When it comes to growing a new business, the options can feel overwhelming. New businesses often struggle to find steady cash flow, so you must spend wisely. Knowing where to focus your efforts is the key to smart expansion.

Over the past 16 months, Jarell and I have experimented with many ways to grow our business. We spent money on classes, software, seminars, memberships—you name it. What we’ve found is that when it comes to growth in the early days of starting a business, your efforts must be laser-focused on what will not only grow your business, but grow it in the right direction. 

Define Your Business’ Purpose before You Grow

So, what is the “right direction” to grow your business? Your business should have clear goals and a clear purpose. If your business’ goal is simply “to make as much money possible,” you are going to struggle. Narrow down your playing field to a specific sector. 

If you are going to run an online retail business, you will do better if you specialize in a certain genre of products than if you sell anything and everything. In a service business, you will do better if you offer a specific genre of services. Remember at the beginning of Hello Dolly! when Dolly tells the whole town she can solve any problem, “Just leave everything to me?” Here’s the soundtrack for reference:

 

Well, that “I do it all” idea may have worked in 1900, but in 2019, it just makes you look like a mess. 

In our business, Jarell and I offer very specific services: We build online learning materials. Everything we do in our business supports that goal. This blog is even used in one of our online college courses (Hello to Mr. Beers’ students!).

With that in mind, we can focus our business growth on supporting that business goal. Once you have defined your business goal, here are a few areas where you can focus your energy on growing your business:

Invest in Your Own Learning

While my graduate degrees are focused on education (MS Instructional Design, MA English, MFA Creative Writing), my undergraduate degree is in business management. On the surface, you would think that would have prepared me well to be an entrepreneur in the education field. I assure you, it did not.

We had–and still have–a lot to learn. It’s humbling just how much we have had to learn in this first year of business. From updates to tax laws to even how to figuring out how to start an online K-12 private school, we learn every single day. 

If you are looking to grow your business, start by growing your own knowledge. Learn everything you can. Take a (reputable) online course about human resources. Go to a conference for people in your field and network with presenters. Sign up for a community college course in accounting. Get a new certification. 

Whether you are learning about launching a successful microgreens business from Microgreens Farmer, or you are simply attending a local WordPress users meeting (they are in every major town, BTW—we attended one last year in Orlando), there is plenty to learn. If you don’t know where to start, go on Meetup.com and see what like-minded people in your area are doing to expand their businesses. In Orlando, there’s even a group for introverted entrepreneurs!

Hire the Right People

Jarell and I have been working to build and grow our team for years—long before we took the leap to start our own business. We’ve invested a great deal of time and resources into turning talented interns into exceptional employees. Our hiring pool for any given project is comprised of people we have known a very long time. 

But, if you aren’t as lucky as we are to have a wide hiring pool, you can still hire the right staff for your business. If you don’t have a great deal of money, start by hiring freelancers that you can try on for size without make a huge hiring commitment. You can also run an advertisement for an intern at internships.com.Interns work for free or for cheap just to gain experience, so make sure you have plenty of tasks that will help them gain experience.

Knowing the right people to hire takes time and savvy. The best advice I can give you is always follow your gut instinct. If the person with the prettiest resume and best credentials is a total jerk when you interview, don’t be afraid to hire someone whose credentials are a little less but makes you feel at ease. You can always fill in knowledge gaps, but you can’t change a person’s personality.

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To grow, you must refine the way you market your business. You may have started your business with word-of-mouth referrals, but eventually, you will need to invest in promoting your business. Small expenses like business cards are no-brainers, but in a world where most people search for services online, you have to position yourself so that your intended audience can find you easily and at the right time.

With marketing, start with the free stuff, like creating social media pages. Google picks up Facebook pages, so at the very least, start there by posting important information like your hours, contact info, and services offered. Of course, you should have a website. Most bloggers recommend BlueHost because they have huge referral bonuses. We, however, like InMotionHosting because they have stellar customer support, excellent up time, and amazingly simple tools.

Once you are ready to invest in promotional advertising, try Facebook where you can strategically target specific demographics, or Google Adwords, where you can set very specific spending limits. 

