Article by Ceri Wheeldon
With so many free resources available to help launch new business – or grow existing ones – there has never been a better time to set up a business.
I set up (and sold) my first business when I was in my early 30s. Both the initial investment and commitment were significant.
Setting up a business 25 years ago.
Rental of office ( in my case a serviced office) A PC and laser printer , ISDN lines, graphic design fees, printing costs for brochures , letterhead and cards, postage, phone calls, staff costs, marketing, advertising, Just my PC and printer cost more than £6000. My PC probably did less then than my smartphone is able to do today. To set up a website cost thousands.
From memory my set up costs were in the region of £30,000 – that is approximately £48,000 today.
Setting up a business today
Fast forward 25 years and the cost of setting up a business is very different.
Home-working has become the norm – so for many new ventures there is no longer a need to commit to premises.
You can set yourself up with a laptop and printer for a few hundred pounds. With so much communication now taking place online and via email print costs are vastly reduced. Rather than engage an expensive graphic designer and print house there are low cost options using sites such as Vistaprint with customisable templates to create cards and brochures etc, If you want something a little more creative look at sites such as Fiverr or e-lancer to create graphics and logos. Vistaprint often offer ‘free’ cards or special offers – I dont think I have ever paid full price.
Setting up a website
Website – functional site with wordpress – if you have some technical know -how you can even set up your website yourself – there are some excellent Youtube tutorials to help you. If you decide to create the site yourself and go down the wordpress route it is best to invest in your own domain – (namesco, 123 reg). Again if you dont want to take the DIY yourself sites like Fiverr and Rlance are well worth looking at to get started. Most charge by the ‘page’. Dont get caught out like I did when I set up one of my early sites. There is a difference between a page and a post – think of a page as being a category on a menu. I was misled by one of my early web people and probably paid for 15-20 more pages than I needed! I tend to cost the building of a site at £50- £60 per page. You really shouldn’t expect to pay more than £300-500 for a brochure site- depending on how many pages you need. Make sure you set up a blog within your website where you can showcase your expertise and your passion for your business. It gives you an opportunity to share your expertise in a way that your customers can get to know you – and the search engines love blog posts!
Marketing your New Business
Take advantage of online opportunities – social media is a great way to connect with potential customers. Place the most time and effort on the platform where you will find your customers. Facebook has a global audience of 1.35 billion active users. In my own experience Twitter is a great platform to engage with brands, the media and other local businesses. If you engage and demonstrate your expertise or authority in your field it can open up opportunities to be featured in the press /radio. Through my own activities via my website and twitter I have frequently been featured in the national media – with several double page spreads – including the Express, Woman Magazine, the Times, Fabulous Magazine. On just one day I was asked t be guest on 16 different local BBC radio stations to comment on a 50plus news item. I just missed being on the BBC breakfast sofa as I had a business commitment in London and I needed to be in Manchester for the programme. All of this exposure cost me only my time. Imagine what the cost would have been if I had tried to buy that level of exposure in print and radio. It takes time to build relationships and credibility – but it can be worth making that investment. Use tools to help you organise and schedule your social media – I use Tweetdeck for Twitter – although I know a lot of businesses use Hootsuite or Buffer which enable you to manage multiple social media accounts. Choose the right social media platforms for your type of business – if you are selling to consumers and your product or service is visual then look at Pinterest and Instagram. For Business to business look at LinkedIn and Google Plus as well as Facebook and Twitter. My advice would be to spend 80% of your allocated time on one main social media platform initially so that you can create a strong network and make real connections , then decrease your time on that platform and concentrate on the platform that is your second priority. If you have a local business then Google Local – used to be Google Places is a must – the red markers that show up with maps on google search. Again there are YouTube tutorials to help set these up.
Where at one stage I used to hire consultants – now there is so much information available for free. Again look at YouTube – you can find tutorials on just about everything. There are also a lot of really relevant webinars on all aspects of business – most offer one hour of information hoping to ‘upsell’ and sign you up to their service or progamme – there is no obligation to sign up and it is amazing what you can learn in that free hour- especially if they have a Q&A so you can have your specific questions answered.
If you don’t like writing but have a passion for your business – then make a video. You don’t need an expensive video camera – you can make great videos using a smartphone, tablet or the camera on your PC. YouTube offers basic editing tools – or invest in a video editing software package such as Camtasia or PowerDirector. Or you can outsource your editing again through Fiverr or elancer. If you don’t want to be on camera – something it took me ages to be brave enough to do then consider a slideshow with a voice- over.
Video can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool. Your customer can instantly see you or your product and relate instantly. You can easily embed links on YouTube to go directly to your website and product/services page.
One great example of a business that has used YouTube to launch is LookFabulous Forever – a makeup brand which was founded by Tricia Cusdem . Tricia was in her 60s when she was frustrated at not being able to find make up suited to mature skin – so she developed her own range which she sells online. Tricia posted a series of make-up tutorials showing how to use her products on YouTube. She has more than half a million views – that’s more than half a million opportunities to sell. They now have customers all over the world.
Tricia’s channel: Look Fabulous Forever on YouTube
Local business then local networking groups are great for establishing connections. Most networking groups allow you to attend as a visitor once or twice before committing to join. When working out if it is the right networking group for you don’t forget to cost your time as well as the joining fees to make sure that it is worth your time as well as your money. Also ,look at the less obvious costs- I have attended networking lunches where you are expected to hand out the same printed materials to all attendees at each and every event – irrespective of whether people are interested in what you have to offer. I often think that the real winners are the printing companies! Less formal networking such as Business Biscotti – 2 hours in the morning and normally just a couple of pounds to cover coffee and cost of premises with no upfront joining fee or ongoing commitment.
Look at associations that are set up to support business star ups. In the UK we have Prime. Enterprise Nation which offer excellent resources to start up entrepreneurs.
Feel you dont want to work from home all day ? look for a coffee shop with free wifi ! Alternatively look to see if there a ‘jelly’ near you. informal group where home workers or small business owners take their laptops or work along to a venue (with wifi) to support. exchange help and potentially collaborate. Good if you want to connect and not feel isolated!
Admin support -a world of virtual assistants to draw on. Or Fiverr!
GooglePlus – Sandra Watson with the ABCs of Google Plus has excellent tutorials