I sometimes get asked how do you start a business – I’d be fibbing to you if I pretended it was a weekly or monthly conversation, but amidst the social media and real life convos I have, it occasionally rears its head.
I like to explain it how it is, so here goes.
- Pick something that you enjoy doing and are good at. If I didn’t like property, social media, writing, I wouldn’t get up in the morning with a gouty spring in my step. You don’t have to love the work you do, but enjoying it will suffice.
- Make sure what you enjoy doing (in my case, primarily writing about the property industry) has a certain demand for it. I would enjoy, I’m sure, test driving cars, reviewing them in blogs and vlogs – but thus far, no one has seen me as the next Clarkson (perhaps I need to assault someone to get deified like that one). I’ve shelved the idea of a local or national franchise emailing me with “Fancy a weekend in the new Skoda Kodiaq? Yours, if you write about it, and here’s £100 for your time.”
- Get a website. You can’t, in 2017, rely on word of mouth, your network, your sphere of influence – a good website rendered for mobile and SEO costs less than a weekend at Center Parcs and once your start-up takes off you can stay for a week there. Speculate to accumulate and don’t go for a Wix site, get a decent WordPress site designed (we do it too at 321 Websites).
- Get social. See social media as part of your launch strategy. You need to be on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter at least and dependent on the nature of your business, LinkedIn too. Don’t start with a bang and end with a whimper after a month. Write the tweets, plan the posts, schedule social media using tools like Hootsuite and if you can’t be arsed doing it, hand the reins over to someone who can (me).
- Write. This will be on my gravestone, assuming I’m buried not burned: “Google rewards fresh content.” Blogging is the way to get visitors to your website and a fist bump from Google. Write weekly. Make them around 500 words, with a keyword that you want to be found for in mind, but make it look natural. If you want to be found online, climb Google, blogging is key. It’s not a 400m dash either; it’s a series of marathons. I’ve knocked out over 2000 articles for my own businesses and others and I’m slowly appearing on Google after becoming freelance and self-employed three years ago. Your blog posts can also be recycled in email campaigns, newsletters, eguides – that money you pay a decent copywriter not only nourishes your website, your SEO ranking, your social media, it fills other marketing gaps. Writing is a skill, it doesn’t come easy to many people, it didn’t to me at first, but I’ve learned the art of writing with my own distinct voice I think. I can write in your voice or better still you write and learn the craft; I am happy to coach and advise you too.
- Outgoings. Your business, your start-up is there to get you away from the office politics of the watercooler, it’s to feed your passion, but mainly to feed you and your family. Your start-up is unlikely to make anything at the beginning, but I think, the crux, if you’re a one man band is to keep outgoings low. My expenditure on Get Pro Copy was £3.49 a month after the website was built and paid for – £3.49 for hosting. I now pay more a month on Hootsuite, accountant fees and the like, but I EARN MORE than outgoings – substantially more, so the business is profitable. If you’re intent on starting an online estate agency, go for it, but remember Rightmove and Zoopla will charge you around £2,000 per month even if you have just one property listing. You must account for that in any business.
- Find helpers in life. I’ve found many. I am a helper too. By that, give your time and advice to others – pass on your expertise freely as it is good for both parties. When I set up my first business, I had some wonderful helpers: Martin Cunningham, Chris Arnold, Perry Power, to name just three, who encouraged, mentored and supported the new estate agency business. Give and you shall receive. I’m always willing to be phoned and asked for advice, just as I would ring certain helpers when I need expert information,
- Plan for 12 months’ time. Your start-up may take a year to get off the ground – try not to throw in the towel if you believe in it, and friends and family believe the idea “has legs”. Get Pro Copy began in November 2015 with a £25 contract in its first month. It became a limited company, just under 2 years later, in August 2017, not because it has a million pound turnover, but to give it some permanence. Get Pro Copy Ltd has become a success and will continue to be, I hope.
- Set up a business account. I set an online one up recently and it allows me to raise invoices directly and keep an eye on income and expenditure. It’s simplified my life immensely.
- Work from home, if possible. I’ve converted a bedroom into a home office and have been tempted to get a virtual business address that plonks me where good search terms are for copywriters: London or Manchester. Try to think of a start-up idea that will allow you to be based at home. You’ve no commuting, tea and coffee on tap, no office charges and no bosses, work politics or stress. All you need is decent wifi, a great desktop computer (my office is a shrine to Apple), and a scanner.
I hope this has been useful. I never, in a million years, envisaged leaving teaching at the age of 50 and embarking on self-employment. I think you have to have bags of drive and motivation to make it a success, there’s initial loneliness of not having colleagues, it’s financially fraught at the outset, but, you know what, I wish I’d graduated in 1986, skipped teacher training and the 27 year prison sentence and become a copywriter 31 years ago.
I’m making up for the lost time and loving life again.
If you want total job satisfaction, incredible work-life balance and the satisfaction of being your own boss, go self-employed with whatever is your passion.
Need advice? Feel free to ring me anytime on my mobile, connect via social media or email me. If I can’t help, I probably know people who can.
I’d like to help anyone become as happy as I am now.