You have two things going for you when you want to start your own business: some marketable skill or product and time.
Many people, when they think about starting their own business, think in terms of instant success and wealth. Success and wealth are both possible, but unless you have more tens of thousands of dollars to start with than most people, it won’t be instant. Think in terms of two to five years of steady growth, and you can see a real future. Your new business should be paying its own bills within a month or two. After that, it can begin to contribute to paying yours.
You do have time. It may not seem like it, as busy as you are, but in the final analysis, you control the clock, it does not control you. Starting a business takes time, no question about it. If you are working a full-time job, the time has to come in the evenings and weekends. This is okay to start. Later, as you get more and more business, you may have to change to a part-time job to keep up with your own business. Until finally, you will only be doing what you want to do.
How do you do it?
First, you ignore all the people who will try to discourage you. Tell them they are completely correct, you don’t have a chance, then put them out of your mind. Then get to work.
Forget the fancy business plan, the office supplies, the extra phone lines. What you need to start is an answering machine, a thousand sheets of letterhead, and stamps. You can get a letterhead from your local print shop, out of their books of standard styles. Envelopes to match, of course. The major, and maybe the only, secret to starting a business is letting LOTS and LOTS of people know about it. No matter what your skill or product, some people need it. You just have to let enough people know you offer it, and you will get orders.
Step One. If you are free during the day, make phone calls. Lots of phone calls. Fifty or a hundred a day. If you don’t like talking on the phone, do it anyway. It is best to start with businesses that might conceivably need your service/product. Start with the obvious, then branch out into related businesses. You repair clocks? Call clockmakers, clock sellers, other clock repairmen. Then pawnshops, clock societies, steeple people. Antique dealers, auctioneers, anyone who would benefit from a repaired clock. Work straight from the Yellow Pages.
When you call them, introduce yourself, tell them what you do, and ask if you can send them information. That’s it. Get a name and address if they say okay. Sure, you can chat with them, and occasionally someone will need your services right away, but that is not the point. You want names and addresses.
If you are not free during the day, you can still make calls on Saturdays, but mainly you skip straight to Step Two. All those people you contacted in Step One are expecting something in the mail. Step Two is to send them something. If you have to skip Step One, you can still send things to the same people you would have called. You will need a Zip Codebook from a local bookstore or the Post Office because the Yellow Pages don’t give you the Zip Code.
What you send them is a letter. Keep it short and to the point. These are my services, these are my qualifications, these are my prices. Tell them when and how you can be reached. Be sure to offer a free consultation, if you are offering a service and a guarantee for either product or service. Your letter must have no spelling mistakes, no bad grammar, nothing unprofessional about it. Have someone you trust to proofread it, even if you are very, very good at English. Plan on mailing 100 letters a week, as an absolute minimum. 200 is more than twice as good.
And that will do it. That is all there is to it. Everything else is regular business details.
For instance, you have to keep very close track of all expenses and income, completely separate from any other expenses or income. Start a new checking account for your business as soon as you can, and in the meantime, keep very good records. If you don’t, your business will fail, and you don’t want that.
You have to build a mailing list, from all these letters and phone calls, so you can send repeat mailings. You can send another letter or an information sheet, or even put together a newsletter if you are of a mind. Sometimes you might have to mail ten or twenty times before someone responds. A mailing list is much more valuable with actual names, so do whatever you can to get them. Otherwise use titles, even President if you don’t know any more appropriate.
Return all phone calls. Check your answering machine frequently, and return all calls as soon as you can.
Finally, and most important, produce a good product or provide a good service. Your business will grow and succeed by referrals and repeat business, and those both depend on excellence. Always try to provide a little bit more than expected. Polish that clock as well as fixing it. No extra charge.
I know this approach works, because I did it. In 1978 I started a business with $50 and a few tools, in my attic. In 1986 it grossed $600,000. It died when personal computers became commonplace, but since then, I have helped my daughter start her own business for less than $50, and it will gross over $300,000 this year, five years after starting, and it is still growing rapidly.I know this approach
You CAN start your own business.