Walk before You Run

One of the biggest mistakes new businesses make is trying to grow too fast. You want your company to grow and thrive organically. However, it takes time to build a business. It takes time to learn how to run your business effectively and how to give your customers precisely what they want. Money trickles in slowly at first—don’t spend until you have a good, solid safety net in the bank.

As far as our business, what I wish I had known in 2017 when we made the jump to strike out on our own, is this: You are going to work far more than you ever imagined you would. All these “internet millionaires” who are telling you that you can run a business in four hours per week are full of you-know-what. We expected a lot of work, but we didn’t expect we’d be working months on end without any sort of time off, or even a moment to go to the grocery store. Running your own business is hard work, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Believe me, it’s worth it.

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Where to Focus Your Efforts to Expand your Business - #startyourownbusiness #businessowner #grow #career

If you’ve taken the courageous step to start your own business, there will come a time when you need to hire your first employees. It can be a little scary because the stakes seem high–whoever you hire will help set the bar for your company’s culture and image. 

When you start your search for the perfect employees, there are two things you should think about first:

1. What Makes an Employee a Perfect Fit for Your Business?

When you’re hiring for the various roles that your business requires, you need to take into consideration both qualifications and personality. As a small team, people that are unable to work closely with one another, and do not slide into the identity of the brand, may cause tension and their working relationship with your company could fail as a result. Interviews are the perfect time to get to know a candidate on a personal, and even informal, level, so you can gauge whether or not they are a good match for the rest of your team members and if you will appreciate their presence in the workplace.

Ask a variety of questions, which are related to your business, in order to decipher whether they should get the job. Working out the importance of the job role to the interviewee is crucial; at this stage, your business needs people on board who are dedicated and are there for the long run. Therefore, you should avoid those who are applying simply for the salary or wages. For niche and specialist jobs, you can utilize places like Eightfold.ai’s Talent Acquisition Platform – Online Human Resource Tools for Businesses and ensure that you have access to the right people for each role in your company. Make sure you get the right help and assistance regarding your hiring processes; this will save you valuable time, effort, and money in the long run.

2. What Can You Offer your Employees?

To have the best employees, you have to be the best employer. Benefits like healthcare are expected by most employees, and that isn’t what we’re talking about here. Think about how you manage your staff. If you’re a micromanager, you can expect a lot of employee turn over–good workers will not put up with it. Instead, be careful to hire people who are good at what they do, and then let them do it.

Even if you don’t offer the highest salaries in your business, if you are a good boss, you can still retain great employees. Strive to pay them what they’re worth, though. 

Can you offer your employees flexibility, like working from home or a flexible hourly schedule? Today’s best employees appreciate your efforts to support work-life balance. 

Can you offer extras, like memberships or conference fees? How about tuition reimbursement? The more your employees feel you are supporting their careers, the more likely you are to keep them. 

Rewards and bonus schemes are another way to keep staff motivated and momentum high. If somebody is going to receive a treat for reaching your targets, they’ll be more inclined to push for it in the first place. Reward your team with a regular social event outside of the workplace. If your staff members are getting on well and enjoying each other’s company out of the office; they are more likely to successfully cooperate as a team when they’re in the workplace.

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Hiring the Right People - The first two things to think about - #hiring #career

Starting a business has genuinely never been easier or cheaper than it is today. Thanks to technological developments like the internet and social media, there just exists so much opportunity to create whatever we want.

Although it may be easy in some respects, it doesn’t mean that starting a business isn’t going to be hard work. You’ll need a lot of passion, a real talent and valuable skill that you can turn into a product or service that people will pay for.

You’ll also need a thick skin and a lot of patience. One of the biggest drawbacks of things being so easily available nowadays is that we’ve almost become a society that expects instant gratification in all areas – not to mention so many people out there who make business look like a breeze and sell the idea of making millions almost overnight.

Yes, you can make big money online and have a truly successful career doing something you genuinely love, but you’re not going to have it happen overnight and if you do want to become a millionaire then you really need to prepared to put in the ground work that it will take to make that happen.

In this post, we’re going to share with you some of the top reasons you should start an online business.

1. Online Businesses are Easy to Set Up

Setting up an online business is, today, one of the easiest things to do and there are endless amounts of resources available for free to help you out along the way. If you have a smartphone, laptop and an internet connection, then you already have the building blocks for starting an online business.

