How to start an online business over a weekend

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I now know that I am a true entrepreneur. No matter how busy I am, no matter how much good stuff I have going on, if I have a business idea bursting to come out, I have to unleash it.

A weekend a few months back was no different. I came up with a new business which I intend to launch in the next month or two (but don’t worry existing clients, The Creative Collective is still very much open for business!)

 

Now I have to admit, this idea has been brewing for quite a while and I did spend a couple of hours the weekend prior writing a basic business plan just to get my ideas onto paper. But everything else I needed to get this business well and truly underway was achieved in a single weekend, and only a few hours within the weekend too (mostly when the kids had gone to bed!)

So how did I do it and could you also get a new business well underway over just a weekend or are you just curious as to the steps you should take if you do want to start a business? Read on to find out…

STEP 1 – Business plan

The first thing I did to get my business started was download a business plan template from the internet. There are plenty lolling around for free and I can’t say I have any favourite sites or formats. I simply downloaded a few and checked them out for something I thought I could work with. I’ve written 80 page business plans as part of business courses in the past, but I think you can over do the planning too. At some point you do need to stop writing the business plan and actually develop the business! These days when markets move so fast, timing is a big part of your success too. It’s better to get this first step done and get to market first, or in a better way, then have someone beat you to it. Having said this, it does really depend on what kind of business and business environment you are getting into. If it is a defined niche without too much competition (as I believe mine is) you can get away with doing less work in this area.
FORMAT: 15 pages of A4 in Microsoft Word
TIME TAKEN: 2 hours

STEP 2 – Logo/brand

A huge part of the value of any business is its brand. That is the colour, style and logo associated with a business. Just think of any successful and well known companies and what images come to mind? Most probably their defined house style i.e. colour palette and logo. Think of the Coca Cola cursive flowing writing and their trademark red and white or the black and yellow diamond for Commonwealth Bank.

Now when it comes to developing a logo you have 2 choices – a font based logo meaning you are using a certain type face or lettering and no symbol; or a combination of fonts and a symbol. In some cases as brands reach uber status they become recognised with just the symbol (think the Nike swoosh and the golden M arches for McDonalds).

I am in the fortunate position of having some intermediate level graphic design skills under my belt so I choose to prepare some mock ups myself. If you don’t have these skills, working with a quality graphic design (we offer these services) is a great investment. It can be the difference between a dodgy home-job looking logo and a professional logo that can grow with you as your business does.

Given my design skills, my first point of call was working in Adobe Photoshop and playing around with some font choices. I knew I wanted something strong, some easily read, yet with a little bit of design flair. I settled on a font called Harabara after experimenting with a few. I absolutely love the colour turquoise and I felt against a solid colour such as black would work well. I then experimented with different symbols and the final result is below.

Do you like it? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

FORMAT: 3 mocks in Adobe Photoshop
TIME TAKEN: 2 hours (note – design finals generally take much longer than 2 hours to prepare!)

STEP 3 – Website design

When people ask me how to start a business, I say ‘short answer: create a website and a business card and away you go’. Longer answer is of course market research, business plan, logo and more. It can be hard to start with a completely blank palette so when I am needing inspiration to build my next website I often go to design template sites such as www.templatemonster.com or www.dreamtemplate.com. I may also consider websites I have seen in my travels and return to them to consider what it is I like about them and whether certain elements could work i.e. a navigation bar, the column layout etc.

Again, I am in the fortunate position of having some intermediate level graphic design skills under so again I worked with Adobe Photoshop to create a multi-layered mock up, so the design could easily be sliced up and used in whatever website program I decide to use in the next stage. The final result is below. Do you like it? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

FORMAT: Adobe Photoshop – multi-layered file
TIME TAKEN: 4 hours

STEP 4 – Business cards

Although a lot of my promotions will be performed online for this business, I figured business cards will still come in handy, and as I can design them myself and get them printed at one of the many trade printers I deal with for next to nothing, it’s no skin off my nose to get x500 or x1000 printed. If you need a quality but affordable business card run, talk to us!

FORMAT: Adobe Photoshop – multi-layered file
TIME TAKEN: 1 hour

STEP 5 – Sales letters

A well written sales letter can open up all sorts of doors. I thought hard about who my target market are, what their pain points are, and wrote a sales letter for each of the two defined groups accordingly. If you’re not a good copywriter, getting someone professional to do this for you (it’s also a service we offer) could make a massive difference to your start up. If you need some help with your sales copy, talk to us!

STEP 6 – Rate cards

An important part of starting a business is considering how you will make money. Having multiple streams of revenue from the start is a good idea. In that way if one of the revenue streams does not work, hopefully you will still have others to depend upon. Many people have websites which enjoy quite good traffic right from the start but do not necessarily consider different ways of commercialising the ‘real estate’ that is the space on your website.

My business plan includes commanding money for display ads in the form of banners and buttons on the site, as well as in the e-newsletters, whilst also offering unpaid options to get people interested in the offerings to start with. A sales funnel with a free offering, a low cost offering, and higher packages is a good idea as it can get people interested in your business and offers them an entry point no matter what their budget. Hopefully as their trust in your business builds, and you provide them with a quality service, they will feel inclined to spend more money with you.

If you want some help with ways to commercialise your website (because there are many options!), talk to us!

FORMAT: Adobe Photoshop (mainly because I understand it – but preferable to a job like this would be Adobe InDesign)
TIME TAKEN: 2 hours

STEP 7 – Website integration/development

Choosing which website platform to build your website on is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in the start-up of your online business. Without going into each of your options here, (as you can read another blog post I’ve written on this here) in the case of this business I have to consider how I will be able to allow people to upload information singularly and in bulk, and also hosting costs, as I am forecasting lots of traffic.

I’ve ended up deciding on going with the system which I probably know the best and which I am in the process of building the website now.

Stay Tuned

I’m not going to tell you what this new business is all about….yet, but I’ll post another blog post as the site progresses so you can follow my new start-ups journey and hopefully pick up some tips along the way.

If you need help choosing which website platform to build your website on, or help in actually building your websitetalk to us!
Did you get some tips from this post? Let me know in the comments below.

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