1. Research and reality check
It’s fairly obvious, but dreaming of your small business and the reality of it are two separate things. You have to be able to answer the following:
⦁ What industry challenges does my business face?
⦁ How do I stand out from the competition?
⦁ Is my product or service scalable (e.g. can you expand your services as a portrait photographer to weddings and events)?
Jot your answers down, but don’t use the back of an envelope. Take it seriously and write a business plan.
2. Define (or redefine) your business plan
If you Google “how do I start a business” the first item you’ll see on any checklist is that of writing a business plan. It’s not because we bloggers are uninspired or copycats. Simply put, business plans are crucial to understanding the ultimate question: will my business work?
Yes, they take time, energy and some maths (I’m not a fan either). However, in the long-run, you’ll be relieved to have your business-bible to look back on for reassurance and direction. Freelancers get by from job to job without having a plan, but you’re a business owner now. Plan like you mean it.
3. Seek support
Business plan templates are two to a penny on the internet. There are endless plans, apps and books promising to deliver a well-crafted plan tailored to your business. When you feel overwhelmed by the masses and want to know where to start, speak to a real person who has been there and got the t-shirt.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a friend with such a t-shirt, consider talking with a professional business adviser. They’ll be able to guide you through the nuances of starting a business and help you transition smoothly from being a freelancer. Suffolk and Norfolk’s business agency MENTA have business advisors who can help you achieve your goals.
4. Hire staff
Editor of smallbusiness.co.uk, Ben Lobel, says:
“Without employees, you are technically still freelancing, so hiring your first member of staff is an important milestone.”
You could argue it is the milestone by which you call your venture a business. Before you employ people, it’s just you in your cosy room-for-one. Hiring staff is the key transition from freelancer to small business. You are relying on other people to expand and grow your business.
5. Get smart with employment laws
Employing staff means becoming a pro at navigating employment laws. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as hiring your best friend and paying them as and when you can. Here are some things to consider:
This non-exclusive list is not meant to intimidate you. In fact, this leads us nicely to our next step in our business-owner checklist.
6. Prepare to outsource
Transitioning from freelancer to small business owner will demand more of your time and energy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No pain no gain, right? However, when you start to get overwhelmed by deadlines you’re not meeting and laws you don’t understand (such as the above), it’s probably time to outsource.
Outsourcing is a process where you hand over some of your work to another company or freelancer to deal with. Some things you could outsource include: administration, human resources, marketing and bookkeeping. For example, you might wish to focus on developing your business brand and ask an HR company to action hiring staff.
7. Use tools to streamline your tasks
Streamlining your work will save you time at a fraction of the price of outsourcing. Using online tools such as Sage, Quickbooks and Canva, for your bookkeeping and marketing efforts respectively, can speed up most processes. Unlike outsourcing, it still means you’re totally in control of your business.
Personality profiling tests are a good example of a tool you can use to streamline your HR work. Instead of stressing out about hiring the right person for the job, streamline the process by asking your interviewees to take a personality test. You’ll soon see if they’re a good fit for your business model.
8. Build a brand
Building a brand is essential to building a business. Freelancers tend to jump from job to job without putting much thought into logos, branding colours, social media strategy and content generation. But if you’re hoping to make the jump from freelancer to business owner, you must develop a brand that will last. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, says:
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
Ask yourself: what is the identity of my business? What do I want others to think about my business? Who is my target market and what branding will they be likely to engage with? Answer these questions and put your branding wherever you show your business face. Stay consistent and your customers will soon develop a relationship with your brand and business. They’ll learn to recognize you and what you sell.
9. Create a marketing strategy
Whilst freelancers may post on social media and even have a website, business owners must up their game with a marketing strategy and plan. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your product or service is if no one knows you exist. Increase your client base by upping your marketing strategy. Some things to include in your plan are:
⦁ Social media campaigns
⦁ Website launch (if you don’t have one already)
⦁ Google Advertising (Pay-per-click adverts)
⦁ SEO for your website by creating engaging content and optimizing your text with keywords
⦁ Email marketing campaign (subscribe to an online service like MailChimp)
⦁ Consider, but go careful with newspaper ads, billboard signs and posters
MENTA offer fun, informative training courses on marketing and social media. Available in Suffolk and Norfolk, they’re for the social media savvy who need a recap or start-ups who need to start somewhere. Check out their page to learn more.
10. Apply for funding
So, how do you pay for staff, software and a marketing strategy? Freelancers don’t have to answer this question. They are happy to get by without a website and manage their own bookkeeping. However, business owners should seek funding as an investment to building a fully-functioning and lasting business.
Suffolk or Norfolk based start-up and small businesses can find more information on MENTA’s funding page here. If you’re stuck, remember a MENTA business advisor will sit down with you to discuss options. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. Now you know the top tips and tricks to move from freelancer to full-time business owner. As you may have imagined, it’s not for the faint-hearted and you will come against obstacles and challenges on your journey to entrepreneurial success.
Remember, you don’t have to do it alone and asking for the support, help and advice from business mentors shows you’re serious about making your business grow.