2. They’re also Cheap

Unlike with a brick and mortar business, to start an online business, you don’t need to apply for a business loan, rent an office or deal with inventory – depending on the industry you’re getting into, of course, but if you have the things mentioned in the first example, then you really can start a business with very little or even no money, especially if you want to offer professional services, such as copywriting, web design, starting a blog or coaching, for example.

3. You Can Run Your Online Business on Your Own Time

Even if you work full time, the chances are when you get home, you spend a good portion of your time online, so why not put your time to good use and start a business in your spare time. Plenty of the best side hustle businesses have been started this way, and since you get to choose when and where you work when you have an online business, then you can run it in your spare time without committing yourself to a physical office or schedule.

4. Your Online Business Will Give You Freedom

One of the very best things about having an online business is the freedom it allows you to create for yourself. If you want to spend more time at home with your kids whilst also following your passions, or you want to be able to travel the world whenever the mood strikes, then building an online business is one of the best ways to enable you to do this.

5. You Owe it to Yourself

If you’re reading this post, you’re already thinking about starting your own business. You’re wondering whether or not you have what it takes to succeed. Here’s the answer: Of course you do!

Think about all the people selling stuff online right now. What do they have that you don’t? Well, other than a product… 

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5 Reasons to Start Your Own Online Business - #startyourownbusiness #career #sidehustle

We live in a time and a place where women and girls can do almost anything. We can go to school, get a job, vote in elections, and choose exactly how we want to live our lives. That being said, there are still some unfortunate and often overlooked advantages that men have over women, especially when work and pay are concerned. For this reason and plenty more, many women turn to the world of entrepreneurship and decide to start their own business. This is no simple task, so, before you make any commitments, be sure to look for these vital signs.

1. You Have A Support System

Starting a business is far from easy, and there are going to be any number of struggles to face along the way. To ease this burden, it’s vital that those around you support you and the decisions you make. After all, they’re going to be the ones to pick you up after a bad day at the office. You may also want to consider finding yourself a business mentor, to offer advice and guidance from the knowledge they’ve gathered for their time in the entrepreneurial world.

2. You Have The Financial Means

Money is the fuel source that keeps the world of business moving, which is why you need to ensure that you’ve got the cash you need to get your startup up and running. If you have any major debts right now, you should get those sorted before you go borrowing any more money. A debt consolidation site, like https://debtconsolidation.co, may be able to make this easier for you. Before borrowing from the bank, consider your own savings and borrowing from angel investors.

3. You’ve Written A Business Plan

Whether you intend to borrow money or not, every smart businesswoman needs a plan. This will serve as a support to keep your company on track and prevent you from making any avoidable financial mistakes. This business plan doesn’t need to be particularly detailed or long, but it should contain all of the information you need to know on every area of your company. You can visit https://articles.bplans.com/ for help and advice with this task.

4. You Understand The Risks Involved

Before you jump into your business planning, you need to make sure you do your research and understand all of the potential risks involved. Read business related books, check out a few business blogs, and speak to other entrepreneurs in your field. If you can, have a chat with individuals who have made huge mistakes in the past so that you know what to look out for and how to avoid them.

5. You’re Passionate About Your Ideas

Businesses might exist to make money, but, if you want to succeed, then yours needs to be about so much more than simple financial gain. Running a business is an exhausting and complicated challenge, and, because of this, there are going to be times when you want to give up. Unfortunately, in these moments, money alone won’t be enough to keep you going. This is why you need to be passionate about and emotionally invested in your company and ideas.

Quitting your job to go and become a businesswoman is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Before you make any huge commitments, make sure you look for signs that you’re ready for the challenge.

5 Signs You're Ready to be a Businesswoman - #entrepreneur #Career #bosslady #businesswoman

When you work for a big corporation in a salaried job, things are pretty straightforward. You do a fair day’s work for a (slightly less than) fair day’s pay, and you know what to expect in your pay packet at the end of the month. But this is a luxury that most wage slaves pay for whether they’re aware of it or not. In an era of corporate wage repression there’s a good chance that your employer isn’t paying you what you’re worth just to protect your bottom line. They may also be keeping your from the training and development you need to further your career or dangle carrots of promotion and recognition that are forever just out of your reach. When you’re a freelancer, there are some patches on the other side that are greener, but there’s also no shortage of quicksand. Freelancers get the freedom to choose their own hours, be their own boss or take a day off whenever they feel like it, but they’re unlikely to ever again enjoy the kind of job security or stable and reliable income that they used to take for granted.

