business plan
Entrepreneurship, Productivity, Business, Success, Organization, Improvement

This Is What You Need to Know about Writing a Business Plan

To create a successful small business from home, it helps to start with a business plan.

Of course, drafting such a document when you don’t have any experience doing so can seem like a challenge. How long should it be? What information should it include? Do you follow the plan consistently, or do you adjust it?

The information here should help simplify the process and help you better understand what essential information to include in an early draft.

 

Keep It Short

The initial business plan can be a “mini-plan” you use to develop a more thorough document in the future. The ideal length for a mini-plan is about 10 pages.

business record

When you’re satisfied with your mini-plan, you can expand on it to create a longer working plan that you’ll refer to during regular operations. This is important if you hire others and need them to be familiar with your goals and essential processes. However, when you’re just starting out, you can simply use your mini-plan as a basic tool.

 

Describe the Company

The business plan should begin with a section in which you describe exactly what product or service your company offers. You may think this is a simple concept you don’t need to put down on paper. However, as you flesh out the details, you’ll realize that’s not the case.

For example, perhaps you’re starting a freelance graphic design business. That’s a broad category. Are you going to design the visual elements of websites? Book covers? Albums? Company logos? Odds are good you’re going to focus on certain markets. Use the description of your company to determine specifically what those markets are.

It’s also smart to describe how your company differs from others. Why will a client choose you when they could go with another option? This exercise helps you identify the ways your business can stand out.

 

Analyze the Market

Your small business is much more likely to succeed if you take the time to analyze the market first. Identify and describe who your clients or customers will be. Explain where you’ll find them.

market research

Keep in mind that the nature of your business will have an impact on this section’s content. If you’re offering graphic design for websites, you can target clients throughout the world. If you’re focusing on graphic design for small local businesses, your market analysis should reflect this.

A crucial element of the market analysis involves studying what your successful competitors do right, as well as what they can improve on. This also helps you identify ways to stand out from the competition.

 

Calculate Funding Requirements

Calculate how much money you’ll probably need to spend on your business in the early stages. Then calculate how much funding you currently have. You can also account for funding you expect to generate, but be conservative in your estimates. This part of your business plan is simply a practical element that will help you avoid financial surprises as you start and grow your company.

You might also want to include a funding request. If you think you’ll need help from investors to get your business off the ground, use your financial projections to estimate how much funding you’ll need. Include ideas for how you’ll secure it. That may involve approaching a bank or someone with the capital you need for a loan.

Keep in mind, as you expand on your business plan and develop future iterations of it, it could be a good idea to create a separate presentation plan designed specifically to attract investors.

 

Outline Marketing Strategies

A strong marketing strategy should have its own document. That said, your business plan should include some basic information about marketing.

employees

Once you’ve described your business and the clients you intend to serve, you need to also decide how you plan on getting the attention of potential clients. This element of the plan is where you explain general ideas for reaching out to those interested in your products or services.

 

Organization of the Business

This element may not be necessary if you’re the only one involved in the business and expect it to remain that way for the foreseeable future. However, if your business will consist of a multimember team, create a chart that illustrates management’s organizational structure

This can help you more effectively grow the business when you do add new employees or departments. Knowing the overall structure helps you identify who manages who in the business.

Again, these are just the basics, but they’ll get you started. Refer to your business plan and build upon it as you build your company. You’re much more likely to succeed if you actively maintain and develop a strong roadmap.

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business
Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

This Is What You Need to Know about Managing Freelancers

Running a small business from your home doesn’t typically involve managing a large staff. That being said, there’s a good chance you will need at least a little help from others for certain tasks. Even maintaining a website might be the type of work you’d rather hire someone else to do.

Fortunately, you don’t have to pay them an annual salary. Instead, you could hire freelancers. Due to the Internet, finding qualified freelancers who can work for you on a project basis is easier than ever.

However, it can be a challenge to manage freelancers when you do not share an office. Ensuring that people stay on task and complete their work effectively requires communication. You might assume that staying on top of a freelancer whom you’ve never even met will be a struggle.

