Career

5 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Your Own Business

Ever dreamt of sticking it to the man; flipping your boss the bird, yelling “peace out!” to an open-plan room of applauding work colleagues and jive-handing it out of the office?

Whilst this may not be the smoothest, nor smartest way to exit a company (though major props to you if you’ve actually lived out that fantasy), starting a business and becoming your own boss is becoming more and more of a reality for many young Australians.

Before you start penning that resignation letter or registering that business name, we’ve compiled a few words of wisdom from some successful local business owners who’ve been there, done that. Consider their lessons, your learnings.

#1 Understand the market

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The first step for any new business is really quite a simple one: know what you’re selling and how you’re going to do it.

Any business mentor will tell you that having a business plan is pretty much key to your success or failure.

So ask yourself the following (and put it into a Word doc too):

–What am I selling?
–Why am I selling it?
–Who is my customer?
–Is there demand?
–Who are my competitors?
–What is my point of difference?
–What are my potential challenges?

Of course, this is the CliffNotes version of a business plan, and you should probably investigate writing yourself out a much more detailed version, but having a clear vision and idea of the landscape you wish to enter, is vital.

Research your competitors and assess what they’re doing well, and what they’re kind of shitty at. Do the same analysis of yourself – what are your skills and weaknesses? How are you going to capitalise on what you’re good at and how are you going to make up for the things you’re not so great at? For example, if writing isn’t your thing, would you consider hiring a copywriter or doing a short course? Be honest with yourself.

#2 People power

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Jacqui Hine, graphic designer and owner of No Grey Creative, says surrounding yourself with people who are a positive influence is a must.

“Starting a business is the same as any major life decision like having a baby or getting married. Your friends and the people you associate with need to support you, understand you and respect your life transition. It can often be hard to re-evaluate those relationships but you need to look after you,” she says.

Just as important as weeding out the negatives in your life is adding in your new networks. Jacqui recommends you learn how to hustle. “It sounds easier than it is,” she says. “You need to know how to define what you do and what you can offer quickly and clearly. It’s often not the person you’re talking to, but someone they know, so practice this skill, you never know where your next customer or client will be.”

Sarah Hankinson, illustrator and co-founder of Melbourne’s Windsor Workshop – agrees: “Build your network via social media, co-working, collaborating. So much work comes from word of mouth so make connections and get your name out there. And don’t be afraid to be annoying. Be on people’s cases, reach out to your dream clients and e-mail everyone you have ever met!”

#3 Number crunching

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Either this turns you on, or the thought of opening Excel makes you hyperventilate. Personally, I’m in the latter group. However, as much as you might hate looking at tables, graphs and spreadsheets, number crunching is inevitable for any business owner.

Rob Lambert, owner of online florist, Flowers Across Melbourne, says “Accounts can be incredibly boring to do, it takes time away from doing what you love, but it’s essential for keeping track of the health of your business.

“Get into the habit of doing accounts regularly (or get a bookkeeper to do it for you) and choose a few KPI’s (that’s Key Performance Indicators) that are important to you and your growth.”

He recommends picking only a few KPI’s (as too many will make you lose focus) and tracking them on a regular, at least monthly, basis.

Jacqui also suggests you get a book-keeping system. “A friend raved about Xero to me one day over lunch. I was hesitant at first because it was new, and new things can be scary, plus it was another business expense to add to my already huge list. But I’ve never looked back.”

#4 Market yourself

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Whether it’s selling a product, or learning how to best advertise your service – marketing will be key to your business success.

Be prepared to get your Don Draper on, and find exciting and fresh ways to advertise your business. Online and social media marketing have low associated costs and with so many amazing online courses and tutorials available, there’s a lot you can DIY.

Experiment with your techniques and figure out what works best for you. Whether it’s learning the best way to pitch to a potential client, or how to best hashtag your Instagram snaps, be constantly hungry to improve your selling skills.

#5 Technology

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We’re pretty lucky to be living in an age where we have access to all kinds of brilliant apps, platforms and websites. More and more people can now work remotely – your web developer may live in the US, your graphic designer in NZ and your customer in Italy.

Rob recommends becoming as cloud-based as possible so you can totally live the dream working from a tropical island with nothing but a laptop, cocktail and Wi-Fi connection. “There are lots of great productivity tools out there too,” he says, when it comes to time-management.

Here are a few of our top picks when it comes to tools of the trade:

–Accounting: Xero or Saasu
–E-mail Management: Sanebox
–Social Media Management: Hootsuite and Iconosquare
–App Connectivity: IFTTT
–Productivity: Get Pocket
–Collaboration: Trello and Skype

Thank you, Internet.


“Eat, sleep, tweet, repeat” is the mantra Melbournian Sam Sidney lives by. When she’s not running her digital marketing and social media business Milkbar Digital, she can be found pretending to be hosting a cooking TV show, or outside patting your cat.