I have several friends who have very recently started their own businesses.
I am pretty encouraging about this sort of thing, so long as they aren’t remortgaging their house or selling their children to pay for it (or something similarly crazy).
Honestly, six years ago when I started doing this part time, all but about ten people thought I was weird. Then when I quit my job almost three years ago, me being weird got updated to me being crazy.
Someone who I had considered a bit of a mentor up until that point said: “Well that’s gutsy. Good luck, I guess.” Whenever I see this person, I still think of her unsupportive comment.
I will never be that wet blanket for someone else’s dream. (So long as they are not jumping off a financial cliff with no safety net that is.)
Because of my lack of business background and my relatively short climb to moderate success, people ask me for advice. A few people really wanting to charm me say I should write a book.
But my business book would be the shortest book in history:
1) Don’t spend more money then you make. It’s really tempting to go out and buy a new computer, spend $100 at a stationary store, and otherwise buy things for your business that are more pretty than functional.
Here’s an exercise to show you most stuff you want to spend money on is kind of pointless. Try to remember the paint color of the last restaurant bathroom you were in. Or how big the sign in front of the last storefront you went into was. Exactly. Your customers care far less than you think they do.
2) Do good work. Competing only on price, you will never be able to compete with the larger firms or big box stores. So you clearly need something that is good. It doesn’t have to be unique (though that does help). Just good or ideally great.
If you have a good reputation, that’s going to be your hardest working advertisement. You can’t buy it or fake it (at least indefinitely). Because people are going to talk about you and your business when you aren’t there. You want them to… and you want them to say good things.
3) Be nice to people. This isn’t just to your clients. This is to waiters, interns, people you meet who don’t seem important.
People are mobile. I met a good friend of mine when we were both copy and pasting at newspapers. Now she’s the editor of a statewide publication. Don’t get me wrong, I saw greatness in her when I met her (and her in me). But this just goes to show you that people you are dealing with in one situation you may meet in another… so you might as well be nice.
If you do those three things, you can run a business. I swear it isn’t rocket science. Sure, success takes some luck but if you follow the above three rules, you’ll be ahead of the business starting game!