While many freelancers swear that they would never go back, it would be irresponsible to suggest that the world of freelancing was a non-stop parade of smiles and sunshine. Like any business, it requires your constant care and attention and a reliable base of happy clients who can provide consistent work and eliminate the risk of dry spells. While dry spots can be blessings in disguise, allowing freelancers an opportunity to review their practices, hustle for more clients and hone their skills, too many of them can be ruinous to a freelancing career. With this in mind, success in freelancing requires, perhaps more than anything, an absolutely sterling reputation. Here we’ll look at the importance of reputation in the freelancing world as well as looking at some practical and actionable ways you can boost yours to ensure that you receive regular work from clients who’ll pay you what you’re worth.

Your Reputation is Everything When You’re Freelance

When businesses look to outsource freelancers to fulfill functions that they’re not equipped to handle they need to know that they’re getting their money’s worth and that the person they’ll choose will generate a significant return on their investment. Just like you, they’ll have a brand and a reputation to maintain. They’ll need to ensure that the quality of the work they receive will be in line with their brand values and reflects the standards to which they hold themselves. Thus, they won’t be looking for cheap. They’ll be looking for good. They’ll also be looking for tried, tested and proven since no business takes a risk of any sort of they can possibly avoid it. Here’s how to show them that you can deliver.

Bring Personality to Your Online Presence

Even clients with the most specific briefs in mind will want to hire freelancers whose work sparkles with personality and has its own idiosyncratic charm. Moreover, who doesn’t want to do business with someone who is engaging, personable and charming. Thus, it’s essential that you build a sense of personality into your online and social media presence (while still remaining consummately professional). Use blog posts and video content to show prospective clients exactly what skills you bring to the table. If you need a hand creating professional video content, check out Lifetime Media and browse our portfolio. Posting regular content will not only boost your reputation, it will give your search engine visibility a boost and drive more traffic to your website.    

Charge What You’re Worth

There’s a temptation, especially right at the start of your career, to undercut your competitors on price in the hopes that being the cheapest game in town will give you a competitive edge. Unfortunately, this is likely to have the opposite effect and put the best clients off. Remember that unlike private individuals, the businesses and corporations who will be your clients are unlikely to be making decisions based on cost. They’ll want quality and they’re happy to pay for it. If your fees are significantly lower than those of your competitors, they’re likely to assume that the reason why is simply because you don’t offer the same quality. Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. If you’re genuinely unsure of how to calculate your hourly rate, this article may be of help to you.

Stick to Your Deadlines

Nothing will compromise your reputation more than missed deadlines. The businesses that outsource you will have deadlines of their own to contend with and if you cause them to run late, it could end up setting them back significantly and potentially costing them a great deal more than they paid for you.

Never agree to a deadline if you have even the slightest worry that you’ll be unable to meet it. Negotiating on deadlines at the start of a project is far more agreeable to clients than letting them know that you’re behind right at the 11th hour. If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, it may even be worth outsourcing to another freelancer whom you trust (which is why networking is one of the most important skills a freelancer can have).

Perform a Thorough Social Media Audit

If you use Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook for promotional purposes, it goes without saying that your behavior on social media must be beyond reproach. React to every comment on your posts and handle compliments with grace, gratitude and humility. Steer clear of politics and religion. While you are entitled to your own personal views, you can’t risk damaging your professional reputation by alienating prospective clients. Speaking of whom, you should avoid discussing your clients. Do not mention them by name and certainly avoid openly mentioning your fees.

Finally, use your social media presence to network and give your clients and prospective clients alike an insight into your personality. Do not use it as a platform to spam businesses with ads or hustle for work. It’s quite simply bad form.

