Obviously, the economy sucks. If you haven’t been laid off or had time reduced, you know one or two people in that group. Looking for a new job is almost painful, for you and the hiring company, as there are hundreds of applicants for even entry-level positions. The national situation has many men looking to give market forces the one-finger salute, scrap the resume, and hire themselves. Starting your own business can be an attractive proposition, especially if you can run it out of your home. Answering to only yourself and showing up to the “office” in your underwear is enjoyable, but operating a small business is not all late mornings and three day weekends. Thoughtful construction and operation of the company, though, will help promote success and ensure your wife won’t leave you. Our 9 stepss for starting a home business below:

#1 Think hard

Make sure owning a small business is right for you. Are you willing to work long hours? Miss paychecks? Miss weekends? Many entrepreneurs will tell you horror stories of eating pizza and Ramen everyday while collecting less than minimum wage as their business struggled to generate cash. Easy to dismiss as boastful exaggeration, this is actually good advice. Whether or not you will face the same hardships is unknown, but you must have the stomach to risk the possibility.

#2 Choose a business

A variety of business can be run from home, the trick is discovering one that fits you. Successful business owners do what they know and do what they love. It is difficult to put in another 14 hour day pushing a product or service you don’t actually believe in. Selling and marketing yourself is also easier when you are obviously knowledgeable and passionate.

#3 Scope the competition

Are you the first or thirty-first man with this idea in your area? Most businesses are going to have competitors, this is America after all. Thumb through the phone book, surf the net, read reviews, etc., basically doing whatever it takes to understand your industry as best as possible, and then exploit it. Know who and how many you are going up against. Find a need and fill it. What is going to make you standout from the rest?

#3 Know the rules

Each state has different laws and regulations governing commerce. Is what you want to do even legal in Springfield? Make sure as you move towards opening day you are licensed, permitted and ready for inspection. Overlooking a law can cost time and money as you work to get things sorted out. City and State governments are usually much friendlier when dealing with prepared businessmen, rather than a bumbling newcomer that actually forces them to work. A sleeping government is harmless, but when angered, it will happily work overtime without pay to ruin your world.

#5 Write it down

Now that you have done some research, put it into words. A business plan is absolutely essential to any new endeavor, no matter how simple your proposed company might be. A good plan is one that a stranger could pick up and read and then be able to describe you and your business in detail. The document details what your company does, how it makes money and offers revenue projections (you gotta know if you can actually make a living). Also, how much is it really going to cost to start the company? Creating this plan forces you to dig for hidden costs and learn about potential pitfalls others have faced before you. Be honest with the plan, even if you are not sharing it with others, and it will serve as a useful guide.

#6 Promote it

Now that you have started this awesome business, don’t be shy about telling the world. We are not necessarily talking about spending wheelbarrows of cash on ads and marketing; there are plenty of cheap (or free) methods to spreading the good word, like press releases and social media. Be creative in your promotions, but don’t do something crazy just for attention. Consumers are smart and will see through your stunts. Outlandish events are wonderful and especially effective when they fit well with your brand. However you decide to draw notice to your business, do it often and do it well.

#7 Execute

It seems like common sense, but often businesses suffer because they fail to deliver on promises. For small, home, businesses, this can be due to the fact that there is a single employee, you, and success actually overwhelms. When you get a customer, act like you have done this before (you don’t want a repeat of prom night), and give him or her what she expects. If your following is growing beyond what you alone can handle, hire help. You may even need to force yourself to grow slowly; moving forward at a pace in which you can treat all of your customers or clients well. Success is a good problem to have, just make sure you can deal with it.

#8 Pay attention to the books

Running this business, you are likely the president, secretary, janitor, head of sales and the accounting department. It is important that you do not slack on the record keeping role. Know how much cash you have, so you can figure out how much you are going to need. Understand where you profits are coming from, or what is causing you to lose money. If you have to file special information with the government, its best to keep accurate notes. Many businesses stumble because of accounting oversights. Clean books and business records help ensure the “little things” don’t put you out of a job. They also help with tax breaks and getting money from banks. Fun!

#9 Get better

Remember when you were looking around and thinking, “I can do this better than those guys?” Well, someone else is processing that same thought. No resting on your laurels now that the business is up and running. Poll your customers for improvement ideas. Ask other business owners for tips. Information is available to those that ask for it, so speak up. Remember, the better your business becomes, the more gratifying it is to flip off all those that did not want you. 

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