Did You Poop An Idea?
I am not impressed (yet). So, here is the thing. Your idea is pure waste unless you do something with it. Most ideas get flushed by our self doubt as quickly as they are imagined. Seriously, doing something with your idea is not for wussies. Taking action is hard and it’s risky too. The process of turning your idea into a business reality can be exciting, but it can also be tedious, frustrating, scary, lonely, exhausting and did I mention risky? You will probably even cry at some point.
YOU COULD FAIL!
So, why in the world would you ever want to do something with your precious idea? It’s so much fun just to talk about it and feel smart! It’s quite simple, really. Because, doing nothing is failing in the worst way. Doing nothing is future regret. Doing nothing means always wondering, “What if?”. Doing nothing means you have zippy chance of living life on your terms, learning huge lessons, leaving a legacy, or finding personal success. Turning your idea into something real lets you tap into your creativity, intelligence, spirit of adventure, and discover strengths you didn’t even know you possessed.
Doing nothing is f*cking embarrassing.
If you are still reading, I bet your idea is nagging you like a brat in a toy store–it just won’t leave you alone. “PLEEAASE do something with me”, it whines at you constantly. You feel more disgusted with yourself every day that goes by that you neglect your whiny idea. You are itchy inside knowing that you have to take action before you grow old and die. You are out of excuses. You are ready to hop on the Crazy Train to Action Town. Here we go, don’t look back. It’s going to be a wild ride.
Be Like a Dictionary and Define Your Business:
What about this idea brings you joy? Not every idea should become a business. It sounds trite, but your business should be fun. Obviously, not every second is going to be fun, but you should feel passion and excitement for your business. Know the reasons behind why you want to do this. Starting a business is not just about making money–it’s about a lifestyle of creative freedom, independence and accomplishment. All of that comes with the price of uncertainty, so it’s important that the trade-off is backed by passion currency.
What does your business do?: Be clear on the services or products that you sell and why. Who are you helping and how? Write it down in a living document such as a Google Doc so that you can reference and add to it as needed. Keep your business as simple as possible in the beginning. You can always add more services and products later as your business develops.
What does your business NOT do?: You need to be just as clear on what you don’t do. It can be tempting to expand your business outside the scope of your passion and expertise when you need to make money. Don’t compromise your vision.
How Much Do You Charge?: Analyze all the expenses associated with providing your product or service. Your time is also an expense. Determine how much you need to charge to make a profit on your product or service. You also need to figure out the volume of business you need to do to make sufficient revenue.
Identify Your Customers: Where do they congregate on and offline? What do they read, watch or do? Don’t gloss over this. Be as specific as possible because this will help you focus your marketing efforts. Niche down as much as you can and find your community.
Eyes Wide Open:
Who else is doing it? Don’t be discouraged if you find out that your idea is not original. This is actually good news because you have an instant proof of concept.
Study your competitors: Take note of what they are doing well and what they aren’t doing so well. How can you be different? That difference is your advantage.
Your Costs: Find out what everything is going to cost to launch your business. Make sure to distinguish between needs and wants. Don’t spend a cent that isn’t necessary, and don’t go into debt.
Find free and low cost small business resources: Go to your county’s website and look for information about starting a business. You will most likely find other resources such as workshops and literature about running a business. Take advantage of all the resources. If nothing else, you will meet other nuw business owners and expand grow your network. SCORE is a national, free program offered by the Small Business Administration where new business owners are paired with experienced business people as personal mentors. Super awesome!
Talk To People: Get a group of friends or family together as a focus group. Get their honest impressions of your product or service. Be thankful for their negative comments. Being able to adjust your product or service early, can save you from making costly mistakes.
The Tedious Practicals:
Naming Your Business: Your name is important, but don’t get attached too quickly. Make sure you can get your business name as a top tier domain as well as across social media platforms. Your goal is for your name to be the same everywhere. It will take time to research a name that can be that consistent.
Get An EIN Number: An EIN number is like a social security number for your business. This is how the IRS will identify your business as a tax entity. You will need an EIN number to get a business bank account and a business license. This is also a good first step in thinking of your business as separate than yourself.
Get A Business License: Your county or city wants to tax your business, so you need a business license. It’s paperwork. It has to be renewed. You may also be required to register a Trade name and file Business Personal Property tax forms. Your jurisdiction will walk you through what you need. Make a file for the records, keep copies of everything, and put renewal dates on your calendar 2-3 weeks before anything is due.
Business Structure: You will want to determine the legal structure of your business. You may be fine starting out as a sole proprietor in the beginning, but you will want to research LLCs and other options so you can choose the one that gives you the best legal protection and tax benefits.
Open A Business Bank Account or Business PayPal Account: Keep your business income completely separate from your personal income from the beginning. You will save yourself a lot of frustration later, trust me. Consider opening a PayPal account for your business which has an easy invoicing system which will allow you to start billing clients immediately. You pay a small fee to PayPal for each incoming transaction, but it may be worth the expense in the beginning when you are just starting out. You will also have accurate records of income and expenses–especially if you order a PayPal debit card connected to your business PayPal account so you can pay for business expenses from that account.
Purchase Liability Insurance: Being a business owner has enough stress. The few hundred dollars a year you will pay for a general liability policy is worth the peace of mind in case something goes wrong. If you are starting a high liability business–get as much insurance as you can afford.
A Logo and Social Media Graphics: Get a professional logo and social media banner designed and sized for for all the platforms. Again, you want to be consistent across platforms. Consider using Fiverr if you are on a super tight budget. You should be able to get everything you need for $20-$40.
PR & Marketing:
Get a Website or Blog: You need an online presence and it’s easier than ever to make your own website using WordPress templates. If this is intimidating, don’t let that frustration delay your business. There are services such as RocketPack Online that cater to small businesses by offering web design and maintenance services on a subscription basis so you don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars for a website.
Social Media Strategy: Your customers are hanging out online. Determine which social media platforms are best for your business, then you have to implement a focused strategy so that your social media efforts are not wasted or damaging to your brand. You can screw up social media. Consider consulting with a social media management company to help you maximize your social media success. Paying for an hour long consult could save you tons of time and missed opportunities.
Tell Everybody: This is not the time to be shy. Get comfortable telling friends, family, aquaintances and strangers about your business.
Organize Unique Events and People: An effective way to get recognition in your field is to organize events and gatherings that provide value to the the community of people who benefit from your services. Think creatively and don’t make it a hard sale. Put together a fun event and before you know it, you will be a micro-celebrity in your industry.
DIY PR: Don’t hesitate to handle your own public relations. Learn to write and distribute your own press release. Contact podcasts relevant to your expertise and ask to be a guest. Share your knowledge with their audience and get lots of publicity in exchange.