Tips to start your own business | Melanie Lawson

Tips to start your own business | Melanie Lawson

September’s a great month to… start your own business.

Even though I started a business, from scratch, at the kitchen table with no previous experience, at the ripe old age of 40 and with three kids in tow, I always sit down to write these articles feeling like a bit of a fraud. By fraud, I mean I feel I’m not qualified to give advice because it’s really not that difficult. Honestly it’s not. And that’s probably the one single thing I’d like you to take from this article – anyone can start a business. You don’t need any special skills or magical qualities. You just need to get off your bum and September’s the perfect time to do just that.

The other thing I dread is sounding like all the other thousands of people writing about how to start a business. I’d hate to turn out cliché after cliché, while simultaneously whooping and hollering in a metaphorical power pose. So I’ll do just do my best to give you some very honest truths. In fact, it’s what I would say to myself if I could go back in time.

So if you’ve come back from holiday buzzing with enthusiasm about your great business idea, I hope this article is just what you need to spur you into taking action. Even if just a morsel resonates with you, it may be enough for you to ignore that negative voice in your head that says you can’t do it.

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  • Stop reading articles like this or business books

  • A lot of people (like business coaches) would be aghast at this, but seriously, don’t waste any more time reading stuff. You can’t learn anything until you start doing. Imagine trying to learn how to dance by just reading about it - impossible! You have to do to learn. You could consider reading the odd, carefully-selected business book (I recommend ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris) once you’re up and running. Reading is just another excuse not to get on with it. Research and procrastination are ways your inner critic finds to stop you from taking the plunge.

  • Sell a product or service you and your friends would want to buy

    There’s no faster and easier way to ‘know your market’ (business book-speak for understanding who your customer is) than to be your market. Don’t pick a product or service for a group you know nothing about because it puts you at an immediate disadvantage. Think about some of your favourite brands or the accounts you love on Instagram. What is it about them you love? How do you like to be spoken to? What kind of visual aesthetic appeals to you? What winds you up about some brands? Analyse all of these emotional triggers and build a picture of what appeals to you and why. The same things appeal to everyone else ‘like’ you – your ‘target market’.

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  • Make sure you have something people actually want or need

    I know this sounds obvious but I’m always amazed at how many people ignore this completely. Also, make sure what you have is way better (in one or several ways) than your competitors. How many coffee shops open up in the space where another has closed, just to sell the same, average stuff? Why would someone buy expensive homemade beauty products if they’re not in super-cute packaging, smell divine and have top-quality ingredients? Just because you made it in your kitchen and it has your name on it, it doesn’t mean anyone cares.

    Acknowledge that the only thing holding you back is, well, you

    Do any of these excuses ring a bell?

    “I don’t have time.” Bet you had time to watch Love Island, right? Find time, even if it’s just half an hour a day. Swap surfing the net/scrolling through Instagram/watching rubbish TV for an hour of work on your business.

    “I don’t know where to start.” Try the beginning. Where do you start when you climb a mountain? At the bottom. Start there. You’ll soon be able to look back in amazement at how far you’ve come.

    “I have no experience.” Neither did I. Some of the best businesses in the world were started by people with no experience, or people who were unemployable. You will learn quickly and it’s all mostly common sense at the end of the day.

    “I have no money.” Trickier, agreed. But you can start teeny tiny and there are lots of ways to find access to funding. If you’re really serious about starting a business, don’t go on that holiday or tighten your belt for a while.

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    Your brand is everything

  • People don’t buy products or services (unless they only have limited options – like train tickets). What they really buy are brands. You don’t need an expensive agency or consultant to develop your brand (although you may want help with the visual element of branding). Your ‘brand’ is what the product or service would be if it were a person. Its values, beliefs, passions, haircut, dress sense and personality. We are drawn to strangers we meet at a party, or instantly dislike people, because we quickly assess what we have in common and if our values and beliefs are in line. We view brands in much the same way, often just by looking at the packaging or the website.

  • Ultimately you won’t find the impetus to start your business anywhere else than inside your own head and definitely not in a book. So stop thinking, start doing. That’s all there is to it! And just think where you might be at Christmas if you take action on that great venture this September...

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