Four years ago, I was working at an office job to pay the bills after losing my teaching position due to budget cuts. I had only been there a few months, but was lucky enough to receive a Christmas bonus (first bonus, ever) in the form of a $600 check. This was 2012 and I was struggling to find my purpose at the time, even though I didn’t realize it. I did know that I needed to find some type of hobby to occupy my free time after some negative events in my life. I took that bonus check and purchased the Adobe Creative Suite software and an online class to learn how to use it.
My first invitation designs were so, so embarrassing. Like ug-ly. Think lots of chevron (I swear it was totally in at the time) and beginner typography. I can’t believe how supportive my family and friends were, even when I was making things that wouldn’t ever be described as pretty.
I posted up a Facebook page, announced my new hobby to everyone I knew, and waited for a response. It was March 2013 and I literally had zero idea what I was doing. My sister mentioned that I should open an Etsy shop, which was a long term goal, not an immediate one. I was familiar with Etsy, had purchased a few items before, but unaware how to manage said shop and ship items. The idea of opening at Etsy shop was very intimidating.
Anyone established in the world of online business, blogging, or selling will tell you that it’s of upmost important to “find your niche”. So what the heck is a niche and how do you find yours? Think of a niche as a business’ specialty or what they’re best known for offering. By focusing on a specific market, product, or service you are able to really hone in on finding quality clients. Although it might feel limiting (I’ve been there and often struggle with it still) finding the true heart of your offerings will allow you to market as an authority figure on that subject or product.
Many claim that “getting started is the hardest part” which, let’s be honest, isn’t entirely true. With ideas swirling in your head, it can be difficult to know where to even begin.
If you search “how to start a business” online, I can guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of information being shared. Before running out and registering your business, building a brand, or worrying about taxes, I recommend starting simple. If the business is something you want to pursue after that, then you can later take the steps to make it legit.
I can’t claim to be an expert, but can share my experiences on building my own business from just an idea into a full time reality. I’m talking to the creatives, the makers, the bloggers, and the Etsy shop owners. Y’all are my people and although I would love to say this advice fits any business model, it may not.
Dreaming of opening a tanning salon or a landscape company? What I’m about to reveal is likely not going to be your best bet – there are liabilities associated with many businesses and my advice shouldn’t apply in these cases. Imagining starting your own photography business, Etsy shop, or social media management company? This advice is for you. Read on, friends.
Naming your business is a big decision and there are a few things to consider before choosing. I’m such a proponent of just getting started before tackling all the biz stuff (more to come on that later), but unfortunately it’s hard to really get things rolling without a business name. It’s totally fine to begin offering your service or product via your personal social media channels, but to be taken seriously and get clients other than your friends and family, you gotta name your biz!
So, where to start? The first thing to do when naming your business is to brainstorm. If you’re into spreadsheets, start a sheet with words related to your business. If you’re tactile, like me, pull out a piece of paper and start jotting some ideas down. I’ve created a printable download to use for brainstorming with a checklist included. Picking a name isn’t something that happens in a day; I like to stew on several ideas for a while until I really feel clear about the direction I want to go with.
People’s perspectives of the self-employed differ greatly. Some think my solopreneur lifestyle is glamorous and I spend all day creating beautiful things and hanging out on Pinterest. Some have visions of me waking up “whenever I want”, working in my pajamas all day, and not bringing home a “real” paycheck. I’m here to tell you it’s not either, break the myths, and share what I’ve learned in the past year working for myself.
1. Others will question what you do.
From the haters to those who just truly don’t get it, there will be people who don’t see what you do as a “real job”. Either because you get to do what you love all day (and of course, that can’t be considered working) or because they imagine you hanging out at home in yoga pants eating bon-bons.