So you want to be your own boss and make your own schedule and spend more time with your family? Let’s get you started the right way!!!
After registering your Business Name/s with the state and filing your business license/s, these are the top 10 things that you need to secure before you can start running your business, professionally. Being a business owner or entrepreneur doesn’t stop at having an idea and wanting others to buy into it. There are a few follow through steps and milestones you must achieve to be a respected competitor in your industry. Here it goes (and it is in no particular order)…
1. Quality Business Cards
We are not in high school anymore. Remember when our teacher assigned us a homework to create our business cards at home? This is definitely a NO-NO. Why? because (a) you need to invest in quality products; (b) there are plenty of inexpensive resources in the market for business cards and some of them offer it for free (click below to see a list of inexpensive business card design and printing services).
2. Domain Name
A domain name is used in URLs to identify webpages. For example – http://www.sweeneymae.com – “sweeneymae.com” is the domain name. With today’s technology, there are so many easy ways to obtain a website. First, search and see if the website name you want is available. I personally like using godaddy.com. It’s free to create an account and you can type in the domain name and see if it already exist. As far as suffixes go, I prefer the .com for commercial businesses and .org for non-profit organizations. Why? because they are most commonly used for those purposes, therefore, easy to remember. There are, however, other suffixes like .edu for educational institutions, .gov for government agencies, etc…
Now that you have a domain name, you’re a step closer to having a website. Godaddy.com also offers hosting services but what I generally advice is figure out your budget and decide if you want to build your own website or hiring a professional to build it. Let me give you a few ideas of how much it may cost. First of all, a domain name on average will run you $12 annually on average. Hosting will cost $30-$60 monthly on average, depending on the capacity and features you are looking for. Hiring a professional to design your website will cost anywhere from $500- $2,500 depending on the intricacy of the design. There are options to do it yourself but I only advice this if you are tech savvy because the last thing I want to see is an elementary website promoting “high-quality” products. Godaddy.com has a user-friendly hosting and web design template available. Another great option is wordpress.org. Explore your options and see what will work best for you. Always remember:
4. Professional Email
If you have a domain name, you have access to establishing an email account associated to it, instantaneously. For example: I own www.eventsinthecityla.com and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org – make sense? In this day and age, clients/customers are really looking at these small details. Don’t sit back and think “oh that stuff doesn’t matter because I give great service” -> that’s only true for those who have received your service, but how are you going to attract new businesses when hundreds and thousands of your competitors have gone digital? Establishing an email that is associated with your website is a good practice for consistency. Personally, I forget what company names my contacts own but seeing the “@companyname.com” helps remind me.
5. Social Media
My top 6 recommendations are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LikedIn, Google+ and Youtube. No, you don’t NEED all six to start, but have at least two. Almost everyone in the world (not just in US) are using Social Media and needless to say, it is now a necessity not only a hobby. Set up your Facebook and Twitter first and make sure that you use the same name as your domain name for consistency. If by any chance, the name you want is not available, be sure to really sit and think about the next best name to choose. For example, my company name is Events in the City, which was unavailable on social media channels so I decided with EventsNtheCity – and yes, it is against one of my rules to purposely misspell names but it was a rule I chose to break due to the circumstance. I have fun with it and my outro on most interviews is usually “Check me out at http://www.eventsNthecity.com and that’s events the letter “N” the city.com.”
6. Professional Headshots
Since the world has gone digital, photography has become more inexpensive. First go through your contacts and see if you know a photographer. It’s always great to use the services of people in your network. If not, go to your nearest shopping center with a photography studio. Yes, they still exist. Put on your best suit, take some other blazers and blouses with you for options. You want to make sure you have a few photos in a few different outfits. The great thing is that you are now able to view your photos right after and you can definitely ask them to retouch. Make sure to pick plain backgrounds – black or white is the best. Don’t use white blazers against white background or black against black… trust me it will be hard for your graphic designer to manipulate your photo later on. Just as an example, I posted a photo of me taken with a regular digital camera. I used to use this photo and crop it from waist up but that lamp shade in the background is so distracting. Finally, I decided to take professional photos like the one below and I prefer it because the quality is definitely more professional.
7. Professional Products/Services Photos
So you own a store that sells products, or an online e-commerce store, or you provide services to other people? Please get your products or services professionally photographed. If you don’t have the budget for it, at least get a few of them done when you launch then study and learn the techniques of how to do it yourself. I used to be an assistant buyer for a jewelry department of a huge company and I saw how they set up boxes and laid white linens over them with bright lights pointing at the product. I don’t see why you can’t recreate this setting in your home. If you are not selling any products, you can still promote your services by hiring a professional photographer to take your pictures as you interact with clients at an event, speak in front of a crowd or simply posing in your office :). Here are a few examples from my last wedding client: click here. Customers want to see some kind of demonstration of your services. Seeing a photograph of your work or you at work is going to increase your chances of closing the deal. Here are a few of my examples:
8. A Well-Polished “Elevator Pitch”
You might think you know your products/services very well because you created it, although this might be true, can you explain it in less than one minute? Try it, go ahead… don’t stutter and no pauses. Why do you need to get this down packed? Well, because people these days have short attention span! You want to get straight to the point. Imagine if you were in an elevator with a shark from the shark tank? You have 30-60 seconds to tell them why they should invest in your company. Better ready than sorry. Here’s my NOT so well polished Elevator Pitch. I put myself on the spot about a year ago and see what my elevator speech sounds like without practice:
<iframe width=”640″ height=”360″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/YoK_vhc5yOs” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
If I were to do that video over, here’s what I would say. “Hello, my name is Sweeney Mae, owner of Events in the City LA, a premier Event Planning & Marketing Consulting Services. My company has been around for three years and we pride ourselves with creating meaningful and tasteful events for friends, families, and professional settings. We also assist business owners with marketing, social media and promotional strategies. We are very experienced having coordinated over 600 events since inception and helped over 50 businesses and organizations. We offer free consulting for potential clients and you can find examples of our work at http://www.eventsinthecityla.com.”
9. A Business/Marketing Plan
I don’t think I have to define this (do I?). The reason why there’s a slash between “Business” and “Marketing” is because I am realistic and I know that for some reason, everyone drags their feet to write it. A Business plan can really save you from trying everything and anything. I once learned that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. If you take the time (5-10 days) to really think about your MASTER PLAN for your company, in that process, you will realize exactly what direction you need to go to get to your goal. You will realize what type of marketing strategy will work, what kind of budget you’re working with, what kind of profit you are planning on earning, what type of competition you have to face, what added value you must have to be different, the type of staff you have to hire, where your company needs to be in 5-10 years etc… Your Marketing Plan can be included in your business plan as well. Take that time to sit and marinate on how you are going to take over the world!
10. A System that Works!
Every business is different. There is no one master plan for all but you have to find something that works for you. How are you going to collect leads? How will you follow up? How will you close the deal? How will you qualify your leads? How will you collect customer data and what are you going to do with it? Do you need a loyalty program? How will you manage your expenses? How will you manage your time? How many hours will you work?