The 'Oh Sh*t Moments' of Starting a Business
So, you have a great idea and want to make a business out of it. *cue the champagne*. There’s nothing more exciting than coming up with an idea and taking the first steps to bring it to life.
But where do you even start? It’s safe to assume that you didn’t attend “how to start a business 101” in school – sure you may have studied the fundamentals of business but creating a solid foundation to make an income off of, is a whole new ball game.
Having gone through the motions of starting a business from the ground up, we thought we would share our ‘oh sh*t moments’ and offer some advice.
#1: “Literally, where do we start?”
We can remember it like it was yesterday… we were so excited about this new idea but asked ourselves “okaaayy.. so now what?”. We had the idea and the concept, but we had zero understanding of how to go about starting a business.
Bless the Waterloo Small Business Region. If you’re even considering getting into the entrepreneur world – make them your first stop. You can set up a free meeting with a business advisor and they will provide you with so much information, from different types of businesses, to taxes. You’ll walk out with a stack full of reading material but it will give you a good foundation to get started.
#2: “What should we charge people?”
It’s uncomfortable to put a price on the service or product you are providing. When you work for a company as an employee, you get your salary and that’s all you have to worry about. When you work for yourself, you have to factor in the value of your work and time and enough to make a living off of it.
Since we provide a service and our packages are personalized on the business needs, we found it extremely difficult to figure out a pricing method.
Talk to others in the same field as you and be honest about why you’re struggling to come up with a dollar figure. We couldn’t believe how open and transparent other digital marketing gurus were when we asked this same question. It’s important to remember that you’re offering a service or product that you specialize in – you’ve worked hard to make it something that other people will want, so don’t undervalue your time or work.
#3: “How will people even know who we are?”
We are pretty active in the community being local lovers and supporters but not enough that people would just wake up and know we started a business. You need a strategy to market yourself and reach different platforms of people.
Before we even started to tell people of our new business venture, we created a content strategy that would build up to our launch. Call it an agile/soft launch if you will.
We created a theme on our Social platforms, engaged with other businesses, went to networking events and left our ‘promotional postcards’, went to workshops and met other aspiring entrepreneurs and we met up with several local freelancers in the community to learn more and share who we were.
Once we launched, we found that people already knew our branding and who we were – yay! You need to make sure you are building the foundation and not just running into the world of business blind.
#4: “Do we seriously need a business plan?”
As creative people, the last thing we wanted to do was write a dry business plan. But, it’s a game changer. When you’re starting a business, a lot of the aspects of it are thoughts and ideas. It’s not until you take the time to write out your business plan that it makes your vision come to life. It also prepares you to go to the bank or talk to other investors, since you will need a formal business plan.
Keep in mind, the business plan can always change as your business evolves but it’s good to note the responsibilities of those working for the business and of the business itself. It projects your sales and any other expenses you may encounter, and it outlines other variables that effect the success of your business.
The Waterloo Small Business Centre offers a Building your Business 360 workshop, packed with information. Upon completion, you’ll get a really good business plan template to get started.
#5: “So… how do we find clients?”
Awkward… We’ve done all the back-end work to make this business successful, now we need clients to actually put the work in to motion. We’ve both worked in digital marketing for 5+ years now, so it’s not that we lack the experience but as our own business, this is new!
Unfortunately, this is the uncomfortable part – one that neither of us were fond of. We spoke to many freelancers in the community, asking them how they got started and attended several networking events to meet other business owners. They all said the same thing:
“You need to sell yourself to 10 people and have them say no to you 10 times.” Sorry… what? You heard that right. You have to be comfortable with being shut down because not everyone is going to say yes. But the more experience you get at selling yourself, the closer you’ll get to signing your first client or even selling your first product.
Another great resource are your friends and family – get them to sell you to their friends and family and offer some work for free or a discounted rate to build up your portfolio.
#6: “Pft, this will be easy!”
THINK AGAIN! We’re not going to lie, when we started this ‘idea’ – we honestly thought “it can’t be that hard, right?”. I mean we eat, sleep and breathe all thing digital marketing, we have the time, we can definitely provide exceptional service to people.
Building a business with a strong foundation is hard af. It’s a lot of work. And we’re shaking our heads for even thinking differently. Don’t go into business because you think it will be easy. Realizing that this is “your baby”, puts a totally different label on it than just a ‘business’. You put more hours into your work day building the business from the ground up and until you’ve sold a product or gained a client – you aren’t making any money. You are constantly researching, engaging, writing, tweaking, attending events, promoting, taking pictures, editing, more tweaking until the wee hours of the night. But honestly, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your business grow and hearing others speak about you, knowing ‘you did this’.
#7: “What could possibly go wrong?”
This is playing off #6, but we had this great idea, so seriously... what could possibly go wrong? One thing you need to figure out reaaaal quick, is that you need to fail and fail again to succeed. Everything is trial and error. What may be working one minute is quickly not working the next.
Understand your analytics – this is huge. The more you understand about your business trends and engagement, the easier it will be to create a successful strategy.
Starting and owning a business is a huge accomplishment. There’s no greater feeling than bringing something to life that other people can benefit from. You put your blood, sweat and tears into creating something beautiful and for that, you deserve a toast! Although we are new to the entrepreneur world, we have a feeling there will always be Oh Sh*t Moments. But starting out, hopefully these tidbits of advice can help you.