Starting a home business can seem overwhelming because it involves research, planning, and many simultaneous moving parts to get started and keep it running. While there are a ton of things you need to do to start a home business, it can be helpful to focus on a few key items that are crucial to home business success.
Here are 6 things you need to start a home business:
1. Catchy, Descriptive, Memorable Business Name
Choosing a business name can be fun, but it’s not something that should be taken lightly. Your business name not only lets people know what you do, but also, it will become a representation of your brand (see below). Ideally, a good business name is:
- Catchy: It stands out from the crowd because it’s interesting, unique or fun.
- Descriptive: It gives information about what your business does.
- Memorable: It should be something that people can easily remember so they can get in touch with you or tell others about it.
There are many business names that don’t necessarily fit the above list. We know Nike sells sporting gear, but when it started, I’m not sure anyone would have though running shoes when hearing the name Nike. It’s only through branding and building awareness that we think sports when we hear Nike. So it’s possible to break the above rules. With that said, as a new fledgling business in a crowded market place, you can give yourself a head start by trying to use these rules when coming up with your business name.
What about your given name as a business name? If you’re Oprah, using your given name is a no-brainer. If you’re unknown, using your given name alone can be a challenge. If your given name is what you want to brand, maybe because you’re starting a coaching or speaking business, then you should. If you’re freelancing or starting a service-based business, you might want to combine your given name with what you do, such as Sally Sue Writes (freelance writing) or Sally Sue Virtual Virtual Support (virtual assistant).
Before committing to your business name, be sure to:
- Check that it’s not trademarked. You can search the US Trademark Office to make sure you won’t infringe on a trademark.
- Check that there isn’t an incorporated business in your state with that name. While you can use a similar business name (I wouldn’t recommend it though), most states won’t allow you to have the same business name as one that’s incorporated (corporation, LLC).
- Check that you can buy the domain name.
2. Brand Identity
Your brand is your promise of an experience to your customer or client. What comes to mind when you think if Disneyland? If you think, “Friendliest place on Earth,” Disney is doing a good job to maintain it’s brand. You want to determine your brand identity; however, to have your clients and customers think of you in that way, you need to deliver your business product or service in a way that makes them feel it. If Disney had poor customer service and rude workers, the brand message it wanted to send wouldn’t match the consumers experience, which would tarnish the brand.
What does this mean? In your case, you want to think about what experience you want your customers or clients to have, and then build your business around providing it. If your brand involves fast service, you need to be fast. Everything you want your brand to represent needs to be conveyed through your logo, marketing, and the products/services you provide.
3. Online Presence
Even if your business is local and in-person, one of the things you need to start a home business is an online presence. The reality is, before people buy, they use the Internet to discover and research businesses. If you’re not there, people won’t find you. Even if they hear about you, if they can’t find you online to learn about you, they’ll go with the business that is online.
There are many ways you can have an online presence and what you choose depends a bit on the type of business you plan to run. You should expect to build your own website or blog so you can customize it to your brand. This is true even if you’re planning on running an Etsy or Amazon business.
My favorite resources for online presence are:
- Godaddy for domain names. Godaddy has hosted all my domains for years and I’ve never had an issue.
- Momwebs for web hosting. I moved my blogs about a year ago from a different host and I’m so glad I did. I haven’t had nearly the problems with my websites that I used to, and the problems I have had aren’t related to hosting, but Momwebs helped me fix them anyway.
- Clickfunnels for funnels, courses, memberships etc. If your business involves information products, funnel systems to lead to sales, or affiliate marketing without a blog, then I recommend Clickfunnels. I know there are some newer options out there, but I’m not convinced they’re less expensive or better, and Clickfunnels is always adding new features and value.
4. Email List
While social media (see below) is a great tool to build your business, email is better for two reasons:
- People are showing more interest in your business when they give their email than when they follow you on social media.
- People are more likely to see your business messages in email than on social media.
Too often, new business owners put off starting an email list, but that’s a HUGE mistake. Ask any successful, six-figure business owner a marketing must-have, and they’ll all tell you an email list. In fact, for many home business owners, the majority of their income comes from their email list!
Email lets you build trust and rapport with your market, get traffic back to your website, blog, or sales page, send offers, share tips and a whole lot more. There’s a ton of different things you can send to your email list that will keep you in their minds and help you make a profit.
Starting an email list isn’t hard nor too expensive. I’d avoid free options as in the long run, they’re often more expensive (when you exceed list size) and don’t have the bells and whistles you’ll want. My favorite email provider is Aweber. I know many bloggers and online business have moved to Convertkit, but for me and what I do, Aweber offers me the features I need for the best value.
I recommend checking both out to determine the one that will be best for the business (or businesses) you want to run.
5. Social Media
While email is crucial for online success, social media has it’s benefits too. It offers a great way to communicate and engage with your audience, share cool stuff, and can help boost your SEO.
The problem with social media is that it can quickly become overwhelming. Done haphazardly or without a plan, it’s ineffective and a time waster. Here are my strategies for building social media for a home business:
- Use a few of the social media platforms your market uses. If you’re market isn’t on Snapchat or Twitter, you don’t need to be there. Research your market and how they use social media, and in particular, what social media they use to learn about the type of business you run. If you’re a freelancer, you should probably be on LinkedIn. If you’re running a lifestyle or home decor blog, you should be on Pinterest.
- Complete the profile each platform using consistent images, tag lines, etc. The idea is that on each platform it should be clear that it’s part of your business.
- Develop a social media marketing plan. If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, which are hashtag dependent, what hashtags are you going to use? Will you have a daily hashtag that you’ll plan content around? Note that some platforms can have many posts while others shouldn’t have too many or you may be seen as a spammer.
- Use tools to automate your posts when possible. There are a ton of great scheduling tools where you can schedule and even recycle your content. Right now, I use Hootsuite because it works on all the platforms I use (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (through Tailwind), and Linkedin (free version allows only 3 profiles). Plus, it will post to Instagram for you, instead of sending a notification to publish.
6. Data Tracking (Analytics)
You’ll waste a lot of time and money if you don’t learn to focus on activities that work. The only way to know what’s working and what isn’t is to track data.
The good news is that data tracking comes with many of the services you’ll be using. Your webhost will offer tracking on top pages, keywords used to find your site, and other key information (although you’ll likely want to add Google Analytics to your site. It’s free). Your email list provider should be able to let you know how many people opened your email and what links they clicked on so you know the most popular messages and content to send. Many social media platforms offer analytics, or if you’re using a tool, they’ll let you know about your popular and most engaging posts.
If you wanted to drive from L.A. to New York, you could simply get in your car and start heading north east, but chances are you’d end up backtracking or cross into Canada. However, with a map and a plan, you can get to your destination faster and with less hassle. The same is true in starting a home business. You don’t necessarily need a fancy shmancy business plan, but you do need to have a road map of what you need to do to achieve the goals you want.
To make this plan, you should start out with the list of things you need to gather, decide, or do. To know that, you need to research topics such as how to start a home business, how to set up a blog or website, how to market, etc. If you want to start an Amazon business, you’ll need to research the steps involved in getting inventory and setting up an account.
Once you know what’s involved, make your to-do list, put dates to each item and start working.
Here are resources to help you with this list of must-haves: