How To Start Your
Own Business from Scratch

This is the ultimate resource for starting and growing your own online business.

how-to-start-your-own-business-from-scratch

Table Of Contents

mindset Mindset
value Value
foundation Foundation
branding Branding
website Website
marketing Marketing
time management Time Management
resources Resources

Business is not magic. It underlies proven systems.

Think of farming:

Farming requires a clear process: You need to perform the necessary work, in the right order, at the right time.

Starting your own business is similar.

There are important steps that simply can’t be ignored. (Unless you don’t care about results...)

But...

How do you know where to start? What should you do first? In this guide you will lean how to start your own business from scratch.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Mindset

Lesson I | Start with why

Humans are emotional creatures. We are fueled by emotions.

We like to think that we are choosing our direction based on rational and sound thinking.
Yet, most of our decision-making underlies an emotional pain point or desire.

You may argue that you make money to buy that fancy car but the reality is you are buying the idea of that car. Subconsciously, you are driven by how that accomplishment will make you feel. You imagine how it will be like once you turn this dream into a reality.

desire

That's the power of desire.

Thus, it makes a lot of sense to do some "soul searching" first to really understand your motives and what drives you.

Soul Searching

The art of looking into one's self to find your own way.

If you don't understand your subconscious motivation, you will end up sabotaging yourself.

Here's why:

Take a look at social media these days.

Everybody and their cat is sharing pictures of fancy food, cars, houses, jets, boats - and the list goes on.

social-media

What do all these objects have in common? They are “things”.

Most people consider these things their goals. But why exactly?

The reason we love materialistic possessions so much, is because we consider them tangible manifestations of success.

If I own an expensive car, there can be no doubt that I am successful.”

As a result, you will be driven by fancy things and rush to collect as many of them as possible – regardless of the consequences for your life.

This is called: Shiny object syndrome.

Even worse: We often try to impress other people and lose track of our goals and aspirations.

The antidote

If you look closely you will notice that what we enjoy about things is not the thing itself but how it makes us feel.

heart

But do you really need expensive objects or status to feel accomplished in life?

What about financial freedom, helping others, inner peace and time for family and friends?

As you can see: It is rather easy to misinterpret ambitions and lose track of the actual goal.

That's why you need to start the whole process "inside out".

Here's how:

The Golden Circle

The golden circle works on a micro and macro scale: You can apply it to the story of your business to communicate more effectively. You can also apply it to yourself by asking the following questions in the right order:

WHY do you want to start a business from scratch?
HOW are you going to do it?
WHAT are you going to do?

Here's the original video of the TED talk:

the-golden-circle

Task:

WHY do you want to start a business from scratch?

Ideally, you have several reasons besides generating an income. What is your long-term vision? Google's mission statement is to organize the world's information and make it accessible to every human being on the planet. What's yours?

What skills do you have?

Create a spreadsheet or take a piece of paper and write down everything that you are good at. It doesn't matter at this point whether you think you could monetize it or not. Aim for quantity first and prioritize later.

What are your personal strenghts and weaknesses?

Perform a SWOT Analysis: SWOT stands for strenghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threads. Identify at least 3-5 for each and brainstorm some ideas on how to leverage them.

Lesson II | Energy is everything

you

You

money

Money

ambitions

Your ambitions

We place a high priority on making money because we need it to achieve most of our goals in life.

Money itself however, is a tool. You leverage it to make things happen.

A lot of people lose themselves in this process.

They equate money as the outcome.

After all: If you have the money, all things will fall into place, right?

This results in people focusing their entire energy on generating an income.

Here's the problem:

If all of your energy is focused on money, you will soon lose sight of the WHY.

It also means that you have a price.

And if you have a price, someone can bribe you into giving up your dreams and working for them.

This is why you hear many people say:

"Well I hate my job but at least it pays some decent money..."

As Simon Sinek said:

Working on something that you hate is called stress.

Working on something that you love is called passion.

If you make money but absolutely despise every second of it, this will gradually influence your opinion on money. You will find yourself developing a very negative outlook on work, income and life in general.

You will inevitable lose your energy because of stress (caused by lack of vision) and that's when the “equilibrium crumbles”.

At this point, you will spend most of your free time coping.

You wish your entire work week for the weekend to arrive and you start to share “Monday Sucks” quotes on Facebook.

Ultimately, you are left with zero energy and hope. You will spend most of your money on obtaining those fancy objects mentioned earlier so that you can justify your life and get wasted on the weekends.

What went wrong?

First of all let's be clear that money isn't the problem.

The real problem is that your energy is limited

You only have so much of it and your daily actions will influence whether you grow your energy or lose it.

That's why you need to make sure that your energy is well invested in life.

The solution

You need to set and execute goals that make you progress.

goal setting

Don't exclusively look for the paycheck or the forecasted revenue.

You should consider your job/business your life's work

It should motivate and inspire you. You should be able to learn and grow.

You should take pride in helping people and providing an amazing product/service to your target audience.

Be careful of the following scenarios in life:

If you earn an income but don't have an opportunity to learn and grow.

If you earn an income but don't have a long-term vision.
(A lack of vision leads to a lack of energy eventually.)

If your financial decisions are inspired by shiny objects and status.

A word about stress

The truth is there are two types of stress:

Good stress and bad stress.

Good stress

When you start your own business, you will definitely hit road blocks.
But you are excited about tackling them because you know where you are going.

You may still feel tired at times, but the excitement triumphs over the negatives.

