment on every sale! You can increase your income by earning a volume bonus on sales or by referring people to your shop or others on the site and taking a percentage of any sale made!

Your Own Website- Want even more control over the type of online store you run? The best option- to set up your own website, you can sell whatever you like and keep all of the profit! Sounds great but remember you may need to pay to have someone design your site, users will have to have confidence that you will fulfill sales, and you need to set up a trusted payment system that customers will be happy to use, paypal for example. But the hardest part? Getting people into your store, it will take a lot of time and dedication to get people to find your site and then even more effort to create interesting content that will make them stay and actually buy something. Consider using google adwords where you can design your advert and a daily budget. The key-EXPERIMENT, find out, which ads work and those that don’t, play with titles and keywords and do your SEO research carefully! But the effort of setting up your own site could definitely pay off in the future!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Buy A Brand

Not sure about going it alone? Feel like your lacking a business idea or a great sellable product. Then buy into an existing business. Your business start up idea: To run a franchise. This means you get access to a well-known brand name, identity and established reputation. The company will source products and undertake larger scale marketing campaigns. However you will only earn a percentage of what you sell through commission. For this type of business you will need to be prepared to work evenings and weekends, as the most popular method of sales is through running parties. You will also need to be a confident public speaker and able to create a fast but friendly sales pitch, often whilst demonstrating your products! Be prepared to create an interesting display area and encourage consumers to touch, smell or try your products. Use parties as an opportunity to book future events. To start one of these types of business there is usually an initial outlay to buy a kit of products or catalogues. But in the future there are few expansion costs as there are often opportunities to grow your business through building a team and taking a percentage of their commissions. Or of course you could start up your own party planning business. Companies that you could look into joining include-
Ann Summers, The Body Shop, Virgin Vie, Usborne Books, Girlie Gardening, or Avon. Research how much you have to pay out initially, how the commission structure works, and whether you will receive any on going training and support.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Provide A Great Service

Service businesses are great to start, because you have no product there is no initial outlay on stock. Your business idea- to let people purchase your time. For these types of business you still need to be a people person, as you have to build strong rapport with customers, because you’re not selling a product you’re selling yourself. But the key to providing a great service is organisation. You must be able to fit in a number of customers at different locations, customers like services to be prompt and professional. Marketing yourself is key and word of mouth is great for these types of business start up, but remember consumers are five times more likely to report a bad service experience than a good one, so you really do have to be exceptional to stand out from the crowd

Home Services- Ironing/ Cleaning etc- These are great ones that anyone can do. You only need some basic kit. However you must build a trustworthy reputation with your customers as they are letting you into their home! Build a routine of tasks so that you can increase speed and efficiency. But remember to do a good quality job, as this is a task anyone can do, so you must prove hiring you is more worthwhile than customers tidying themselves. Build packages including different tasks at different price points.

Dog Walking- People are willing to spend more and more on their pets nowadays and this is a great idea, but make sure you love the outdoors whatever the weather! This is a great business and it can be easily expanded to include pet sitting and care of other animals once you have a consumer base. Remember to take out insurance though and make certain you are confident working with a range of dogs. Plan schedules carefully so that you can take out similar dogs all at once and ones that are harder to handle individually.

Personal Shopper- This is great fun for any shopoholic! Getting paid to shop is always going to be fantastic. The hardest part- getting people to pay for a task they feel they can do themselves. There are two tacks to this, time saving or luxury. You are either going to save your client time by finding the right outfits when they are to busy or give them a luxury experience, take them to the best locations, do runs to the changing room for them and make them feel like a celebrity for the day. Keep on top of trends and make friends with store staff. Research what’s in the shops so you don’t waste time. Make sure you get a tight brief of what your client is looking for and remember to take precise measurements, maybe also have a look in their closet to get a feel for their style.

Personal Assistant- You need to be highly organized and focused on your client’s goals, your job to save them time and help them reach their goals. Clearly set out each client with a portfolio, what tasks they have you do and their key contacts with whom you may need to liaise with. Keep clear records and make sure your client is aware of everything you arrange for them. Be prepared to go the extra mile when it counts you may want to expand this into almost a concierge service. Be clear with your clients if you work set hours or are always available.

Gardening- Again this is a business anyone can undertake but physical fitness does help! Pick a target market-helping the elderly, the busy professional, providing advice on restyling or design? A portfolio can help, especially if you are aiming for the design market. Be clear what tasks your customer expects you to undertake maintenance could go from mowing the lawn to full garden care-planting, watering, paving. Be clear if they are paying for certain tasks or time. Work out- if this is a restyle you may want to price the whole job and provide designs. If you are just maintaining an elderly neighbour’s garden you may want to charge a weekly rate for a certain number of hours.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Use Your Skills

What are you good at? Are you academic or sporty? Arty or intellectual? Choose the skill or subject you are best at and most enjoy. Your business start up idea- to share your knowledge or talent with others. To succeed at this you need to be a people person, great at communication and able to share your enthusiasm with others.

Types of business include:
Tutoring- This may be academic or musical, charging per lesson or for a course. You can be at any level, but should have some form of qualification. Just target those at the level beneath you, so if you have a masters tutor graduates, if you are in your final year teach first years. You will have a lot of valuable experience. Make sure you are up to date with current teaching in your subject and any syllabus requirements. Create a great range of professional and easy to use teaching materials that you can use in your sessions and give to clients. Chart their progress so they can see how your service is benefiting them. If working with children you may need a criminal records check. Share your academic achievements with potential clients.

Coach- Teach people your favourite sport. You may need to hire a court or pitch but by teaching a group of people and starting courses so people bulk buy for example ‘Beginners 6 week tennis course’ you can cover costs and easily forecast income. Be patient and make these lessons interesting, people take part in sport for fun and to meet new people. Plan lessons in advance, focusing on one aspect of the sport each lesson so people can pick it up step-by-step and incorporate fun games. Maybe play a ‘real’ game just for the last 20 minutes after they have picked up the new skill. Take care of people’s safety and fitness levels, target your lesson at those with the lowest fitness. It may be wise to undertake a health and safety course and get a coaching certificate in your chosen sport.

Consultant-Fashion Stylist/Interior Design etc- Have people ever commented on your impeccable style? Use this to advise others. Attract customers by creating an attractive and interesting portfolio. Make it professional and get clients to write you references. Nothing to go in your portfolio? Redecorate your house or someone in your family. Restyle a couple of friends! Make it fun, but try to stick to a theme or trends so potential customers can see if they like your style.

Artist- Share your artwork with the world! Sell it at local art fairs, online, approach shops, start a facebook page, hang it in local venues with promotional material, join an arts trail. There are plenty of ways to get your artwork seen. Be prepared for rejections artwork is highly individualistic, but if one shop knocks you back another will love your stuff. This is about volume, keep approaching people and you will get accepted. Create a style, let people know the story behind your work, and let them know if you will take commissions!

Author- Do you love to write? Create a beautiful story or share information on a topic that interests you. You can write about anything, have passion for your subject or story and share that with your readers. Practice your writing constantly, write on all the subjects you can think of, this will increase your creativity and help you develop a ‘voice’ or style of writing. From here you just need focus, set a daily word limit and meet it every day until your book is finished. Once your book is complete then you can edit it, the most important thing is to get the full book out on paper this is where most people fail, they just don’t finish it! Once you have completed your manuscript you have to decide between approaching a publisher, keep going and submit it to a number of publishers and be prepared to overcome rejection! Or the increasingly popular option of self-publishing, remember you will have to create your own marketing campaign and this is where your people skills and ability to network will come to the fore.