So there’s this dream, this vision you’ve had for launching your business, and no matter what you do, you can’t get it out of your head. You’ve taken other jobs and pursued other interests, but still, there’s something in the back of your mind pushing you towards that one goal.
Enough is enough! You have to stop ignoring that pounding in your chest and the excitement that’s literally bursting from you every time you think about your future career. But before you dive headfirst into the beginning of your dream, you have to lay out an initial business plan and foundation from where you’re starting.
It’s not enough to be passionate, you must also be prepared.
Before launching your business, it’s crucial that you document your ideas, your goals, and the steps you’ll take (in detail!) to get to where you need to be. Not only will this make sure you have the groundwork in place, but it will also help you know what first steps, finances, and funds you’ll need to get things started. Before you officially hit the ground running and let people know about your available services and products, here are a list of questions to ask yourself.
1. Why am I starting this company in the first place?
This seems like a no-brainer, but honestly, answer this question. Not only can this answer eventually mold into your business mantra or mission, but it will help to focus your ideas and creative direction. The obvious answer will be because you believe in what the company means or does, but go beyond that. What’s your ‘why’ in terms of the benefit for others? What can you do that your competition cannot? What is different about what you offer?
2. Who is my target audience?
Identifying who, exactly, your company is looking to work with is great in terms of your marketing plan, your advertising/social media, and your overall goals. Though this might seem limiting at first, it’s actually not. Of course you’ll work with all sorts of people, but focusing on a ‘target’ simply means you’re thinking in a specific direction rather than being too broad.
Considering your audience helps you figure out how you want to shape the conversations and language on your business pages to reach those people. You’ll also know what issues matter, and thus speak to them when referencing your company’s ability to help.
3. What problem does your business solve?
This question goes hand-in-hand with the audience. When you know who’s (primarily) interested in your services, you can better help them.
A successful business solves a problem(s). When you ask yourself this question, focus on the difference your company will make. What do your services and products bring to the table that others don’t? What makes your company valuable? What issues will your business potentially resolve for the consumers?
4. What are my products and services?
Okay, let’s hope you’ve thought about this plenty of times before launching your business, but as you get closer to the official start, think about products and services specifically. Maybe this means taking the time to price out your items or packages. Or, perhaps you’ll consider things like shipping costs in more detail.
Think about the locations your customers might be and how that can impact their ability to buy what you’re offering. Are you offering international availability, shipping, etc.? Will you be a remote company or a locally-based one? Will you have a physical shop, a virtual one, or both?
5. What’s your business structure?
In terms of how ‘big’ your company might be, ask yourself if you’re planning on hiring people underneath you, or what your official business model will look like. Consider whether you’re doing a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership. Do you need an LLC? Will you become an official corporation?
With this, make sure you’re doing the research to know what might be best—for you, and for your local area. You’ll also want to ensure you’re following laws and restrictions for businesses at the state and national level, too.
6. Who am I up against?
When you're launching your business, you need to consider the competition. Ask yourself these questions: What other companies are doing similar things/offering similar products and services? How will I rank in comparison? What are the strengths and weakness of said companies, and how can I note of these and improve upon them in my own business?
Remember that this isn’t and shouldn’t be a negative question. Instead, you should be shaping your business model on what sets you apart, rather than looking down on, or badmouthing other companies. You may even want to consider the option of collaborating with other companies in the future, as well!
7. How fat does my wallet need to be?
Okay, truthfully launching your business is an expensive venture. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth every penny! However, before you get started, you have to have a grasp on how much things will cost.
From the start, ask yourself what initial costs you have: registration and license fees, costs for advertising and brandinga, investments, fees, taxes, websites/development, etc. Then consider the basic costs of operating. If you have an in-person store, what will electricity cost, for example? Do you have enough money in case of emergencies, or if you don’t turn a profit? Will you turn a profit based on the money you’re spending initially?
8. How will I get the word out/market?
This is a biggie. Before launch, thinking about how, exactly, you’re going to advertise your company, your brand, your products, and your services. Will you have partnerships and collaborations? Will you reach out to brands, companies, and influencers? Will you pay for advertising or create custom content yourself? And how will you grow this reach organically?
9. And again, why?
After you’ve answered the above questions, circle back to the first one on this list: why? After considering the ins and outs, the potential issues, the complications, and the fees—are you still just as passionate? Just as excited? Just as eager to launch your business and share your dream with the world?
If the answer is yes (which it probably will be because those dreams are written into our hearts!) then go for it! Having the business plan will be the structure to get you started, and with a lot of hard work and dedication, you will get there.
Marisa Donnelly is a Midwest-born, West Coast-based writer, poet, essayist, editor, and founder of an independent writing coaching/editing services company, Be A Light LLC.
She is the author of the poetry collection, Somewhere On A Highway, and has published thousands of articles culminating over 21.2+ million page views for Huffington Post, Bustle, Thought Catalog, and Briar Cliff Review, among many others.