Starting Out in Business

I like to think that I am pretty switched on. I am quite IT literate, possess a modicum of common sense, and an enthusiasm and capacity for learning. I also have what I call a work ethic which I attribute to the way I was brought up. What's a work ethic? To me it is doing your job to the best of your abilities, going the extra mile and treating your employer's business as if it were your own.

Due to circumstances beyond my control I found myself working one day a week less. Unfortunately my mortgage requires five days of working income not four. Not being one to sit around I decided to do something about it. What skills do I have, who do I know, how can I put the two things together to generate an income? HLS Business Solutions was born.

Now having nothing in the way of budget wasn't going to stop me starting a business. I just had to be savvy about how I went about it. There is a wealth of free information and guidance out there if you can be bothered to look for it.

I attended Business Link training courses on marketing, financial forecasting, writing a business plan, and bookkeeping. I went on the Business Link open day to see what services were available to me. I scoured the internet for forums, websites and anything that would help me in my quest.

I also decided to do something about getting my bookkeeping qualification to prove I can do what I have been doing for years.

So what did I learn from this process? Lots is the short answer. So many different things that have shaped the way my business has grown. Did I make mistakes. Of course I did, it is a learning curve after all, but the important thing is that I learned from my mistakes as well.

What did I learn? Well I can now write a really good cashflow, I have bullet points explaining what I can offer on the back of my business cards, I undercharged my time in the beginning - being the cheapest is not always the answer, instead show why you are worth your hourly rate.

I learned that there are plenty of people out there willing to take your money from you, but that you should do more research before you buy. What they are offering may not be the answer you need.

I learned that no one has a get rich quick scheme, don't be tempted by false promises. If it sounds too good to be true then it is.

I learned that there are some fantastic people out there on the internet who are genuinely interested in helping you move your business forward, asking nothing in return, and they have proved invaluable to me this last couple of months as I have taken my business from one day a week, to two days a week and now to full time.

I learned to do my research. I used Survey Monkey for my business plan research survey, I kept it anonymous so people answering didn't feel I was selling them anything, and I sent it to people in my target market so that the responses I received were relevant to my business.

I have also learned that there are a lot of new start ups out there who expect everything for nothing. Stop asking, people work too hard for what they have achieved. Approach things differently.

Instead of asking for something for free, let people know your sensible budget and they will give you suggestions as to how you can achieve what you are looking for.

On forums participate first. Dont just jump in there with an advert. Learn about the people on there, take an interest in what they do, participate in the forum, then ask your questions or mention your company if it is allowed.

Look at social media options like Twitter. If you don't understand it still join in. It took me a while to catch on to what it was about and now I would say it is an essential tool for every business. I know of companies on Twitter who receive business from Twitter. I personally have some fantastic people that I follow, they share wisdom, ideas and humour with me on a daily basis. I hope to help my business grow through Twitter, and I am sure that if I take the time they will teach me how to write a "proper" blog, one that is more focused and less rambling than my current offerings.

Look for a forum or support group containing your peers. I have found a group of fellow VA's who are fast becoming my friends. We share advice, problems, daily traumas, and there is no competition there. Their advice is freely given and shared. We operate in different niche's and different areas of the country, but by working together, are able to offer a much stronger product to our Clients. Do your research, is this something you can find for your own market.

Look at different ways of communicating, you can Twitter, you can blog, you can send newsletters, you can advertise your services through a website, you can chat via Skype as well as calling people on Skype.

Above all I learned to grow my network, find people that can support you, that can motivate you, that can help you to believe you can achieve your dream.

But more than all of that I learned that I need to say thank you.

So to every single one of you who has helped me get to where I am today a huge thanks. I cannot name you all so won't, but you know who you are. I hope to be able to return the favour one day.

1 comment:

  1. An inspiring and practical post. Anyone thinking of starting a business should read this.


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