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How to start your own business or side job from home

side job

Whether you are looking to start a business from home as a part of an entirely new career path or a ‘side jo’ to top up your monthly income, the difference between success and failure is often in the preparation.

This article will look at some of the essential preparation that we think should be undertaken before starting a business or side job from home in the UK. Please be aware that the article is for informational purposes only, and you should always look to get professional business advice when possible.

What business?

The best way to decide what type of business you want to start is to assess your skills and passions.

You might be a writer interested in cryptocurrency or a graphic designer who enjoys cooking. In some instances, you may be able to combine your skills and passions to come up with business ideas. For example, you could create a food website that uses step by step infographics to add visual content to the blog posts and recipes.

It’s okay just to have an idea of the topic and niche that you want to work within at this stage. You can pin down your idea by researching online or asking on relevant forums and social media groups.

It can also help to have some ideas or a shortlist of what your business name might be. You might want to keep the name simple and easy to spell. You should also check if the domain is available – your desired website address. You can do this by searching for your business name on a website such as 123-reg.

You can also check out the Companies House website to see if your business name is taken by a limited company.

Identify your target market

Chances are, if you fail to identify your target market, all of your marketing efforts will fail too. Identifying your target market is the foundation on which all of your other marketing efforts and, to a certain extent, your business itself relies upon.

To begin, create your ideal customer persona or avatar. The ideal customer persona is usually a fictional representation of your perfect customer or client – the type of client you want more of – because they are highly profitable and relatively low in maintenance.

First, identify demographic details – age, gender, job title, income, disposable income.

Geographical details – where they live.

Psychographic details – interest, attitudes, affiliations.

It is essential to identify all of their aspirations and ambitions as well as their problems and pain points.

To help create your ideal target market and discover their pain points and ambitions, find out where they hang out online. Are they on Reddit? If so, which forums? Do they use Facebook groups? If so, which ones? What are their pain points? What do they talk about on Twitter?

Knowing your target market is important before starting your market research.  

You may have identified several personas, and that’s great. Still, you’ll need to work out which one is the most profitable and what value you can provide to each. This is so you can eventually identify which persona represents your ideal, most profitable and best-matched customer that you can give value to.

Market research

Once you have your idea, you must perform some market research, especially if you are thinking of investing a significant amount of money.

You could hire a market research company that will compile an intricate and detailed report for you to evaluate whether or not there is a substantial market for your product or service. The report will typically include data and statistics regarding the market size, growth rate, the demographics of the consumers and industry leaders.

However, a report from a market research company is likely to set you back at least a few thousand pounds. If you are not afraid of some googling and virtual elbow grease, you can often find a lot of information yourself.

Start off by googling reports and statistics regarding the industry that relates to your business idea. For example, if you have an idea related to the fitness industry, try searching for “reports on UK fitness industry”, “UK fitness industry trends”, and “fitness industry growth”. Look out for data related to year-on-year growth, the demographics of each specific market and the amount of money spent on related products and services.

Competitor analysis

A significant part of market research is competitor analysis. It’s important to know who your competitors are, how much their service or product costs, and their unique propositions and selling points. In some instances, you can also request credit reports on your competitors.

Websites such as Google Trends and explodingtopics.com will show you what related search terms are growing and in which areas. For example, this search on Google Trends indicates that searches regarding “home workouts” peaked in March 2020, and at the time of writing, this search on explodingtopics.com suggests that searches for “plant-based” are continuing to grow in 2021. Be sure to check out the “related topics” and queries at the bottom of the Google Trends results too. These sections can help inform ideas and product offerings.

If you are thinking of starting a local business, you can search on Google Maps to find the existing competition. So, if you were thinking about starting an accountancy firm in Manchester, search for “accountants in Manchester” and check out the competitors.

Read their reviews and see if you can offer something they currently can’t. Reading reviews can also provide valuable information if you are thinking of selling a product too. For example, if you were thinking of manufacturing a protein supplement, search for “protein powder” on Amazon, and read all of the reviews for the existing products. If there is a recurring issue or theme regarding existing products, you may well have found your unique selling point.

Primary market research

Primary market research means collecting data on your own. To do this original research, you may need to use a survey on your existing social media accounts or pay a survey company to collect data from your target audience for you.

There are also several online tools and websites that will help with your market research. You can install the ‘MozBar’ to check out the domain authority of your competitors’ websites. The higher the domain authority, the harder it will be to outrank them on Google. You can also use the Google Keyword Planner tool or Ubersuggest to see how many searches there are for specific terms each month on Google.

Finally, if you provide an online service, you can visit websites like PeoplePerHour and check out the going rate for freelancers in your country for certain services. In other instances, you can check out a job website and note the number of local vacancies and the salaries. The more job vacancies there are, and the higher the pay – the more demand there will tend to be for a freelance service.

Get professional business advice

There are a number of government and charitable schemes available across the UK that may help advise you on your business and its formation. In England, you can search on the government website for schemes near you – whether you are looking for advice or funding, you can search by your company stage, size and industry.

There are links to government or quasi-government support schemes on this webpage for people in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Searching on Google for “free business advice near me” may also result in some local organisations or schemes that can help.

Business tools

It’s wise to consider which business tools you will take advantage of, e.g. will you use an accounting app to help with your bookkeeping?

Another excellent tool for remote businesses and side jobs is a small business phone system app or telephone answering service. If you are running a business from home, it can help create a professional image if you have a dedicated receptionist answering your phone calls. With an award-winning provider like Moneypenny, as far as the caller is concerned, they’ll think your virtual receptionist is just another knowledgeable member of your in-house team.

