A couple years ago, on an ordinary evening, I was sitting on my couch finishing up my freelance work for the day. Just as I was about to shut my laptop, a little red “1” popped up on my screen. It was another email from a potential client.
In the freelance world, that is fantastic news. Getting a pipeline of clients is every freelancer’s dream.
As I scrolled through the email and read all about the awesome project that the potential client wanted to work on, I realized something: I had big ideas too. I wanted to spend some time making my own dreams come to life.
Luckily, I had plenty of options. If you want to work outside of the office, freelance and consulting work are not your only choices. If freelancing is not for you, you can always put your energy into starting your own business, whether it is a new tech service, a new application, or a nonprofit. Even if you absolutely love the freelance life, you can always reserve time for a side project.
Once you have the tech knowledge to turn a client’s dreams into reality, you can apply those skills to your own project. Whether, you need a site with online shopping or an application with a UX designer and an iOS developer, you can do it!
Your tech skills and your big idea are not the only thing you need to start a successful business. I am not telling you that you need a business degree, or a lot of experience.
What you need is a plan of action to help you get started now!
According to online business expert Hilary Rushford, if you haven’t gotten your idea rolling within 1 month, you never will. Translation, whether you feel ready or not, there’s no time like the present for getting started on your dream businessThat does not mean that you need to hit $1 million in sales in 30 days—it means you need to get your feet wet.
This 2-week plan will help you do just that. In the first week, you will explain some of the most important details behind your business, your users, and how you are going to get it off the ground. In the second week, you will handle some of the logistics, like the paperwork and the behind-the-scenes work.
I talked to our very own founder, Adda Birnir, to get more insight into the process behind launching a business. I also took a more critical look at the steps, I am taking to get my own dream business, Week of Plenty off the ground.
Of course, you are going to plenty of hard work into this business, if you want it to blossom but you have to start somewhere. Remember, this plan will get you ready to START, and that is the hardest part.
If you are reading this and think, ‘but I am in love with the freelance work I do?’ This is still a great exercise for setting up your freelance strategy. Download the 2-week boot camp and whip your freelance strategy into shape!
Your 2-week Action Plan for Launching Your Business:
Before we dive in, I want to reiterate how crucial it is that you spend some good solid hours creating a business plan. One book that can help you focus and speed up the process of figuring out what it is you’re going to offer is Running Lean by Ash Maurya. It is a part of the Lean Series, which is based on Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup.
If books are not for you, try an online course, like Marie Forleo’s B-School. This boot camp will help you get moving, but you need to show up with a dream.
- MONDAY: REDEFINE YOUR IDEA.
At this point, you should have a solid idea for your business. You should already have thought about things, like what problem your product or service is solving, who your ideal customers are, and how much launch is going to cost you. If all of that sounds like gibberish to you, don’t worry. Find a great book or e-course on launching a business and figure out the basics, then meet me back here.
If you have already spent the time answering all those hard questions about your business idea, it might be time to take a step back. You have been deeply absorbed in this idea for weeks, months, or even years. Now, it is time to make sure to refine it. In the same way, you should be able to explain your career in a short elevator pitch. You should be able to explain the short version of your business idea immediately.
What does that mean for you today? Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is simple: share your business idea with three friends and three strangers. If they do not get it then, start again. What about your idea is not intuitive?
If your pitches to friends and strangers are not going well, you might have to look back at what problem you are solving and for whom. Find some hard data; revise your idea, and try again.
Remember that your idea will change over time! In business, it is called iterating.
- TUESDAY: WRITE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN.
Yesterday, you did an amazing job of getting your idea out there and getting feedback early on. You probably already have some semblance of a business plan, but before you start, now is a good time to revise and refine it.
Your business plan will look different based on your needs and goals.
Are you pitching to investors? You will probably want a more detailed, traditional business plan like this one.
Are you working on a smaller company or organization and keeping it “lean,” as they say in the startup world? Then, you might want to think about keeping that business plan concise and agile, since you will probably need to revise it later.
Use this stage to look at your costs again before moving forward, especially if you are going to use this business plan to go after startup funds.
What are you waiting for? Start writing!
- WEDNESDAY: DEFINE YOUR USER BASE.
If you have not taken a Skillcrush Blueprint or done any work with web design or product development, then you are probably familiar with the idea of a user persona. The idea is that before you can build a successful business or website, you need to know exactly who it is for. No matter how great your product or service is, it will only be a success if someone buys it.
If you are interested, HelpScout just posted a great article about how important it is to identify your ideal use.
You can also open a word document, and create a profile of a real person who you will imagine as your ideal user. Make sure to be specific and answer these basic questions:
- What is her name?
- What does she do for fun?
- Where does she work?
- Does she have kids?
- What is her deepest fear?
- What are her frustrations in life?
- What does she want?
If you are stumped, try to imagine a real human who you know and go from there. Check out Entrepreneur’s 10 questions you need to ask before defining your target users to dive deeper.
Even if you want many different people to use your product, it is better to focus on thoroughly solving a smaller group’s problem, than trying to create something that works for everyone. Read this, if you do not believe me.
So, take fifteen minutes to create a complete profile for a target user and hold onto it! You will need it tomorrow.
- THURSDAY: TALK TO A REAL USER.
Once you have dialed in on your user base, it is time to talk to them. A big mistake entrepreneurs make, is putting everything they have got into planning and developing a product or service, before they even know if their user base will buy it.
Your assignment is to coordinate meetings with 10-15 or more potential users and ask them to review different aspects of your business plan. Ask them directing:
- Would you buy this?