However, it doesn’t have to be. Just keep the following tips in mind. They’ll help you to effectively manage freelancers while focusing on other major tasks involved in growing your business.

 

Do Your Research

When posting an ad online for freelancers, you should conduct careful research on potential candidates. Sites such as Upwork, where people regularly find independent contractors for their projects, allow clients to review freelancers they’ve worked with in the past. Take your time to thoroughly vet your candidates before choosing one.

 

market research

 

This doesn’t simply involve reading reviews that other clients have left. You should clearly define exactly what skills and experience you’re looking for when seeking freelancers. Take the time to ensure that each candidate meets those requirements. Doing so will boost your odds of finding the right person for the job the first time. With a reliable freelancer, your role as a manager can be fairly hands-off.

 

Stay in Touch

Even if you don’t need to communicate often with a freelancer to keep them on task, it helps to maintain an open line of communication. You want to ensure that they know they can turn to you if they have any questions about a project. Additionally, when freelancers are made to feel that they play a valuable role in your business, they’ll typically be more inclined to take the work seriously.

Set aside time each week to check in with freelancers when they’re working on one of your projects. Don’t simply ask for an update on the status of their work, either. Thank them for their efforts and make it clear you appreciate the value that they bring to your business.

 

Set Clear Expectations Ahead of Time

Don’t be too flexible or vague when letting a freelancer know when you expect the work to be finished and what you expect them to deliver. Before you hire anyone, it’s a good idea to establish a schedule ahead of time. Setting clear expectations will ensure that you are all working to reach the same goal.

In addition, it’s a good idea to set realistic deadlines that provide you with time to ask the freelancer to make changes, if necessary.

 

Research Pay Rates

There are many different tasks you may need to hire a freelancer for at some point: web design, graphic design, blogging, editing, or photography.

 

coins

 

The amount of money you should pay a freelancer will depend on the nature of the task and the scope of the work. In order to set a fair budget, it will help to undertake some research ahead of time in order to find out what the average pay rate would be for the project you have in mind. While you want to be fair when you pay your freelancers, you also want to know that you’re not paying them more than necessary. When you and your freelancers are on the same page, managing them will be much easier.

Stay Flexible

Freelancers can be very talented. Yet, they make the choice not to take on full-time jobs for which they may be qualified. That’s often because freelancers simply like the idea of working for themselves. Thus, you should strive to remain flexible and respect their autonomy. Stay in touch with your freelancers to provide feedback and monitor their progress. You need to find a balance between maintaining communication and allowing them to focus on their work.

Again, the most important step you can take when hiring freelancers is to prepare ahead of time. When you know exactly what you’re seeking, it’s easier to find someone who will deliver without much guidance. That makes managing freelancers much easier.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, Productivity, Success, Technology, Work at Home

This Is What You Need to Know about Marketing a Home Business

Starting a home business is a dream come true for many people. Being your own boss and leveraging your talents to do work you care about is an understandable goal. However, it doesn’t matter how talented or dedicated you are: you can’t succeed if people don’t know about your business. This is why it’s so important to focus on marketing.

Not sure how to get the word out about your business? Don’t worry. Technology has provided small business owners with a wealth of marketing channels. The following tips will help you better understand how you can use them to your advantage:

 

Rely on Social Media

Social media platforms give you the opportunity to reach many potential customers easily. In fact, Facebook alone boasts 2.19 billion actively monthly users.

social media

Through social media, you can ensure that your existing customers remember your brand the next time they need a service you offer. After all, not everyone who might need your services will require them the exact moment they learn your business exists. However, by growing a following on social media, you’ll have a long list of people who are more likely to turn to you when the right moment does arise.

Monitor the popularity of your social media posts to learn what types of content you should share and how often you should be posting. It’s also a good idea to create a social media calendar to ensure that you stick to a posting schedule.

Just remember, social media platforms are unique because they give you the chance to interact with customers, and this helps cultivate lasting relationships. As such, you should make a point to also share other people’s content through your account. Be sure to follow others who are relevant to your industry and interact with them when they share interesting posts.

