Starting Right Business

Starting a business offers the exciting opportunity to pursue your passions while building something that’s uniquely yours. Still, entrepreneurship isn’t something to be taken lightly.

According to a recent survey, more than 500,000 startups are launched in the U.S. each month. Unfortunately, many of those don’t survive to see their five-year anniversaries. Moreover, some startup founders lack the personalities and traits needed to excel at being their own bosses.

If you want to avoid being another statistic, it’s important to assess all the factors that contribute to a business’ success before quitting your day job. Here are some steps to take before deciding if starting a business is right for you.

Consider the Timing

The fact that you have a creative idea and the willingness to work hard doesn’t mean it’s the right time for you to start a business. Before embarking on a career as an entrepreneur, take a moment to assess other factors in your life, such as family concerns, financial issues, and the availability of those team members who will play a vital role in the formation of your company. After all, you don’t want your dream business to fail because your focus is on personal issues, such as taking care of a new baby or an ailing parent. Similarly, you don’t want to waste time waiting around for business partners to do what they promised.

For best results, if you discover that personal factors could prevent you from devoting your full attention to the business, consider delaying your launch for a few months until the timing is right.

Consider Your Finances

Starting a business is expensive, and entrepreneurs need to get their financial ducks in a row before launching their dream companies. Because it’s often months before online businesses become profitable—and even longer for brick-and-mortar establishments—aspiring founders need to take stock of their finances and determine how long they can afford to go without working. To protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s wise to save at least several months’ worth of expenses before quitting your day job. That safety net will help ease your anxiety during the early, stressful days of business ownership and allow you to take the risks that are sometimes necessary to succeed.

Along with a nest egg for living expenses, startup founders need to sock away money for costs associated with their businesses. In addition to production costs, strive to save money for marketing and promoting your company to prospective buyers.

Consider the Market

The success of your business depends in large part on the state of the market you hope to enter. Before launching your startup, take time to study the market and determine if a niche exists for your goods and services. Consider what items your audience is already using and how your invention would fit into the existing market. In some cases, it might be necessary to adjust your product, your audience, or your timeline to ensure the best results.

Consider Your Personality

Not all personality types are equally suited to careers as entrepreneurs. Along with creativity and ambition, startup founders need to possess a natural talent for leadership and the ability to communicate with those around them. After all, you can’t get people excited about your ideas if you don’t have the talent to share them in a way that’s clear and articulate. Additionally, the best entrepreneurs are good collaborators who know how to work in a team environment to accomplish their goals.

Of course, even the most skilled startup founders are unlikely to excel in every way. If you aren’t a good listener, you can boost your odds of succeeding by choosing a second in command who shines in this area. The goal is to choose partners and teammates who complement your skills while supporting your unifying vision.

Consider Your Support Network

The stresses associated with new business ownership can be overwhelming. As a result, it’s important for aspiring entrepreneurs to make sure they have strong support networks in place. Before starting a business, check in with family and friends to discuss your plans and make sure they are going to be there to offer support. In particular, it’s important to make sure your significant other is on the same page. These individuals can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance—and even your sanity—during the early days of business ownership.

The fact is that failure rates are high for startups. However, founders might be able to boost their odds of success by joining forces. According to a recent study, companies with two founders raise 30 percent more investment money and grow their customers bases three times as quickly as those with just one. A partner might be just the support system you need to help your business succeed.

Learn More About Self Publishing

Gone are the days when self-publishing was viewed as a route for those who couldn’t hack it in the mainstream. On the contrary, even highly successful authors are choosing to self-publish their new titles today. Moreover, small indie presses are gaining steam on the industry big boys. According to a recent article, just a quarter of Amazon e-book sales come from titles published by the five largest publishing companies, while indie presses account for 45 percent of sales. The market has spoken, and authors are listening.

Still, self-publishing is not without its challenges. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing over more traditional routes of getting the word out is crucial if you hope to make the best possible decision for your financial future.

