Every year, thousands of traditional employees dream about taking the leap from employee to self-employed. There are many reasons that may prevent some people from ever making the switch, but often, the primary reason given for not taking the risk is fear.
A secondary reason given is cost. Many would-be entrepreneurs worry about the expense associated with establishing their own business. They have reason to be cautious; starting a business can be costly. However, it doesn’t have to be. Want to start a business but aren’t sure of the next step? Here are five steps you can take in a short period of time for under $1,000.
Develop a strategic plan.
Many people have heard the urban legend about a guy who sat in the coffee shop and sketched out his business plan on the back of a napkin. Now that framed napkin graces the walls of his multi-million dollar corporation’s headquarters, a piece of history that symbolizes its humble beginnings.
Can that actually happen? Yes. Does it happen often? No. Chances are, you will need a strategic plan to help guide you through the startup phase of a new business. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but your plan should answer the following questions:
- What is the company’s name? What goods or services will your company provide or perform?
- Who will own the company? Will you be a sole proprietor or will you have partners? What will the ownership structure be?
- Do you have an office? Will you need to rent a warehouse? Where will the office/warehouse be located?
- Have you done a market analysis? What were the results?
- What is your marketing strategy?
- What is the future earning potential of the company?
Once you’ve developed your strategic plan, find support organizations within your community. Local small business agencies may offer meetings, training sessions, and more to the public, and will help provide support as needed.
Establish a web identity.
Today, the internet is the go-to source for information. A well-designed website can provide credibility and legitimacy for your company. There are several do-it-yourself web design programs available, or you can consider hiring a company to create a custom site. Create email addresses with your domain name.
Cost: $300 for domain purchase, site hosting and web development.
Find an office.
Statistics reveal that over half of all small businesses are home-based. There are many advantages to working from home, but there can be drawbacks. For example, using a home address can appear unprofessional to potential clients and investors. It can also be difficult to conduct meetings and conference calls in a home environment that may have distractions such as pets, family members or other interferences. While a home-office or coffee shop may be suitable for the early stages of the company’s formation, consider renting an office on an as-needed basis, or co-sharing an office with other new businesses until you can support an office on your own.
Cost: Free if working from home or coffee shop, approximately $60 a month for some office-sharing arrangements.
Print business cards.
It seems like a relic from the past, but professionals still use business cards to pass out contact information. Use a graphic designer to develop a custom look, or use an online printing company to design your own. Include all social media accounts, as well as traditional contact methods. Create an eye catching design to help your card stand out from the crowd.
Cost: Approximately $20 for 300 cards.
Establish your social media accounts.
Today it is almost a given that a company will have some form of social media presence. The particular type of social media that your company is best suited for may be different than what other businesses are using; that is perfectly acceptable. Create social media accounts wherever your potential clients are “hanging around.”
For example, if your target audience seems to spend more time on tumblr, focus your efforts on client retention and engagement on tumblr. If your customer base uses Facebook, your main efforts should be through Facebook. Find your market and then go there. The secret to long term success in social media accounts is to start with a wide target market and then gradually narrow down to the specific desired audience.
The total cost of the steps outlined above? As little as $969. For just under $1,000, you can begin to create a company that you are excited about, giving you the chance to make a change on a limited budget. Even better, these five steps on your entrepreneurial journey can be completed in a matter of days. By taking these sorts of actionable, concrete steps, every potential entrepreneur can be empowered to make the transition from employee to small business owner. The only challenge left is deciding when to make the jump.