Dear aspiring mumpreneur,
I'm writing this open letter to you to outline some crucial points that I wish someone had laid out for me. I'll keep it as short as possible because I know your time is precious but I'm sure that if you read this through, you'll save a ton of time in the long run.
If you are truly serious about becoming a part of the wonderful world of mumpreneurialism, read carefully what I have written below, you'll gain the information you need to act now and get in the right mindset.
Here are, not necessarily in the best order, my top tips to set you on your way:
So there you have it, the open advice that I wish I could have received when I first started out. I hope that it serves you well and that you go on to be truly successful and accomplish all that you set out to achieve. Maybe you could look me up in the Mumpreneur community and let me know how you're getting on sometime ― I'd love to hear all about it.
So, from one Mumpreneur to another - good luck, stay focused and live each day to the max!
Nikki Backshall, WebMums.com
Research suggests that as many as one in ten mums would like to run their own business. It can be the best way to get control over your working hours and spend more time with children, while still being able to contribute to household income. If you are a mum and want to run your own business, here are my tips.
1 List your priorities. What is important to you and what do you expect in return for running a business? Do you seek to make loads of money or are you simply trying to find a way to spend more time at home with your children?
2 Think about time. How many hours you can devote to a business. Be realistic if you plan to work around your kids. Remember – young children are especially unlikely to understand “mummy’s working”. Write down your which hours are possible, whether that’s 12-2 each day during nap time; 9.30-11.30 to fit in with nursery; 7-9 in the evenings or a combination of these on different days.
3 Research your market. All new business owners must do this by finding the answers to key questions. Will enough people buy your product or service at the price you plan to charge? Is your product or service unique enough to appeal? What competition will you face and how can you be different or better?
4 Write a business plan. Set out your aims and objectives – and the steps you need to take to achieve them. Pop into a local Enterprise Agency or Business Link for advice. See if they offer a free start-up course, which could be a great source of information and advice.
5 Decide your marketing and promotional tactics. Have a promotion planning session, during which you seriously consider advertising, marketing, PR and events. What method(s) are likely to be most effective for your business? Note on a wall calendar promotional activities you will do each month, but spend enough time each day marketing your business – it’s critical to success.
6 Promote your business online. Get a good website designed. Start a Twitter account in your business name. Create your own blog and blog on other sites. Start a Facebook fan page for your business. To make things easier, use Twitterfeed or Friendfeed to link your different networking sites.
7 Get registered. You have three months to let HMRC know you have set up as a sole trader (ie become self-employed), otherwise you could be fined £100. Alternatively, you might decide to form a company by filing the necessary forms with Companies House.
8 Keep good financial records. It’s easier to note down every item of expenditure from the start than to have to deal with an unruly pile of receipts when you have to complete you tax return. Many expenses are tax deductible, while you can also benefit from a series of allowances, too. Visit the HMRC website for more information – or seek advice from a good accountant.
9 Make the most of every customer. It is much easier and as much as eight times cheaper to sell to existing customers rather than having to attract and convince new ones to buy from you, so you must aim to delight your customers if you want them to keep coming back for more. As well as products, this must apply to your services, too. Whichever means is most effective, always maintain good communication with your customers. Keep them well informed and updated. Sort out any customer complaints quickly and satisfactorily.
10 Get help. Before starting up, assess your skills list and identify any that are lacking. You might need to find someone to help with your bookkeeping, PR, online marketing, sales, deliveries – whatever. You might not have the knowledge, time or will to do everything yourself. Providing your business can afford it, buying in help can free you up so your time can be better spent on something else. Explore all free sources of information and advice – including the Start Up Donut, of course.
After you start your business, you need to remain focused on your ideal work-life. If you’re not careful, running a business can easily and quickly take over everything, which means your home life suffers and this can affect how you feel. Have a finish time each day; put your work away when it comes; spend quality time with your family and make sure you set aside time to relax by and do things you enjoy.
Antonia Chitty, Family Friendly Working
I developed a business idea which I know is a strong, feasible proposition but, with only having normal jobs, no mummy or daddy to hand me large amounts of cash and no major savings in the bank, I knew that I would need external funds to realise the plan.
Back in March I decided to learn how to be “investment ready” so that my business could grow with the support of some external investment from a bank, Business Angel, private investor or venture capitalist. I went to some excellent courses run by Connect Midlands to understand the process of writing a good, solid business plan and understand the business from an investor’s perspective.
It took me a good eight months to write that business plan with a convincing proposition and a solid set of numbers to show investors. It seems like a long time, but I needed to:
I went to the bank. Here are the lessons I learned:
I know everyone is talking about banks not lending but I must admit I was sceptical to believe this, as I fiercely believe that entrepreneurship is vital for the recovery of the economy and it should be supported by the banks.
