Whether your hobby is knitting hats or writing music, there may come a time when your pastime turns into a profitable business venture. Running a business will require you to learn a different skill set for success. However, with some research and planning, you will be in the best position to bring your goods or services to new customers.
Setting goals will provide you with direction and motivation to start and continue your new business. In the beginning stages, there are a few essential questions to ask yourself:
Having a clear goal of how much money you are hoping you get out of the venture, and how much time and effort you can put into it, will help to clarify your next steps.
With your goals in mind, creating a business plan will provide you with a roadmap for the next steps of your business. First, take time to research the current market for your hobby, including what your competitors are doing in the field. Investigate your potential customers, what they need, and where you can find them.
Your business plan should also include a detailed description of what your venture will do, including what services you will provide, what goods you will sell, your target audience, and how you will reach your customers. You may create a mission statement, which is a short statement of your business's goals and overall philosophy.
Also include information about your financials. Brainstorm all potential start-up and ongoing expenses, including business registration, space rental, advertisements, and maintaining an online presence. Determine how you will pay for the starting fees, whether this will be from your own savings or if you will need help from investors or business loans. Based on your research, estimate how much money you can expect to bring in over the next months and years.
Marketing is the process of promoting your business, and how your customers are going to find you. To start with, let your friends, family, and colleagues know about your new business. You may announce the venture with a letter or postcard to all your connections, and be sure to talk up your business whenever you get the chance.
Depending on your target customers, you may explore different marketing options such as paid online advertisements, print advertising in your local newspaper, or radio ads. You will rely on the research you completed for your business plan for guidance on how to reach your customers. For example, if you are marketing towards teenagers, you would have more luck with social media advertising than advertisements on AM radio.
For most businesses, having an online presence is a key component of your marketing plan and crucial for success. This includes creating and updating a website for your brand and engaging with customers on social media. Explore ideas like a monthly email newsletter to keep customers updated and interested in your product or service.
Networking is simply another term for building relationships and can occur online or in person. It serves to build your knowledge base, help you find mentors, and spread the word about the services or products you have to offer. You may network with others in your field, such as a wedding photographer participating in online discussions with other wedding planners or photographers. Or, you may join general professional events, such as opportunities with your local Chamber of Commerce.
Before going to your first networking event, be sure to have a solid description of your business and how it can help potential clients. Take time to create your "elevator speech," or a quick persuasive pitch used to spark interest in what your business does. Be prepared with plenty of business cards printed with your contact information.
For most businesses, your first sale or client is going to be the most difficult step. Here is where you may rely on your marketing and networking efforts. One effective way to attract new first-time customers is by offering a free or discounted service.
Remember that for any business that has reviews online, your first few reviews may make or break your business. Be sure to give your first customers the best experience possible, and follow up to see how you could better meet their needs in the future.