Setting up a business that turns your hobby into cash, requires keeping things as simple as you possibly can. Keeping things simple is what will cut down on the bright shiny object syndrome that causes overwhelm and in most cases, save you a lot of money in the long run.
So, here are a few lessons to get you started on setting up a business in turning your passion into profits.
1. Discover Your Ideal Client
You can’t be all things to all people, so be a specialist at what you do. That’s the only way you’ll consistently attract clients to your small business. If I wanted to lose weight fast, I’d go to the person I think is an expert at getting me there — and I’m prepared to pay more money for the results that I want FAST. Your ideal client will do the same, when considering your service or product
What you want to do isn’t going to appeal to everyone. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing! If you try to create a product or service that everyone likes, you’ll be spreading your efforts too thin, creating something a bit bland and probably won’t end up making much of an impact with anyone.
You need to have an insight into what makes this person tick. What will make him / her trust you? What’s his / her biggest fears or frustration? What does she find challenging or need right now? How will your product or service change his / her circumstance? …pitch everything you do directly at these people.
You don’t have the marketing resources of Coca Cola. What you want as a small business is to be niche – niche enough so that the clearly defined group of people who you want to love your stuff, REALLY love your stuff. And buy it. And tell all their friends about it.
Check out this Customer Profile Template. It gives you all the steps to define your ideal customer as well as how you can start using it in your business immediately.
2. Validate your business idea
You have an idea of who could possibly want your service, and you already have a fair idea of what you want to offer in your business. Rather than spending time and money fine-tuning services and product offers that people may not want, start first by getting clear on what this ideal customer COULD pay you money for.Validate your basic business idea
I recommend the book: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries which talks about how to apply the principles of lean manufacturing to business.
The gist of it is this, rather than wasting time and money developing something that nobody wants, put out a beta / skeleton version of it, get customer feedback, and learn from that to improve your product or service.
For example: If you want to sell your handmade jewellery, start first with selling a limited offering to see what sells. Monitor the feedback you get, listen to what people say they want, rather than what you think they should have
Or if you want to open a makeup training school, how about starting by running a time-limited pop-up or monthly events at an existing venue first? You’ll learn so much from putting your stuff out there into the world. Testing the waters like this will allow you to tweak your idea before you’ve invested too much into it.
3. Get Clear on your Customer Offers
So now you’ve validated your business, you have an idea of what could sell… it’s time to flesh it out and define your collection or service offers. You ideal customers will keep giving you ideas on new services and offers as long as you keep validating those ideas….
But here’s what can’t happen:
You can’t be Gemma’s fitness solutions and Gem’s Mobile hairdressing salon at the same time for the same customer. You’re not good at everything – (no matter if you love doing these two things) and that’s okay. I would rather pay a premium for a kick ass personal trainer with ass cheeks that can crack a walnut, than get cheap sessions from my part time hairdresser / fitness trainer.
Focus on what worked during your validation process and kick it up a notch.
4. Choose Your Brand Name + Business Entity
Your business will change over time, so you need to have a brand name that will grow with you. Choose the simplest business entity that will allow you to get started rather than having to become an expert in tax law from the start.
Here’s a quick template to help you with naming your business
5. Establish Your Brand Identity
You’ll have a very tight budget, so spending thousands from the start may not be your chosen path. This shouldn’t stop you though..there are so many affordable options out there.
Places like Creative Market and Themeforest offer brand identities and brand packs that can get you up and running as quickly as possible. Remember, they are not going to be your absolute dream brand but they should be enough to get you out the door to start working with clients and customers
6. Get Your Website + Blog Done…
To leverage the internet, you will need a home on the internet. You will need more than just a website, you’ll something that establishes you as an expert and allows people engage with your brand
7. Define Your Content Offering
What?!…. I have to offer content?
The only way people will interact with you and your products, is via the content you produce. You need to get clear on what content you want to commit to.
Yes, it can get a bit tedious – especially if you don’t know what will get traction or not. But it doesn’t need to be so. You just need to have a clear idea of what you want to solve. The top content on the net that are currently doing the job and the decide how you can add even more value on that
8. Create A Portfolio That Speaks
The temptation you’ll have, is to put a lot of your work on your website. This does not work.
Be very picky about what makes the cut. Does it fit in the overall story of your portfolio? Just because you love taking photos of horses, doesn’t mean they must be in your wedding photography portfolio. The brides coming to your wedding photography website are coming to see how you do weddings…give them what they want.
Your portfolio should be a fine balance between what you can do, and what your ideal customer yearns for (there is a difference).
It’s also not about quantity but quality. Very few people will be willing to scroll through tons of images in your portfolio… pick the best 15 – 20 and switch them out when you get new work that you think deserves to be part of the portfolio. The other images go on your blog
9. Cost Everything And Price Accordingly
Are you going to charge and hourly or flat rate? Do you know what it costs to run your business?