 

Partner with Others

Are you afraid your business doesn’t offer enough services to compete with bigger brands? For instance, while you may offer graphic design services to other business owners, you may wonder if you can get noticed when other firms offer web design and marketing services, in addition to graphic design.

This is an understandable concern. However, what may initially seem like an obstacle can actually be an opportunity. Partnering with other small business owners who offer services that complement or otherwise relate to your own gives you more chances to spread awareness of your brand and allows you to share in their customer base. By coordinating with these firms, you can also design and implement stronger marketing campaigns.

 

Educate Your Customers

You want to make sure that people who learn about your business perceive you as an authority in your field. One way to do this is to generate content that educates potential customers. For example, a graphic designer could create and share content like “How strong website graphic design makes the right impression on customers.”

laptop-593673_1280

The exact medium you choose will depend on the resources you have available, as well as what exactly you’re trying to teach your audience. While maintaining a blog is a low-cost option, video content is becoming increasingly popular. Video also makes it easier to share knowledge that relies on visual demonstrations.

It’s worth noting, however, that you don’t need to create all the content yourself if you don’t have the time or the ability. Hiring freelancers through sites like Upwork to generate content for you may be a better option in some circumstances.

 

Send Emails

Although technology has paved the way for many new marketing channels, studies indicate that email marketing is still extremely effective, even among Millennials.

Giving people who visit your website the option to subscribe to an email newsletter (and sending out quality content on a regular basis) is yet another smart way of maintaining and spreading brand awareness. Email is particularly useful because it lets you reach people throughout the day via a mobile device even if they aren’t near their computer.

Email is also effective because it can include “shareworthy” content that subscribers may share via their own social media accounts. This is a smart way of getting your existing customers to do your marketing for you.

Additionally, email marketing helps funnel potential customers down a journey that leads to a purchase. The fact is, not everyone who visits your site and subscribes to your newsletter will make a purchase right away. However, you can guide them to this stage by consistently sending emails that demonstrate why your services are valuable.

It’s important to understand that developing a successful marketing plan requires constant experimentation. The specific tactics that work for your business won’t be apparent right away. However, if you keep these tips in mind and monitor the results of your efforts, you’ll find that marketing your small business is much easier than you may have imagined.

marketing
Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Productivity, Success

This Is What Small Business Owners Need to Know about Marketing

Starting and running a small business is a dream come true for many people. However, it doesn’t matter how talented or dedicated you are. If people don’t know that your business exists, then you won’t succeed. That’s why it’s important to develop a marketing plan that you can implement from the beginning.

Granted, the most effective marketing tactics for one business may not be as useful for another. Different industries will benefit from different social media platforms. For example, if you’re promoting a business that caters to homeowners, Facebook may be more useful than LinkedIn, which in turn would be more effective for a company that assists corporate clients.

That said, the following general information will enable you to get started on your marketing plan. You should keep these points in mind during every stage of your business’ development in order to boost your chances of success.

 

The Benefits of Social Media

social media

Social media has made it easier than ever to reach potential customers. However, it’s worth noting that social media platforms vary in terms of the benefits that they offer.

Facebook is useful because it allows you to target specific demographics. Through targeted ads, you can ensure that the people who see your marketing content are also the kinds who are most likely to buy your products or request your services.

Instagram can be highly effective for businesses whose products or services lend themselves to impressive visuals. For instance, if you’re an amateur jewelry designer who wants to start selling your creations, Instagram offers you the opportunity to show them off. On the other hand, if your business involves making any sort of improvements to homes, like painting or interior design services, Instagram is still useful as a means of displaying your work.

Twitter is a more general tool that can also boost your marketing efforts. Twitter is useful because, according to most experts, customers are more accepting of businesses that post multiple times a day on it. With Facebook, constant posting can actually annoy your followers. On the other hand, Twitter gives you the opportunity to share information and content more frequently. In addition, it allows you to take advantage of hashtags to cast a wider net.

 

Why a Social Media Calendar Is Important

Although there may be instances when an unexpected story or event gives you reason to post on social media when you hadn’t planned to do so, for the most part you’ll want to rely on a social media calendar. You can create a simple one in Excel or find samples online.