This is good stress.

That's why many entrepreneurs can work 14-16 hours every single day for years without burning out.

Bad Stress

The result of feeling that you have to do something that leads nowhere.

When you hate what you are doing and don't see a long-term perspective, you experience stress.

There is a constant inner resistance within you that keeps growing stronger if it is not resolved at some point.

Why would you hate what you are doing?

Two reasons:

1#: You are directly forced to do it or feel like you have to.

2#: You can't see a positive or meaningful outcome by performing the work.

The Solution

Don't get me wrong: In order to be successful you will need to do things that are uncomfortable.

The core difference between good and bad stress is being able to see a positive outcome with the performed action.

When you know deep within you that there is no positive outcome, regardless of whether this is actually true or not, it will affect you negatively.

You can always change your attitude towards work and start a result-oriented goal setting.

Focus on creating and completing tasks that allow you to progress in life.

Example 1:

You work for a company and your boss tells you to finish an assignment.

You don't really see how this particular assignment would add to your expertise, experience or general future. As a result, you consider it a chore.

Collecting a paycheck for mediocre, uninspiring work won't change that.

Example 2:

You just started your own business and you are working on a few proposals. You are aware that this involves some decent work to get it right but you know that it can lead to massive results by landing important clients.

Conclusion: Stress is largely influenced by our attitude towards work.

If we are convinced that a task yields a specific outcome, regardless of whether our predictions are correct or not, it will be much easier to perform the task.

When we know that our work is meaningful, we are fueled with energy and passion. Soon you will find yourself waking up before the alarm clock.

You are in control of your own opinion about work.

Lesson III

Money is a by-product of intrinsic value.

If we want to make money, it makes sense to understand why money is moving in the first place.

money-follows-intrinsic-value

Money follows intrinsic value.

When you generate actual value by solving problems for customers, you inevitably end up making money.

How much will depend on the pain point of the problem:

If you solve a small problem with no demand, you will generate no income.
If you solve a minor problem with some demand, you will generate a minor income.
If you solve a major problem with a lot of demand, you will generate a major income.

Intrinsic Value + Reasonable Demand = Money

With this equation, we know where to direct our focus to maximize our chances of growing a successful business.

Value

There are two types of value:

Intrinsic & Perceived Value
(Tangible) (Intangible)

Many successful businesses found a way to leverage both.

Take Apple for example:

They are ultimately a computer company. There are however many computer companies. If Apple were to compete merely on the premise that they sell electronic gadgets and devices, nobody would buy from them.

The mere fact that you can do something doesn't drive customer behaviour.

On the flip side, companies don't hire employees merely for having the necessary skills:

Companies are looking for employees that have passion, good communication skills and know how to work in a team.

“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

-Warren Buffet

Back to Apple:

Apple's biggest asset is their brand. A brand is an intangible asset.

Apple wins because they successfully merged their tangible assets, the fact that they know how to produce competitive electronic devices, and linked them with their brand and mission (intangible asset).

The tangible assets always address the HOW.

The intangible assets (brand) always addresses the WHY.

You create intangible value by finding a way to directly influence the emotions of your customers. If you succeed, you can build trust.

Can you spot the connection to Lesson I?

When you think of Apple, you think of their eclectic brand, the visuals, their advertisements, Steve Jobs, innovation, a way of life and status.

This is what convinces customers to buy Apple products.

Not the fact that Apple merely knows how to produce phones.

Don't believe me?

Dell is also a computer company.

When was the last time you considered buying a computer or phone from them? (Yes, Dell actually produces phones as well...)

We certainly think of Dell as a company with technical expertise.

That's great, but it doesn't have the same impact as Apple's emotional storytelling.

Now that we understand the link between money and value, let's have a look into actionable ways to produce value. If you follow along, you can start taking notes for starting your own business from scratch.

Disclaimer

Before you continue with the next chapters, try to complete the tasks from lesson 1. What problems can you solve? Or even better: How can you best help the world? If you have a general idea and vision by now, you are ready for the next chapter.

What if you don't have any skills yet?

In case you want to start your own business but don't have any skills, consider this the right time to invest in yourself.

What kind of skills/professions are in demand online?

Here is a list of valuable skills/professions with a decent demand:

SEO / Digital Agency

Social Media Marketing / Ads

Virtual Assistance

Consulting

Graphic Design

Infographic / Vector

Logo Design

UI / UX Design

Web Design

Web Analytics / Data Analysis

Content Marketing

Influencer Marketing

Email Marketing

E-commerce

Copywriting / Blogging

Translation / Website Translation

Voice Over Talent

eBook author / Ghostwriting

Proofreading / Editing

Scriptwriting / Speechwriting

Animation / Explainer Videos

Spokesperson Videos

Photography

Product Photography

Podcasts

Jingle / Corporate Audio

Online Support

Market Research

Data entry

Lead generation

Online Tutoring / Courses

Value

Preperation

Before we can learn techniques on how to create value for customers, we need to understand WHERE we can provide value in the first place.

preparation

This is where most beginners make mistakes:

They start creating something that is remotely relevant to their own skill set and hope for the best.

Without proper research you are basically gambling with this approach.

Preparation is everything in business.

Don't get me wrong: It is perfectly fine to hone your skills and to create side projects for your portfolio.

But once you are interested in actually starting a business, you need to be disciplined and follow the right order.

