What are you going to be doing a year from now? If your answer is "Same old job, same old life," then it might be time to shake things up and start that business you've been dreaming of. To help you out, we've outlined 12 monthly tasks that'll put you on the path to entrepreneurial success. By this time next year, you don't have to be in the "same old job"-you can be in business.
Month 1: Take a Skills and Interests Inventory
Begin a soul-searching process to determine which business is right for you. You'll definitely have an advantage with a business that's a spin-off of your background or experience. You can also enjoy success in an area where you have strong interest yet lack experience, though you may need to qualify yourself through entrepreneurial training or professional certification programs.
Jot down the skills in your talent bank. What do you like to do with your time? What technical skills have you learned or developed? Do you have hobbies or interests that are marketable? Don't forget the personality factor. Do you like working indoors or outdoors? Do you enjoy working with the general public or with a few close clients? Every business has its own personality, and your own personality should be a complement to the one you finally choose. Talk with others in businesses similar to the ones you're considering about the traits and temperaments needed to be successful.
Keep searching until you find an idea that couples your love for the work with your marketable talents.
- The Best Home-Based Businesses for the 21st Century by Paul and Sarah Edwards
- Determine if your business idea really suits you with the quiz in Hot. . . or Not?
- Not sure you want to do it alone? Maybe you need the guidance provided by a business opportunity or a franchise. Check out our BizOpp Zone and our Top Homebased Franchise listing
Month 2: Research and Evaluate Your Idea
Many people have great ideas, but their businesses flounder in the marketplace because there really isn't an audience for the product or service. Thorough research will help support expectations about a business's success as well as uncover any potholes in your thinking. Ask yourself these questions: What problem does my product or service solve? Whose problem does it solve? Does my idea flow with the direction society is moving in? For example, our society is becoming more mobile, reliant on technology, culturally diverse, and pressed for time. How does your idea fit in? Dig up trends, statistics, surveys and other data from sources like Business Information Centers, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Economic Statistics Administration, Government Research Centers and industry associations. Once you're able to substantiate the viability of your idea, then you can confidently move ahead.
- Visit your local library or Small Business Development Center to check out the Encyclopedia of Associations from Gale Research.
- Download these free forms from Entrepreneur.com's FormNet: Survey Questionnaire, Demographic Comparison and Industry Analysis Worksheet.
Month 3: Choose a Business, a Location and its Structure, and Name It
Gather books and other resources related to your respective business, i.e. "How to Open & Operate a. . . ." Use this material to determine how to best make your business real. Ponder how well a home office space will professionally accommodate your business choice. Then check out local home business zoning ordinances, so you can comply.
Your legal structure can make a big difference in how you pay taxes, handle lawsuits, or dissolve or pass on the business. Will you operate as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or limited liability company? Seek advice from a professional on how to pick the structure that'll best manage your liabilities.
An effective name will establish your marketplace presence, convey what you do, and create a memorable impression. Thumb through phone books, DBA filings, directories and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site to research names already in use or similar to yours. Determine if your chosen name has an available domain name for your future Web site, and reserve it. Be sure to choose a name that you can live and grow with.
- Check out our line of business guides on SmallBizBooks.com to see if your future business is represented.
- Read Space Quest for hints on assessing your new home office space, and Is Your Home Zoned for Business? to see if it's legal to run your business from home.
- Conduct a free trademark search on NameProtect.com. Search through federal trademarks, Canadian and European trademarks, and domain names.