The internet has helped to spawn a whole new generation of entrepreneurs. Some of these are hugely successful, others scrape by and just make a living. For many of us, the term entrepreneur evokes an image of a successful business person, who perhaps lives in a large house near the beach and drives a sporty red car. The reality is that it’s not easy to become that person, and few people who hang the moniker of entrepreneur on themselves are in that position.
So how do you become a success?
There’s no recipe for it, or we would all be rich and retired. But with hard work and determination, anyone can free themselves from the shackles of gainful employment. This is especially true now. Technology has enabled us to work anywhere in the world, whilst collaborating with partners who may be located on the other side of it.
#1: Make the Decision
Before you can embark on anything with any level of success, you have to make a conscious decision about your future. Consider how you’ll live when your business is in its early stages – many entrepreneurs make the jump as they have a partner who is willing to support them. This is vital. Owning a business is very stressful and will put a lot of strain on your relationship.
Talk through why you’re unhappy with your current role and what changes you want to make. Sit down and take a good long, hard look at your finances and decide how much you need to live. If you’re not in a relationship, then you don’t need to consider anyone else, but you will still need to live.
Making the decision that you’re going to change your life, and understanding how you can do it on a practical level, will get you off to a good start.
#2: Do Your Research
Many entrepreneurs start out with a clear plan of what they want their business to be. This is subject to change though and it’s often the case that it does and you end up with a completely different business. When I founded markITwrite, all I really knew was that I wanted to write, and to facilitate the employment of other writers in my local area. I also knew that Google changes were imminent which would mean that poor writing and content mills were on the way out for the web.
Whatever business you enter then, it’s essential that you do your research into your chosen industry and make sure that there’s a market for it. Going into it blind, with a half-baked plan, is a sure-fire path to failure.
You don’t have to follow your dreams or your passions, but it certainly helps as often, you have much more knowledge than even you know on the subjects surrounding them. Think beyond these too though – consider what your business will give back to the larger community. Think about your mission statement and what you want that to be – is it all about the profits?
“Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.”
As I said earlier, I wanted to give back to the community in a way that was important to me and the many talented writers that couldn’t find a way to break into the industry. I live in an area of the UK where little exists in the way of opportunity and writing jobs come along about once every five years. The local university does a Masters in Professional Writing as well as a BA in English with Creative Writing. So I could hire writers directly from these courses, teach them the markITwrite way and we’d all be happy.
It’s much more rewarding doing something that will give not only to you, but to those around you – think about how you can achieve this.
#3: Write a Business Plan
Every entrepreneur will tell you that you need meticulous planning in place if you’re to be successful. A business plan not only helps you to hone your idea, but it helps you to further understand the market that you’re entering into and to plan out finances more effectively.
At some point it’s likely that you’ll need a business plan anyway if you want to get any investment. That applies to bank loans, or investment from individuals or P2P lending companies.
#4: Source Your Technology
There are a huge amount of tools that can help you to grow your business. Check out this article on technologies for entrepreneurs that I wrote previously for detailed information.
The cloud means that you can have an IT infrastructure at the fraction of the cost that you might have paid ten years ago and should be utilised.
Where possible, you can and should also make use of data analytics. Every business, regardless of size and type, generates a large amount of data these days. It comes from social media, email, payment transactions and much more. Those businesses that gather and analyse that data are better equipped to make more informed decisions faster. Research has found that those that do work with data perform better across the board – including financially – than those that don’t.
You should consider learning a little code too. It’s likely that you will have a website, so if you understand the basics of HTML, CSS and UX, then you’ll be in a better position to speak with developers and understand what they’re telling you.
#5: Prepare for Launch
Before launch, first make sure that you’ve done all of your homework, that your figures are realistic and that your product or service is a good fit for your target market. Once you’ve done this, you can then go on to borrow some techniques from growth hacking to create a buzz around the business before launch. This means getting busy on social media – where you should already have set up accounts – and creating a great landing page that encourages users to sign up to the service or newsletter.
This doesn’t mean just populating your own social channels, you should also be looking for similar industry accounts and engaging with them, leaving comments on blogs, getting involved with discussion groups in LinkedIn etc. Get yourself and your business out there and talk about it as much as possible.
If you can get enough momentum going before launch, then your job will be much easier going forward.
#6: The Big Day
Lots of people that have ever launched a website will tell you that it’s a total anti-climax come the day. You’ve spent all that time cultivating followers, they’ve promised faithfully that they’ll get involved at launch time and then come the day – nothing.
Don’t be disheartened, this is completely normal for most sites. Unless you have a huge budget to play with and can spend a fortune on AdWords and other PPC, it’s unlikely that you’ll see 1000s of people hit your site in the first few weeks.
So get working! Start to populate your blog with content and get that out there on your social media platforms and encourage sharing.
Consider what you’re offering your followers:
- Is your blog offering solid advice and giving value to readers?
- Are there any special offers set up to encourage sharing? Most of the time, people won’t share products or brand messages so consider what you can give them to ensure that they do.
#7: Rinse and Repeat
Once your site has been going a couple of months, take stock and evaluate how well it’s going. You should use Analytics to help you to understand how people are using your site, where they are located, what devices they use, what content they engage with and so on.
You should also start to look at carrying out some A/B tests. These test elements on a landing page such as buttons, headlines, images, etc. and allow you to tweak your site so that visitors take the desired action such as signing up for the service/newsletter or even buying a product. You should only test one element at a time (two at a push) and you should allow at least a month for the test to run. Common mistakes with A/B testing are testing too many elements at a time, and only running the test until you see favourable results.
This ends up delivering the wrong result and you don’t see any improvements in your conversions.
It’s not easy becoming an entrepreneur and you should be prepared for lots of stress, a serious lack of funds, and to work a lot of hours. As an entrepreneur, you will need a lot of skills to draw upon as well as the ability to understand when it’s time to delegate.
As a boss, you should treat staff how you would want to be treated and you shouldn’t ask your staff to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself. Giving back means that being an entrepreneur is not a power trip, but a means of creating a business that doesn’t just impact you positively, but those around you as well. With this in mind, treat staff well and give them the tools they need to do their job properly. I’ve been in business one way or another for many years and it’s always puzzled me when it comes to the way some people treat employees. If you want to get the most from people, to inspire them to feel passionate about your business, then you treat them well and pay them as much as the business can afford in the growth stage.
This will come back to you when you have a thriving business, peopled by staff who believe in it.
It’s easy to be an entrepreneur. Let’s face it, anyone can call themselves one. But it’s not easy to become a successful entrepreneur. You need the tools, planning and ideally, the finances. However, I started my business without a penny in funding and it has grown into one that now employs others. In the first instance, I was lucky enough to have a husband who had a good job to get me through the first year (always the hardest).
He joined the business after the first year though, and we now have a company that’s growing fast and flourishing and I’ve achieved what I wanted – to employ other writers.
There’s no reason why with a lot of hard work and determination, you can’t achieve your dreams and see your business grow from that tiny acorn of an idea, into a prosperous business with a great reputation not only for its products or services, but for its mission and ethical approach too – the latter of which is becoming increasingly important to the modern consumer.