Here is our road map for value:

Step 1#: Identify desired industry/niche (based on your expertise)
Step 2#: Identify a problem with reasonable demand (pain point)
Step 3#: Identify the target audience and create a customer persona
Step 4#: Create a MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

Let's jump right into it.

Step 1#: Target Industry/Niche

A supermarket sells food because people need to eat and demand food.

A consultant sells expertise because businesses want to be successful and demand expertise.

Can you tell where I'm going with this?

You wouldn't start a supermarket if you didn't know that people demand food and are willing to pay for it.

That's precisely why you don't start a business from scratch without clearly identifying a target audience with a demand first.

Here are 5 strategies to find your perfect niche.

Scratch your own itch

This strategy is by far the easiest but it won't be suitable for everyone.

Ideally, you have a pressing problem and find a way to solve it yourself.

If so, chances are that there are more people with the same problem. This gives you the competitive advantage of not only knowing how to supply the demand but also where to find customers.

In fact, when you share the same problem as your customers, you probably even know a few potential clients in your network already.

Do you have a problem that you can solve yourself?

If so, is there a significant pain point for this problem? (Keep demand in mind)

If you can solve your own problem:

Can you envision creating a product or service around the solution? What challenges would you face? Are there any opportunities?

If you can't solve your own problem:

Do you at least know the steps that would be necessary to do so? If yes, consider outsourcing.

Get into the head of other people

Requirement: You need to have a general idea for a product.

Here's what you want to do:

customer persona

Take the time to imagine yourself as someone who has the problem that your future product or service could solve.

What kind of search queries would they type into Google?

The best part:

You don't even have to make a really good guess.

Why?

There are a few signs on Google that tell you whether a search query is in demand or not.

Ads

If you type in a search query and you see ads on top or the bottom of the page, chances are there are already companies targeting this particular keyword.

Don't worry though: This is a rather good sign because it shows that there is a demand. Keep in mind:

It is not a bad sign when there are competitors.

It also doesn't mean that you don't have a chance to compete.

If you are certain of your niche, you just need to do your due diligence on competitors and estimate their size and the popularity of the niche.

Search Predictions

When you type anything into Google's search bar, a pop-up with search predictions appears. Google is essentially trying to estimate what you could be interested in before hitting enter. The recommendations are served based on data.

With this in mind, you can be assured that when you type a relevant keyword, all further suggestions are frequently searched for and signal demand.

Use this to your advantage:

Write down all of the predictions that look useful and perform a separate search on them.
You might just stumble upon a pressing question of your target audience.

Bonus Tip:

How to questions are a good way to see if there are potential customers for a product or service.

When you combine "How to" with the keyword or key phrase of the problem that you want to solve, you may find forums with prospects that could be interested in your expertise.

Complimentary Relationships

A business and a customer always compliment each other.

They are like two fitting pieces of a puzzle.

The customer has a demand and the business supplies it.

How can you connect your skills with other people's problems?

You focus on your own skills and search for problems that can be solved with them.

You focus on other people's problems first (recommended) and research what they want and need. Once you spot a problem or a pattern, find a link or connection between the problem and your skills.

And remember:
Just because you can't do it, doesn't mean you can't outsource or hire people to do it for you.

Creating the link

Our goal is to create a link between your expertise and someone's problem.

Task 1:

complimentary relationship

Narrow down your list of skills until only the best remain. (1-5).
Repeat this process with the most profitable niche problems.

If you struggle with researching profitable niches, refer to the "How to research" section.

Next, refer to the visual demonstration above: Link your least profitable problem with the necessary skill or solution.

Rinse and repeat until you linked the most profitable problem with the necessary skill or solution.

Compare your results and decide on the skill/problem combination that you are most confident in.

What are your skills?

What is your expertise? What is something that you are good at/in? The main priority is to have a bird's eye view on your sitation and to spot ways to link some of these skills in unique ways to provide value.

Where could you apply your skills?

Brainstorm ideas, places (both offline and online), people and events where you think is the highest likelyhood of a demand for your skills.

O.P.

This strategy is pretty straight forward:

O.P. stands for "Other people"

Next time you are at a party or an event, listen more carefully to conversations:

Many people like to talk about their problems. If you also happen to know the people you are talking to, chances are you have something in common with them.

Learn to become more conscious of other people's problems and make it a habit to think of solutions.

Lead Generation

In case you worked your way through all of the previous strategies but didn't come up with a striking idea yet - don't despair:

You may not be able to solve a problem directly, but if you can find paying clients for an already existing business, there is one more option for you:

Lead Generation

If you can find new customers for a business, even if they are just leads, you have the opportunity to earn an income.

You could either sell a lead generation service or setup a contract with small businesses to share a small cut for every new successful lead that turns into a client.

Every business is interested in new clients and they will certainly not turn you down if your rates are reasonable.

If you struggle with conducting research, here's what you should focus on:

How to research

When you are researching for potential problems to solve, you have two main options:

Research in areas that you are experienced in.
Research in areas that you are not experienced in.

Don't worry if you don't have a lot of experience yet:

Simply pick a random niche (e.g. plumbers) and research the problems they face on a regular basis. This may require some initial effort on your behalf, because you might not be interested in this niche, but always remember:

Businesses may have many different problems, but ALL businesses share one common problem:

How to get MORE or BETTER PAYING clients.

If you can find a way to connect businesses with more or better clients, no matter how you do it, you win.

What problems does your chosen niche face?

