Q: I have a business that I'd like to get off the ground. Where do I start if I have no experience?
A: First and foremost, congratulations on taking the leap! It's scary, rewarding and fun to strike out on your own.
In terms of advice about how to get your business off the ground with little experience, I suggest these tips:
1. Write a business plan.
Some say you don’t need a business plan. I disagree. Instead, I highly recommend writing one. You don't know the unknowns until you try to answer all the questions that will come up when you are filling one out. You don't need to go out and buy expensive business plan software. There are plenty available to download for free. Just do a simple Google search to see what is available and choose a template that will suit your needs.
When I hit some roadblocks writing my business plan, I turned to SCORE, a national organization of retired executives. Because of their experience, they were able to answer questions and help with projections. Three years later, I still utilize SCORE and reach out to them when I have issues.
If the business plan intimidates you, at a bare minimum you should do a profit and loss statement. Once completed you will have a better understanding of the future of your business and if it makes sense. It's pretty simple: If the numbers don't work, don't do it.
Related: 3 Tips for Handling Startup Hiccups
2. Invest in your website.
In today's world, your website is your calling card, and it's important to put time and effort into it. Too often, I see new startups put something up as a placeholder and then never get around to making it solid.
Don't make this mistake. In fact, it's easy to avoid making it. A startup can now create a quality website on a budget. A lot of people know someone who builds websites, so tap your contacts. Otherwise, you can reach out to students at a local college or look for out-of-the-box services like Shopify, which allow people to easily tweak website templates.
If you want your site to look top-notch, I suggest you use a professional. Yes, it can be expensive, but it is your brand. If you learn some basic skills you can do a lot of the updating yourself.
3. Get out there and meet people.
When you don’t know where to start, the best thing you can do is ask others who are in your industry. Meet, talk and collaborate with people doing similar things to what you want to do.
Before I opened my co-working space, I visited more than twenty co-working spaces across the U.S. and chatted with a bunch more over the phone. I read every single website that had anything to do with co-working spaces and found a priceless Google group. I was really surprised how open others were with sharing their knowledge and insight. I found that most business owners support each other and are happy to pay it forward. If you put yourself out there, others will help lift you up.
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