Faster Exposure

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that your book gets to market faster than it would via traditional methods. The internet means you could (theoretically) complete a book today and publish it online tomorrow. And while we don’t recommend this tactic—even the most talented authors need time to edit and proofread their works—the speed of self-publishing can translate to faster exposure and cash in your bank account. On the other hand, publishing a book through one of the big houses takes six to 18 months at minimum.

Greater Creative Control

One of the best reasons to self-publish is that it offers you greater creative control over the book’s content and appearance. When you publish through one of the larger houses, you need to meet the requirements of multiple parties, including editors, marketers, and designers. On the other hand, self-publishing affords you the opportunity to craft and control your content every step of the way. Not only can you make decisions regarding the text and cover art, but you can also opt to publish your material in whatever format you desire, from booklets to workbooks and even multi-book series.

Better Royalties

Traditionally, publishing houses pay authors royalties on the books they sell. For example, you might receive 10 percent to 15 percent of the list price of each book sold, while the rest of the profits go to the publisher. On the other hand, when you self-publish with Amazon, you receive up to 70 percent of the list price. Additionally, self-publishing through Amazon or another site enables you to retain the rights for adaptations like films, TV shows, and even comic books.

Longer “Shelf Life”

One of the biggest benefits of self-publishing over traditional publishing is that it gives your book a longer period in which to find its audience. When you publish through Random House or another large company, your title will likely only have a shelf life of one to two months in the bookstore, as these shops are constantly moving out old inventory in favor of newly published works. On the other hand, digital books remain on Amazon’s virtual shelves indefinitely. Because potential readers can find your work with the click of a button, you have more time to build up a following—and a lucrative writing career. This ability is especially crucial for newer writers who haven’t yet found their

Less Editorial Support

Of course, self-publishing is not without its downsides. One of the main drawbacks of publishing on your own is not having the benefit of an editorial team at your back. In the traditional publishing world, authors work with editors and proofreaders to smooth out story issues and ensure the final product is free of typos and other mistakes. If you’re planning to publish a novel or nonfiction book on your own, it’s important to arrange for a trusted party to copyedit your book. Additionally, you will likely want to hire a designer to create appealing cover art. The goal is to make your e-book appear just as professional and error free as a title coming from one of the big publishing houses.

Less Marketing Support

Just as self-published writers are on their own when it comes to editing, they have to take the reigns for marketing and distributing their products. Not only do publishers boast their own platforms from which to launch your titles, but they also have the money and resources to set up bookstores and arrange for media coverage. Additionally, publishing companies can arrange for their authors to secure third-party testimonials and reviews. These endorsements are crucial for marketing your book to your target audience.

If your goal is to self publish, you will need to seek out your own testimonials by sending copies of your e-book to authors and reviewers. Before launching your title, strive to make contacts with other writers in your field. You can also send free copies to interested readers in exchange for unbiased reviews. By putting some time and money into marketing your book at the start, you boost the odds of earning more revenue down the line.

Less Acclaim

It’s no secret that self-publishing has a bad rap in certain circles. While the self-publishing stigma certainly means less today than it once did, certain readers will still refuse to publish works that didn’t originate with Penguin or one of the other bigwigs. If you’re determined to capture the widest possible readership, self-publishing might not be for you.

Some Problems Freelancers Face

Gone are the days when you had to work a 9 to 5 to earn a good living. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that 15.5 million U.S. workers were self-employed in May of 2015. And while operating your own business offers numerous advantages, such as the opportunity to skip the commute and pursue your passion, the freelance lifestyle is not without its challenges.

As a freelancer, you are often at the mercy of your clients. From paying the bills late to making you mental with last-second requests, the companies that hire you can make or break your business and affect your overall satisfaction with the freelance lifestyle.

