Setting up your own business in the current climate is tough - but the potential rewards are more than worth the battle.
Grab yourself some expert inspiration on a host of start-up issues - from selecting business partners to making the most of social media and finding out how to market your product - below...
How do you know it is right to take the leap and go into business for yourself?
I think you need to listen to your instinct ... there will always be 101 reasons to put something off, but my view is "Stop Talking Start Doing!" You will never start anything ... until you START!
What's the first thing you should think about in setting up your own business - does it basically all come down to money?
The first thing you should think about it doing something that you love - you spend so much time working, especially if you run your own business that you have to love what you do!
I've just finished a journalism course but am actually interested in PR & marketing. People say digital marketing is the future - do you have any tips for me to forge ahead with this new area?
Digital marketing is indeed the future! Key is to get experience - find somewhere great to intern!
If you're interested in seeing if we have any slots - email email@example.com!
It is such a competitive market, you need to be one step ahead and prove to employers that you have both the skills and attitude. Work experience / Internships are key.
I'm starting my own business and there is so much I think about and so much conflicting advice out there, what do you recommend to keep focused and also to keep motivated when reality hits in (lack of money, struggle finding clients etc.)
That's why I set up www.smarta.com - the best and free advice for setting up a business.
You need supportive people around you - the road will never be as smooth as we'd like, but all too often we give up just before we make a break through.
The key is to keep going, but also be able to recognise when something really isn't working and pivot.
There's a great book that can help! Stop Talking, Start Doing!
When it comes to finding clients - nothing works better than testimonials and recommendations, so make sure you feature this on your marketing material and website!
Start-ups and social media
How would you suggest going about promoting your business via social media? Is a presence on Twitter important to networking, in your opinion?
I think Social Media is crucial for small businesses - it can make all the difference. For me, Twitter has been by far the most effective way to market what we do.
Is Google really the only sure fire way of getting your Company name known (when trying to promote a service type company). Twitter is great but don't people get fed up with constant advertising?
It's about QUALITY not just QUANTITY! Also, Twitter isn't purely there as a means to talk 'at' people - it's a way to communicate 'with' people - and it's a great source for research, finding potential partners etc. It really isn't all about how many followers you have!
People absolutely do get fed up with all others do on Twitter is promote their products - if you follow me, you'll know that my Twitter feed is very human and not just a marketing outreach. When I have something that I think people will be interested in, I of course share it - but I'm careful about creating a balance.
Being found on Google is crucial if you have an online company, but if you have a strong offline presence, nothing beats word of mouth!
As a hairdressing salon what kind of things should I be posting on FB and Twitter to help boost business!
Build a loyal following with exclusive offers for your clients who 'friend' you on FB or follow you on Twitter.
There was a great example last year in the snow of a hairdresser in Manchester using Twitter to invite anyone who could make it in for 50% off any appointments as he had to pay normal overheads etc., but most of his appointments were cancelled as people couldn't get it ... BUT some could and those that did benefitted and love him for it!
Business partners and team hiring
What are your top tips for ensuring that partnering works & is the best way to earn future revenues.....?
For me, partnering has been so important to everything I do - personally and professionally.
Choose people you like and *want* to work with - life is too short for anything else. Ideally choose people that you can learn from and hopefully they can learn from you too.
In terms of shared revenue, it's impossible to say without understanding what each party brings to the table, but I have always found, where possible 50/50 makes the most sense and leaves the least room for future fallouts!
I have a great concept that I fully believe in and am working on the ideas for a network that involves a lot of creativity and building. How do you suggest I find the right technically minded/skilled person to work with on this as I'm keeping things quiet at the moment and want to build on trust to put together the idea and take on financial investment to grow.
That is a challenge / problem lots of entrepreneurs face ... I would suggest attending as many events as possible where like-minded people will be at - check out all the Smarta100 Academy events on www.smarta.com/smarta100
Also look at events that people like The Kernel and Tech Crunch hold - people are out there - you just need to find them!
I've run one type of business for many years and want to branch out into another... Do you think it's better to re-train & do things yourself or to employ good people? Where do you draw the line with delegation?
My advice is focus on the things that you love and are best at and employ / partner with people to fill in the gaps. You will have a much happier and more fulfilled life that way!
Time, not money is our most valuable commodity.
