Are you an aspiring first-time entrepreneur thinking of setting up your own business? Entrepreneurship is one of the most challenging yet satisfying career paths that one can set out for. After all, becoming an entrepreneur can set you free from the conventional nine-to-five grind. While you’ll have to do more work in the beginning, entrepreneurship can potentially reward you with more freedom over the long run.
Moreover, the added risk that comes with this route can give you an extra sense of accomplishment as your business grows.
Building your own business can sound intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. There’s a lot to be done, such as finding the right idea, reaching out to the correct audience and delivering value that customers are actually willing to pay for.
If done correctly, though, starting your own business can be very financially and emotionally rewarding!
Like any other pursuit, it’s the little things that add up and help you grow and build a successful business. Let’s take a look at the important small steps that you should take as a first-time entrepreneur!
Tiny steps that matter: small steps for first-time entrepreneurs
1. Most people start at the same point: don’t let your self-doubt turn into procrastination
Before you get started on an idea or market research, get your mindset on point. Understand that building a business is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but requires a lot of effort. None of the biggest businesses that you see around today came about through just luck.
That said, you also need to understand that almost every successful first generation entrepreneur started at the same stage you’re at right now—from scratch. Many challenges will arise on your journey of being a first-time business owner. However, the way you handle these obstacles will define your level of success.
In particular, self-doubt is something that every entrepreneur encounters at some point, even if they’re no longer a first-time business owner.
However, you should remember that the ability to push through and take the next step is what will ultimately decide your progress.
Take consistent action and don’t let your self-doubt hold you back from achieving your dreams. Once you’ve got this attitude ingrained in your mind, nothing can stop you from hitting your goals!
For many first-time entrepreneurs, the first year of business is a litmus test. Past the first year of operation, you will realise that as long as you stay focused, you will see the fruits of your labour.
2. Decide on your business name and what you sell
Once you’ve got the right mindset towards your new business, you should get started on the specifics.
This includes deciding on your business name, which will help inform the world at large on what your business is about. Pick something unique so you can register a domain for it too.
Additionally, decide what you will be selling.
And once you have a rough idea of what you will sell, write down in detail the various intricacies of your new business.
This can be outlined in a dynamic document known as the business plan, which will help you put your thoughts down in a structured and organised manner. Creating a business plan is essential for success as it helps you list your goals and track your progress on them.
A business plan should comprise the following elements:
The first part of your business plan should describe the product or service that you’ll be offering to the market. As a first-time entrepreneur, this is the perfect opportunity for you to think deeply about your business idea.
Sum up your idea of a problem that exists in the market, and then state your solution to it. Also, keep your executive summary crisp. You might be sharing it with potential investors who don’t have the time to read your business plan in full.
If you intend to offer a product, describe its features, its utility and the logistics of how it will be manufactured and distributed to consumers. Help your users understand your product development vision.
Alternatively, if you’ll be selling a service, describe what it is about and how it will help solve a problem that people face.
This section should elaborate upon the existing market for the product or service.
How many competitors exist in the industry? For how long have they been around? How are they positioning their products and at what price are they selling them?
This is one of the most important parts of the business plan. After all, if you don’t know your competition well enough, then you won’t be able to distinguish yourself from them.
To make sure you market your product or service correctly, you need to understand to whom you’ll be marketing it. Who would benefit from using your product? Describe the characteristics of your target customer. Many first-time entrepreneurs often make the mistake of not clearly defining who their target customers are.
You can also segment customers into different groups so that you can serve them better. Identifying your market niche is an immensely useful way to help you stay focused.
Divide them up based on factors like demographics (age, gender, income levels), psychological and behavioural traits (culture, likes and dislikes, preferences) and geographical locations.
If there is already competition existing in the market, why would customers buy from you?
The value proposition tries to answer this question by explaining what the business stands for as a whole, and how it stands out from others.
In other words, what is the combination of features and utility, versus price, that makes your products or services more appealing than the competition?
Maybe you are solving a crucial pain point, providing a service at the lowest cost or overhauling an existing product. Whichever the case, make sure to convey your value proposition in a compelling way.
Your marketing strategy describes how you will raise awareness of your offerings to your target audience.
The goal is to educate as many people as possible and let them know that your product exists. Through your marketing efforts, try to create a customer base that will interact with your business regularly.
There are various marketing channels that can help you reach customers, such as content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing and paid ads.
You may have a marketing budget to promote ads on platforms such as Google and Instagram, but organic growth can be a less costly option in the long term. Consider putting out valuable content for free so that customers trust you before even buying your product.
Remember also that marketing isn’t fully effective until you evaluate your reach with some key performance indicators.
Be sure to monitor conversion rates, bounce rates and other important metrics that provide a realistic picture of your success thus far. After that, use this data to improve your marketing efforts!
3. Ensure that you have enough savings
Most businesses require some sort of initial investment, especially if you’re selling a product. For example, you may need to invest some money upfront to carry out research and development, and manufacture test units.
First and foremost, however, make sure you don’t leave your full-time job in the early stages of your business.
Leaving your stable source of income is a viable option only once your business starts taking off. Till then, consider it as a side hustle that has the potential to grow into your main job.
If the amount of capital required to start your business is minimal, you can consider using your savings to bootstrap it. If you choose this route, ensure that you have enough saved up and that you aren’t putting yourself in a very risky position by pouring funds into your new business.