Here are the top 6 freelancer pet peeves as well as tips for overcoming them:

1. Vague Requests

Ambiguous assignments don’t just waste freelancers’ time; they also cost clients more money in the long run. Most of us have encountered clients who don’t reveal what they want from a project. In some cases, clients aren’t sure of their needs and goals and hope you can identify them. Other times, clients want to avoid offending you by being too direct in their instructions. Whether you’re writing blogs or designing logos, lacking specifics about the client’s needs and goals can be a significant hindrance.

As a freelancer, you can save time and trouble by insisting that clients clarify their expectations before work begins. When in doubt, draft a contract that explains what you will do and limits the number of revisions you will perform. Otherwise, you could wind up redoing the project completely on your own dime.

2. Micromanaging Clients

As a freelancer, you probably want your client to know what he or she is seeking before hiring you. However, that doesn’t mean you need the person who hires you looking over your shoulder until the task is complete. Clients who micromanage assignments can leave freelancers feeling stressed and frustrated and prevent them from doing their best work. In some cases, you might feel compelled to complete an assignment to the client’s exact specifications rather than exploring other solutions that might provide superior results. To minimize this issue, strive to set limits with a client from day one. If you get in the habit of answering emails or responding to texts at midnight, it will be hard to discontinue this behavior down the line.

3. Unreliable Clients

The downside of having a flexible work schedule is enduring an uncertain workload. Just because August saw you flush with cash doesn’t mean September’s revenue will be equally strong. As a freelancer, it can be incredibly frustrating to work with unreliable clients who promise you regular work yet don’t deliver. Similarly, it can be tough to plan out your schedule if customers are continuously giving you assignments later than promised.

As a freelancer, you can strive to set clear expectations with clients upfront. While you can’t compel clients to deliver the amount of work they promised—or to do so on schedule—you can and should consider charging extra for rush jobs. It’s also wise to work with a diverse array of clients, so you aren’t left penniless if one drops off the face of the Earth!

4. Poor Communication

If your client can’t or won’t communicate with you, you’re likely in for a rocky road. This issue is especially common among companies that aren’t used to working with freelancers. Often, these businesses forget that you aren’t present in the office for important meetings and conversations and might not bother to loop you in on developments. For best results, set expectations upfront for the amount and type of feedback you require and stick to them.

5. Low Payment

Businesses often assume that they can save money by low-balling freelancers for their services. Not only does this practice serve to frustrate freelancers, but it also tends to result in companies receiving inferior products. When it comes to freelance, it really is true that you get what you pay for!

As a freelancer, you are – and should be – proud of your products and services. When companies try to pay you less than you’re worth, it’s only natural that you’d feel frustrated. Although some businesses will always look for the cheapest option, you can minimize the frustration you feel by posting your rates clearly on your website and only responding to job ads that fall within your accepted salary range.

6. Late Payment

Just as it’s frustrating to be offered less than you’re worth for products and services, it’s upsetting to encounter a client who pays late… or doesn’t pay at all. In some cases, clients pay late due to simple disorganization. However, other clients neglect to pay because they lack the financial resources to do so. Still others hope you’ll get tired of asking for your money and go away.

Know More About Branding Strategies

Finding the right idea to start a small business is the first step in your startup efforts. The challenging part is building a brand around the idea that people will remember. Your great idea enters into a competition with other peoples’ great ideas to gain the eyes of the consumer. How can you build your brand in ways that will keep you in the minds of your consumers?

Start With a Good Logo

A logo helps distinguish your business from all the others out there that sell similar products and services. The pictorial nature of a logo – even if it’s just words printed in a stylized way – helps customers remember you and helps them think of your company as an established, reputable small business. Your logo should look professional, and optionally, include an image that’s in some way associated with your industry. Unless you are an artist or are very proficient in graphic arts, it’s best to have your logo professionally designed for you. There are many sites online that provide that service at reasonable prices.

