Starting a business is an awesome way to build freedom into your lifestyle. But once you decide you want to start a business, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What are the most important steps to starting a business? What should you focus on first?
Too often, would-be entrepreneurs get bogged down in unimportant tasks. They agonize over every little thing — and ignore the big things that matter most.
Don’t fall into the same traps that stymie other entrepreneurs. Stop thinking about the nitpicky things that won’t bring in the money and focus instead on the stuff that turns a profit.
7 time-sucks to avoid when starting a business
Before you spend hours trying to buy just the right domain name or trying to design the perfect logo, take a step back. Is your business really going to fail because a color was off in your logo? Do you really need everything to be perfect before you present your idea to the world?
Here are some of the most common things people waste their time on when starting a business:
- Worrying over what products to sell
- Concern over how to make money
- Focusing on the business name and organization filing
- Devoting too much time to logo design
- Spending hours on the website hosting and design
- Writing tons of web content (or agonizing over one blog post for a week)
- Trying to make everything perfect before launch
Eventually, you’ll need to address some of these issues, especially as your business grows. But when starting a business, spending too much time on these preliminaries can suck the life right out of you, leading to defeat.
The real steps to starting an online business
You’re not starting a business to build website traffic or to thrill everyone with your amazing design skills.
The purpose of a business is to make money so you can create freedom in your life. None of the seven items listed above will get you out of the gate. Even worrying about how to make money won’t automatically turn your venture into a success.
No matter how perfect your offering is, if it doesn’t solve someone’s problem, it’s not going to succeed. And building a website with a ton of content can help you market in the long run, but you need to have something worth marketing first.
If you want to really focus on the right steps to starting a business that will succeed in the long run, here’s what you really should tackle first.
1. Find an idea (or 10)
Before you do anything else, you need to find an idea. This idea should be something that addresses a pain point, or that others have told you they need (preferably from you).
“I saw a number of freelancers struggling with invoice management and getting paid,” says John Rampton, a serial entrepreneur and founder of payment processor Due. “So I used this idea as the basis of a new service that freelancers and other entrepreneurs could use to streamline their invoicing.”
Your idea is what will make you money in the long-run. Carefully consider your talents and think about what the people around you struggle with. Then make a list of potential business ideas based on that information.
Start with the first idea on your list and go through the following steps with that one spark.
2. Find your potential customers
Now that you have an idea to focus on, it’s time to go out and find your potential customers. Where do they congregate?
Rampton knew his customers were mostly online entrepreneurs. He looked for them at business-related conferences, in Facebook groups, and on LinkedIn.
“Looking for customers where they’re likely to be can help you make connections,” Rampton says. “But you can also spend a little time listening to the conversations. Understand your potential customers so you can address their pain points.”
3. Validate your idea
When you know a little bit more about the customers you’ll target, you can begin validating your idea. Talk to potential customers and find out what they need. See if it’s something they actually need.
“I wanted to find out what features were missing from other invoicing services,” says Rampton. “By participating in discussions, I learned that people needed what I could offer.”
4. Confirm people will actually pay you for it
One of the most important aspects of starting a business is making sure you’ll get paid. You need to be profitable to keep moving forward. So confirming that your idea is bankable is vital.
Rampton’s recent business idea is focused more on fees, so he figured out at which level the processing fees would be competitive and draw people away from other invoicing tools.
“I knew that people were willing to pay for some of the convenience involved with my idea,” says Rampton. “At that point, I knew that I could move forward with this venture.”
He’s had other successes as well, and the key has been making sure that customers were ready and waiting before launching. Having that knowledge and validating your idea is more important than any number of blog posts you could write.
5. Build your email list
Having a way to reach customers and encourage them to buy is more important than you might think when starting a business.
“Building an email list is about relationships,” says Rampton. “You go beyond a one-time contact with someone to being a presence in their email inbox. They want to hear from you.”
When building your email list, make sure you offer value. Don’t just send out newsletters because you can. Send information when there’s something to say and when you can encourage your audience to take positive action.
A successful email list becomes a place to engage your audience — and they’ll be ready to pay money for your next product or service.
6. Everything else
Now that you’ve got a disciplined approach to starting a business and the essentials in place, you can work on other aspects of your business.
When you have an idea nailed down and you’ve proved the concept, products and making money practically take care of themselves. Plus, as you go through with your idea, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll come up with design concepts that fit your bankable business idea.
As your business grows, and as you decide to expand your offerings, you can go back to your idea list. What’s the next item to tackle? Follow this process to prove the next idea and launch it. As you get better at the system, you’ll find it easier — and faster — to get your next ideas launched and bring in revenue.
Don’t let the small, mundane things hold you back from true business success. You don’t need everything perfectly lined up to succeed. In fact, when starting a business, if you can take care of the big picture first, you’ll start earning enough money to bring everything else in line later.
If you want to dig deeper into the steps to starting a business, enter your name and email below and we’ll send you a guide of our tried and tested system that we use here at GrowthLab!