“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” – Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO
Striking out on your own with your brand is challenging but, as Jeff Bezos found, can be extremely rewarding. Though you might not up end up being the richest person in the world, you could create a career for yourself that offers independence, flexibility and lots of enjoyment. Going self-employed, becoming a freelancer or starting a small business is daunting, and success isn’t guaranteed, but quitting your job and pursuing your passion can be extremely fulfilling.
However, before you strike out on your own there are some things that need careful consideration. Approximately only 50% of new businesses will survive 5 years or more, so putting in some groundwork first is vital to help you make sure you are firmly within the successful half. Here are 5 actionable tips that will help you launch your brand THE RIGHT WAY.
Do your market research before you do anything
In order for your brand to be successful, it needs to fulfill a need, solve a problem, or offer something that people actually want.
You need to establish whether there is a market for your brand, whether the market is big enough to make it a success, and whether there are already too many other companies competing for the same customers!
With upto 50% of small businesses failing because there is no market for their product or service, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money if you don’t do some research first.
As you consider your idea, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a genuine need for my product or service?
- Who is my exact target audience?
- Which other companies are offering similar products/services?
- What will make my brand different?
- Is there space in the market for my brand?
Make a business plan
A business plan is the map that will lead you to success: it will guide your brand from the initial startup phase through to sustainable growth.
Research has shown that a sound business plan doubles your chances of success, and you will struggle to secure funding from an investor or financial institution without one.
There are plenty of comprehensive guides available that will help you write your plan, but you can make a start by creating a document that answers these key questions:
- Who is the competition, and how will my product or service differentiate itself in the marketplace? How will I make a splash with my launch and disrupt the industry?
- How will I make a profit? For example, outline projected sales versus expenses. Think about your business overheads
- How will I market my brand?
- What capital or funding do I need to get my business off the ground?
Plan your finances
Starting a small business or becoming self-employed needn’t cost lots of money, but will probably require a small initial investment.
You will need to cover your expenses before you start to actually make money.
Even if the brand you are launching just involves you and a laptop at your kitchen table, such as freelance writing or web design, you still need to cover outgoings such as increased utility bills from spending more time at home.
Create a spreadsheet that estimates any essential startup costs for your business (e.g. equipment, branding, market research, inventory, online store build) as well as what you think you will need to keep your business running for the next year (e.g. rent, bills, salary, advertising, marketing, travel expenses). Look at both one-off costs and recurring expenses, and see if you can spread costs using payment plans.
The figures will vary depending on what type of business you are launching, so you may not require any funding, but if you do, having a financial plan will help you make the decision about which funding method you should use.
Do as much work as possible before quitting your current job
If you already have a job, stick with it for as long as possible before striking out on your own. There are many parts of your new brand that you can develop in your spare time before making the leap into working entirely for yourself.
Researching and planning, as outlined above, can be done whilst you’re still at your current role…
- Nail your branding. From business name to logo and strapline, this should all be decided on and designed before you officially start running your business.
- Develop your web presence. Your website and social media channels should be ready to go on your first day as your own boss. You will have to decide whether you’re going to go DIY or hire in a professional freelancer or agency.
- Plan your marketing strategy. You need to know in advance how you’re going to run advertising campaigns, raise brand awareness, and market your business.
- Get your finances in place. Make sure you have secured the capital or funding necessary to launch your brand before giving up your regular paycheck.
- Set up your business location. Don’t waste precious time securing a retail location or office space after you have given up your job: make sure you can hit the ground running immediately.
Learn about accounts and bookkeeping
One of the most crucial aspects of business success is good accounting, so you must set up a financial bookkeeping system straight away. Keep a careful record of all invoices and payments, and file them properly to avoid any confusion or hassle at a later date. If you aren’t keeping accurate accounting records you won’t know whether you are making a profit or a loss, plus you could end up mismanaging your tax contributions and being fined by the IRS.
It’s also a good idea to find a reputable accountant. Though they cost money at the end of the financial year, what they can save you through their expertise will be well worth the initial outlay. People employ accountants to advise them on tax issues, but can also be excellent troubleshooters and advisors for small businesses and self-employed people. Bad accounting could kill your brand, so don’t underestimate the importance of creating a sound financial system.
Striking out on your own with your brand will take time and determination, but will be worth the effort. As long as you researched, planned and developed your brand as much as possible before making the leap into the exciting world of self-employment, you have a great chance of success, just like Mr Bezos.