Once you have a logo, be sure to include it on everything associated with your business. It should be on your website, social media pages, business card, letterhead, envelopes, fliers, giveaways and print advertising. Try to think of the colors in your logo as your brand colors, too, and use those colors whereever appropriate (such as your website.)

Create a Catch Slogan or Tagline

Slogans (also called taglines) are very short phrases that express what your business is about and – more importantly – a beneficial result your customers derive from the business or product. When you create a slogan, it helps distinguish your business from others and make it more memorable. M & M’s slogan, “Melts in your mouth, not your hand,” is one example. Another: Bounty’s tagline, “The quicker picker upper.” Use the slogan where ever you use your logo, and consider having a version of your logo created that includes the slogan.

Get Ready to Hustle

Brand awareness is simply marketing and although social media and other forms of digital marketing have added new options, nothing has changed. The people who hustle the most will find the most success. Don’t look to technology to be your hustler. It’s all up to you. Online marketing is only one channel among all of your networking and offline strategy. Door to door and cold calling aren’t dead.

As entrepreneur Mark Cuban says, “Work like there is somebody working 24 hours a day to take it all away from you.”

Get Others in on the Hustle

You don’t have to be the only one that hustles. You need some super fans hustling for you. In modern advertising speak these are, “brand advocates.” Maybe they had such an awesome experience that they talk about it online to their large social following. Leverage those people. Offer free product or a referral fee for anybody they send to you.

Find More Hustlers

Do you know how Uber rose to power? The company looked for the big name social media influencers and offered free rides. You might not have the marketing power to invite Kendall Jenner or some other giant name in the social media landscape but local and regional bloggers with a huge following will work too.

Infographics

You’ve seen infographics—those illustrations filled with facts and other valuable information. If your business is in the consulting sector or some other professional or semi-professional niche, leverage your status as an expert and create a shareable infographic full of facts and figures that your potential customer would want to know. Don’t skimp on this, though. Make it really good. Hire an expert to design it.

Design a Tool

Have you ever taken one of those online quizzes? They’re fun, engaging, and immensely shareable. But they don’t have to be, “who is your ideal mate” type quizzes. They could be something that the customer finds value in relating to your business. If you’re in the roofing business, it could be a quiz to rate how much life is left on their roof, for example. You’ll likely need a programmer to help with this but that isn’t as expensive as you might think.

Sponsor a Community Event

Many small businesses have put their logo in a high school program, on a local 5k, or some other valuable community event. The problem is that your logo isn’t enough. Don’t just sponsor the event, show up! Bring water if it’s an athletic event. Run an all-day contest of some sort, and most important, meet people. Create relationships.

Social Media Ads

If you want to get your business in front of the eyes of potential customers, you have to advertise. If you have no budget for paid advertising, the chances of gaining traction are slim. Even $50 per month for social media advertising is better than nothing.

Team Up

Other businesses in and out of your space are trying to keep their brand in front of their customers too. Explore strategic ways to partner up. A website building company could partner with a video producer to create content for each other or a plumber and electrician could advertise together as a complete solution for somebody doing home upgrades. Splitting the cost of advertising is a cheap way to get your brand to many more people than you could on your own.

E-mail Advertising

A recent report published on Adweek found that 49% of people still prefer brands to contact them through e-mail. You can use social media, text messaging, or phone calls but all of those combined were only 22% of people’s first choice. Look at Mailchimp or one of the other e-mail marketing platforms to get started.

Old School Mail

You probably think sending people old fashioned mail is dead but you would be wrong. That same survey found that 22% of people still respond to direct mail campaigns—especially if they’re 35 or older. Many of the strategies we listed above could be made into a direct mail campaign.

Be Responsive

Sadly, we live in a world where outstanding customer service is becoming an exception rather than a norm. Your brand will stay top-of-mind to your customers if they look forward to dealing with you. Chic Fil A has made a name for itself not just with great food but with equally great customer service.

