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Starting a business

I quit a well-paying job over 20 years ago thinking that it would be easy to make a living in my own business.
Twenty years later I am much wiser and would caution my younger self about doing the same thing again without better advice.

If I had to start again I would do things differently and spend my money more wisely.

The difference in starting a business today, compared to twenty years ago, is that it is so much easier to promote your business and sell your products.

It all starts with understanding what you want to do and how business works.

The mature entrepreneur = 50+

Starting a business when you are older might be daunting, but well worth exploring.

If you’ve retired early, have been retrenched, or have had enough working for someone else it’s time to think about it.

The closer you are to retirement you might notice ageism creeps in.

It doesn’t matter your age because there’s a good chance you are healthier with a whole lot more life in you than previous generations.

Starting a business today needs an understand the basics of a business. After all, if you have worked in a job prior to retirement, unless in marketing or sales, may not of seen how it all fits together:

Making decisions about the products to sell and how best to do this
Sourcing the products, making them or providing the services to sell
Marketing and Sales
Accounts, Administrative tasks and employment

One of the benefits of living in a digital age is that there is a range of practical tools that don’t cost an arm and leg to promote your business or products. Better still, they are able to help you better target prospective customers or clients.

What’s a business?

what's a business?

photo by Jack Anstey – unsplash.com

The first thing to realise is that every business has to do the same three things:

  1. Have a product, or service
  2. To sell it, then
  3. Deliver it

And to do that profitably, meaning being able to charge more than it cost you to make or buy it.

Making sure you can deliver

The other day I answered a cry for help from a fitness instructor running a dance studio. They had sold several hundred coupons for fitness sessions through one of the daily deals sites.

The problem was that their promotion was too successful; they sold too many.

The coupons were discounted meaning they would make less money for each fitness session. Delivering the fitness sessions was going to be the problem. They were a one-person operation to start with, but to deliver on the deal they would have to hire other instructors to help run the sessions.

By selling too many discounted tickets it was going to cost more them more than what they received and they were going to take a beating.

With a tight cash flow, they could of easily gone broke.

The upsides to this deal were that they could gain a good cohort of members.
The downside, if they had targeted the wrong people in the first place, they may never see them again.

This was a hard and fast lesson for them.

Worse- if they couldn’t deliver on their promise – their reputation would have been destroyed.

Let’s start with some basics about a business

What’s your product?
This was my biggest mistake when I first started out. I had no product, nor any idea of what I could do.
I had assumed that I would stop work and just start a business.

This is what I call a No-What.

I can tell you I ended up trying all sorts of things, spending money right, left and centre trying to build up some skills.

With hindsight, while building up good experience it didn’t earn me any revenue.

It would have been better to start off with a part-time job while building up the business.

Unfortunately, my ego got the better of me.

Where to start

where to start?

The best place to start exploring your business idea or product is to start with what you know, what you love or can do.

Do you have a hobby or skill?
Do you have special knowledge?
How have you helped someone recently?

It could be that you have a specialist skill that is in demand, or you are able to teach, coach or tutor someone in how-to do something, or help a business owner needing help to do something better than they can now.

Or you may have a special product that you can make and sell.

In a digital world, your customers could be anywhere, provided you can reach out to them online. That’s where improving your digital marketing skills comes in.

Who wants your product?

Once you are clear on your product, solution or service you want to sell, the next thing is to identify who may want the product. What would they be willing to pay for it?

Start to think about your preferred customers – their age, gender, where they might hang out online ( ie. social media ). We call these personas and they help us target how best to communicate to them.

Do you want to be a freelancer or entrepreneur?

These are two distinct businesses models you may want to consider.

When it comes to making a product or providing a service, you have two choices:

You can either make it yourself or buy it.

The freelancer makes it themselves, as they are the cheapest person to hire to do the job.

The entrepreneur outsources this, as they wish to build up a system.

Their job is to create a scalable business that can run itself and not depend solely on them. Meaning you can take holidays and have more of a lifestyle while the business keeps running.

The freelancer, on the other hand, has to do everything themselves – making the product, selling it, delivering it along with all the other busy functions needed to run a business. This can be the harder path to follow.

Where to sell your product

This depends on the product and whether it is a service you provide or a physical or digital product. Physical means something solid you can hold or touch. Digital meaning that it can be downloaded, such as a pattern or ‘How to’ manual. With a physical product or service, you might open a practice, work from home, open a shop, sell on consignment, sell at a market, even door to door and online.

With digital, the only sales channel will be online.

You’ll need to use some technologies or tools:

Email for a start – you can’t go past Gmail – it provides email, calendars and neat online tools such as a word processor, spreadsheet and online storage for documents

A website – one that you can easily update yourself such as a WordPress website. With over 74 million websites and growing across the world, WordPress is here to stay and one of the best content management systems there is. You may prefer some of the easier to set up sites that include updates and hosting on one such as wix or weebly sites.

A content management system allows you to update and publish content on your website yourself. You don’t need to have someone else do it for you and charge you fees. Hence, in the long run, it’s easier to keep up to date.

Most WordPress websites are mobile friendly (viewable on a smartphone or iPad etc), a critical factor in today’s digital world.

Social media accounts – these are useful for connecting with your potential customers eg. LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, plus you will need to make the time for social media. However, I think you’ll find social media a bit overblown nowadays ( 2018).

Ecommerce – if you want to sell online you will need an e-commerce site. While I used to favour WordPress for this, there are a number of better solutions for smaller start-ups such as big commerce or shoppify.

Payment Systems – if you are selling online you will need a way to collect payments – most online stores use PayPal to start with, unless they are a larger company, then they might use their own payment gateways. This will be a consideration too if you can get customers or clients onto a retainer or subscription.

Learning how to use new technologies and skills online

using appropriate technologyYou will need to learn new skills, improve your knowledge of business and using technology. And you will need to find the time to do so.

You can search using Google to find out how to do most things.

YouTube is also a huge source of learning.

Lynda.com and Udemy.com below are also sources of learning, both offer subscription plans.

Making a rough plan – don’t make things complicated to start with

Woman using navigation app on smartphone

A rough plan or basic map of what What you want to do, and how to get there is the next part of the plan.

How much time and money are you prepared to put into your venture?

Will you try and do it yourself or get help?

This is a make or buy decision.

If you haven’t got the funds to get help, you may need to get some work to earn some money while learning how to build up your own business.

You will need to map out your own business model – the freelancer or entrepreneur, how you will price your products, how much you will spend on marketing and selling your products and so on.

This is just a basic primer for you.

The best thing to do is to start planning and thinking about what you want to do.

Be choosy about the advice you seek.

When starting a business, you’ll get all sorts of advice from lots of sources.

Many will want you to pay for it.

Government business services are often places with good sources of information you can search online for.

Starting your own business when you are over 50 can be a bit lonely at times, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. You will need to spend some money, and no doubt, waste some too.

That’s how you learn.

You must start somewhere or it will never happen.

Allow time for your business to build up, often over several years and that’s not a typo!