How To Start Your Own Business

How To Start Your Own Business

WITH all of the talk about corporate downsizing, it seems that now is a good time to become your own boss.

But starting a business requires a lot more than dreams of independence, unfettered creativity and a pot of money at the end of the rainbow. It requires would-be entrepreneurs to map out a plan for success and to stick with it.

While it's good to have a certain degree of caution about branching out on your own, experts like Walt F.J. Goodridge, author of Turn Your Passion Into Profit, says that wariness can sometimes result in paralysis, or "entrepreneurophobia." The solution, according to Goodridge and other financial experts, is to tackle the thing you're most afraid of. "It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it," Goodridge writes. "Remember, you can always find excuses not to do something you're afraid of."

The following are six tips from financial experts that will help you plan your business venture:

Develop a Unique Idea. Experts agree that a successful business needs to satisfy distinct needs or interests. Use the problems you have experienced at past jobs, or in life in general, to develop an entrepreneurial idea. Consider turning your passion into a business. Focus on a segment of the community that is underserved and develop ways to provide needed or desired services to that segment.

Define and Research Your Market. Know your target market. Define age, race, income level, and any other category of consumers you want to reach. Targeting your market makes it easier to design your products or services to meet consumer needs. You can always expand your business to other groups. Before launching a product or service, study the market to predict the necessity for your services. Information can be gathered at the library and online.

Develop a Business Plan. Experts strongly warn against skipping this step. Although a plan can be mapped out mentally, experts say you should put your ideas on paper. Record your ideas in a notebook, and map out a step-by-step plan to start your business. Call schools in your area or check newspapers for classes on developing business plans.

Finance Your Business. This is the biggest hurdle for most would-be entrepreneurs. Start your business part-time, while keeping your full-time job. This route ensures a steady income, health insurance, and stability until your business is self-sufficient. Save enough cash to last at least six months if you plan to quit your job. Other options include bank loans, grants and borrowing from family or close friends.

Location, Location, Location. When choosing a location, consider the cost of utilities and rent. Other factors include foot traffic, accessibility to targeted customers, competition, demographics and proximity to other businesses. As a cost-saving move, consider starting as a home-based business. Ask local organizations such as churches, schools and community centers to lease you space for less money than traditional means or in exchange for your volunteer services.

Media Campaign. Experts advise exploring all possible avenues to make people aware of your business. Word of mouth is one of the most productive advertising tactics. Other strategies include newspapers, flyers, business cards and developing a Web site.

These tips could put you on that road to the financial security you have always dreamed of, but be cautious. "Success in business is never automatic," according to the United States Small Business Association. "It isn't strictly based on luck--although a little never hurts. It depends primarily on the owner's foresight and organization. Even then, of course, there are no guarantees."