1. Buildings and equipment are expensive, but knowledge is free.
A business based on knowledge and information costs almost nothing to start. Some of the most valuable businesses in the world like Google and Microsoft are knowledge-information businesses, and they started very small. But don’t feel like you have to make billions to be successful. Many people make a good living selling ebooks, email or online courses, reports and videos about what they (the authors) know or learn about. This can be as simple as how to dance, how to ride horses, how to play the guitar, and many other how-to skills. Perhaps you have a hobby or special skills that the average person does not. You can make money packaging and selling that. If you want to start a bakery or a print shop, you are going to need a lot of money – which you may not have. Don’t set your heart on starting a business that requires a lot of capital. Focus on starting a business that requires specialized knowledge, and get it.
2. You’ll need to spend a few dollars for a website.
Any new business today needs to have a website as a selling platform and to interact with potential customers. While it is possible to have your business solely on Facebook, for free, you will have much more control over your options, your branding, your marketing and your success with your own website. While you can start a business mowing lawns with nothing but a lawnmower, we are assuming anyone reading this is going to want more and most likely has the capabilities to achieve more. Search for “best web hosting companies” and you’ll see that many of them charge only a few dollars a month for web hosting. Look closely for something like “one click installation of WordPress” in their list of services because this is by far the best way to get a website started – millions of others use WordPress to drive their websites. WordPress is free, viewable on mobile phones, and you can get tons of plugins and templates to enhance your site’s capabilities. There’s abundant free information online about how to build, run and constantly improve a WordPress website.
3. You can sell other people’s stuff without having to buy it first.
They used to be hard to find, but today there are thousands of companies which will dropship any of their products you sell. This means you can sell anything from socks to computers to jewelry through a website you own, and the supplier will ship it to the customer, so you don’t have to buy and stock inventory. You can use http://unifac.com to help you with your inventory and shipments. Search for “dropship suppliers” and you’ll see links to a world full of opportunity. I know a young woman who saw a need in the marketplace for Southern-styled girls’ and women’s clothes, and went from zero to over $2 million in sales in one year (!) using a lot of dropship suppliers and building a fan base of almost a million followers on Facebook.
4. You can use free social media to build your customer base.
Make steady use of blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and other social media to (first) build relationships with people and (then) introduce them to your products or services in a subtle manner. I once was followed by a Twitter user whose stream of tweets consisted solely of “buy my stuff” repeated over and over again. Needless to say I did not follow him. But if you share your expertise and interests in a genuine, professional manner, you can build thousands of relationships worldwide, some of which may become customers. Share information that others may find useful, or lessons you’ve learned, or human interest stories so that your followers, connections and contacts will actually read what you write and come to know you as a unique resource whom they value. If you don’t know how to use social media to build your business, just do a search for “how to use social media to build your business” and again you’ll find a ton of information online.
5. Be different, be targeted.
You absolutely must understand and follow these four words: Product differentiation, market segmentation. This means you must provide products or services that are somehow different from what your competitors offer, or you will forever be a tiny fish swimming at the bottom of the sea. As we have indicated above, specialized knowledge which you have or gain can be a huge differentiator. The young woman who focused on Southern-style clothing for girls and women like herself was not trying to sell all clothes for all people. This has also been called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). If you don’t offer something different, you will not be very successful. And it must be a difference that makes a difference to your potential customers – not just another antique shop. So give that a lot of thought. Also be clear about your market segmentation. Focus on a category or type of business, or a demographic segment of consumers, so that you can better understand and meet their needs. Another way to put this is, “Focus on a niche you can dominate.” That is one of the best new-business strategies you could ever follow. Amazon.com started by focusing on selling books online cheaper than bookstores, and only when they became the category killer in that segment did they begin expanding into other product categories. Be focused, be different, be successful.
6. Work your tail off.
The most successful entrepreneurs are willing to work 80-plus hours a week, sleep on the floor and survive on pizza if needed to get their business running. It is rare for someone to start a business working a few hours nights and weekends while holding down a full-time job. You must employ all your energy, power and capabilities to launch a successful business. Energy and focus are even more important than money in most start-up situations. Don’t be seduced by “gurus” and authors telling you that you can make a fortune working 4 hours a week or by paying them $97 for admission into their secret knowledge website. Think in terms of the bell-shaped curve. A very few people on the edges of the curve work either very little or insanely, destructively long hours. The vast majority work hard, do what’s needed, don’t try to cut corners, have patience, and keep on keepin’ on until they are successful. You can too.