You need to know what it’s going to cost you to run this business. Doesn’t matter if you’re offering a product or service. There is a cost to everything.
If you’re a photographer, your costs don’t only include your camera and flash cards as well as the obvious things like costs of albums and prints. The time it takes to photograph the images as well the time it takes to edit them is a cost.
How about insurance and transport? You’ll still have to pay for these whether you’ve got clients or not. These must be factored into your costs and pricing.
Get out your spreadsheets – creating a detailed, honest, realistic budget is reeeeally important. If you want your project to be a real, sustainable business not just stay a hobby on the side of your day job forever (hello impending burnout), then before you set the pricing you really need to work out the cost of producing your product or running your service.
What it will cost you when you’re running the business the way you would like it to be in the future – when you’ve outgrown the kitchen table, have created staff positions, are using professional services and producing and selling on the scale you would like.
Research or make an educated guess as to how much it’ll cost in terms of supplies, manufacturing, rent, overheads, insurance, packaging, staff salaries, depreciation of equipment (at some point you’ll need a new laptop or new equipment), accountants’ fees, stationery, software subscriptions, internet connection, website hosting… etc.
Assuming you’re not independently wealthy – don’t forget to pay yourself! Seriously, you need to pay yourself. Even if it’s just $50. Start somewhere and make it a habit.
Once you’ve got the actual costs, you’ll need to add some kind of profit margin to your price if you want to keep the business going and growing.
Julie Harris has a brilliant article on how to charge what you’re worth. It’s well worth checking out.
Also, Consider the app: My Price App to get you started in pricing your services.
10 Decide On How You’ll Get Paid
If you’re going to leverage the internet, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got your payment systems in place.
Here are invoicing systems with credit card payment built in:
Merchant accounts for your online store:
11. Define your Systems + Processes
What does your customer journey look like? How do people find you and what needs to happen before you get paid?
You need to get clear on these steps, as they define what you need to offer to move your leads through your business and create loyal customers.
Always ask yourself this: What happens next?
1. Client gets in touch via email / contact form on your website
2. Send email with calendar details to set up free consult to determine if you are a match
3. Have free consult and close the sale if you are a match
4. Send email recap of conversation with invoice to book the job / program
5. what happens next?….
Keep going until you reach the end of the journey you customer takes in your business. This also works for a product based business.
You need to go through this process to establish the weak links in your business. It will also identify where you can add incentives to move them through the process faster.
12. Develop supporting documents
Now you’ve got your customer journey outlined. What supporting documents do you need for each step? contracts, emails templates etc.
I love the simplicity of hellosign for getting contract and documents out to clients
13. Start Your Promotion
When it comes to getting results fast online, you must accept that you will have to pay some money to get immediate results.
Facebook Ads, Promoted Pins, Twitter, Bing. There are so many options out there.They will get you immediate traffic.
Create a promotion plan to launch your business, while you work on organically growing your traffic for the long term
14. Start An Email List
This is going to be one of the most important assets in your business. It is what will allow you leverage your promotion dollars because you don’t have to pay more than once to talk to the people on your mailing.
If you’re going to spend money to get traffic to your site, make sure you’re getting something tangible. Traffic is great, but email signups are even better.
Studies show that 90% of people that visit your website, will never return. Give yourself a fighting chance of building a relationship with these potential customers by getting them on your mailing list.
Build optimised landing pages to capture prospect details with thrive
I also use Ninja Popups as wells the magic action box over here at minted creative
15. Develop your content plan and have great conversations
Every conversation you have in your business should add value in some way to your clients’ lives. Before clients invest in themselves through you, they have to know you, like you and then trust you enough to help them solve their problem.
The conversations you have via your websites, social media and networking, are what help you start building trust. Spend time getting to know the people you want to serve, and they will reward you with their trust.
Here’s a quick way to immediately start creating content that gets shared and starts conversations.
16. Learn to say No
When you’re starting out, there’s going to be a lot of desperation. You going to want to say YES to everyone because you want the money….
You don’t want every business that comes you way. If you do, you attract douche bags that test your boundaries and make you regret going into business.
Ground yourself in the knowledge of who your ideal clients are. Focus on attracting those that meet your standards and criteria, and then pass on the rest.
Harsh? Yes. But there’s nothing worse than working with clients that make your heart sink every time you get an email or phone call from them.
17. Master Your Mind Game
You are your first client each day. Learn to give yourself what you need to get going. Take care of yourself and give yourself the best of you. Avoid letting your business run you, pay yourself first. You’ll get to the others soon enough.
You can’t control everything. Sometimes, you just need blind faith mingled with moxie to get there. When you’ve done all you can do, it’s time to let go and believe that it’ll come together – that’s just the law of life.