Starting your own business can feel like a lot. There are a million things you need to do and get ready before you even start. I already made a post on how to start your own business — mostly focused on tips and advice. This post is focused on the practical side of starting your business.
I’m not claiming that when you go through all these steps that you will have a successful business, but it’s a step in the right direction. They are the six things you need to take care of before you start. Let’s get you started!
CHECK YOUR BRAND OR COMPANY NAME…
…and get it registered. How to start your own business 101.
But before you do, check If your brand or company name is already registered. If your brand name does exist but it’s in a different branche and they offer products or services that you don’t, you can still use the name. If it’s a business or brand in your branche, then it is best to come up with something different because it will cause trouble later on.
When you have your brand or company name, you can go and claim:
• Your URL
• Social media channels
BUSINESS TIP: always use the same username across all social media platforms. This will make it much easier for (potential) clients to find you. When you do use different usernames it can also cause confusing if a certain profile is truly yours or not.
If you are a blogger using your own name on social media, make sure you put your blog name in your profile name or in your bio.
Now that you have set on a name, you have your URL and social media channels, go to your local registration agency and make it official. In the Netherlands we have the Kamer van Koophandel (KvK). You can find your company registry in this list.
Over here you first make an online appointment to go to a local KvK office. Dutch companies can also use the KvK website to browse and check their brand or company name. When you have your appointment set, you go to the offices and someone helps you register your business. It’s really easy and only takes about 30 minutes.
THE LEGAL STUFF
When you are registered, the next thing you need to take care of is the legal side of your brand or company. The legal things you really need to have from day one are:
• Terms and conditions to go along with contracts or for people to refer to when they buy a product.
This one is non negotiable. If you don’t have this figured out, you risk a fine. I had mine done by a lawyer — you can find Veritas here if you are interested — which I can highly recommend. These are business expenses that are an investment in the success of your brand or company.
Terms and conditions
It’s not mandatory — lots of freelancers and business owners who just start out don’t have them — but it’s money well spend. In case you have a client or customer who doesn’t pay or is asking for more, you can refer back to your terms and conditions that they agreed on when they signed the contract. Always mention the most important terms and conditions in your contract as well.
I do this myself at the moment but if you have a budget to have an accountant, go for it. They usually will help you save money. An online bookkeeping program is also not an unnecessary luxury.
DO COMPETITIVE RESEARCH
One thing I’ve learned the hard way was that you need to do competitive research before you start your own business. And not surprise yourself with the amount of competition out there when you are already trying to get projects. Let this be a great lesson for you before you start. Research who your competitors are and what makes you different from them.
However, it did help me to find a niche to focus on within my branche — luxury branding. Which is tip number two: find a niche within your industry to focus on. The more focus, the better. Trust me, excluding clients will bring in more revenue and project you will want to work on.
SET YOUR HOURLY RATE OR PROJECT PRICE
Before you even start making money, you need to set either an hourly rate or a price per project. It’s another one of the important things to take care of before you start hustling for clients.
To set your hourly rate, you need to:
• Make a list of your expenses
• Know how much you want to earn per month
• Add taxes
Same goes when you decide on a project price but you also need to factor in how many hours you need per project. I personally have set project prices and charge an hourly rate for individual projects. Decide on how you want to charge your clients.
For products it’s a whole other ball game. You need to:
• Factor in all the direct, indirect and variable costs
• Compare with prices that your competitors are asking
• Think about what the product is worth to the customer
There are methods to calculate the price you need to ask for your product.
GOOD TO KNOW
There are a couple of things you need to remember when you start for yourself or judge someone who is freelancing:
• Hourly rate & income: You might see freelancers asking certain prices per hour without taxes that might seem insane for someone who works corporate. Or you think you can’t ask those prices as a freelancer but you have to realize that as a freelancer you’re responsible for all the taxes.
When you are employed at a company, the company pays the taxes that are added into the hourly rate of a freelancer. The hourly rate is not that different from what you would get paid at a normal job.
This also means you need to earn a sh*t ton more money to pay yourself a normal salary. If you want to earn, let’s say, 2000 euro per month. You probably need to earn 2-3 times that amount to pay yourself.
• Every business is different: My parents have been business owners for over 30 years. They have an Italian restaurant that is full almost every weekend. They have worked hard over the years to build the name they have now. However, when they opened the customers pretty steadily came in. And they kept coming, even when the competition grew.
When I started, I was really lucky that a couple of people wanted to take a chance on me. I still to this day struggle to find projects. It’s something that my parents really can’t wrap their minds around that it’s way harder for me to find new clients.
In other words, every business works differently. Every business grows — or fails — in their own way. Just because your business is not as far as someone else’s does not mean it will not be successful.
• Support is everything: As a friend, family or fellow business owner you have the power to make a big impact by supporting your friends business. Even if you really do not get it, you can show up when they have an event, refer them when you know someone is looking for a collaborator or buy their product. Even just saying you support them and their journey can make a positive impact.
GET THE WORD OUT
After you start your own business and you get all your ducks in a row, you can start hustling for projects and customers. Your first clients and customers will most likely be people in your own netwerk. That’s why it’s important to get the word out that you’ve started your own business — read further on creating a pitch to let people know.
When you finish your first project, make sure you get a review. Reviews are the best way to build social proof. The more social proof you can get, the better because it helps other clients and customers to do business with you.
CREATE A PITCH
Whenever someone asks you what you do, you need to have your pitch ready. I know, super daunting. I still choke up when someone asks me this but it’s part of starting your own business. I am right now working on a pitch that is short, sweet and gets people to work with me. Right now I’m using this free online course from WePresent that will take 30 minutes to an hour.