A few days ago I was thinking about beginnings. How difficult it is to start a project from zero and how the first years are always going to be a real challenge.
If you choose to start an indipendent business, you’re probably like me: I wouldn’t want to be employed or work for anybody but myself. I want a job that allows me to manage my time as I see fit.
These are the first three lessons I think anybody should learn to start something of their own.
Think professionally and use your judgement
In any (any!) business-related decision, think professionally. If you wonder whether to make your own business cards or invest a bit of money to have them made, think professionally: have them made!
Thinking professionally doesn’t require years of experience, but it does require good judgement, which always shows in the small things. When you tell people you’re a private tutor, is it more professional to say “grab my number and send me a whatsapp” or give them a nice-looking business card? Use your judgement.
Invest (not just time)
To make money you have to spend money. Not a lot, in this case, only enough to build a professional image (keep reading, I’m getting to the practical stuff).
Care for details
I’ve always been detail-oriented and since the very beginning it’s the details that have set me apart in everything I’ve ever done.
Ok, this is all theory, but I’m a really practical person. If I wanted to start my business today, this is what I’d do.
Create a one-page website
A website is the first thing I’d get done. How? Well, I’m lucky because my husband does that for a living, but you can make one quite easily using one of these two services.
WordpressIt’s free, but as everything that is free, it’s all DIY (which might be more difficult for a web beginner). As always, starting is the most difficult part, but you can find lots of guides on the internet like this (very complete) one.
SquarespaceThis is what I use, and it’s so easy even my grandma could do it (well, no, not really, but almost). It takes care of everything for you, domain, design, server, technicalities and their customer service is good enough. Unfortunately, I had a rough start with using Squarespace as I was using it on Safari, but since I switched to Chrome it’s working perfectly.It costs $8 per month billed annually and, if you have no clue on how to make a website, it’s worth it.
Do you think it’s more professional to have a domain like www.name.wordpress.com or a personalised one like www.name.com? Hope you picked the latter. Having your own domain gives you a professional image at a very low cost (€10 per year on namecheap.com or slightly more if you get it through Wordpress).
If you decide to go with Squarespace, though, the domain is included in the price. Now you only have to choose a name: when in doubt, go for something like www.namesurname.com. Easy, classy and always true ;-)
Simplicity is key. Forget flowers, cars, hearts, butterflies (or if you can’t, just use them for your personal blog).
All you need is one (one!) simple white or plain-colored page, with defined blocks that you can scroll downwards, big titles, easy-to-read font (helvetica is always a good option) and little, informative text. All you need is an introductory block, one with the services you offer, one with prices (transparency is usually well received) and one for contacts. To make it more lively, pick nice, high quality images to alternate with the blocks.
If you decide to use Squarespace, you’ll find lots of templates like this. Modern, fresh and functional. If I were to redo my professional website today, this is the template I’d use.
So very important! Even in today’s digital world, I find business cards are still a must-have. But do have them made by a professional. I’ve always used MOO and it’s never disappointed me: you can choose between many designs and styles (which I’d recommend) or if you know a bit about design you can create your own.
A personalised touch
Think about a detail to give on the first class. Something simple, but elegant.
If I were a private teacher, I'd choose a classic Moleskine notebook (Moleskine is elegant, yet modern and aesthetically beautiful. Think professionally!) and a transparent folder where to put the photocopies I hand out, and I'd personalise them with my logo, which I'd print out on round stickers (again through MOO).
If I were a personal trainer, maybe personalised papers where to write down reps and a pen with my own name and phone number. Well, you get the gist.
When everything’s else ready, ads are the last step. I wouldn't print a fliers, I'd always prefer to promote my business through:
- Word of mouthTell everyone, and I mean… everyone! Family, friends, acquaintances. Give them your business cards and tell them to have a look at your website. Tell the baker, the pharmacist, the swimming instructor. Give them a business card. It’ll go places.
- Google AdwordsGoogle ads is great. After you have a fresh, clear and transparent website, buy some online ads and you're all set!
Have you ever created a small business from zero?Where did you find ideas and inspiration? Would you do it again?Let me know in a comment—because some experiences are much more useful if shared.