How long have you been thinking about starting your own business? Months? Years? Having a dream is great, but unless you take positive steps to turn it into a reality, then you’ll still be thinking about what might have been.
Natasha Courtenay-Smith, author of the book The Million Dollar Blog and founder of a successful consultancy firm, has just one simple message for anyone who has been dreaming about starting their own business and that’s get to work right away.
“The great thing about living in the age that we do is that you really can easily set up a business. The best way to get going is to get a website and get out there. I am a great believer in sales first,” she said.
“A lot of people agonise about a lot of things; whether to trademark something in particular, but none of that matters.
“The first priority is to get out there and get to sales. Once you have sales and cash is coming, everything else will fall into place.”
In fact, when she started her first business, Natasha was so focused on growth and sales that she didn’t put much thought into what label she should apply to herself.
“I am definitely an accidental entrepreneur. I know there is a big movement in the UK of people wanting to become entrepreneurs, and I think that is great as there is great opportunity in starting your own business.
“That wasnâ€™t how it was for me, though. I started my own business in 2008 and whilst that doesnâ€™t sound like it was a long time ago, the entrepreneur landscape has changed so much in the time that time. Now it is a real thing to be an entrepreneur and perhaps back then it wasnâ€™t. I didnâ€™t even realise that I was an entrepreneur.
“I scaled it because we got more work and scaled it like that. That is a typical journey for an entrepreneur. I didnâ€™t even realise I was one until other people started calling me it!”
So the message here for would-be entrepreneurs is not to focus on the title you can apply to yourself, but to instead focus on carrying out the work that will lead others to view you as a fully-fledged entrepreneur.
And once you do start on the path to running your own business, it’s important that you keep going. Even if you don’t meet with immediate success.
“There is a brilliant saying that most bloggers give up between 3 and 6 months after starting and those who make it simply last longer than the others. I think that is very true â€“ whatever you are trying to do with your blog, brand or business, time and consistency is really important. Too many people give up, before they give it the chance to succeed.”
What’s the one thing all businesses need?
So what about getting your business out there and in front of customers? For Natasha, it all comes down to one thing – your website.
“I am an absolute passionate believer that your website is the shop window to the world. I work really hard on my website; its look, its feel its graphics branding and content. I always get people telling me that it is because of their experience on my website that they have made the decision to get in contact with me.
“My website is extremely important for my business. People hear about me, and the first thing they do (and this is the same for any business) is Google and come through to the website.
“Part of what I do is help businesses make the most of their online presence, so in my experience people will often be recommended to me by word of mouth but the first thing they do is visit my website. What happens on that site depends whether they make the call to get on touch and we work together or not.
“So, it is really important to me that my website is up to date, has great content, colour schemes, and it creates a great first impression. I want people to think that I look authoritative and I know what I am doing.”
Ready to take the plunge and launch your own business? Right now, you can get everything you need to start an online business for just Â£1 a month. That includes a domain name, website and a professional email address.
You can also buy Natasha Courtenay-Smith’s book The Million Dollar Blog here. Or you can read an extract for free here.