Enhance Your Professional Reputation as a Freelancer - #reputation #freelance #career

When it comes to pursuing a career, so many of us fall into line and follow the traditional route of taking on positions in established companies or businesses. However, it’s extremely important to bear in mind that this isn’t the only option available to us. While employed positions are great for some, there are various individuals who strive for something a little different. We want to work on projects we’re conducting. We want to give out instruction rather than taking instruction. We want to build our own dreams rather than merely contributing to somebody else’s.

If this sounds like something for you, you may want to take to the world of self-employment and freelance work. Now, there are a few different things that you will need to thrive as a self-employed freelancer. A professional home office, an efficient laptop or tablet device, eye-catching business cards… these are all relatively obvious requirements. However, there’s one thing that every freelancer should invest in if they want their small business to thrive: a vehicle.

Purchasing a Vehicle

Treat your vehicle purchase like any other major business investment. While you may not want to purchase a vehicle outright, you can engage with financial plans that allow you to spread the cost out over a more extended period of time. Compare different loans that are available to you on a comparison site like https://auto.loan/. This will help to ensure that you get the best deal to meet your needs!

Networking

No matter what field you are working in, there’s no way that you can make it successfully to the top entirely alone. You may need funding from other sources, or collaboration with larger, established brands to help make a name for yourself in the market. As a freelancer in particular, you also need to establish contacts who can call you in and provide you with regular work. This is why you need to network. However, in order to make your meetings, you need to be able to drive! Public transport is unreliable and delays can result in bad first impressions.

Meeting Clients

If your networking goes well and you land some gigs, you’re going to have to meet up with the clients who are requesting your services. Again, public transport is extremely unreliable and you don’t want to leave your client waiting around. Being able to drive also means that you can take your portfolio and equipment or materials along with you, allowing you to show off your work in your meetings or even work on location!

Collecting Materials

Everyone knows that raw and basic materials come cheaper if you buy in bulk. However, you may also want to save on the shipping costs that come hand in hand with huge orders. Picking materials up straight from the supplier will save you plenty of costs, but of course, you need a vehicle of your own to get there and transport them.

As you can see, a vehicle is one of the most valuable assets a freelancer can acquire. Buy smart, though. While new cars are fancy and flashy, they will cost you more over time. Buying a good, used car is a smart way to save money (and let someone else pay the bulk of depreciation!).

Why You need a Car to Successfully Freelance

If you’ve made the wonderful decision to start your own work-from-home business, there are several legal issues you need to consider. Legal mistakes can doom your business, especially in the early days.

In most cases, you will need business permits, but these laws vary far and wide between states and communities. You may need articles of incorporation. If you have workers, you may need workers’ compensation insurance. There’s a lot to consider! Here are a few legal things to think about as you start making money from home:

Know What is and isn’t Permitted in Your Community

Before you start working from home, you have to ask yourself whether or not you have the right permissions to do so. If you’re just sitting at a computer all day, there’s a good chance you’re not breaking any neighborhood rules. All the same, not having any permits, licenses or certifications you need for your field of work is one of the easiest ways to get your business shut down early or face serious fines.

Depending on where you live, you might need zoning exceptions to be able to run any kind of business from home, regardless of what it is. Check with your town or city hall, and look up guides for new business owners in your industry to see what is and isn’t required of you.

States also have their own, specific requirements for registering a business, incorporating a business, and filing sales and service taxes. Most counties have a business incubator that can help you navigate regulations so you can set your business up for success, legitimately.

You’re still Responsible for the Workplace

If you invite clients or workers into your home and they end up getting injured, you could be in serious hot water. You could face a premises liability case and you might get sued—just the same as if you were a large business with a fancy office building.

Keeping the home free of health and safety risks is one important step in coping with that threat, but you should also invest in business liability insurance. Consequently, you might simply reconsider whether or not you welcome clients to the home at all. You could save yourself a lot of headache if you visit them instead or find a neutral ground, like a coffee shop, as a meeting place.

You can also rent meeting space at hotels, conference centers, and even county offices. Check your local community centers to learn about low-cost meeting place options.

Related: 5 Things to Know about Working from Home

Don’t Fudge the Numbers

Even a small tax accident can inspire the tax authorities to start raking through finances with a fine-toothed comb. An efficient, organized bookkeeping system is essential. Most home business owners take care of their own taxes, but when your taxes start getting complicated and include multiple expenses and potential tax breaks, you might want to consider hiring an accountant to help you. Accountants don’t just make sure the numbers are all organized. They are also qualified to offer real legal advice on how to deal with your taxes and avoid audits.