Google your desired niche and gather a decent amount of information to form a first impression. Additionally, you can research competitors that are already established in this niche: What problems do they address on their websites? How do they communicate with the target audience? Take notes and brainstorm your own solutions.

Ask people in this niche/industry directly what their problems are.

You can do this by attending events in this industry and networking with businesses, ask friends or relatives in this profession or even run an online survey. Get creative but really try to write down at least 5 real-life problems of the niche you chose.

At this point, you should either know how to generate leads for a company or understand the problems of your target niche.

Once you created the link between the problem and your expertise, it's time to create an irresistable offer.

There are generally two ways a company provides value to the marketplace:

Products and/or services.

Let's start by looking at the main requirements for you to build your own products and services:

Products & Services

A product consists of valuable content that is refined and bundled for sale.
A service consists of valuable expertise that is refined and optimized as an offer.

With this first principle approach, there are three main components to a product:

products-and-services

1#: Content that is valuable

2#: Content that is refined

3#: Content that is built for sale

The best way to explain the exact system on how to create your own products, is to demonstrate it with an example:

Case Study: Starbucks

As mentioned in the previous section, there are two parts to a company:

The tangible and intangible assets.

Starbucks sells coffee. That is the tangible or technical aspect of their business. Like many other businesses, they leverage real estate in forms of stores to distribute their goods (coffee).

Yet, if Starbucks were to simply sell coffee, there would be no reason for customers to choose them over any other coffee shop. They would be "just like any other" company.

The customers behaviour is driven through their emotional branding.

When you think of Starbucks, you think of their logo, the design of the cups, the different flavors, their stores, free wi-fi, the experience of hanging out with your friends, etc.

So how does Starbucks create value through their products?

They leverage the value chain.

The Value Chain Machine

Here's our roadmap:

We learn how to create a MVP, feed it into the value chain and add more value along the way. This will allow us to increase the price of our product until we have a healthy profit margin. Once we refined our product for massive value, we take care of bundling and packaging our product or services in such a way that it can be consumed by our customers.

Minimum Viable Product

What is a MVP?
(Minimum Viable Product)

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

In essence, a minimum viable product only includes the most vital intrinsic features. Everything that is not absolutely necessary for the product, is removed.

There is a good reason for that:

When your product only includes the necessary features, it should already be good enough to solve the fundamental problem.

One of the biggest mistakes that beginners make is that they create a product BEFORE gauging market interest and figuring out their target audience.

In some cases, products are even created BEFORE a company truly knows whether customers even want the product in the first place.

This can be fatal, especially if it turns out that nobody is interested in your product. You potentially waste a lot of time and money.

The solution is simple:

You create a MVP that aims to solve the problem at a fundamental level first. This forces you to think hard about which features are necessary. When your MVP is completed, you test the market feedback by setting up a landing page and driving traffic to it.

Since every business is different, you need to decide what features are necessary for your own product or service at this point.

Refer to the quote from above to guide you in making your decisions.

ONLY when the feedback for the MVP was positive and you have a good faith in the demand of your product, you continue to finalize it.

This ensures that you are not building something that nobody wants.

Value Chain

Adding value to the MVP

When your MVP is finished and you tested the market feedback, it is time to leverage the value chain.

Here's the basic concept:

Core Product/MVP

More Value | +Increased Price/Better USP

More Value | +Increased Price/Better USP

Final Product

As you can see, we take our MVP and as we begin to add more value along the chain, our USP (unique selling proposition) increases.

We should be able to market ourselves better and also experiment with increased prices.

Since we made sure to test the market feedback first, we can now also better test and measure how our added features influence the customer perception and where we need further improvements.

Keep in mind that value does not only depend on additional features but also user experience.

If you have a lot of options but they are not user-friendly, it can actually hurt your product.

Foundation

business foundation

The foundation for your business is the ground on which to build everything else.
If you commit mistakes here, chances are they are going to haunt you later.

Before we get started, I'll have to add the typical disclaimer:

Disclaimer

I am not a financial/legal expert and all of my advice and suggestions are based on my own experience. The information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Please consult a financial/legal expert before applying any advice displayed on this page. As far as legally plausible, I disclaim all liability in the event of an application of correct, incomplete or false information provided in this blog post.

With that being said, let's get started:

Finance

Every business has operational costs. Even if you only run a small website, you will need to pay for web hosting at the very least. Additional tools such as social media and marketing plugins, can also easily add up.

Keep this in mind when starting your own online business.

Personally, I keep a spreadsheet with all of my recurring costs and review it regularly to see if I can remove some tools or save money on an alternative solution.

If I pay for a yearly plan, I simply divide the amount by 12 and add that to the total monthly costs. This way, I can better estimate the impact of all my expenses.

The general idea here is to aim for frugality.

Accounting | Keep it simple

Personally, I prefer to separate my business and personal expenses.

It makes accounting so much easier. Mixing them up can cause a lot of unnecessary headaches.

Should you create a business plan?

This topic is fairly controversial.

Generally speaking however, it is almost impossible to forecast your business for many years when you just get started.

If you don't even have a single client yet, how are you supposed to make tangible predictions?

If you are already in business for some time, this may be a different scenario.

There is a middle way however:

How to create a business canvas

A business canvas is basically a lean model of a business plan.

It typically fits on one page and gives you a birds eye view of your current situation.

Here is how a business canvas looks like:

business canvas

You can create your own business canvas with the following resources:

Xtensio | Business Model Canvas
Canvanizer

The importance of a Mission Statement

When you start a business from scratch, it also makes sense to think about your core values and aims. And with aims I don't mean money.