When somebody writes to you on social media, respond right away. Same with e-mail. If they call, call them back. If they’re unhappy, make it right—even if they’re not entirely right. Give away free product from time to time, and be a part of the community. Simply, establish your brand as a company that absolutely loves people.

Best Tips for Aspiring Female Entrepreneurs

In addition to all of the typical concerns and struggles that a business owner might have to contend with, female entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges when it comes to launching a successful startup. Though it may not be easy for women to make it in the competitive business world, it is not impossible. With a little planning, the right mindset, and a positive support system, women can overcome the difficulties of entrepreneurship and build a thriving business.

Here are just a few tips for aspiring female entrepreneurs who are ready to bring their ideas to life and build a successful company:

1. Build your professional network.

Building a professional network is an important part of becoming a successful entrepreneur as it opens up new opportunities for your business and allows you to gain important insight from those in your industry, other female professionals, and entrepreneurs who are thriving. Becoming an effective networker is a learned skill and requires quite a bit of practice. When building your professional network, utilize all of the opportunities you have to meet other professionals. There are many ways that you can build your network, including attending networking events, joining community organizations, participating at important industry conferences and tradeshows. Female entrepreneurs should also use social networks like LinkedIn to reach out to other female entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

2. Find a mentor in your community.

While building your professional network, you want to surround yourself with people who support you in your mission to pursue your passions. Finding a mentor is an important part of this process. Your mentor has been in your situation before and knows what it takes to persevere and succeed in the business world. A quality mentor can help you navigate issues both big and small by offering advice and being there for you when you need it most. You can gain knowledge from their advice and experience by learning from their mistakes and successes. No matter what issues you face in business or what personal questions you may have about entrepreneurship, a mentor can help guide you and support you in achieving your goals as a female entrepreneur.

3. Take advantage of the wealth of funding opportunities.

The financial technology industry, or fintech, has opened up a variety of opportunities for entrepreneurs who want to make their business dreams a reality. The advancements in lending as a result of fintech have provided more funding options than ever for women business owners. In addition to special business loan opportunities just for women, female entrepreneurs are now able to apply for a business line of credit easily and quickly through a convenient online application process that provides a decision in a matter of moments. With lending options like this, women business owners have access to the funds they need when they need them most, allowing them to pursue business opportunities and grow their company.

4. Work on developing successful time management skills.

Time management is essential for success in nearly every professional endeavor, but it can make or break an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs, especially those just getting started, are faced with a long to-do list that they need to complete with limited time and resources. Before you launch your startup, work on practicing effective time management skills and learning new tips and tricks for managing your time. Make use of apps and other software that can help you better streamline processes and make the most of your limited time and resources. Aspiring female entrepreneurs also need to learn how to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities. Female entrepreneur, Kwany Lui, co-founder of Bundle Organics, offers this advice: “You have to evaluate what activities are really going to make an impact on your business and focus your time accordingly.”

5. Go to events in your industry.

Going to events in your industry is a great way to expand your professional network, and it gives you the opportunity to speak with individuals who are using or may be interested in your product or service. Connecting with others at an industry event allows you to gain important insight about how to improve your products or services as well as the chance to see the latest and greatest advancements in your industry. As a female entrepreneur, you can see how others are overcoming challenges and solving problems in your industry while also exposing new leads to your product or service and meeting others who are making big moves within your industry. Even if you have not yet launched your business, attending industry events can help you better understand what is in store for you and your company.

6. Know when to ask for help, and seek assistance when you need it.

Many female entrepreneurs are determined to prove themselves, which can be a great motivator for success. However, starting your own business is hard work, and the most successful entrepreneurs know when to ask for help. Asking for assistance when you need it is a sign of good judgement and awareness, not a sign of weakness. Female entrepreneurs need to be strategic and understand when and how to ask for help when they need it. This is where having a mentor and large professional network can come in handy. Not only can a mentor and your colleagues offer advice when you are facing difficulties, but these business professionals may also be able to provide help when you are experiencing challenges that require assistance.