As a consequence, entrepreneurs have the option of turning to investors/business angels. These investors receive many plans to review. I have now sent my plan to the Growth Investment Network (East Midlands) who have a range of investors in their network. I sent the plan as soon as I felt it was ready and I have to be open to feedback even if it’s hard to take. Fingers crossed.
I have to keep trying, and persevering, believing and visualising that I will be successful in raising the funds I need.
You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com
One of my clients is in a frustrating situation that my business, Manage My Website, is trying to sort out.
They’re a small business with four divisions, eight domain names and four websites. Their problem? Each website has been designed by a different agency or freelancer and each is hosted separately. My client is desperately trying to get hold of the vital information my business needs to help them gain control of the whole lot.
The lesson here is that it’s crucial to ask your web designer to give you all of the contact details, URLs, usernames and passwords for all of your websites, content management systems, email accounts and hosting services. That way, if anything goes wrong, you can get it fixed quickly and with minimum fuss. You don’t need to do anything with this information other than keep it somewhere safe (preferably in a few places) and make sure you can access it if need be.
Imagine if one day you decide to change a few images on your homepage or add a page to your website. You try to contact your web designer, only to find they’ve emigrated to Australia without leaving a forwarding address. You’re stuck.
Even worse, imagine if you’ve bought an existing business along with its website(s), which you urgently need to update. You need to make sure you know who designed and built your sites and how you can contact them if you need to.
You must also find out whether you own your domain name (you should) and when it’s up for renewal.
If you need to make backups or update or develop your website, do you know how to access your website files? Does your web hosting company offer automatic daily backup services and is this included in your contract? When does your web-hosting contract expire? How much disk space is included in your web-hosting package and how much of it remains?
Simply knowing the answers to these key questions can help to ensure your website continues to run like clockwork.
Alex Astell, Manage My Website
One of the main reasons I’m approached by new B2B clients is they feel frustrated having spent £X on a new website expecting customers to flock to it and make contact so sales teams can simply ‘finish the job’. This simply doesn’t happen.
Actively developing leads through a B2B website isn’t necessarily an aspect of your sales strategy that requires a major cash injection. The real investment is time; time to understand your visitors, their motivations and requirements. Only then will your website provide a successful lead generation platform.
So what key mistakes should you avoid?
1 Jargon and unnecessarily complex language
If the content on your website unnecessarily technical it will drive visitors away. Keep the language plain and accessible – only include more complex information data if absolutely necessary. You must quickly capture visitors’ attention, so tell them what makes you special and explain how your products/services will benefit them.
2 Missing conversion opportunities
Time and again I speak to new customers who struggle to convert readers into leads. Why? They’re not drawn to communicate. You’ve earned the right to request contact details from visitors, but don’t bombard users with “CLICK HERE” and “CONTACT US” messages throughout your site. A simple, clean and professional call to action on every page will do. Don’t have one laborious contact form. Use simple tools throughout your website to engage new visitors and quickly build your subscriber base.
3 Badly thought out AdWords campaigns
The key to a truly successful Adwords campaign is to match your ad and subsequent landing page to the requirements of the Google searcher. Give them what they’re looking for. Deliver visitors to a landing page that is tailored to their needs. Talk to them in a language they understand and engage them by showing how your business can meet their needs.
4 Ignoring Analytics
Google offer site Analytics for free. It’s essential information. It tells you how site visitors found you, what they did on your site and from which page they left. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing perfectly relevant site traffic without conversions. Spending just five minutes a day looking at your daily Analytics report can answer a whole range of key questions that can help you understand where you’re going wrong.
5 The ‘build it and they will come’ mentality
They won’t – it takes a lot of hard work. You might have Tweeted a couple of Tweets (please, not how much snow there is outside – people aren’t interested), setup your Facebook business page and updated your Linkedin profile. Well done. How much traffic will this generate for your business? Probably none. You’ve got to work your social media outposts as hard as website traffic generation.
6 Ignoring your local attraction
If the price and quality is the same, many (most?) people prefer to ‘buy local’, so let people nearby know you’re there. Look at your website – how obvious is your location? Maybe you have a few locations? Fantastic. Tell your prospects. Not only does location assist with search engine rankings, it also leaves you better placed to convert prospects not your doorstep.
7 Borrrrrrring content
Want to drive away potential leads from your website? Dull and uninspiring content will do it every time. You must grab visitors’ attention. Ask them questions, inspire them, engage them, amuse them, let them know why you’re special, show them you can meet their needs or solve their problems. Don’t merely focus on features – people buy benefits.