A social media calendar should include columns for every platform that you use. For instance, if your business has Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, your calendar should feature columns for each one.

Filling in the calendar ahead of time means you’ll be more likely to stick to a regular posting schedule. Just fill in what content you plan to share and when you plan to share it in each platform’s column. This will also enable you to avoid posting too frequently on a given platform.

While best practices will vary from one industry to another, you should generally post on Facebook five times a week in order to maximize your return on investment. Twitter is different. As long as you share quality posts, the basic rule of thumb is “more is better.” You should monitor the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns to find out how frequently you should post for the best possible results.

 

Understanding Content Marketing

online business

Surveys indicate that customers are growing tired of dated and intrusive advertising tactics. They want advertisements that offer genuine value rather than ones that treat them like prospects.

That’s why many business owners rely on content marketing. Quite simply, content marketing involves using branded but valuable content to offer your customers something that’s genuinely useful or interesting.

For example, perhaps your business involves interior design. You could maintain a regular blog on your website in which you share some basic, but practical interior design tips. Of course, you should share all blog posts on your social media accounts, as well.

Content marketing is effective because it provides customers with something worth noticing. In this digital age, people are constantly bombarded by advertisements. To filter through all the excess, they seek out content that’s interesting and valuable to them. This is also the type of content they’re more likely to share with their friends and family.

Your content doesn’t need to be a blog. You may find that it’s more effective to create videos or podcasts. This is another instance in which you’ll need to monitor your campaigns to determine what works best.

That’s an important point. While developing a marketing plan early is essential, don’t assume your plan won’t change. Each business and industry is different. When you implement a plan and track your progress to see where changes should be made, your odds of success will increase in a big way.

business
Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success, Work at Home

This Is How to Stay Dedicated When Growing a Home Business

It’s no secret that starting a small business from home can be challenging. While the experience is often rewarding in the long run, it’s easy to get discouraged during the early stages. This is especially true if you have a day job. Trying to grow a business after spending hours at another job takes a lot of energy. On top of that, because you don’t have the full work day to focus on your business, growing a client list can be very difficult. These are all reasons many would-be entrepreneurs give up before accomplishing their goals.

This doesn’t have to happen to you. Although there are many steps people can take to stay committed to their business idea at the start, the following list of general tips is essential. Each business is different, and thus, the best way to maintain enthusiasm can vary from one case to another. These points, however, apply to virtually anyone trying to grow a business from home:

 

Choose Something You Care about.

home business

Some people are extremely lucky. They can grow thriving home businesses doing the kind of work they legitimately enjoy. For instance, if you enjoy creating visual art, you could create a graphic design business. Eventually, you may spend the vast majority of your work days on the kinds of tasks you find rewarding. The fact that you earn a living doing so is essentially an added bonus.

It’s great if you can start a business doing something you love. However, not everyone in the world is passionate about an activity that qualifies as work. Additionally, some people may be passionate about activities that can’t be translated into a business model.

This doesn’t mean you can’t find fulfillment in what you’re doing. It simply means you should focus on growing a business that pertains to something you care about. For example, maybe you genuinely care about certain social issues and want to grow a marketing business for nonprofits devoted to addressing those issues. The actual work itself might be tedious to you if you were doing marketing for other types of clients, but because you care about your clients’ goals, you would find enough enjoyment in growing this business to stick with it through the difficult times.

 

Find a Business Partner.

As this blog has pointed out before, a business partner can be a key asset in many ways. This person can provide funding, offer talents and skills you may lack, and help you find clients.

He or she can also serve as a motivator when you’re thinking about disbanding your business and going back to focusing on your day job. If you start to feel your passion for the business waning, maybe your partner will have enough enthusiasm left to lift you back up. Further, when you work with a business partner, you’re responsible not only to yourself, but someone else. Regardless of whether that person is a family member or a friend, you’ll be less likely to abandon your business early if someone important to you is also invested in it.