Jeff Bezos for example finds that the most important core value is to put the customer first:

"What is good for customers, is good for the company."

What about you?

If you read about the power of WHY in the introduction of this guide, then you understand the importance of intrinsic motivation.

Take some time to define a mission statement for your business.

Here's how a general mission statement layout looks like:

mission-statement

If you need inspiration, check out this list of mission statements from the most successful companies in the world:

Business Structures

Disclaimer: This section primarily discusses the business structures in the US. Every country has different laws, however, the general idea is the same almost everywhere in the world. The information is only intended as a basic overview. Please consult a legal expert before forming your own business structure. The information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

When you start your own business, it makes sense to think about the most optimal way to structure it.

There are 4 types of business structures:

Sole Proprietorship

Partnership

Corporation

LLC

One of the key aspects of a business form is the distribution of liability:

individual

Individual

Liability: Personal

corporation

Formal Corporation

Liability: Partial

Sole Proprietorship

You are operating as an individual and not as a legal entity.

This type of enterprise is easy to start, since you don't have to worry about complex legal structures. You are however personally responsible for all the assets and liabilities.

Partnership

In a partnership, you have at least two owners.

A partnership can be formed by individuals and organisations.

While not required, it can pay off to establish a partnership agreement to ensure that the relationship between the partners is clearly defined to avoid friction.

Corporation

A corporation allows multiple owners to act as a one legal entity.

Due to the fact that a corporation is granted the majority of the rights of an individual, it is often referred to as a legal person.

Owners of a corporation are not personally liable in the event that the corporation is unable to pay its creditors. However, in rare circumstances, there can be exceptions (Piercing the corporate veil).

Country-specific

Depending on your country, there can be many additional business structures to choose from: LLC, LTD (US, UK), GmbH (Germany), Pty Ltd (Australia), etc.

What kind of business should you start?

If you are a solo entrepreneur: A 1 on 1 business.

Business 101:

You provide a product or service and work with clients one on one.

That's it. No fancy extras. Just you, alternatively a website or landing page, your skills and your clients.

Why?

Since the barrier to entry on the web is really low, just about everyone can technically start selling everything including their own courses, webinars, eBooks, etc.

It is also rather easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of choices you have available on the web.

Just because you can start everything, doesn't mean you should.

(At least not in the beginning)

The best way to start is to get a few paying clients for your product/service and gain feedback and experience. At this stage, you will need to be proactive and reach out to people, form relationships and network. Slowly but gradually, you can scale your business.

If you don't have any clients yet and struggle with reaching out to people, build a portfolio first.

Build a portfolio

Depending on your niche or desired product/service, there are many ways to display your expertise on the web:

As a graphic designer you could create a portfolio website and display your projects.

As a web designer, you could create a few sample websites and display them on a portfolio page to showcase your talent.

Portfolio

There are three options:

You pay someone to do it.
You do it yourself.
You leverage third party tools.

Once you have your portfolio ready, it is much easier to reach out to people and to convert leads into clients.

Trends (Shiny Object Syndrome)

If you however forcefully try to jump on every new trend that appears, you can seriously hurt your chances of success and waste a lot of time.

Here's one example:

There are many "experts" on the web that try to sell you expensive courses on how to start your own webinars.

The truth: Most of the people they are targeting aren't even qualified to start doing webinars in the first place!

This isn't true for all but as a general rule:

Always evaluate your current situation clearly.

Does it make sense to sell this specific type of product or service
in your current stage
?

Simply answering this question can keep you focused on yourself and on your mission. Don’t try to get distracted by shiny opportunities that appear every now and then.

Keep the main thing your first priority.

A webinar for example only ever makes sense if you are confident in your skills and expertise to the point that you can easily fill an entire course with your practical knowledge. Otherwise, you are just overselling, which can hurt the trust of people.

Branding

A brand allows companies to stand out from the crowd.

If Apple were marketing themselves as computer company, nobody would buy from them.
Apple sells emotions. Apple sells a story.

Brand = Customer Experience

When you start brainstorming ideas for your own brand, it is important to keep it simple.

Focus on the intrinsic core aspects of your brand.

You can always refine your brand but the foundation needs to be solid.

A successful brand drives emotion and inspires action.

Remember that a brand has the power to drive customer behaviour.

This is achieved through emotional storytelling.

What story will you tell with your brand?

Remember the golden circle?

Start inside out:

1#: WHY

2#: HOW

3#: WHAT

Feel stuck? Let's take a look at Apple:

Apple Branding Guidelines

1#: Focus on emotions
2#: Customers as fans (Tribe Mentality)
3#: Mystery around the inner workings of the company
4#: Be different, think different
5#: Exclusivity
6#: User Experience
7#: Make customers feel special
8#: Minimalism

These bullet points should help you define at least 5 guidelines for your own brand.

Storytelling

A good story always includes two ingredients:

Conflict
Resolve

As a business, it is our aim to spot a customer with a problem and turn him into a customer with a solution.

However, in our communication it is important that we focus on the emotional side of this process, not the technical.

conflict

Before

Problem

Despair

Conflict

resolve

After

Solution

Relieved

Resolved

As you can see, the technical aspect (problem, solution) is always accompanied by the emotional aspect (despair, relief).

In storytelling we need to focus on the emotional aspect.

Here's how:

Identify a few (1-5) key problems of your target audience and create a story around them.

