You’re ready to go – your mind and heart are set. Your new business is going to happen. You are in a funny spot: giddy with excitement, but still adjusting to the idea that your enterprise is going to move from the sphere called “inside your head” to the one called “existing in three dimensions.” Here are ten activities that will move you firmly past GO, to collect your two hundred dollars…..
1) TELL THE WORLD.
If you’re waiting for your beautifully-designed business cards to arrive, get some quickie ones from VistaPrint (www.vistaprint.com) for a few bucks (shipping cost only) and start handing them out to your friends. By the same token, you can design the world’s quickest three-fold brochure at Kinko’s (they’ll design it for you) and begin to paper the city. That way, when your fancy stuff arrives, you have another opportunity to revisit all your contacts and deliver your professional-looking material.
2) TALK ABOUT IT.
Get a free blog at www.Blogger.com and begin to blog about your business. What’s appealing to blog readers is not your marketing pitch, but your own experiences as a new business owner: your hopes and fears, your day-to-day trials and sucesses. Feel too “exposed”? Believe me, writing down what’s going on for you will help you get through it more easily, and win you supporters at the same time. Go on the list-servs (one great one for women is LinkedInPowerWomen, at yahoogroups.com – just send a blank email message to firstname.lastname@example.org, to join) and let everyone know that you’re taking the plunge. You’ll get useful advice and even more importantly, moral support for your earliest entrepreneurial challenges.
3) GET ON THE CIRCUIT.
If you haven’t been an avid face-to-face networker, now’s the time to start. Check out your city’s page on BizWomen (www.bizwomen.com) and join your local WorldWIT group (www.worldwit.org – full disclosure, I lead that group) to start networking with other business owners as well as prospective clients. Go to events – several a week if you can swing it – to test your pitch and to start building a might-become-clients base for your enterprise. Schedule as many lunches and coffees as you can, because this is where you’ll start to refine your business idea, through many conversations over time.
4) GET INCORPORATED.
You don’t need to have your beautifully-written business plan finished or to have every i dotted before incorporating your business. I incorporated my current business before I had a clue what the revenue plan would be! Incorporation is an important step. There are online services that will make you legit for around $300, or a local small-business attorney (find her through the same WorldWIT group I mentioned earlier) can speed you through the process. Of course, you’ll need to do enough research to decide whether you’ll become an LLC, an S corp, a C corp or a partnership. But any competent attorney can put you through the Q & A session that will lead you to the right answer. This one is important because it’s what separates ideas from realities. Just Do It.
5) ALERT YOUR NETWORK.
If you’re a LinkedIn user, update your profile to show your business name and your new title (CEO? President? you decide) prominently – then send a one-click Profile Update to your entire first-degree network to bring them up to speed. Send a group email message (Bcc:ing everyone, please) to your Outlook address book crew, with the same good news. Don’t keep your new venture a secret. Who’d benefit from that?
6) BUY AN AD.
Buy the cheapest little ad in your child’s school directory or the church bulletin or your local shopper’s newspaper. Putting a public message out there will give you some great affirmation (“Hey Julie! I saw your ad in the preschool bulletin! Way to go!”) and may bring you your first non-friends-of-friends clients. If you can barter your way into some advertising, do that too.
7) GET A CREDIT CARD.
Get a business credit card, for exclusive business use. You’ll probably have to use your personal credit history to get it, but that’s no big thing. Using the business credit card is another way to demonstrate the ‘realness’ of your enterprise. Plus, it’ll let you easily track how those lunches and coffees translate into business development funds. You may be amazed.
8) DO A DEAL.
I mentioned barter-for-advertising earlier, but barter can serve you well for all sorts of services. Barter for your office PC, or even your office space. If your service can save someone money, then you can save money too. Also, these barter folks go on your client list (for your next brochure or website update). Barter clients are clients nonetheless. Define barter deals well so that no one gets (or feels) badly used. If your barter clients love what you do and want to do more, you can convert to cash for the incremental level of services.
9) JUMP IN THE “LEADS.”
If your business lends itself to personal referrals, join a leads group. There are eight zillion of them, but a lot of people recommend BNI to me, so you may want to check them out. Leads groups can be great because the regular meetings provide feedback and support as well as new-client prospecting opportunities. Don’t hide out: get out there!
10) PUT YOUR BRAND OUT IN THE WORLD.
Once your logo is designed (and you can find a logo designer at any networking event, through a local WorldWIT group, or even through your child’s school-mom set), get it out there. If it makes sense for your business, get a logo’d tire cover for your Jeep and drive it proudly around town. Splurge on some low-cost tchotchkes (logo’d advertising specialties like pens and magnets) and spread ’em around. Getting your name out there is job number one, so be more brazen than you’ve ever been. Tell absolute strangers what you do – in the grocery line and at the gym. You’re proud of it, right? The more you tell the story, the stronger it will become.