Delegation and trust are crucial, but like everything else you have to *start* somewhere ... today is a good place to start!
What are your top considerations in taking on a business partner?
I'm pretty simple: Would I want them to stay in my house for the weekend? If not, don't do it.
A business partner is like a marriage, so you'd better get on!
Also, find someone with complementary skills - not just a replica of you.
From experience it is key that you share the same work ethic ... not everyone wakes up at 5am like I do! Doesn't mean they have to either, but if someone doesn't answer my emails in an hour, I'd be concerned!
I've been roped into helping my friend market his community gardening project (update the website, write press releases, help find/contact sources for funding). He's really thinking BIG about where he wants to go with it. He's a natural entrepreneur, but the disorganisation makes me feel wary - I feel that he's running before he can walk. Should I try to bring more order and structure to the project or let him run free and just play catch-up where necessary? I guess this is a question about different work styles.
You guys have a good balance and if you can cope with the different work styles and make it work for both of you - you have a greater chance of success.
Hopefully you will balance each other out - I always run before I can walk, but only with a great support network around me!
I have a small business and I really want to take it to the next level. By the end of next month, thanks to funding, I will hopefully have my cosmetic products ready for retail and was wondering what the best way to approach retailers would be? I know my knew product will be good and have a decent following and customer base thanks to social media. Would they take someone like me seriously?
Without seeing product or knowing more about it, its hard to say BUT my attitude has always been to think BIG.
So use all your connections, muster and HUSTLE ... send products out to all the influential bloggers - get some great reviews then take to the biggest retailers ... network like mad to get an in if you haven't already got one.
If someone can do it - why not you?
Thea Green (Nails Inc. Founder) is one of the judges on this years Smarta100 - maybe you should enter!
I am a jewellery designer in the US which is one of the hardest markets to reach the consumer. How do I attract magazines and Stylist to my brand - F.U.S.C.H.A? How do I get into stores in a everyday is a sale atmosphere that the recession here has created?
There is no denying it - it is tough, but if you have a stand out product, are prepared to work harder and smarter than your competition - you will succeed. It won't be easy and you may well have lots of people say no ... but James Dyson had every VC, Bank and Manufacturer say No to him ... and he carried on because he had faith.
He's a billionaire today. Nuff said.
What is your advice on how to test your idea before completely going to market? What if the money is so limited you can't do a survey?
The best thing you can do is go to www.smarta.com and all the advice you need is there - for free. You can even register your business online.
Are there any brands out there that you feel have branding nailed? It's hard to know where to start with a really creative, stand-out campaign...
There are lots of brands I think nail it - Apple obviously, Stylist too ... but also smaller local independent shops who just 'get' their audience.
You can't get away from the Meerkats either!
I see you're an expert on public speaking - I hate it! Do you actually enjoy it and how did you get to that point?
I'm weird! I know! I LOVE it ... it's when I'm in *flow* the most ... Fundamentally, I've realised I'm all about people and how I can help and support them - being able to do so in person, for me is the best part.
It helps when you are totally passionate about your topic ... so ONLY talk about things you love!
I've been advised to really get out there and network/make contacts to push my baking business, but I'm naturally shy. How would you suggest doing this in a way that's not too pushy but also effective?
Reach out to people who you think can help evangelise for you and send them your product - you will find that more often than not, if people love what you do / make they will share it. I certainly do!
Nothing speaks louder than the recommendations of others.
I am happy to share information, leads, contacts when I go to meetups but sometimes I feel that a lot of people don't like to do the same. They take more than they give. Any tips for dealing with this?
Top Tip: Stay away from them. Don't work with them!
There are 2 types of people in this world - those with an abundant mentality and are happy to share with others - and by doing so everyone benefits and there is more to go round.
Or - those with a scarcity mentality or don't feel there is 'enough' to go round, so try to 'hide' everything.
There are plenty of amazing, abundant people in the world!
A lot of people are talking about 'future-proofing' your career at the moment. I would like to know what you think will be the crucial roles in marketing and PR in the future - 10/15 years from now?
If you want to future proof your career ... here's the key ...
Accept that everything you know today will be redundant in 2-5 years!
Bold statement, but the basis of it is true. You need to be flexible and constantly learning ... five years ago, no one could have predicted the impact of Social Media on business.