 

Study Examples.

programming-593312_1280

From Apple to Spanx, there are many examples of major brands that started as small home businesses. There are also plenty of thriving local companies that, although they may not be household names throughout the world, serve as proof that it’s possible to turn a struggling business into a major enterprise.

If you study the real history of these examples, you’ll often find that a few truths remain constant. One of them is the fact that few businesses become overnight successes. Once a company achieves a certain degree of success, that achievement tends to be what most people focus on. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find that many leading businesses struggled for a long time in their early years.

 

Getting this kind of operation off the ground is always difficult. You shouldn’t assume you’ll never achieve the success you’re aiming for simply because it initially eludes you. Instead, you should refer to businesses you admire to remind yourself that it takes a lot of time and effort to reach your goals. If you’re willing to put in the work, then eventually you may reap the rewards.

Again, these are general tips. Each person’s specific situation is different. However, regardless of what kind of business you’re growing, there’s a good chance you’ll go through a phase in which you may wonder if you’ll ever be successful. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be much less likely to let those thoughts discourage you.

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Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success, Technology

This Is What You Need to Remember to Start a Successful Home Business

Although starting your own home business can certainly be an exciting and rewarding experience, it’s no secret that creating a side business requires hard work. Additionally, many small business owners fail to achieve any early success because they haven’t planned thoroughly or established key procedures beforehand. As a result, they become discouraged, abandoning their projects before reaching their full potential.

This doesn’t have to happen to you. The following general tips will help you boost your odds of success during the crucial early stages of your business. While you’ll still need to invest a significant amount of time and effort to attract clients and grow your side business into a legitimately rewarding venture, you’re more likely to reach your early goals if you keep these key points in mind.

 

Establish Essential Processes Early

planning

As your business grows, you’ll need to develop ways of tracking the status of projects, enhancing your marketing campaigns, managing client relations, and much more. These needs will arise later. You can address them as they arise, since it can be difficult to anticipate what processes will be the most effective before you’ve reached those key milestones.

No matter what kind of business you start, though, there are some basic processes you’ll want to establish right away. This includes setting a schedule. Make sure you adhere to closely to whatever schedule you establish. Otherwise, it becomes easy to neglect your business in the critical early period of growth or, alternatively, focus on your business to the exclusion of other aspects of your life (which is also unsustainable).

You also need processes in place to track your expenses and revenue. You’ll probably have to invest some money upfront to get your business started. That may include purchasing materials, paying for a website, and perhaps recruiting some freelance help. At this stage, you’ll probably lose money rather than turning a profit, but it’s important to have a way of comparing how much you’ve spent to how much you’ve earned.

 

Start Simple

Having a partner can be a big help when starting your own home business. A partner can share the workload, defray some of your initial expenses, and perhaps compensate for areas where you lack the necessary experience or skill. You might also have the funds at this early stage to hire freelance or part-time help.

Odds are good, though, that you won’t have a large team of dedicated employees to rely on during the early stages of growing your business. Thus, even if you have ambitious plans for the future, in the beginning you want to keep things simple. Don’t offer a dozen services if you only have the ability to realistically focus on one or two right away. You can offer more services later, after your business grows and you have the ability to bring on the help you need.

Right now, focus on one problem you plan on solving for your target demographic. Doing so also makes it easier to adjust your approach if you find out there isn’t enough of a market for that particular service. Many small business owners find out that the first year or so of running a small business involves making changes to their strategy as they learn more about what their customers need. By only focusing on one or two core services, you’ll prevent your business from growing too unwieldy for you to make any necessary adjustments.

 

Emphasize Consistency

baking

It’s true that many people who start small businesses are operating from a disadvantage at first. They often have traditional employment, and thus can’t maintain full-time hours—at least not until the new business grows big enough for them to quit their day jobs.

This can make it difficult to serve your clients to the best of your abilities. You can compensate for this by being as professional and consistent as possible, especially during the early stages. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to run your business in between tasks at your day job; this is unfair to both your new business and your current employer.

