The past 12 months have left us all facing new challenges and tough circumstances, but the pandemic has also provided a much-needed chance to re-evaluate our lives.
Many of the biggest shifts so far have been in the world of work, with millions of Brits working from home for months at a time, and facing either increased pressures or less work than normal.
It’s not surprising then that many of us are hoping to change our work lives for good with a recent survey revealing that one in five people hope to become their own bosses in 2021.
Whether you’re hoping to turn a hobby into a side hustle or have an idea guaranteed to attract attention, launching your business from home is the perfect way to begin. We asked experts for their top tips for getting started – and making sure your venture has staying power.
Dream big, start small
Starting a business marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter and when it comes to setting out goals, Anna Lundberg encourages entrepreneurs to start small but be as ambitious as possible.
“Start with a small thing and follow your curiosity,” Lundberg, the founder of One Step Outside and author of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5, says. “There’s a lot of persistence and resilience needed but your vision and the execution of the business is going to evolve, you’re never going to have all the answers. I think people give up too soon, because they expect results right away and it doesn’t happen that way, unfortunately.”
Whatever your idea is, you’re going to need bags of enthusiasm to make it work, adds Helen Jane Campbell, a coach for creative people and author of Founders, Freelancers & Rebels.
“The first thing you need is the energy to show up every day,” she explains. “And I don’t necessarily mean the sort of energy that we used to run up a mountain, but you need to have an energy about your business. You need to feel more enthusiastic about your business than everybody else put together and you really need to believe in what it is that you’re offering or selling.”
Build your squad
Having a support network of friends, family or other entrepreneurs can make a huge difference on days when you’re lacking in the motivation department. Campbell advises working out who your “cheerleaders and supporters” are as early on as possible.
“It could be family members, friends or the people that you’ve met online,” she says. “Find those people, and you can be that person for someone else.”
Campbell’s support squad includes a friend that she has a weekly call with, during which they celebrate work wins, share stresses and let off steam. “It’s eight o’clock every Wednesday morning, there’s no agenda but it’s just to check in and support each other,” she says.
Don’t be afraid of outsourcing
It’s easy to feel like you need to do everything yourself, but outsourcing tasks – from accounting to web design – will not only help you reclaim precious hours, but also save money in the long run.
“Create systems in your business,” says Lundberg. “There are things that we can automate, outsource and get quite cheaply. Try to make things easier for yourself [and] get rid of the things that are really time consuming and don’t add a lot of value.
“If there’s something that either you’re not very good at or takes way too long, it’s much better to pay someone else. Then focus on the stuff that’s really going to add as much value as possible in as little time as possible.”
Letting professionals take charge of tasks such as creating your website or managing your social media presence could also help you reach new customers and clients.
Flexibility is key – but balance is a must
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we’re all capable of adapting in the face of huge change – which will come in seriously handy as an entrepreneur.
“I think the biggest mistake is if we fail to see our business as something that evolves,” says Campbell. “If you don’t like your logo after six months, of course you can evolve it, if you decide that your product needs to change in some way, or you want to put your prices up, that’s perfectly okay. There’s very little that is set in stone.”
Make sure that starting a business doesn’t leave you working all day and night. Downtime is key.
“One of the strange and exciting, but also difficult things, about running a business is that if you really love what you’re doing that that blurred line [between work and life] is even worse,” says Lundberg. “It’s very easy to say ‘Oh, but I love it so much, I don’t mind working all the time’, but obviously that can be really detrimental.”
Try to prevent this from happening rather than finding yourself in a position where you feel like you need to dial back. To help, Lundberg shares some final top tips: “Make sure you choose the right business model, that you’re focusing on really creating value and your pricing is right.
“Make sure that you’re actually getting the results you want and need, without being stressed and working into the night.”