It would seem like starting a business has become easier and easier as time goes on. Technology has allowed us to easily establish a new business entity online, find legal services, create a new website, print business cards, and connect with potential clients. Ironically, this new ease has created new difficulties. The difficulties are numerous, but I feel there are 2 main reasons:
- The ease of business creation has saturated the market and created new competition
- Due to the number of technology solutions out there, choosing the right one has become crippling
Unfortunately I can’t help eliminating the competition you’re going to face out there, but I can at least point you in the right direction to some quality services that make your life easier. Really.
The first thing you may want to do is setup your new business entity. Some people like to skip straight to the website and client acquisition (I’m guilty of this), but you’ll probably be best served by setting up the business first.
For all of you do-it-yourself’ers out there, you can easily print out and mail in the online form from your local secretary of state. If you’d rather not deal with the hassle, you can use the quality service, LegalZoom. They can also advise you on the type of entity you’ll want to setup (LLC, Corporation, Sole Proprietor, etc) as that topic is beyond the scope of this article. In addition to forming your entity, you can also use them to create contracts, terms of service, etc at more reasonable prices than your local law office.
What’s a business without a logo? You’re going to find countless ways online to get a logo for $5, $15, etc, but they’re going to be awful. The logo will be uninspired, ugly, and embarrassing to use for anything professional. There’s a mindset that since a logo is small, it should be inexpensive and quick to make. But trust me, you’ll know it when you see a bad logo.
My favorite design resource by far has been 99 Designs. You can pick out a logo for $99 and then have it customized for you which is an excellent way to go. If you have the budget though, I would recommend signing up for a design contest starting at $299. You’ll have dozens of designers submitting great designs from all over the world, and you get to pick the best and customize from there. I was nervous and sceptical my first time too, but they’ll knock your socks off.
Just like the logo, you’re going to find scores of resources claiming they can build you a cheap website. And cheap it’ll be. There are services that can whip you up a website using pre-designed templates like Wix and Squarespace. You’ll also have the ability to manage the page content with their HTML editors. The big downside is that you might look like a bunch of other websites out there. That and everyone’s going to know that you used those services because they usually put the link in your footer.
If you’re somewhat tech savvy, you can scoop up a wordpress template at Template Monster, install it on a web host, and swap out all of content yourself. Most people are going to need some assistance though
The best option if you have the budget is to work with a professional web agency like the one I founded, based in Chicago. They’ll be able to help you build a killer custom website and maintain it so you can focus on what you know best. In addition, web companies can usually help you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so customers can find your new website.
Finding your customers
Gaining your customer’s attention is the big hurdle to overcome these days considering the sheer volume of marketing stimuli the average city dweller receives every day. Personally, I think the most important factor is to be there when the customer is looking for you. That means focusing on SEO, local directories, review services like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and anywhere else your customers might be searching.
And of course it has to be said, social media. I feel like social media is a sore spot with many business owners because it’s hard to track and for the most part feels pointless. However, the search engines are keeping track of what’s happening there, and it’s just one more way for people to find you. Luckily there are services out their to make it a little less painful such as Hootsuite. Hootsuite will update all of the social media outlets at one time, and it can give you some kind of metrics on return.
It’s a tough world out there
And it’s only getting tougher. New services, competing businesses, and other concerns for you to worry about are cropping up this very moment. The good news is that people still like working with people they know and trust, so if you do good business and mingle with the right people then you’ll do fine.
About the author: Chris Maloney is a software developer, SEO practitioner, and founder of the Chicago based agency, Webstasy. You can read more about him here.