Feels impossible right? But it is entirely possible… I know because I built up three businesses from scratch and sold them on. I now run Lancs Local which involves helping Lancashire based small businesses and start ups, and I want to pass some pointers onto you as someone who is almost ready but just needs to take the leap – with or without cash to spend!
YOU: Thinking about starting up a project or business idea you’ve been sitting on for a while, or you’ve already taken the plunge and looking to scale up or find some clarity.
ME: Been there, done that, made all the mistakes and had 3 children whilst doing it. I have had the overwhelm, been frazzled and had no start up funds. If I can overcome all of that – so can you!
What skills do you need, and what skills do you already have?
Dig deep and evaluate the skills you already have. Do you need to upskill? If you’re currently a one man band – which most start ups with no money are – you WILL need to develop your social media marketing knowledge, time management, email marketing, accounting, communication skills, industry specific know how… You may need to build your confidence and work on your mindset, particularly if you see barriers rather than challenges, or if you have a real fear of failure (FYI the fear is worse than the failure, believe me). If you need to brush up on any skills or even need to learn some from scratch there are plenty of courses and networking tools that can help, and quite often they’re free. Check out Facebook business groups, Eventbrite, HubSpot and Lancs Local Marketing Support, to name a few!
The aim is to outsource in the end, but when you’ve got no cash, cracking on with the skills you do have is the only way forward.
‘’Do not wait; the time will never be ‘’just right’’. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.’’ – Napoleon Hill
Remember to be confident in your skills, but be aware that you have a lot to learn, and research is key. Don’t get overwhelmed by the many, many steps to your business dream…
….One thing at a time
Do NOT try to multi-task. I’ll let you into a secret that took me a good few years to work out; multi-tasking is not really a thing. You literally cannot do more than one thing at a time. You can have lots of tabs running and notifications pinging and your mind whizzing about while you do one task… that is not multi-tasking, it’s brain fry. Concentrate on one task, then concentrate on the next. Believe me, I’ve learnt from a lot of burnout and crashing that you cannot do the work of an entire office all at once. As my wise little girl says when I tell her I can only do one thing at a time, “I know mummy, you’re not an octopus!”
Make a plan and a strategy, then focus on one thing at a time.
Bear with me on this one! This was sage advice from my mother and had a long lasting affect on me. I repeat it to myself on an almost daily basis, but you need to know the rationale. Keep the Big Plan aspirational, believe in yourself – you really can achieve it all BUT on a day to day basis, aim low.
There’s nothing worse than feverishly adding on to your to do list, getting palpitations about it and not being able to EVER finish it, because YOU ARE NOT AN OCTOPUS.
Make your Big Plan as huge as you like, but make the small steps achievable and remember that your 2 or 4 or 8 hours of work a day cannot possibly all be work – you have phone calls, house work, the postie, much needed caffeine breaks as well as a million other mind numbing tasks and maybe even children hanging round your ankles too. You are only one person, and you can only achieve so much on any given day – don’t give yourself reasons to beat yourself up!
Make your daily tasks achievable.
Make your Big Plan
Identify your target market. Be specific; give them names, jobs, aspirations, family structure….
What are the problems you solving for them and why do they need you?
Once you have completely nailed 1 + 2 EVERYTHING else is easier.
REALISTICALLY – how much time per day/week do you have to work on this around other responsibilities? Remember that you are only one person and that all the micro tasks take up time so factor them in. BURNOUT IS REAL, make sure your tasks fit to your time and money constraints otherwise you’ll be forever trying to catch up with your self imposed unrealistic expectations, and that is no fun at all.
Where do your income streams come in? Can you develop more income streams based on your main one? Can you cope financially until you start making a profit? Remember that there WILL be unexpected hurdles so leave plenty of wiggle room around financial targets. It sounds so obvious but many people don’t develop their financial plan. Make sure you know what your turnover needs to be to break even, what your profit margins are and whether your plan can in fact, realistically, create you a living wage at the very minimum.
Get your end points for the year (I don’t like to call them goals, goals suggests they could be totally missed) and work backwards. At what time of the year do you need to start/finish work on each point? Once you have the time frame, break each task down to what needs doing in each month. At the start of each month, work out what needs doing each week, and at the end of each week work out what needs doing each day for the following week. If you need to add something to your to do list at any point, identify which end point it relates to and put it under THAT task, at that part of the week/month/year. Not everything needs doing right now.