Don’t let any of the potential threats put you off your efforts to get your own home business up and running. There’s risk inherent in running any kind of business; you simply have to ensure you’re taking the right precautions to deal with them.

Home Business Legal Requirements Checklist

It’s impossible to create a one-size-fits-all recommendation for your home business’ legal requirements, but here are some things you absolutely must research before you start your business:

  • What business licenses do I need? State? County? City?
  • Am I violating any home owners’ association rules with my business?
  • Do I need to incorporate my business to protect my assets?
  • Do I need business insurance?
  • Have I registered my business properly with the IRS? (if you aren’t sure, ask an accountant)
  • Can I safely meet clients at home, and if not, where can I meet them?
  • If I have a virtual assistant, what legal steps do I need to take as an employer?

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One thing that many small business owners and even freelancers who just earn a little on the side worry about is whether or not to hire an accountant. Some avoid it all together and try to manage their accounts themselves. Others avoid accountants until the week before their tax return is due, only to find that they’ve made a huge mess of their finances up until this point and their accountant has an enormous task trying to sort things out and avoid a costly fine.

Some business owners hire an accountant straight away, have regular meetings and know that their accounts are in great shape all year around. These people have less financial worries and have no sense of impending doom when it’s time to file their taxes. Still other business owners aren’t quite sure whether an accountant is worth the money or not.

Well, in truth, unless you’ve studied an NEC Online and have some formal accounting training yourself, which could save you an absolute fortune and be well worth the investment, hiring an accountant is one of the easiest ways to save money. Yes, there’s a cost, but hiring a professional accountant could save you thousands every year. Here are just a few of the ways an accountant could save you money.

Accountants Help you Avoid Fines

The first and most important way that an accountant saves you money is by ensuring that you avoid what can be hefty fines. If you miss the deadline to fill your tax return, miss payment due dates or file incorrectly, you can face penalties and find yourself in trouble with the tax office.

This might seem simple, but these dates aren’t always the same. Filing online has a different deadline than filing by post. There are varying payment dates, and sometimes, getting it right is much harder than you think—especially if you haven’t done it before. Many people find themselves so stressed out when it comes to preparing their tax returns that they make silly mistakes and get themselves into trouble. Hiring an accountant can be cheaper than just one of these fines.

They Set up Systems

Many new business owners or freelancers struggle to find an efficient way to keep track of their income. They don’t know what to record, they don’t know how to send invoices, and they don’t know what can and can’t be declared as a tax-deductible expense. Not having a clear system makes things a lot harder than they need to be. This can leave you confused, spending money that you don’t need to and losing even more.

An accountant doesn’t just send your tax return. They’ll also help you to set up systems and offer you advice on how to keep a better track of things, how to earn more, and how to manage your money better. Even if you just hire someone for a short term, they could help to save you a lot of money for the years to come.

Accountants Know Tax Deductions

Tax-deductible expenses are one of the most confusing things for new businesses. Many incorrectly believe that when they declare something as an expense, they get the money back. This isn’t the case. If you buy a computer for your business, you don’t get back what you spent. You just take the amount off your taxable income at the end of the year so that you pay less tax. Basically, if we say the tax is 20%, the saving means that you pay 20% less for all business purchases.

But, knowing what you can and cannot declare can be difficult. Not declaring enough can mean that you pay much more tax than you need to. Declaring things that you shouldn’t or not keeping your receipts or recording your expenses correctly can mean that you face a fine and find yourself in trouble.

An accountant will ensure that you declare everything that you can. This can include things like utilities, even if you work from home, entertaining, food and drink, internet costs, stationery, heating, charity donations, equipment and machinery, office supplies, travel costs, building repairs, insurance and almost anything else that is for your business. An accountant will be able to make sure you are getting it right and give you more information on what you can and can’t declare.

Your Time is Valuable

Remember, your time is money. All the hours that you spend recording income and expenses, filing your return and managing your money is time that you can’t spend earning money elsewhere. Hire an accountant to give yourself more free time to make money.

Hiring an Accountant Can Save Your Business Money