Now that you have answered questions about yourself, your business, and the industry you want to break into, you likely have some sense of whether starting a business is right for you. So where do you start? What is the first step?
The hard truth is that the first step to starting a business will look different for everyone. For those entrepreneurs providing a product, it may require sourcing materials and creating test products before piloting the final version. For those entrepreneurs providing a service, they may approach gig work first to establish a body of work that they can use later. Or for those who already have a portfolio or gallery, they may need to define the scope of their services before taking any additional steps. So how do you know what the right first step is for you?
Work Backwards from Your Goals
This is one of many reasons why answering the questions laid out in the previous blogposts is so crucial. Knowing what your short-term and long-term goals are before starting your business can help you visualize and strategize, working backwards from your goal to identify the actions you need to take to get there.
For example, suppose your short-term goal is to simply create a listing for the product or service you are selling. To achieve this goal, you can (and should!) reflect on your answers to some of the previous questions. Can you clearly communicate what you are selling? Great – then you have the substantive body of your product or service description. Have you thought about what platforms are best for selling your products? Then you have your starting point; where you may be able to make your first sale. Do you have a clearly defined target market? If not, can you visualize who an ideal customer would look like? If so, then you can tailor the language of your listing to market to those individuals.
Break Down Goals into Smaller Tasks
For more ambiguous goals, it can be helpful to break those goals down into concrete tasks. Ambiguous goals are goals that do not have clearly defined parameters or are not a concrete task themselves.
For example, suppose your goal is to make a sale. Consider breaking this goal down into several different tasks that could help you achieve your goal. It is important to remember that you do not need to list every task that could help you make a sale. Rather, this is meant to provide a starting point to get you closer to your goal that you were yesterday. One set of tasks might look like this:
Create a product/service listing and post it to [xyz platform];
Introduce myself (in-person or electronically) to local businesses;
Create a social media presence for my business.
We can even take one of these tasks and break it down further. Suppose you want to create a social media presence for your business, but you do not know where to start. One set of tasks might look like this:
Research how competitors are presenting themselves on social media;
Visualize (or write/draw/plan out) how I want to present my business on social media;
Create social media business accounts;
Google “social media for businesses” (bonus points if you narrow it down to your specific industry!)
Finally, attach reasonable and attainable deadlines or time limits to your action-tasks. Using the social media example above, perhaps you want to allocate one hour each to task numbers one and four (researching competitors’ social media presence and googling advice for your industry). In the case of task numbers one and four, either a time limit (i.e. one hour each) or a deadline (i.e. by the end of today) is appropriate if you have a sense of how long it may take.
For tasks where it is unclear how much time you need to complete it, it may make more sense to set a deadline without a time limit. For example, after task numbers one and four, task number two (visualizing your business on social media) may take ten minutes to plan and draw out. For others, it may take much longer. Task number three is similar: for those who are already comfortable with social media, creating social media business accounts may simply take a few minutes before lunch. For those who are not as comfortable on social media, they may need a full week.
Starting in the Wrong Place is Okay
“Starting” your business in the wrong place is okay – because it is better than not starting at all! So many individuals let uncertainty and the fear of failure prevent them from taking meaningful actions towards pushing their business forward. Instead, embrace the fact that some steps you have outlined for yourself may not at all factor into how you accomplish your first goal.
For example: maybe the first online selling platform where you list your products or services is not where your target demographic is located. Instead of considering it a failure, think of it as an opportunity to narrow your focus and research other platforms where you should be listing your product or service.
No matter what type of business you start, there are going to be challenges. Some weeks will be better (and feel better!) than others. By setting realistic expectations and goals for yourself, you are creating an opportunity to set yourself up for success. As an entrepreneur myself, I have been in your shoes and I am ready to help you every step of the way. If you need help identifying your goals, breaking down tasks, or establishing your online business presence, then you already have your next task: contact me to set up a consultation for your business today.