Thursday, December 10, 2009

How do I start this business thing?

You've been laid off. Downsized. Replaced. Terminated. Your job moved to Pago Pago.

Or you're just sick and tired of the rat race and for your health and sanity, need to do something different.


Here are some simple steps to get started on the path.

- Start a personal budget immediately
- Eliminate those extras - the daily $5 lattes, the newspaper, weekly mani's and pedi's, eating out
- Defer payments on what you can - student loans, some insurance policies
- Determine your minimal living expenses and build in a 10% cushion
- Live within the budget you created

Now that you have an idea of what is needed to survive, start the process.

- Take a mental inventory of your skills and experience
- Connect with your network of friends, family, acquaintances, and industry contacts
- Ask yourself: What gets me up in the morning? What drives me?
- Do some research on your passion on the Internet, at the library or local community colleges
- Find your market niche

Ask if a market exists for your skills and passion. Do they fit together? If not, determine where the gaps are. Lack of skills? Take a class at a community college. Too few contacts? These are easily made through networking groups, churches, and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Start to write a simple business plan - nothing complicated - just enough to maintain focus. Business plans are living, breathing documents and will change as conditions do.

Obtain a taxpayer ID number from the IRS web site, if required. Sometimes a social security number is adequate.  For more information, here is the direct link to the IRS site:,,id=96696,00.html.

Begin your marketing campaign by determining an apt name for the business, a logo, and a catchy and relevant tag line. Nothing more is needed initially.

Register an Internet domain name using the business name if possible. If not, variations such as .net or .biz instead of .com or using '-' in the name are good substitutes. You may not need a web site immediately, but plan for the future and secure the name. Domain names can be purchased at a number of web sites including, or At the same time, create a Twitter and Facebook account too. LinkedIn is another popular consideration. Be consistent using the same name on all accounts.  Email accounts are a must as well.  Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail all provide free email accounts.

Register your business - is a good place to start - set up the accounting system - has a free basic package - and get whatever (if any) business insurance is needed.  We addressed insurance coverage in an earlier article.  If the business needs registration, bonding or licensing, ensure that is completed prior to launch.

Get business cards with your name, company name, tag line, logo, etc. Cards can be customized at Staples, OfficeMax or any office supply store.  A good source for free office products including pens, business cards, checks and more is VistaPrint. Always have cards on hand to pass out. Always! Remember, you are marketing a product or service and need to take advantage of every networking opportunity.

Determine your pricing structure, the cost of your product or service, and how the idea can turn a reasonable profit.  Test market the idea.  Use your friends and family as guinea pigs.  Take this time to work out kinks in the process and make perfect your vision.  When gaining feedback, use a written form for each tester and compare results to discover what may be a common (and major) issue or concern.  Make the needed corrections and prepare for launch.

Write and distribute a press release.  Depending on the nature of the market and product, this may involve signage, postings, adds or press in the local paper or an Internet release.  Prweb is a well-known and respected Internet press agency.  Ensure that your phone, fax, and email are working and the response process is timely and consistent.  Customer service really counts here, especially so in the early stages.

The business is now off and running.  Prepare for the unexpected, good or bad.  If the research and preparatory work was done correctly, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.  You may even need to hire additional help to keep up with the overflow.  We provide some ideas for inexpensive labor in an earlier article posted on this blog.

And finally, check back at thesmallbizpro blog for updates, tips, money saving ideas, and general information.  Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.  We'll do our best to provide answers.

May your future be bright and successful!

- AJ


  1. Lot's of good info here. Can you send the part about budgeting over to Congress.

    Another option for business cards etc. is Prints Made Easy (, as the name indicates the software is easy to use and I've found the prices to be good. Also, I'm a big fan of Godaddy. The prices are good, but most important if I call at 2am a knowledgeable person actually answers the phone.

  2. I was not familiar with Prints Made Easy - thanks for the tip!

    And yes, I tend to agree with GoDaddy's support. They have in general, been excellent.

    Thanks for your comments!