Other tools to think about might include:

– Project management software

– Inventory management apps

– Point of sale tools

– Video conferencing software

You will also want to think about any hardware you might need to invest in. For example, if you are working from home, will you need new office furniture, a printer, or a scanner? In terms of a phone system, you can also use a switchboard service like Moneypenny’s – for a lesser cost than hiring a call handling team.

Complete a business plan

A business plan can be crucial to help frame and visualise your business. Moreover, many organisations and companies that may offer funding and other help for your business will want to see a business plan first. This may seem unnecessary for a side job, however if you don’t have time to invest in a business plan, you are unlikely to be successful with a side-hustle.

Get your ideas down on paper in an organised manner. It should be a step by step plan for your business and its execution and should be a working document, not something that you file away straight after you complete it.

Whether you are looking to attract investment or create a plan to follow for your business venture, get it down and aim to have several versions of it – one for you and one for potential individual investors. Banks and other potential investors may need a slightly different business plan than the one formatted to suit personal use or for an individual private investor.

Treat your business plan in a similar way to a university assignment. That is, you must back up and reference everything that you say. You cannot claim that you have a unique selling point without outlining the weakness in your competition, for example.

Be aware that potential investors will ask lots of questions regarding your business plan, so make sure you know it down to the finest detail. Investors will see through inflated financial projections too, so it is best to be cautious when calculating future income.

Marketing strategy

You will also need to include your marketing strategy in your business plan. Before you complete this section of the business post, it might help to familiarise yourself with social media marketing, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google ads. You can quickly get an overview of these marketing channels by watching YouTube tutorials or doing an online course on websites such as Udemy.com.

An essential element of the plan is analysing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. If you are going to show your business plan to potential investors, then use professional language when highlighting your competitors’ weaknesses. It may suggest that you lack integrity if you heavily criticise your competitors. Deal with facts, not emotions.

Examine and analyse your competitors’ marketing strategies if possible. Are they using social media ads? Google Ads? And where do they rank on Google for important search terms? Use a tool like Ubersuggest to see how competitive search terms are and how much they ‘cost per click’ (also called CPC) when a user clicks on a relevant Google Ad.

One final thing to be aware of is although your executive summary is at the start of the business plan, you will usually fill this in after everything else is planned out and complete. The order of the business plan does not necessarily represent the order that it should be filled in.

For UK-based businesses, you can find business plan templates on the government website and the Prince’s Trust website.

Branding your business

Whether you are building a full-time career or a project for a side job, your business needs a brand. People use the term “brand” and “branding” interchangeably with logo design. A logo is a tool and a symbol of the brand, but it is not the brand itself.

Marty Neumeier describes a brand as a result – a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. They take the raw materials that you throw at them, and create something out of it. When you create a brand, it’s not just one single brand; it is an entity or concept that resides within every single customer you have. It’s a reputation.

Marty Neumeier recommends starting with the feeling. It can be tempting to have a checklist: the logo, the tagline, the ads and the website design. But Marty states it is best to think about the messaging, the look and feel of products, the culture and how employees behave – these all tie into a company reputation.

It can help if a brand represents you and your personality, as this will make everything more authentic for you and the customers. Think about what you stand for and what you ideally want a brand to be.

Market research can also help inform your brand design and concept. What is your target audience looking for, and what is something that would have meaning to them? Competitor research may also be an essential element of brand design – how can you stand out from your competitors and shake up the industry?

When you have decided on the idea and concepts behind your brand, you may wish to hire a graphic designer to create your logo and social media banners. You may also want to hire a web designer to create your company website. You can find an agency or freelancer locally with a quick Google search, or you can use freelancer websites such as UpWork or PeoplePerHour. There are also apps like Canva, which may help you draft up some ideas or even some final artwork yourself.

Register your domain and social media accounts

When you have decided on your company name and all the elements of your brand, it’s a good time to register your website domain and social media accounts.

Your domain name can be very important. If you reside in the UK, it is generally best to stick with a .com or .co.uk address. It can also help people remember your domain name if it is short, and obviously, keep it either the same or related to your brand name if possible. WPbeginner.com has some more tips on choosing a domain name here.

Social media marketing is a vital route to market for many small businesses. Right now, LinkedIn is a great place for “organic reach” – i.e. free exposure rather than paid advertising – so if you work in the business-to-business (B2B) sector, and in some instances even if you don’t, it can be wise to have a personal profile and a business page on the platform.

It is a good idea to register your business with Google My Business too. This is especially true if you are a local business and wish to appear on Google Maps when someone is searching for a service or product that you offer.

Register your business

To make your business official, you will need to register it. The two most common ways to register a business are as a ‘sole trader’ or a ‘limited company’.

It’s important that you understand the legalities of company formations. You can find more information on the government website and on the Companies Made Simple website. You can use Companies Made Simple to set up a limited company, and they will also help with setting up a business bank account.

How Moneypenny can help

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to rethink the way that we work. It has opened the door to many home business possibilities now that the remote work and distributed teams infrastructure is tried and tested.

Running a business is never easy however, and a side job can be challenging to manage on top of a full-time career.

Whatever business you are looking to start, a small business phone system, telephone answering service or switchboard solution may be a valuable asset if you are working from home – giving you the time to focus on your business and ensure your communications are handled seamlessly.

To find out more about our solutions, call us on 0333 202 1005 or click here.

 

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