Start Before You're Ready, Really
Ask anyone who's taken a dip in the entrepreneurial pool for some words of wisdom, and you’re likely to hear this piece of advice: Start before you’re ready.
If you’re coming from corporate America and have no experience of being your own boss, let alone launching a company, this very phrase is anything but clear, comforting and concise advice.
After four years of being my own boss (with a bootstrapped business), I can now share three ways you can start before you’re ready:
Related: Don't Make These 10 Startup Mistakes
1. Create a Facebook business page in lieu of a website at first. A website can be one of the most significant tools and investments you make. I also believe in testing content, building up a community and tracking the likes, needs and wants of the online audience.
But launching a Facebook page for your business is free. And tons of people already check out Facebook on a daily basis. Plus, there’s this little tool called Page Insights that allows you to see all sorts of information about your Facebook fans (or potential customers). This includes data such as geographic location, age, gender and your top performing content. It's also possible to integrate an email-marketing app into your company's Facebook page that will allow users to sign up to receive newsletters from your business.
Your first business idea can shift or may need to be tweaked. Using a Facebook business page as a testing ground allows you to collect all the messaging, marketing and data needed to then create compelling website copy and offers that will result in sales.
2. All it takes is one to two solid strategic alliances to launch (not dozens). When I first started my company, my business coach served as a huge source of referrals. At least once or twice a week, he would refer me a potential new client. In my first year in business, 50 percent of my clients came from this coach and 50 percent came from other sources.
Before you give your job two weeks' notice, identify five to 10 potential strategic alliances for your business who may be able to provide business referrals and insights. Take these individuals out to coffee. Ask how you can support them in return.
For example, I gave my business coach social-media marketing consulting. And I constantly made introductions for my other referral sources and shared opportunities with them (even before I became an entrepreneur).
Yes, some preparation in identifying these individuals is essential. You don’t want to launch the business and only then begin to conduct this outreach. The sooner you identify strategic alliances and share your new business idea and details of your venture, the sooner you may have potential clients.
3. There will always be something to improve upon. Get over that and work with what you’ve got.
I eventually created a website. Nonetheless, I have major website shame! That's not to say I don’t love the look and feel of my site, jaclynmullenmedia.com, but it’s not optimized for high engagement and honestly it’s out of line with my current business model and offerings.
Yet this very brochure-type site helped me generate substantial sums as a solopreneur these past four years. With this site, I landed speaking gigs at Social Media Week in Miami and Los Angeles and was accepted into the Tory Burch Foundation Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.
How? I set up a site and I began networking, serving my clients, working with my strategic alliances and establishing a credible personal brand.
It pains me to think about where I would be today had I waited to first create the perfect website. I can say the same about my Facebook cover album and my YouTube channel artwork: "Start before you’re ready" really means just that.
There will always be 10,000 things that you'll want to perfect, enhance and improve. But the sooner you begin collecting data and information about your customers' needs (and wants), the sooner you'll be able to update your services, marketing copy, promotions and processes -- not only to your liking but to your clients’ liking as well.
Make your customers a part of your branding and marketing process, ask for their feedback (on your Facebook business page, of course) and identify those initial strategic alliances.
Follow up on one of these suggestions or all three. Either way, you’ll start before you’re totally ready and perhaps end up with a set of tips to share based upon your own entrepreneurial experience.
Jaclyn Mullen is a performing artist turned social-media marketer, philanthropist, speaker and strategic connector. She runs Jaclyn Mullen Media, which creates content and community for companies and individuals, and is a graduate of the Tory Burch Foundation Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program for early-stage, women-owned businesses.