If you don't know where to start, Reddit and Amazon reviews are the perfect source for inspiration.

Reddit

Reddit is a platform that depends heavily on user generated and curated content.

Depending on your product or service, you can search for relevant Subreddits
and read about the experience of people with an already existing product in your niche.

What you want to focus on is the complaints of users in the comments.

When you spot a few users talking about negative aspects of an existing product or service, you can take these statements as inspiration to improve your own products or as catchphrases for your own business.

Here's how:

Let's imagine a user wrote:

"The whole process is really time consuming."

Assuming that you found a solution to making a certain process less time consuming in your niche, you can include that feature in your sales copy and marketing campaigns:

before

Before

Time consuming

after

After

A matter of minutes

Therefore your brand communication could look like this:

{Insert customer problem here} can be really frustrating and time consuming. We created a slick and beautiful interface that makes {Desired outcome} a matter of minutes.

Compare this to a boring technical description:

{Insert product name here} for sale! Link in the description.

Remember:

People buy emotions, not products.

If your selling point is merely the product itself, you have no way of differentiating yourself from the competition.

Business Name

Your business name is an important asset for your brand.

One of the first questions you will need to ask is:

Do I want a fantasy name or a real name?

Let's have a look at the advantages of a fantasy name:

Fantasy Names

Advantages

1#: Easier to find

There are countless of ways to come up with fantasy names.

You could merge words, combine random phrases or switch letters.

Luckily, there are many tools online that can significantly increase the quality of fantasy names.

Fantasy Name Generators

fantasy names

A fantasy name doesn't have to be cheesy.

Depending on how much time you invest, you would be surprised how easy it can be to generate unique and clever words.

Here are a few amazing fantasy name generators:

Naminum
Namesmith

Tip: Create an excel spreadsheet and enter as many names as you can.

Once you start using these tools, it can be easy to loose track of your favorites.

2#: Higher chance of availability (Domain names)

When you choose a name for your business, always remember that you want to appear on many different websites online.

Ideally, you can register a domain name with your matching business name.

If your business name is also available on the most important social networks, even better. (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter)

It can be quite a hassle to manage different accounts that all have slightly different name variations. It also makes it more difficult for your customers to find you.

Therefore it pays off to take some time to evaluate your business name and check the availability on the web.

Google your desired name/s and perform a basic research.

Are there businesses with similar names already?
How many search results does Google display? (Top left)
Are there any social media accounts that already use your name?

3#: Unlikely to cause legal problems

Fantasy names are unique.

There is a chance that nobody has thought of them before you.

As a result, the likelihood of infringing with other people's copyright is fairly small. However, even fantasy names can pose a problem:

If you name yourself: "Emmazon" and start an e-commerce shop, chances are Amazon has a problem with that.

Keep that in mind when deciding on a name.

4#: Can be very short (Easier to remember)

Everybody loves short names.

1#: Easy to remember

2#: Easy to brand

3#: Hard to get (Perceived Value)

Generating short fantasy names isn't really difficult though.

As long as you ensure that they are available and don't infringe other people's rights, you are in a good position to consider a name.

Some of the name generators even allow you to define the letter count. Sweet!

5#: Promotes unique branding

When you have a fantasy name, you can get really creative with branding.

Since the name likely doesn't exist yet, there are no expectations.

Animals as logos? Sure. Crazy color combinations? Why not.

A unique branding also makes you stand out from the crowd which is always a good thing in business.

Disadvantages

While there are many advantages of choosing a fantasy name for your business, there are also some shortcomings:

1#: Risk of difficult pronunciation

When you use a fantasy name with lots of consonants, chances are nobody will be able to spell it out.

A name that is difficult to spell is also more likely to be forgotten.

Keep that in mind when generating your business name.

2#: Fantasy names may exist in other languages as insults or funny terms

Fantasy names are a gold mine for "happy little accidents".

Here is a hilarious article on unfortunate company names:

Tip: Be sure to double check your favorite fantasy name before deciding on it. Consider using Google Translate to check your word for "alternative" meanings in foreign languages.

How to register a domain for your website

Found a name for your business? Excellent!

Here's how you can register a domain name:

Step 1#: Visit a domain registrar of your choice and create an account.

Here are a few suggestions:

Name.com
GoDaddy.com
Domain.com
Namecheap.com

Step 2#: Enter your domain name of choice and check for availability.

The website will inform you whether the domain is already in use or not.

Some domains are listed as premium domains and can cost up to thousands of dollars. This is however not recommended as a first-time entrepreneur. You shouldn't pay too much money for a domain name as a solo entrepreneur.

Step 3#: Register your domain name and check additional features.

Some domain registrars provide additional features such as web hosting, SSL encryption, extra privacy, etc.

If you don't have a web host yet, choosing your domain registrar as your web host can have a few advantages:

1#: Easier to manage
2#: Easier payment structures
3#: Support in one place

However, always keep in mind that making yourself too dependent on one service may cause problems when you want to transition to a competitor later on.

Tip: Most domain registrars and web hosts offer countless of discount codes on the web! (All year) Don't register your domain/web host before checking for discounts. Some discounts can be as high as 20-30%!

Launch your website

launch your website

Now that you have your own domain name (ideally also a web host) and a general framework for your brand, it is time to start your website.

Considering that most beginners immediately start here without all of the necessary preparation outlined in this guide, you are ready to take action.

