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5 steps to a life of self-employment

Thu, 17 January 2013

Check out these 5 steps from small business expert, Emma Jones, that will set you on your way.
If you’ve started the New Year determined to start your own business, check out these 5 steps from small business expert, Emma Jones, that will set you on your way.
1. Start by Working 5 to 9
By this I mean, keep the day job or study course going by day and build your business at nights and weekends. It’s the best possible way to start a business as you give yourself time to develop confidence in your abilities, and cashflow in the business! Technology tools and devices mean you can check e-commerce orders at lunch break or schedule social media posts to appear throughout the day. No-one need know you’re a part time business and when the time is right (i.e. when you’re earning enough from a growing base of customers) you’ll be ready to dedicate your entire self to being your own boss!
2. Know your market
Spend time researching your market. The businesses that I’m seeing do well are those that focus on a niche i.e. offer a particular product or service to a well-defined audience, such as an app developer who specialises in educational apps or a fashion designer working with a particular type of textile. The more niche you are, the easier it is to identify your audience and know how to approach them. Think about the age of your market, are you appealing to a certain gender, people who live in a particular area, or customers who have certain values? In your research, set out where your customers are, who are their key influencers, what do they like about where they’re currently buying from, and what don’t they like, as this presents opportunity for you!
3. Have a plan
Think of a business plan as your route map. It will guide you from where you are now to where you want to be and it’s easy to remember what to include as it spells I’M OFF:
· Idea – what’s your idea
· Market  - who is the market you are going to serve
· Operations – what kit/equipment do you need to get going
· Finances –a basic finance forecast showing how many sales you expect to make, less costs. If this shows you need to raise funds, cover that in this section too (but most businesses I see are started for less than £100 as you just need a phone and some business cards to get going!)
· Friends – your support network and group of experts/mentors on call to help

The plan need only be a few pages but writing it will confirm the direction in which you want to take the business.
4. Make a sale
You’re not truly in business until you’ve made a sale! Do so by pitching up at a farmers market/craft fair, plugging in an e-commerce tool to your blog so browsers can start to buy, or through directly contacting potential customers with a targeted email or flyer. Look close to home at the beginning as friends and family can be a good source of custom and offer honest feedback! When promoting your offer, be clear on the benefits to the customer and offer a call to action so people interested can follow up / get in touch to buy.
5. Get known!
Embrace social media and raise your profile across the web. Consider blogging, pin images that appeal on Pinterest, upload footage to YouTube, and get involved in the conversation on Twitter to become an expert in your field and the go-to person for the product or service you provide. Press, magazine, radio and TV journalists are, in the main, also now on Twitter so follow them to respond to requests for stories, and produce a press release with strong photos, for forwarding to the key people who write for your particular audience.

Following these steps will ensure you get started with a successful business and repeating them will help that business to grow!

Emma Jones is founder of small business community Enterprise Nation and author of books including ‘Spare Room Start Up’, ‘Working 5 to 9’ and ‘Go Global’ 

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