Starting a business is a huge undertaking, terrifying, thrilling and risky as heck. Though it does seem a daunting and terrifying prospect at first, the truth is like all things in life, it is something one learns by doing, making some missteps across the way and learning from them.
Most people have worked for a corporate or a not so corporate concern in their career. There are many issues you, as an employee of a firm, might have faced in the course of your working days. You might have dealt with insensitive bosses and may have got the feeling that your efforts and time are not appreciated. Like most employees, this thinking remains day in and out as you slave away at front of their cubicle.
Until suddenly, you decide it’s time you took matters in your own hands and got into a business for yourself. You want to strike out on your own, be in control and just go out there and make your mark in the world. You don’t want to live under a paycheck to paycheck routine anymore. You want to work whenever you yourself want to, free from the whims of some corporate overlords.
In short, you want to become an entrepreneur. You want to love what you do and you want to rake in the big money after a lot of hard work and efforts have paid off.
From Employee to Entrepreneur
Congratulations. You’ve traded in your small boy pants to big boy pants. You now want to play with the best. And it is only then you realize you’ve got a whole new pair of issues and frustrations to deal with now. For example, as an entrepreneur, you realize that now the tax rate which applies to you is higher than what you were paying as an employee. You also realize the most important issue you as a head honcho may end up facing – where in tarnation are all these clients?
Let’s get to work on this, because that is how businesses happen. That’s how they run like a well-oiled machine. In a business, it’s the clients who make the world go round (money too but you get the drift). Clients’ equal revenue and revenue equals customers. It’s the cycle of business life. You need clients and fast. And you need to find more and more of them if your business is to grow and expand and evolve with the times.
Start Small and Start at Home
What are friends and family for? They’re your first line of defense. They are there to support you in your trying times of course and this is equally valid for business as well.
Though they are not as brazen as banks or loan officers, reaching out to family requires a different tact than reaching out to financial situations. Or better yet, start by striking up conversations about who from amongst your family and friends would like to be your customers. It could be for a new product you want to create and market. Or it may be this new service you think is going to make life easier for a lot of people. All in all, families and friends should be on the speed dial for your entrepreneurial ambitions. They are a great launching pad for your business to get off the ground.
While we are at the subject of the near and dear ones, family and friends can also come in handy in other ways. As a new and fledging firm, your name might not be known far and wide, nor do you have access to a bottomless advertising budget. But what you have access to can be as potent as smart advertising can be. You have word of mouth promotion to rely on.
Family and friends can expand the scope of your business by sharing your launch with their own contacts. These contacts can then call their own contacts. A snowball or cascading effect can then occur, putting your business on the map for potential clients. A rule of thumb though, it’s always prudent to remember they are your friends and family and are not paid (generally speaking) to promote your firm.
Find Some Former Classmates
You spent some of the best years of your life in school, networking with a whole bunch of people without being aware of it. Well, guess what, now you can cash in on that networking by calling your buddies, most of whom are in a similar predicament themselves. Folks from high school and college can go on to work in different or similar industries, and this can serve as an asset to your business plans. Perhaps you could get them as clients or better still, they can help connect you with people who might need you.
So, open up your contact book or address book, hunt down those folks, fire an email or two, some calls and even go out on lunch (coffee works too!). And then it will be finally time to let them hear your meticulously practiced sales pitch. Success will also depend on a quid pro quo basis, which is another way of saying how much value you’re offering them. It can also be determined by how much close you used to be with them once upon a time.
One more thing you can do is reach out to your alumni association. They might be holding some reunions. Even if they’re not, you can find information about other contacts for business purposes too.
Colleagues from Your Previous Work
They say entrepreneurs should have great interpersonal skills and nothing says that as much as having the confidence and trust of your work colleagues (or most of them anyways as the corporate world is one murky pond to wade in). If you haven’t burnt bridges with your colleagues, nothing could prove to be better than the professional contacts and expertise that industry people get you.
Colleagues can come in handy when you’re looking for a client for your business. Since they are a part of the professional world, these referrals have a higher success rate generally. The credibility and reputation of your co-workers can help you gain clients because you already have people vouching for you. Your skills and professionalism are answered for and this in turn breaks down many barriers for businesses to invest in your entrepreneurial efforts. Even if you don’t get any clients at the initial stage, you can always come back later when you have proven yourself with a few clients, letting your track record speak for you.
Build a Portfolio by Probono
Entrepreneurs don’t like to lose money but most do. We tend to have a fear of putting in so much work into our venture and finding out that no one will pay for it. The mistake is made when a entrepreneur wants top dollar for a product or service that hasn’t even been proven to be worth the asking price. Or worse, has no demand.
Build a portfolio, recommendations, and reviews, by giving away your product or service for free until you create a buzz. Your client that you provide a free or hugely discounted version of what you have to offer will not have the demands of a paying customer so you have the freedom to really see what you can do.
Starting a business is no cakewalk. But with the right focus and the right interpersonal skills, bagging your first clients is not altogether impossible. Though you may not rake in the millions in the initial launch period, but with time, when you have established yourself in the market, getting a client is no more a rocket science. In fact, it isn’t a rocket science even when you’re starting out.