However, when you are scheduled to work on your side business, answer emails and calls as efficiently as possible. Make sure you always communicate in a professional manner and focus on offering quality service. Too many people, eager to make more money, take on more work than they can handle during these early stages. This can result in poor quality work and have a negative impact on your reputation among clients during a key stage of potential growth.

Of course, these tips aren’t the only points worth keeping in mind as you start your business. There are many additional steps you should take to maximize your chances of success. That said, these tips are still essential. If you want your business to thrive, remembering them is key.

small-office
Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

Own a Home Business? You Need to Hear These Success Stories

Building a small home business can provide you with the opportunity to make extra money doing something you love (or at least something you know you’re good at). In addition, it can also give you the opportunity to pursue your true dreams. However, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of believing that your small home business will never turn into anything bigger than that. Your venture doesn’t need to remain a side gig forever. Plenty of major companies started out as home-based organizations. While there’s no guarantee that your business will reach the same heights as they did, the following examples demonstrate that it’s not impossible to turn the work you do on the side into a thriving success.

 

Apple

apple logoThese days, Apple is one of the reigning tech giants. Every single day, you probably see people using Apple products, and there’s a good chance you use their products every day yourself.

It’s easy to forget that this business, which has customers in virtually all corners of the globe, started out as a seemingly impractical venture in a garage.

Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, three friends with an interest in computers, developed the Apple I as nothing more than a project for hobbyists. Jobs, however, foresaw an emerging demand for personal computers. This was back when computers were mainly used by businesses, governments, and technology enthusiasts. Many were skeptical that the average consumer would want to own one.

This didn’t stop Jobs and Wozniak from making a deal with a local electronics store to provide 50 Apple I units. Working tirelessly, the pair (with the help of friends) built all of the units right out of a garage in the home of Jobs’ parents.

In other words, one of the biggest tech companies in the world started at someone’s house with a relatively small order from a single client. Now, Apple is a household name.

 

Amazon

amazonlogoAmazon is another company that nearly everyone has heard about. Like Apple, it also started out in a garage.

Jeff Bezos originally conceived of Amazon as an online bookstore. This was during the ‘90s, when the idea of ecommerce was still new. Thus, anyone starting this type of business was often forced to start out small.

Along with a few employees, Bezos ran the initial operation out of a garage. As sales increased, the company expanded, offering more than just books.

Now it’s the premier online retailer. People use Amazon to purchase everything from food to furniture, and Jeff Bezos is now one of the richest people in the world. But, despite these massive achievements, Amazon’s origins remain modest.

 

Google

googlelogoGoogle is such a well-known company that its very name has also become a commonly-used verb. You probably “Google” information every single day. It’s by far the most successful search engine in the world.

That’s not how it always was. Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, thought it would be useful if there was a web service that made accessing online content as easy as possible. Working together, the two developed Google out of a garage they rented from a friend. It’s now one of the biggest success stories in the tech industry.

 

Spanx

spanxlogoYou don’t need to start a tech company to achieve you dream of transforming your home business into a major operation. You just need an idea, and some drive.

Spanx is a perfect example. The company’s founder, Sarah Blakely, developed the idea for the product in her late 20s. Up until that point, she had never even taken a business class. She’d spent seven years selling fax machines door-to-door after graduating from college and had just moved out of her mother’s house.

Yet, Blakely knew her idea would appeal to other women. She invested $5,000—her entire life savings—into the project, running it out of her apartment during the early stages. At this time, sales were still low, and she continued selling fax machines to make ends meet.

It took a lot of effort, but Blakely was able to get her product into the hands of the right people, launching a major brand and becoming a billionaire in the process.

This is the kind of success story worth paying watching. Blakely had no special qualifications. Again, she readily admits that she had absolutely no legitimate business experience whatsoever. Still, driven by the strength of her idea, she recognized the value that her product could offer women and worked from her apartment to turn her vision into a reality.

There’s no reason to believe you can’t do the same. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with building a home business that will always just be a side gig, if you do have plans to grow it into something bigger, you shouldn’t dismiss those dreams. These examples prove that it doesn’t matter where you start. All that really matters is that you take steps to reach your goals, no matter how big they are.