With almost 50% of the UK workforce now setting up their own businesses and/or working for themselves and doing freelance work, it's important to be prepared. Plan ahead and get the best start possible. As the saying goes "fail to plan, plan to fail ". Even if you're already trading the following 5 essentials can be implemented to improve your efficiency and success in business.
1. What’s in a business plan?
There's a misconception for many that a business plan is only needed if you're trying to get a loan from a bank to start your business. A business plan is essential whether you're aiming to secure business funding or not. A business plan doesn't need to be scores of pages and complicated explanations. A couple of pages of good thought out plans are fine. The most important aspect is having a written account of the process you’re going to action to generate income and grow your business. Going ahead blindly without a plan may work for a while, if you’re lucky (but why risk it?), but having clear thought out stages to implement and record progress gives you an advantage over those who don’t plan. Everyone goes into business wanting to succeed. Don’t give yourself avoidable problems.
Whether your business plan is several pages or only two, you need:
• What product(s) / service(s) are you selling and how much are you charging?
• Define your brand – Who is your ideal customer / client? What problem are you solving for them?
• Market research – Who are your competitors and how are you different?
• Marketing strategy – How are you going to market and publicise your business? Include online and offline marketing and advertising (read on for more information on this!)
• Timeline – What date are you planning to start trading? What actions are going to be taken and when? Some things have to be actioned pre-launch and some will be ongoing throughout your first year in business and beyond. Be specific. Good planning now will save you time, money and future stress.
Go to The Prince’s Trust website here to find out how to write a business plan.
2. Getting to grips with cash flow and sales forecasts
Some business plans include a financial forecast and some don't. Spending some time to plan and predict your business income and expenditure really helps with cash flow and gaps in sales / income. Write down all the costs needed to start your business and the ongoing expenses and purchases. Set out a spreadsheet (or hire an accountant) with your essential business costs (outgoings) and predicted sales (income) month by month. How many sales do you need to make to break even and cover your costs? Now revisit your marketing strategy.
Read Startups.co.uk article on the 6 golden rules of accurate cashflow here.
3. Building your website
There are many ways to market your business. Having your own branded website really is essential to bring potential customers/clients to your business. A good company website is a permanent advert for your business 24/7. Your site should tell visitors what you do and how you can help them, in clear concise words, and how to contact you. In addition you can include client testimonials, and a link to your company blog, which are all great ways of marketing your business digitally.
All you need to know about building a website here from The Guardian.
4. Get social media savvy
Another essential essence of digital marketing is using social media to share your brand and business services with the wider world. Be aware though that not all social media channels will work for your business. You may not need to be using every existing channel. Facebook and Twitter are the main two, but consider which of Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Snapchat, Vine, et al are useful for marketing your particular product / service. Decide which social media channels are best suited to your business and clients and use them to increase brand awareness, engage with customers and boost sales.
Read the beginners guide to social media from Moz.
5. A landline phone number and/or a telephone answering service
Outsourcing is great for new small businesses, enabling you more time to focus on developing your business and generating sales leads. Many businesses hire freelancers or other small businesses to manage their websites, social media and/or answer phone calls, to enable consistent good and reliable customer service. You may be running your business from a mobile phone or personal household landline (with all the unreliability that brings). If you’re a small business with only a few employees can you realistically handle every potential client enquiry personally? At this early stage in growing your business can you afford to miss a call or for a potential customer to wait in a queue, with the possibility they’ll hang up?
Read how FFB’s telephone answering service can help your new business.
Call answering for entrepreneurs and start-ups
Here at Face for Business we can provide a call answering service that is personal to you. Our PAs answer your calls on your behalf in your company name and act as your company, ensuring reliable and consistent customer service to your customers. We can also provide UK landline phone numbers, making your business appear more professional in the early stages when it’s just you, your mobile phone and home office, and helping when your business is growing to keep you from missing any calls.
In conclusion, taking the plunge into entrepreneurialism is a bold and brave move, but with the internet you have advice at your fingertips, and there are numerous organisations you can tap into for help and advice. FFB interviewed a couple of Spark Up Liverpool’s Business Enablers to find out how their programme helps people wanting to start their own business, and you can read it here.
FFB is also co-hosting a FREE event in North Wales on 29th September, at which they will be presenting on outsourcing your telephone calls to a call handling service. Click here for more details about the event.
Good luck in your quest to become the UK’s next successful entrepreneur!
Words - Katie Harris