Starting in business can be a scary prospect. All of a sudden you do not have a 'real' job to fall back on with its minor benefits such as a regular salary, sick pay and the notion that you have that job because other people believe you know what you're doing.
Unfortunately, when you start your own business none of these benefits exist any more.
Added to this is the issue of self confidence. Can I really do this? What happens if I don't make enough money? What will I lose? How embarrassing will it be if I have to go job hunting and tell my friends that I failed!
All of these thoughts constantly go through your mind and this can affect how you behave in front of other people.
When I started my first business, I was lucky enough to get invited to a business breakfast meeting. There were about eight other small business owners in the room, mostly one-man bands but also some people who were employing 10+ people.
I was nervous that morning. It was a two hour meeting where I'd have to go along, meet new people, tell them what I did and talk to them as if I knew what I was doing. Nerves had hit me badly! What was I doing? I was 29 and pretending to be one of them. I had no idea what to expect, how to sell myself and my business, let alone get someone to actually hand over money in exchange for my services.
As nervous as I was that day, I had two things going for me. The first was that a lot of these people were in the same boat. They were self-employed people, running their own business out of a spare bedroom so what was I worried about, I was doing exactly the same.
Secondly, I could fake it!
I was honest at the meeting and told them that I'd only been running the business for four weeks so a lot of this, including business meetings, was new to me. They didn't know that my turnover was a measly £200 a month. What they did see was someone open, honest and came wielding professional business cards, a web site, e-mail address and phone number. Why does this matter?
It matters because whether you're running a business in a shed at the end of your garden or in a large corner office in a skyscraper in London, people rarely get to see the premises. What they do see is what matters and they saw everything that you'd expect from a business professional. 'So what do you do?', they'd say. 'I'm a web site designer, working mainly with small businesses', I'd reply. We'd have a short conversation about web sites and about their business then inevitably they'd ask for a business card. I'd hand over a very professional card, which stood out from the cheap ones everyone else was giving out, and then the conversation would finish.
I'd have a similar conversation with someone else and the process would repeat itself. After the meeting, everyone went back to work and a few days later I'd get an e-mail. Some of the people went back to their office, checked out my web site and were hooked. They now wanted a web site from me because I was professional, my business card was professional, my web site was professional and I had a business telephone number... in other words, they assumed that I was good at what I was doing because I had everything that you would expect a business to have and therefore were happy to buy from me.
The best bit about all of this is how cheap these things are. You can literally set up a business for less than £100 and get people to start buying from you. The problem is that everyone believes all of this stuff is expensive but here are the cheats...
For a telephone number, do not use a mobile number on your business cards or promotional material. Anyone and everyone has a mobile number so try and stand out. People like the security of knowing that you have a landline number. I think, subconsciously, they do not worry as much about you taking their money and running, because with a landline number it looks like you have a fixed base. Also, think of all those white Transit vans that you see with just their mobile numbers plastered on the side. Would you trust them? I know I wouldn't.
You can purchase a telephone number that redirects to your mobile phone or home telephone - see my Resources page for the company I use. This allows you to have a number with your town's area code, but you can direct calls anywhere you like, so that you do not need to show a mobile number on your business cards or give out your home number.
This has a number of benefits:
- You can look professional
- You can set the number so that calls do not come through after you finish for the day
- You can answer the phone correctly, 'Good morning, Mike's taxis. How can I help?' - because Caller ID will tell you it's a business call
- It's cheap!
- Register a domain name - £10
- Build a web site - £15 a month
- Business cards designed and printed - £30
- Telephone number - £5 a month
So now you are projecting a professional business image, even if you work in your spare room in your pyjamas each day!