Millions of people dream of becoming entrepreneurs and starting a business.
However, according to the 2015 Kauffman Index Report, only about three in every 1,000 people in the United States start a business every month. For many potential entrepreneurs, the outcome seems uncertain and the possibility of failure too great.
In many cases, procrastination kills entrepreneurial dreams long before would-be founders even land their first customers.
The key is to start small and take one step at a time. The goals in the first few days are simple:
- Look like a real business, and
- Land at least one customer.
The first six days should be dedicated to creating a brand and making your startup look and feel like a real business. You'll feel a sense of accomplishment and momentum that will propel you into the next six days of focusing on customers.
Here's what those first 12 days can look like:
Day 1. Define a minimum viable product or service.
What will your product or service be, at least in the short-term? What can you get out the door quickly? How can you immediately start start servicing customers? Who will your customers be?
Day 2. Create your business name.
Pick a name that's simple and that has a direct connection to what you do.
I came up with a company name for my business FreeLogoServices and later renamed the company LogoMix. (We kept the original brand, but we needed another name to use with partners and different groups of customers.)
Don't waste all of your time trying to come up with the perfect name. You'll end up putting off starting your business and bringing in revenue.
Instead, just go with something straightforward and descriptive. If you're waiting to think of the perfect name, you're also waiting to start your business.
Day 3. Buy a domain.
When you search for a domain there are obviously a number of options available.
Think simple: (yourname).com, or (yourname).net if that is not available. You can also try (yourcompany)inc.com or (yourcompany)town.com.
Once you set up your domain, get a business email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 4. Create a logo.
The "perfect" logo for your business probably doesn't exist, but a great logo is definitely achievable. Make sure you don't waste too much time looking for the perfect one.
You don't need fancy software or incredible design skills. There are a number of online services that make it easy to design your own logo.
Day 5. Set up a one-page website.
Keep it simple. Stick to one page with two pictures, a paragraph describing what you do, and a contact form.
Remember, the goal is just to start the process of branding your company. You can--and will--go back later and flesh out your website.
There are a number of free website builder tools and free stock photo services you can find online.
Day 6. Set up a Facebook page.
Social media marketing will be an important part of your marketing efforts--53 percent of small businesses use social media--so the small time investment it takes to learn will definitely pay dividends as you grow your business.
A simple Google search on quick tips for small business social media marketing can help you get started.
Day 7. Create business cards.
Use an online service to order business cards. Make sure to include your web address, Facebook page and business email.
Day 8. Create a list of 50 potential customers.
Whether you're selling a $1 or $100,000 product or service, you still need to talk to customers. You still need to determine their needs, their pain points, their objections.
Go through your personal contacts, and use LinkedIn and other social media points to determine a list of at least 50 people who may be interested in your product.
Then, get on the phone with them and discuss your product to learn if it is viable and how it can be improved.
Day 9-11. Get on the phone.
Dedicate a few days to calling customers and telling them about your product. Ask them to buy. Take notes on the conversation.
Making calls to customers is the toughest part of being an entrepreneur, but it is also the most important. Our initial calls helped us figure out what our customers wanted, and build a tool around that.
Day 12. Evaluate your calls.
Review your notes and evaluate what went well and what you can improve. Assess what is most important to potential customers. Change your pitch... and if necessary change your product or service.
Remember, most businesses never make it out of the idea stage. The goal is to start by overcoming procrastination and building a bit of momentum.