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Starting a Startup: Save Some Time!

Even if you have a college degree that qualifies you as a Business professional, your first startup will be a major learning experience. While there’s no rule book for starting a business, it might save you a little trouble if you figure out some things first. Let’s take a look at a few pointers on starting a startup…

1. Funding
You can’t effectively start a business without funds to produce your product or service. No pun intended, this should be your first order of business.
There are a few ways to do this, the hardest of which – but most controllable – is paying for things out of your own pocket. Your ability to do this will depend on your business size, in addition to your savings and income. For instance, I run a very small record label, so paying out of my pocket for one release at a time works for me, especially since my returns are small. This method of paying out of pocket, by the way, is called “bootstrapping.”

The next way of doing this is finding individual investors, which involves pitching your idea to people with money who believe in what you’re doing and think they can profit off of it. You can do this by going to companies directly, as well as friends and family. Things like GoFundMe and FundersClub help bring potential investors and entrepreneurs together in a less formal way. Even then, it may still be smart to get a business loan, and you may need one based on how much your investors haven’t been able to give you.

Of course, none of these ways is “right” or “wrong” and none of them are completely incompatible with each other – many of them are used at different stages in developing a business.

2. Back Ups
Too often, saving documents (back ups, as they are then called) is looked over. But it is absolutely essential that your records are preserved! This obviously includes financial records, but also wise organized records of every official document you’ve made or signed, as well as every product or service idea – including how you manufactured or created it. Also important to save are passwords and logins, deals you’ve made with others, etc.

The fact is that if your business gets audited, you need to have answers and know where to find all of your expenses from previous years. Punk band, The Lawrence Arms, had been touring heavily for 10 years before they were audited by the IRS, putting their career on hold for quite a long while. It took years for them to become a properly active band again. The lesson here? You don’t want to be in a situation where you need your financial history and don’t have it.

Furthermore, people steal ideas, unfortunately. Intellectual Property Theft, as it’s called, covers everything from illegal file sharing to sometimes including copyright infringement, which, though it seems small, is a Federal Crime. The biggest thing here that you want to avoid is somebody blatantly stealing your product or idea and pretending they came up with it. You’ll lose money, and perhaps your entire business.
Related: The Advantages of Third Party Maintenance

3. Personal Ways to Speak With Clients and Customers
Getting your products out to your target demographic can be a tough and trying task. When communicating with people in other parts of the country or world, instant messaging and email may come off as impersonal and unprofessional.
Having a phone number for people to contact you is necessary, of course, but also remember that Skype For Business launched last year. Essentially, by having something set up for face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversations, you can resolve conflict more quickly, get to know who the person you’re dealing with is, and hopefully work on your social skills – because you’ll need to be able to do all of these things if you want success!

4. SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization, and it’s essential in today’s internet age. Why does it matter to you? It’s how people find out about your business. SEO, in short, means optimizing your web presence (and not just your website, but how you’re portrayed through other websites as well) so people can find you when they’re looking for someone who offers the products and services that you sell. If you do it right, they’ll hopefully find you before one of your competitors. I’m not going to try and summarize the complicated world of good SEO in a few sentences, so I leave you with some resources that are simple yet will save you a lot of trouble.
SEO For Small Business Checklist
The Moz Blog
10 SEO Tools to Analyze Your Website Like Google Does – From Hubspot

5. Art
Logos and look are part of how you brand yourself, so get this figured out. A friend of mine, upon starting a business, once had an online competition with a cash reward for whoever drew the best logo. This worked for him, but maybe you have friends who are talented in this area or a specific artist you’re aware of that you’d like to work with: just be aware of the costs to use their artwork.

Also, Photoshop is only $10 a month, and there are some fantastic tutorials online. In starting a record label, I decided that I had to learn the basics of this, and while it was hard, it’s been incredibly rewarding for myself as well as my musical projects. Understanding how a simple template works on an industry standard makes working with other people a lot easier, because it’s easy to look professional, even if you’re still figuring it out. Also, Photoshop is used by so many people that it’s easy to trade ideas, drafts, and input.

6. Webstore
Nowadays, being able to sell your products online can be more important than owning a physical store location. Things like Big Cartel, Limited Run, and my personal favorite StoreEnvy make this easier than it ever has been. Selling your products online makes it easy for anyone and everyone to get a hold of them, and if you have SEO, your store will be easy to find online.

Did I miss something? Let me know over at Twitter @robolitious.

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