Make your strategy – For each end point, identify what you need in terms of time/finance/resources/manpower. Include everything you can – childcare plans, breaks, other commitments and responsibilites, even nights out and date nights! If you don’t factor these in you are at risk of starting to resent them for “holding you back”. Remember that you can’t put your all into your business unless you allow yourself time away from it too. Put all of this into a planner broken down as in point 5 above.
Give yourself working hours and – most importantly – make sure you have an “end of play” concrete time that you will not work past. Given that you are likely to be setting a business up around other work or family commitments, this may be late in the evening which is fine, but make sure you stop at that time no matter what you are doing. If you don’t have a finish time, you will find yourself letting each task lead to another and before you know it it’s 3.30am and you have to be up with the baby at 6am…. and yes, that is from bitter and repeated experience. If you have a firm finish time, you will find it much easier to switch off and recognise how much you’ve achieved, rather than beating yourself up for what you haven’t. If you don’t meet an end point, or if you don’t get your daily tasks done *be kind to yourself* , you know – that thing we always try to be to other people.
You are amazing and capable, but you are also just one person. Be kind to yourself!
Branding is important. It’s what is going to become the recognisable aspect of your business which stays constant across your website, products, logo, social media posts. It takes, on average, 11 points of contact (social media, ads, emails….) for a potential customer to even notice your product. That’s what you’re up against. You need your branding to be clear so that each of these 11 points of contact are recognisable as YOU and all go towards imprinting your business on potential customers.
It’s important to get this right, rebranding can be expensive and hard work as you have to do all the legwork of getting recognised again. If you can afford to have it done professionally, that’s a good start. If not, you could use your networks (see below!) to find someone willing to do a skill swap, or someone who is building their portfolio who may give you a discount in return for a review or share. If you have the skills to do it yourself – great! Canva is a good starting point for design, but it’s worth getting your network – not just friends and family – to give feedback on it before you take it live.
As above, if you can afford to have this done professionally it will save you a lot of time and stress. If you can’t, you can either make your own website with a drag and drop website builder like Wix or Squarespace OR start with social media and build a website once you have some traction and customers!
The Power of Free Marketing!
Social media is an absolutely essential part of your strategy, it’s such a powerful tool to have at your fingertips and the best part… it’s FREE. Social platforms will help you to connect with your audience and if relevant, aid in boosting your sales. Connect and network on Facebook and Linkedin groups; find people in your industry and pin point where your potential customers are hanging out then get involved in the conversations.
Find your perfect social media mix from Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter and even Pinterest. Top tip – don’t try to master them all, you have other things to do and there will be one or two that really work for you.
There is so much that can help your business on social media, and far too much to go in to here, but check out the links and recommendations below to get started. Go and give my Facebook page and group below a follow for useful information on how to get started, gaining followers and insights into the power of social media. There’s lots of tips and tricks and if the idea of understanding algorithms and hashtags causes you #anxiety get in touch, I can help!
Word of Mouth
This is invaluable! Ask for reviews, recommendations, testimonials and display them prominently! This combined with amazing customer service will help your business to snowball. When someone speaks positively about you/your business, it provides others with the security and confidence they need to invest in you.
This word shouldn’t scare you – it’s actually fun once you get to know the people. Networking doesn’t always mean face to face at real life events either, there are plenty of ways to network online too. Facebook groups that are relevant to you or your industry is a great place to start. Get chatting, ask questions, answer questions (knowledge is power after all!) and don’t forget to let your personality shine through. There are also plenty of zoom networking events, check google and eventbrite for starters.
There are loads of different online planners and project management tools to be explored to find one that suits you. If you’re looking for something free and simple to set up, I’d recommend you try Trello, and Monday is very popular if you can afford a small fee.
Don’t forget that Excel can also be a really good tool if you don’t want to pay for a planner or don’t want to learn how to use another online platform.
Utilise Facebook groups! They can be a fountain of knowledge, and you know who wants to support small businesses and start ups? Other small business owners. Here’s a group for small businesses supporting small businesses:
My page for one to one practical coaching:
One to one marketing services and small business webinars:
If you’d like help to get some clarity or strategy just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll make a plan to get things going.