There are a few ways for you to proceed now:

1#: Hire a web designer
2#: Create a website yourself (Website Builders)
3#: Create a website yourself (HTML/CSS)
4#: Use a template and modify it to your needs

Hire a web designer

If you have a budget, you may consider hiring a web designer.

There are a few things to keep in mind:

1#: Need
2#: Quality
3#: Price

Before you hire a web designer, you should be clear with your overall vision of the business. Taking the time to think about your website goals will help you to better communicate your needs and increase the chance that you receive what you are looking for.

Make sure that you cover as many topics as possible to avoid misunderstandings.

Assume that every question you don't ask, may lead to surprises later.

With that being said: If you are a solo entrepreneur with just a few bucks, it is probably best to stick to the lean approach and focus on a simple landing page to gauge interest first.

Landing Page

A landing page is simple and includes a call-to-action.

A call-to-action is a segment that entices a visitor to perform an action.

For example a newsletter sign up.

There are many options online to setup a landing page.

Alternatively, you can license optimized landing page templates for an affordable price as well.

Create a website yourself using website builders

If you want to do it yourself but don't know anything about HTML or CSS, you can use website builders for quick results.

They are easy to setup and free for the most part.

However, there are many downsides to website builders:

1#: Difficult (or impossible) to migrate

If you'd ever consider switching to a real website environment with your own web hosting, it may be impossible to actually migrate the site.

In such a case, you would have to start all over again.

Keep this in mind before choosing this option.

2#: Cookie cutter designs

Many of the designs available are basic and used by hundreds of other websites. For simple landing pages this may be enough. If you consider starting a decent website for your own business, this may not be what you want.

3#: Ads & Watermarks

Since free website builders survive through ads and word of mouth, they typically include a watermark on each website. Depending on the frequency and placement of the ads, this can also impact the user experience.

How to create a website (Using HTML/CSS)

If you have a basic understanding of HTML & CSS, you may consider creating your own website.

While this is time consuming, you have the creative liberty to make adjustments as you see fit.

Never heard of HTML or CSS before?

Now may be the right time to start learning the basics of how to code.

HTML Beginner Course

If you are overwhelmed at the thought of creating your own website from scratch, you may consider using templates.

Modifying website templates

There are many online marketplaces where you can license themes that you can customize to your own liking.

This option is a nice middle ground between doing it yourself and using a framework as your foundation.

If you are interested in this approach, you may want to checkout my Freelance Essentials Toolkit which includes six website templates including additional tools and resources to start your own business from scratch.

landing-page-template

Before you continue...

No matter how you proceed, make sure to push yourself to launch at least a minimal landing page. That way, you are already accessible via the web and have an opportunity to direct people towards your basic information.

My website is online, what's next?

Now that your website is up and running, it is time to optimize your site for search engines.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

This process is called SEO (Search engine optimization)

Contrary to popular belief, SEO isn't as difficult as many people make it out to be.

You can learn more about it here:

SEO Guide

Marketing

content-marketing

You have the mindset, you know your niche, you have a product/service and your website is online.

At this point, it's time to proactively market yourself to your target audience.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the art of creating and distributing a variety of content such as videos, infographics, eBooks and more with the purpose to attract your target audience to your products and services.

If you want to learn about content marketing, I can highly recommend the free content marketing course from Hubspot.

I took this course myself and it is by far one of the best resources on this topic.

You will even receive a certificate after completing the final test.

Here is the link:

Content Marketing Course

Consistency

Consistency is EVERYTHING in marketing.

I repeat:

Consistency is EVERYTHING! In marketing.

You can post the best content in the world but if you are not consistently marketing yourself, you will lose.

This is not a personal opinion either:

Algorithms

Facebook, Instagram and especially YouTube have algorithms that reward creators with a regular content schedule.

Even worse: They punish and demote accounts with little regular engagement.

It is no secret anymore that YouTube favors an upload schedule of at least 2 videos per week.

The reason is simple:

Social media companies make money by leveraging user generated content.

As long as users upload content and viewers demand it, there is going to be massive traffic that can be monetized by the platforms.

There is a saying that goes:

If something is free, you are the product.

Facebook even restricts traffic for business pages so that companies need to extend their outreach with paid marketing.

If you want to be present on social media though, this may be a necessary evil.

With that being said, the best way to ensure that you stay consistent is to PLAN your content schedule PRIOR to starting your accounts.

Content

Here are some questions to point you in the right direction:

1#: Who is your target audience?
2#: What type of content are they interested in?
3#: What is the purpose of your content? (Collecting leads, sales, fans, etc.)
4#: Can you envision yourself creating at least 50 pieces of content over the next few months?

You should have some pretty solid answers to these questions.

Otherwise, you risk wasting your time.

Never post content merely for the sake of posting content.

Content should always serve a clear purpose.

If you took the content marketing course from above, you will also learn about the customer's journey.

It is important that your content helps your potential customers to move through your marketing funnel.

No ideas?

Do you have absolutely no idea what to do?

Maybe you don't even have any particular skill or product yet?

There is one strategy that can help you bridge the gap in this stage:

Document Your Journey

This is a fantastic concept that was originally coined by Gary Vaynerchuk.

(Check him out if you haven't already)

Here's the basic idea:

If you are not an expert yet, it doesn't make sense to pretend to be someone that you are not. Instead, simply embrace the fact that you are still on your own “journey” and haven’t “arrived” yet.

How?

You make it a goal to document your process from a "nobody" to a "somebody".