On the other hand, if your business needs much more capital, you can apply for short-term financing methods such as commercial bank loans and trade credit. You may also be able to tap on micro-financing to get your business off the ground.
Another innovative way of gaining some capital is through crowdfunding, where you pitch your business idea on websites such as Kickstarter. People may donate to your cause if they like what they see. In return, they’ll have the privilege of getting first dibs on your product.
4. Network and speak with mentors
Talking to people with entrepreneurship experience, especially in the same industry, is helpful for launching your own business. As a first-time entrepreneur, it is important to seek out advice and learn the right lessons from experienced entrepreneurs.
While mistakes are an important part of the learning process, it is better to learn from others’ mistakes rather than make them yourself. Moreover, business is all about connections, and the next person you connect with could just provide you with a world of advice.
Meet like-minded people by attending industry events and seminars, and always keep an open mind when talking to them.
Mentors can ask questions that make you think long and hard about your choices. While pressurising, the good news is that such guidance can better ensure that you make the right business decisions.
5. Pick a domain and build your website
No matter what type of business you want to start up, having an online presence is essential in this day and age. We are currently in the digital era where people go online to read more before making decisions about which product to buy.
In addition, having a business website allows customers to get to know more about you at any time of the day, and from anywhere in the world. A website essentially acts like a virtual storefront where people can find useful information about your business 24/7.
Hence, if you are procrastinating on your dream business, try building your website first. This will get the ball rolling and allow you to make some progress towards your goals!
For instance, GoDaddy’s Website Builder and E-Store platforms will help you create a beautiful website, or a powerful ecommerce store, with no coding experience. With many website templates to choose from, creating a modern and professional-looking website has never been easier.
Just choose a domain name and get started!
6. Celebrate small wins and failures
Each step that you take allows you to learn and grow, even if it leads to a non-desirable outcome. That’s why it is super important to celebrate small wins and failures. Every startup’s success starts from celebrating these important moments.
Be aware that your biggest goals won’t be achieved overnight. Rather, it is the smallest droplets that make up the oceans. Acknowledging small wins engages our brain’s reward circuits, which makes us more motivated to keep pushing forward and accomplish even greater things.
Even failures should be celebrated as they show you what you could have done better, so count them as learning experiences.
As a whole, be mindful of the small steps you’re taking along the journey, and you’ll be more likely to reach your destination!
What is the best advice for first-time entrepreneurs?
This may sound clichéd, but the best advice for new business owners is to just get the ball rolling and give things a shot. University and other forms of education might teach you some basics, but it doesn’t prepare you for the dynamic world of entrepreneurship.
Instead, the best way to learn is by solving each problem as they come. While you’ll still need to do your homework on trends and common errors, you’ll learn a lot by actually getting started.
Did you know that two of the world’s most famous businessmen, Bill Gates and Walt Disney, both failed at their first businesses? Yes, you read that right.
Before Walt Disney created Disney, he started a film studio that closed after two years. Similarly, Bill Gates started Traf-O-Data, a business that eventually failed, but also taught him valuable lessons when he next launched Microsoft.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely fail at your first business. However, the fact is that you need to get started and learn as things progress.
How do I become a successful first-time entrepreneur with no experience?
Just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean it’s impossible! Many people have started their entrepreneurial journey with no prior experience in managing a business.
However, there are a few characteristics that successful entrepreneurs tend to have. So try to inculcate these values within you, and you’ll be more likely to succeed:
Most successful business owners have belief in themselves and are go-getters right from the start.
They usually start their business as a side hustle and then become their own boss full time once the profit exceeds the pay from their day job. This means working hard after the nine to five and slogging on weekends to achieve their dreams.
If you’re a go-getter, you’ll never procrastinate, but will walk the talk to accomplish your goals!
Entrepreneurs are confident in their ability to perform. They know that although the path ahead won’t be easy, they have what it takes to see things through.
Confidence is also especially important when dealing with clients, suppliers, investors and other stakeholders.
While confidence is an important attribute, it should be tempered with humility. There is a fine line between being confident and overconfident, and humility decides where that line lies.
Successful entrepreneurs know when they may not have the answers to everything. And if so, they’re willing to ask for help instead of blindly stumbling ahead on their own.
Playing to your strengths
Perhaps you have never ran a business before. Still, chances are that you already have some skills, expertise or interests that differentiate you from others.
For example, if you have had corporate experience, this can translate into real-life business management skills such as managing people, allocating fixed budgets and making difficult decisions.
When planning your new business, use your strengths and experience to your advantage. Don’t underestimate how far your unique blend of knowledge, skills and experience can take you.
The fact is, you won’t know everything when you are trying to start a business as a first-time entrepreneur. Hence, carrying out market research before entering any field of business is crucial.
It is only after carrying out adequate research that you should start executing. However, know that learning doesn’t stop even then. Keep learning about your industry and target audience as your business takes off!
Take the plunge into entrepreneurship as a first-time entrepreneur
Creating your dream business as a first-time entrepreneur will take effort. However, it isn’t the insurmountable goal that some people make it out to be. The key is to improvise and find solutions efficiently as you deal with the challenges in your path.
If you put your head down, research well and make the right decisions, you’ll be able to build a successful business with little to no experience. Whether you’re planning to start your business in the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong or Singapore, go take your first small step in fulfilling your entrepreneurship ambitions. You’ve got this!