- Why or why not?
- What would you buy?
- Is it the name, the product itself or the price?
If your target user goes grocery shopping at Whole Foods or buys coffee at Dunkin Donuts, feel free to setup shop right there! You can walk around and nicely approach your “potential customers.”
Ask them anything and everything, take copious notes, and then see what about your plan you need to revise. You might need to tweak your idea or target a different audience. Then, get ready to make things official tomorrow.
- FRIDAY: CLAIM YOUR DOMAIN & SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES.
At this point, you have a good idea of your business plan and your target users, and you have taken the time to make any important adjustments. Of course, you can always make changes to your business as you go along, but now is the time to put a stake in the ground.
Today, your task is simple. If you have not already done it, buy your domain name and reserve those social media accounts. To be safe, make sure to reserve anything that might get mixed up with it. For example, claim the Twitter handle for your business and your name, since users might use either of those to find you.
For tips on choosing a domain, please check out this infographic.
- SATURDAY: COME UP WITH A MARKETING PLAN.
You obviously cannot create and implement a marketing plan for your entire business in one day, not if you have a day job. You can get started and build up enough of a plan to take action.
Here are three places to start:
- Build your email list: In the words of Derek Halpern, “If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot.” If you have no clue where to start, try Nathalie Lussier’s 30-Day List Building Challenge.
- Blog: There are plenty of reasons to start blogging, but the most important for you, as a budding entrepreneur, is to build confidence and trust in your brand by providing valuable information to your readers.
- Grow your social media following: Even if content rules the marketing space at the moment, social media still carries its weight. For expert tips, sign up for my favorite social media guru, Laura Roeder’s email list.
Most importantly, make sure that your marketing plan is based on your actual users and the channels they use. For example, if your users are active on Facebook, give them targeted Facebook ads. If they are active on Instagram, try targeting with influencers to get your brand name out there.
Just like your business plan, your marketing plan will change over time. Take some time today to make a plan for building your email list, launching a company blog, and building a social media following.
- SUNDAY: TAKE A BREAK!
Overworking might be the trademark of startup founders, but you need a clear head! Take some time to decompress!
- MONDAY: CALL AN ACCOUNTANT.
Before you can figure out the logistics, like your business bank account, you need to consult a professional. Your needs will vary based on your business model. Here, a few questions to ask first:
- What kind of business should I register?
- Should it be a LLC, an S-Corp, or something else?
- What kind of records should I keep?
- What do I need to know about taxes?
So, remember to study the most important questions to ask your accountant, and make an appointment.
- TUESDAY: REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS.
Today is the day to file all the forms you need, to set up your business. Luckily, you can do this online, but you might have to pay a small fee. If you still are not sure whether you should be setting up a LLC, an S-Corp, both, or something else, read up on sba.gov. Keep in mind that this protocol will vary by state, so just research the appropriate terms to find what you need and go from there.
Do not forget to set up DBA’s. The term “DBA” stands for “doing business as,” and it is a special form you file to account for your company’s “aliases.” For example, maybe your company is called Gina’s Pasta, LLC, but your restaurant is called Pasta Pantry. “Pasta Pantry” is a DBA for
your business. You might also need to file one for your own name, so, if you get a check made out to you, it will clear. For any concerns, read this.
- WEDNESDAY: OPEN A BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT.
Today, your task is to set up your business bank account. Here is what you should bring with you:
- The DBAs we talked about.
- Business registration papers. If you opened an LLC, they’ll probably be called “Articles of Organization.”
- EIN Number, or employee identification number. You might need one of these for tax purposes, and you can find out if you do and how to get one at gov.
- A deposit. You have to put something in that account! If you do not have a lump sum ready, ask your banker how much is required.
If there are other things required by your bank, call the bank or read here to figure out what else you might need to bring along.
- THURSDAY: CHECK WITH A LAWYER.
If you have not ran your business plan by a lawyer, now is the time to make sure everything is in place. Ask a lawyer about anything you are not sure about. Start with any questions you have concerning:
- Paying people
- Starting your business plan while you’re still at your full-time job
- Sharing your business plan with friends to get feedback
If you are looking for a lawyer, check out: Priori Legal.
- FRIDAY: MAKE A TO-DO LIST.
At this point, you have about 2.3 billion tasks, ideas, and worries swirling around in your head. Today’s task is simple: write them all down in a list. Do not worry about what is important, or what you are ready to do.
- SATURDAY: MAKE A 30-DAY PLAN.
I will never forget the day my husband decided to open our restaurant, Shorty’s Pizza Shack. He had a business plan, he had done research on the market, he knew how much it would cost to finish the building, and what he would call it. However, he was still stalling. I did not realize how much of an impact my words would have, but I said something like, “Well, if you don’t do it now, when you’re totally READY, you’re just chicken.”
Now, create a 30-day plan for getting started, and a month from today you will have accomplished more than you could have imagined.
The only rule is that your plan must be possible. Give yourself enough time to build a website and test your social media strategy. The key is to plan a step for every day, and stick to it.
Of course, like any great startup, you are going to change the plan as you go. For now, you just need a plan and a schedule!
So, get out a calendar, and give yourself an action item!
- SUNDAY: CELEBRATE
Now, pour yourself a glass of champagne! You are in business!
If you want to stay on track, make sure to find a supportive community, whether it is online or in person. One Woman Shop is a great community for entrepreneurs. While you are browsing, scan their list of helpful tools and resources for starting your business.
Image Credit: CC by Brandie Freely