If a start-up is on your bucket list ...
Interested in going solo and building your own start-up? In 2019 in the U.S. alone, there were nearly 775,000 businesses less than a year old according to the German-based firm Statista. The Houston Chronicle quotes from the Small Business Administration, or SBA as it’s more commonly known, that nearly 630,000 businesses start up each year. There’s a lot of closures too – 595,000 is the estimate for one year alone, Louise Balle of the Houston Chronicle reported. She also writes that more than half of new small businesses don’t make it past the five-year mark. The reason? It's quite often due to a lack of adequate funding.
The Small Business Administration is ready to give your business a hand
So what makes me think my start-up has a chance? Maybe because writing is my specialty. I’ve been putting words together for a long time. But while I may be expert with pen and paper, my business acumen leaves much to be desired. So where do I go? Just like so many others, perhaps you too, I turn to the internet to see how to turn an idea into a successful business. The SBA, a U.S. government agency, operates free programs, counseling, and funding designed to help plucky souls who decide to go it alone. If you like learning by reading, The SBA offers several courses to help people like us plan, start, and run a business.
I suppose this is a risky time to begin any kind of business, but I’m not worried. After all, I’ve ventured into entrepreneurship before. However, this time there’s a big difference. Now I’m proceeding deliberately and thoughtfully. To my favor, I can operate from a home office so I really have no overhead. I need no employees.
My first foray into setting up my own enterprise – outside of the babysitting I did while a teen – was a sewing business. I started out tailoring clothes. Who’d have thought there’d be good money in hemming pants? But I did well, enough to make a difference to my young family’s bank account. Ah, but there was a limit to the amount of clothing I wanted to alter or make. Then I began sewing draperies, a much more interesting and satisfying venture. I didn’t even dream of advertising – I was only in it to add to our family coffers, and yet I gave it up when that too began to bore me.
As for being employed by others, that can get boring too but at least there’s a steady stream of money coming in. I’ve been employed doing everything from working as a server, a nanny, in retail sales, and a marketing coordinator. Then I found something that energized me. That something took me back to doing my own thing. Drawing upon my love for the written word I began freelancing to local newspapers. I edited a privately published book for a famous author. I indexed a thick text for a college professor and edited a manuscript for a first-time author. None of these ventures of mine failed – they just fizzled out. I invested little thought into them. Having no strategy; I lived hand-to-mouth. It never dawned on me to sit down and write something as enigmatic as a business plan, or to consider where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing a few years out. I had no idea what my business should look like starting out, much less where it was going.
A growing need for steady earnings and a fresh college degree put me back into the job market. And while I didn’t stay in any one position longer than a few years, I learned a lot. Probably more than the tomes of knowledge I consumed in pursuit of a degree.
So now, with time on my hands and a passion for the written word, I’m once more plugging away at freelance writing.
Preparation is key
This time, I’m going about it in an organized and deliberate way. Before, I just fell into doing my own thing. Now I’ve read the books and articles, taken college classes in business management, and spent time writing a plan, my mission and vision statements, trying to set up books (math, ugh), and starting a website.
This website is of my own making. When first I researched setting up shop on the world-wide web, the vocabulary alone intimidated me. Search engine optimization, pixels, fonts, content, PNG … and on and on the list goes. Then there were all those templates, plug-ins, pages, and posts. I ranged about on the internet looking for advice and training for this strange new world I had entered. After numerous false starts, I found Donna Mavromates and her online “Build Your Own Website” course. I signed up and found a ream of lessons on everything from setting goals for your website, to planning it, writing it out (content writing, it’s called) playing with the design, and getting people to find and actually spend time on it. And the ongoing tasks of keeping the site running safely and securely. I learned a lot about thinking like a business owner along with all the technical stuff required to build a site.
Let me help you with your website content and design
After such a total immersion in website development and essential business concepts, I'm ready to set up websites for other small businesses. I can write your content so people will enjoy it and search engines will find it. I can also design your site. I don’t aim to build big sites with lots of working components – Donna has a business for that – but if your needs are to simply get a small website built and/or maintained, I can do that. Contact me and we can chat and decide whether the fit is there for me to work on your business writing, your website, or your regularly produced reports. I’ll be happy to talk to you.
Are you ready to go it alone?
Are you ready to venture out and create your own business? No better place to begin your start-up than with brainstorming. Here are a few considerations:
- Decide what your niche is: What’s your passion? Can you make a living at it?
- Write a mission statement: Why will your organization exist; what is your overall goal with it? Is it to sell the best products available? To create something that is yours alone to produce? To provide knowledge or advice?
- Describe your vision: In simple terms, state your firm’s purpose. What do you want your business to look like at start-up? Down-the-road?
- What is your unique contribution? What can you provide that no one else can, or in quite the same way?
- How much will it cost to set it up? How much do you have? Do you already have the equipment needed? Where/how can you get the money you might need? Look at your business budget and consider the following:
- Store or office front or home-based?
- What equipment do you need to begin with?
- Will you need employees to start with?
- How will you advertise: Website, business cards, word-of-mouth, Google Ads, business-oriented memberships?
- Always, always, always, study your competition. How can you be one better than best?
- How will you structure your company? Will it be a sole proprietorship? A limited liability corporation? A nonprofit?
- Do you need any licensing? Check your state, county, and city government websites for their requirements.
- Now, do you still want to do this? Is it time to write a full-fledged business plan?
These questions are just to get you started. After you answer them if you feel you can make good at it, the Small Business Administration has a website with loads of information, including an article on writing a detailed business plan and the slightly less detailed setting up your plan in 10 steps. I’ve used the SBA website extensively, although I haven't written a detailed business plan. Running a small, freelance writing firm just doesn’t need the planning, funding, or other requirements other businesses might.