Has the pandemic inspired you to start a business? Here are some tips to help

Starting a business during the coronavirus pandemic may seem counterintuitive, but the changing way we live and work as a result of COVID-19 has created new opportunities for businesses to emerge.

Many people have decided that they want a betteçr work-life balance or a more fulfilling career as a result of the changing world. If this sounds like something you can relate to, here are some tips to help you to get your new idea up and running.

Inspiration and ideas

Of course, the first step is to select a business concept. It should be something that you are passionate about so that you are willing to invest your time, money, and energy into making it a victory.

Begin by determining whether a product or service is financially feasible by using Google Trends, collecting and analyzing data gathered through market research, or even creating a blog or social page to gauge interest.

You will need to carve out your own little niche so you can stand out to customers and make sure that there is a gap in the market for what you are offering to your customers. Can you make use of specific skills and experience you have already or give them a new take or angle on something?

Then, you need to consider whether you want to start an online business or if you require physical space. If you are thinking about starting an online store, it may make more economic sense to do so from home, at least to start off with.

You also need to think about what you will call your business. Business names are incredibly important, and while it is more than possible to change them in the future, once you have established yourself and got your branding and a loyal customer base, it can be time-consuming, expensive, and difficult to do. For this reason, it is important that you get your business name right in the first place. 

Your name, ideally, should represent who you are as a business and give your brand some personality. It should make you stand out from your competitors, be unique and appeal to your potential customers and clients.

When choosing a name, it is also important to make sure that it is available on social media and that it is not subject to any trademarks or patents.

Create a solid business plan

A business plan is an essential document for businesses of all shapes, sizes, and industries. It will assist you in developing a clear understanding of your strategic goals, financials, market research, and potential barriers.

You will also need to create a budget as part of any business model. The cost of starting a business can differ considerably based on factors such as whether you need to purchase specialized equipment, rent a place of business, or operate your business from home. 

Have you got the money to launch your business?

Following on from the previous point about having a solid business plan in place – you need to make sure that you have the funding or the finances available to launch your business. After all, without money, you can’t really do anything! A business plan will be invaluable – and quite possibly a necessity when it comes to this part of starting up.

How much you will need widely varies. If you are starting up small, you might need much in the way of capital to get you up and running. However, if you are going in big right from the beginning, you might need to seek out some external funding. This can come from a variety of sources. For example, you can apply for a business loan if you can show that your business has a good founding. 

Other alternatives to a businee loans include grants, which have the added benefit of not needing to be paid back in the majority of cases, or looking for an angel investor. An angel investor works in a similiar way to Shark Tank in the Untied States or Dragon’s Den in the United Kingdom – someone invests their money into the business for a share of the company or a percentage of the profit. While this is a great way of obtaining the capital that you need, and may be a way to get some helpful business advice from someone who has been there and done that, you also need to make sure that you are okay with letting go of some of your company.

Something else that you could consider is peer to peer funding or crowdfunding, such as Kickstarter.

Start to think about and plan out your marketing strategy

So, now you have got your idea, your name, your business plan and hopefully have the money ready to get going, the next thing that you need to do is begin to think about how you will get your business name and products out there in the form of a marketing strategy. 

If you lack experience or confidence in this area, it might be something that you consider outsourcing to a third party, such as an expert marketing agency. However, while this is a great way to take a load off your shoulders, it costs money, and if you are just starting out, you may not have the wiggle room in your budget to pay for this, and so have to do it by yourself.

You should try to strike a balance between digital marketing – which is all online – and traditional forms of print advertising. While various sources will tell you one is more important than the other, in reality they both hold some weight and both need attention.

Some of the things that you might want to think about include the following.

Make sure that you have a strong social media presence

Social media is one of the most valuable tools that you have in your marketing toolbox and is generally free to use. Do not worry too much about being all over all of the social media platforms – there are so many now and not all of them will be right for you or applicable to your target demographic.

For example if you are targeting teenagers and young people, you might want to focus on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. For middle-aged people, Facebook or Twitter could be your best bet and for professionals, LinkedIn.  Post regularly, and look at maintaining a 80:20 ratio of posts. Ideally, 80% of your content should be carefully curated, engaging and useful information from other sources, and just 20% should be promotional of your business. 

Search engine optimization

In the long-term, this is one of the best things that you can do for your business in terms of marketing. Search engine optimization, or SEO as it is known for short, is making sure your website is perfectly set up to be ranked highly and found easily on search engines. It is not an immediate results generator, but it is definitely something you should be investing time and effort into.

Again, an SEO expert will be able to give you advice and get you started on the right track, but there are also plenty of tools avalable online to give you a good idea of what you need to be doing, such as link building, using key words and meta descriptions and tags.

Build an email marketing list

While you can easily reach customers on social media, you are bound by their algorithms, so your posts may not necessarily reach the people you wnt when you want. You also do not own your followers there – if the platform was to shut down or you were to lose access to your business page – which has and does happen – you no longer have that way to communicate with your customers.

This is why having your own email and/or printed mailing list is important. You can then send them important updates and offers. Look at offering incentives such as exclusive discounts, sneak peeks or early access to new product lines to get them to sign up.

Network at business events

Face to face interactions are a great way to meet new customers and give them a chance to see and talk to the faces behind the business. It also gives you a chance to really talk to your customers and find out more about what they want or do not want. Look to see if there are trade shows, networking events or exhibitions near to you.

You’re ready to launch!

Once you have all of these things in place, you might be almost ready to launch – how exciting! Of course, depending on what you are doing and the scale of the business you are launching you may need to consider things like hiring and training staff.

And it goes without saying that you need to make sure you are registered for tax and with all of the relevant authorities and agencies. Good luck!

Photo by Jodie Cook