So, you’ve started your own business. You’ve identified that you want to be your own boss, and you’ve turned your idea into an income – albeit a modest one. So, what do you do now?
You could a) take a relaxed view, see where it goes, b) stick to your day job as a safety net, or c) grow your business into something that makes more money, reaches more people, is more ambitious and rewarding. It’s by no means the easiest option, but then you didn’t start a business because you were afraid of a little hard work, did you?
There are lots of ways to grow your business without taking over your home or breaking the bank. Here are some things to do and places to go to take your business to the next level.
1. Sell online. You don’t need to know a single line of code to set up your own website and online shop. With web-building software like Moonfruit, it’s as easy and dragging and dropping products from your inventory to your storefront. Alternatively, you can list your products on online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy – and sell directly to existing and engaged communities of customers.
2. Turn one-off sales into repeat custom. Whether you sell online or in face-to-face meetings, treat data about your customers like gold dust. When did they last buy from you? What did they buy? Maintaining an intelligent list of your customers gives you the chance to get back in touch with personalised and meaningful sales messages that could make the difference between a one-off customer and a repeat customer. Consider using software like Constant Contact to store and market to your customer database.
3. Attract new customers. With a good customer database in place, don’t be afraid to use it! Ask happy customers to recommend you to their friends and colleagues. Advertise in local media or try other forms of marketing, such as Facebook advertising or Twitter. Speak to people who don’t already use your products and services and address their needs.
4. Try crowdfunding. If lack of funding is stopping you from launching a new product or service, there are some low-risk things you can try. Crowdfunding is a way to raise small amounts of money from lots of people. You set yourself a target and reward donors with exclusive access to your products or services. If you don’t hit the target, then all donations are returned. The challenge and the discipline involved in fundraising this way is great for your business, for reaching new audiences and for building hype for new products and services. You can crowdfund with Enterprise Nation.
5. Outsource to other small businesses. If the thought (and cost) of taking on staff scares you, don’t worry. You can quickly and easily increase your productivity by outsourcing work to other freelancers and small businesses. Expand and contract your virtual workforce around projects, so you can compete with big businesses when you want to and stay small at other times. You can concentrate on what you do best, and outsource the rest! There are websites that make outsourcing easy, such as Elance and PeoplePerHour.
6. Get some advice. In America, it’s far more common for start-ups to ask for advice. Many build it into their business plans – and they budget for it too. Here in the UK, there is a Government programme designed to change the way we think about taking strategic advice to grow our businesses. The Growth Vouchers programme wants to test whether incentivising British businesses to take strategic advice makes a difference to their bottom line. We think it will – and we look forward to more British businesses taking advice and growing!