Example:

If you are a programmer working on your own software, record yourself coding from a side angle and add a time-lapse effect when done.

Upload it on YouTube with a voice over where you explain what you tried to accomplish this week and what your next steps are.

Upload a short snippet to Instagram and post your thoughts for the week in the caption.

You might say: Who could possibly be interested in that?

But the truth is:

People love authenticity.

This strategy is by far one of the best ways to connect with viewers and build a fan base early on.

Once your vision starts to materialize, you already have a loyal followers.

What more could you wish for?

Time Management

time-management

There is one currency that is equally distributed in this world: Time.

We all have 24 hours in a day.

Not a minute more, not a minute less.

While it is true that some people have more responsibilities than others, even 4 hours a day for 52 weeks can make a huge difference in your life.

Let's have a look at some useful tools and strategies to optimize your daily routine.

80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle)

We like to believe that the more work we put in, the more results we should get.

After all, if you work for 16 hours a day, you must be destined to succeed, right?

Not so fast:

The truth is:

Input /= Output

Input alone does not guarantee output.

Working hard is important but you also need to work smart.

This is where the 80/20 rule can help.

Here's a real life example:

If you work as a freelancer, chances are that most of your revenue comes from a very few amount of clients.

In fact: Most of your revenue may come from just one client.

Think about that for a second

If you have 10 clients, but only one client is responsible for 80% of your revenue, where should you direct your focus?

The irony is:

We very rarely approach our life situation with the 80/20 rule. Thus, we often can't see this golden rule unfold in our daily professional and personal life.

Not being aware of this distribution inequality can have serious consequences though:

Imagine those remaining 9 clients are very demanding and require countless modifications. If you are not consciously aware of your revenue distribution among your clients, chances are your quality of work may suffer.

If this starts to affect your best client, you are in trouble!

That's why it pays off to evaluate your life with the 80/20 rule.

Now it's your turn:

What 20% of actions cause 80% of the results?

What 20% of clients cause 80% of your revenue?

What 20% of clients cause 80% of stress?

You can also reverse this process:

What 80% of results are caused by 20% of actions?

You get the idea.

You may not always be able to identify these major outcome producing actions.
But starting today will increase your probability of finding them sooner than later.

Speaking of output, let me introduce you to another concept that had an incredible impact on my productivity:

The pipeline

The shorter the pipeline, the greater the output.

The "pipeline" refers to the entire process chain that is required for you to complete a task.

The more steps you have to take in order to get a result, the less likely you are to commit to this activity in the long term.

If a process is simply too long or time consuming, procrastination arises.

How can we solve this?

By identifying our "pipeline length" and making it a constant effort to decrease the pipeline by removing steps or merging them.

Here's a practical example:

You may produce videos for YouTube in order to increase your brand's popularity.

Your pipeline could look like this:

1#: Establish a recording setup.(Camera in place, good lighting? Mics?)

2#: Write a video script.

3#: Record the video.

4#: Copy the raw files in a production folder.

5#: Open your video editing software.

6#: Edit the raw files for publication.

7#: Render the final video.

8#: Double check for mistakes.

9#: Upload the video to YouTube.

10#: Add tags, a description and a thumbnail.

11#: Promote your video on social media.

As you can see, even a seemingly simple process can result in a really long chain of actions.

By observing your regular activities, you will be able to optimize your process in the long term.

Ask yourself:

How can I further optimize this pipeline?
Can I remove a step?
Can I replace a tool that I'm using with a faster software?
Can I merge some steps by using a better tool?

If you follow this process and keep yourself accountable, you can find better ways of managing your tasks.

Some tasks may require you to wait. (Video Rendering)

Can you already work on other steps in the meantime to optimize your schedule?

Yes! Tags, Description and Thumbnail can be added while rendering.

Content Repurposing

content repurposing

We like to think that we constantly have to produce NEW content.

After all:

Once you write a blog article, there's nothing left to do with it right?

Let's have a closer look:

There are 4 types of media on the web:

1#: Video
2#: Audio
3#: Text
4#: Image

When we break these four types of media into sub categories, there are even more options:

For video:
Explainer, Ad, Short Video, Documentation, Animation

For audio:
Podcast, audio book

For text:
Blog post, checklist, eBook

For image:
Infographic, Slide deck

This is a total of 12 content types that you can leverage!

Here's the trick:

You can always take one type of content and translate it into another type of content.

How to repurpose content

Step 1#: Identify your content (Is it a blog post, etc?)

Step 2#: Turn your piece of content into any of the other content types

So for example:

Let's imagine you wrote a great blog post.

Here are some ways to repurpose this piece of content:

1#: Record yourself reading your blog post and create a tutorial video with visual elements.
2#: Condense your blog post into a handful of main concepts and create an infographic based on them.
3#: Find the best statements from your blog post and turn them into quotes for social media.

Now it's your turn:

What other variations can you think of?

Make a list with different content options and use it as a guide in the future to keep producing content consistently.

Resources

additional resources

You made it to the end of this guide!

Here are some additional resources that are worth checking out:

Social Media Scheduling Tool

Buffer

Improve Your Writing

Hemingway

Create Graphics For Social Media

Canva

Open-Source Video Converter

Handbrake

Audio Editing Software (For Podcasts,etc.)

Audacity

Free Streaming & Video Recording Software

OBS

Free Office Suite (Word, Excel, etc.)

Libre Office

Need the right resources to start your business?