8 Give it all away for free
Even if you’ve got loads of content ready to be made available to your website users – hold back some of it. Produce an e-book or simple PDF download that offers information in return for visitors signing up. You can make your site into a definitive resource to build ‘authority’ within your industry. Maybe an additional income stream can be built using a ‘premium’ subscription service to your website?
9 Giving up the chance to be an authority
Your lead-generation process can be as simple as requesting visitors’ email addresses in return for your free monthly e-newsletter. Building frequency with prospects not only assists your business sales strategy significantly, it also allows you to build ‘authority’. Being seen as a leading voice within your industry makes things much easier throughout the sales funnel.
10 Assume web users have loads of time
If a prospect has found your site, they’ve probably found your competitors, too. No SEO or content structure can ensure visitors’ first click is their final click. Optimise your online campaigns around every click your potential client may make and keep the process simple. Some visitors will happily sit and read your content. However, most simply won’t have the time, which means your site must capture their attention immediately and tell them what they need to know.
It’s never been so competitive, but the rules of online selling remain the same. Keep your message simple, fully engage your site visitors and know exactly how to differentiate your site messages for those who are simply browsing and those much closer to buying.
Ian Rhodes, Webformula
Starting out in the big world of running your own business can be scary but also very exciting. We have come across a number of people setting up their business who don't invest time and effort into their logo, branding and marketing material. This may include business cards, letterheads, leaflets and even their website.
I will call this type of start up "The Hard Work and Cheap Joinery Company" (HWCJC for short). Often, what we hear is: "...Well, I have a mate who can knock me something up in Microsoft Word, using every colour in the rainbow and a font like 'Comic Sans'" or "my son who's at school has done it for me".
This will then be followed by a strict and detailed process as follows:
Onto the website, which again, is to be handled by a mate who's good on the PC. First of all, he's purchased the following domain name:
www. freespacesomewhereinspace.com/my-new-business-setup-by-my-mate. (link does not work just to prove a point)
The site design is then handled by their "web-savvy" mate, who will maintain their corporate style with numerous colours, text saved as images (search engine friendly? No.) and META tags or keywords. The finished article will be placed into Google's top 1,000,000 results, just below "Betty's Ironing Service".
Then they start their business and wonder why they are not winning on quotes...
As a well known advert says "...there has to be a better way". This is what another person who understands the power of creativity would do. First of all, they would set a budget of let's say £500 to invest in their branding, letterheads, business cards and website.
Lets call this business "Cool Looking Joinery" (or, CLJ for short). CLJ will first of all meet up will with a creative and professional design company. Between them, they would work out who CLJ's customers are, what their target audience is, and what image and branding is needed to attract the right customers. After the initial meeting, the designer would come up with some great creative ideas, using the right colours, a quality font, relevant and appealing imagery. These would then be worked up into business cards and letterheads, linked together by a fresh and implemented corporate identity.
CLJ are very happy with the designs and then look at having them printed. The designer recommends printing the business cards on a high quality 400gsm board, in full colour, with the letterheads being produced on a 115gsm white bright paper stock which adds to the look and professional style.
The designer and the chap from CLJ progress onto the website and the options available to best suit their needs. As CLJ are joiners, all they need is to have good web presence as they don't need to sell direct to their client base. The designer recommends work on a small, 3 page web brochure, to be produced in the same corporate style as the printed material.
They get the right domain name in "www.coollookingjoinery.co.uk" which helps customers find CLJ. Then, the designer creates the site using relevant keywords and tags so that the little spiders from Google can find it in a heartbeat. Betty's Ironing isn't even on the same page.
Both CLJ and HWCJC get telephone calls from Mr and Mrs Needakitchen. They both go and have a look at the job, then go away and work out the quote.
Both CLJ and HWCJC are going to use the same kitchen units bought from a well known DIY chain, both will do it in the same time frame and both have the same basic quote price. The quotes arrive in the post. HWCJC's quote is printed on cheap paper, with a poor logo and a business card that looks like a dog's eaten it. CLJ's is printed on quality paper, is well designed and comes with a professional business card with the photographs reminding Mr and Mrs Needakitchen of the high class workmanship that CLJ have done before.
So, let's say you have the to quotes in front of you. One looks and feels professional, the other looks and feels poor. Which would you take?
We know which one the majority of us would go for.
So lets say for example the kitchen cost £10,000 an investment of say £500 in branding and professional material was an excellent return on investment. The key point that I am making is good design sells and is cost effective, bad design will eventually cost you money in lost sales.
Mike Handley, Graphic Reults
A version of this post originally appeared on the Graphic Results blog.