It is the start of a new decade, and for many this is the year that you will take the leap and start your own business. But where exactly do you start? What steps do you take to move from vision to reality? Listed below are five questions to get you started in your planning process (PRO resource).
What services will you offer? In the workforce, your scope of work is determined by your employer and job title, but when it is your business, you determine what you will offer. You can specialize in a single area, such as media relations, crisis communications or social media, or offer a broader range of services. Whatever, you decide you should be able to succinctly tell someone what you do. Writing this in your plan will help you clarify and clearly communicate this to potential clients.
Who will you serve? Will your clients be local, national or international? Will you concentrate on specific Industries? Do you want to limit your services to companies of a certain size? Are there other factors that you value, that will factor into who you serve? Many new business owners fear that being too specific will limit opportunities. However, being focused allows you to channel your efforts efficiently and tailor your services to meet that specific market’s needs. As your business grows, this may change. You may decide to expand your services or deepen your services in a particular area, but do start with a clear profile of your ideal client.
What are the needs/opportunities? Once you have identified your market, take time to understand their needs. What services do they pay for today? Serving an existing market is far easier than creating a market and convincing people of the need. However, there may be unmet needs that are related to your area of expertise. If your market is willing to pay for those unmet needs, you can further customize your offerings. Keep in mind, that people are not always willing to pay to solve a problem, so it is critical that you ensure there is both need and desire to fulfill that need.
What do you want to earn? Setting a goal for your earnings will provide a guiding point for what you charge and the types of assignments you take. Many new entrepreneurs overestimate the number of hours that are billable. You may be able to work 40-plus hours in a week, however, realistically, half or less will be billable work. There are many other facets to running a business such as business developing, planning, reporting, and billing that will require your time. A good estimate is to plan for 20 billable hours per week. Using a realistic estimate will help you to set attainable income goals, as well as plan how you will schedule work.
What will you charge? It may feel counterintuitive to set rates in the planning stage but doing so will refine who you target. When setting your rate, you want to account for the costs of doing business. Those costs include things like health insurance, accounting, business insurance (some companies require it), and tools/resource subscriptions.
One way to ensure that your business is a success is to plan to succeed. While you don’t need a 100 page business plan with charts and graphs, you do need a written plan that is your blueprint for launching and running your business. Asking and answering these questions will provide you with the building blocks that will help you to write your plan.
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