I lost my career after a car accident injured my lower spine. I am bedridden at least two days a week. I needed to create a home based business where I could work nontraditional hours and rest as needed. I had some part-time experience writing for local magazines, so I started a community based online magazine in 2013. I have never worked harder or been happier. The magazine keeps evolving as I discover what works and what doesn’t.
I didn’t create the magazine to make money. I hope the magazine will lead to opportunities. So far, I have been invited to be a Member of several Board of Directors, I’ve taught a workshop, sat on a panel about online publishing, been a guest speaker, and I have written for other websites.
Here’s what I learned in the early days of my business:
1) Consult with a CPA
If your product will not launch for a couple of years, you might want to officially form your company at a later date. This could save you several years of paying annual state taxes and fees while you are still in development.
Many CPAs offer a free first consultation. Learn which type of business organization is best for you and when you should begin its formation.
2) Choose Your Business Name Carefully
If I could go back in time, I would change my business name. Many people mispronounce it. (It’s Knoxzine. Zine, as in magazine). Also check for business name availability with your Secretary of State and with the U.S. Trademark office.
Since I didn’t know in advance that I would be starting my own business, I took an early withdrawal from my retirement account for the initial expenses.
I also sold some of my books, CDs, and DVDs to a used bookstore. I sold what little bit of gold and silver jewelry I owned. So far, I have not had to sell plasma.
4) Don’t Skimp on Your Website
It’s risky to rely on anyone to create your website for free. Your website needs to be easy to read and navigate. It costs extra if you want your site to function well on mobile devices. My website is a template professionally altered with code. It also took longer to make than I anticipated.
If you have a set launch date, especially if you are engaging in online sales, find a designer as soon as possible. Don’t forget to add a marketing analytic tool to your website. I use the free Google Analytics and it suits my needs. My webmaster also designed my logo.
5) Create Social Media Pages Before You Launch
Create excitement about your upcoming project. Ask for suggestions. Post photos of your progress. I was a latecomer to Twitter and LinkedIn. Now that I’m on board, it has added to my ratings.
6) Daily Reading
I read business and marketing related blogs, magazines, or books every day. When I temporarily stopped my daily reading habit, I lost my confidence.
Some of my favorite books are: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp; Choose Yourself by James Altucher; and, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
7) Shop Local
It’s tempting to use a cheap online vendor like Vista Print, but try to purchase your business cards and other swag from local vendors. Being a business owner means building relationships.
My webmaster became my mentor. My printer became an advertiser. My t-shirt vendor gave me my first order for free.
8) Overcoming Fear and Imposter Syndrome
My mantra for overcoming fear induced procrastination is: “Tell the truth, be sincere, and be enthusiastic.” Plow forward and repeat.
I used to refer to myself as a hack writer. Not anymore. I work too damn hard creating quality content. Now I’m proud to say: “I’m a writer.”
9) Avoid Isolation
It’s easy to become habituated to staying home when you are working from home. You must go outside, get exercise and socialize. This will help with idea generation and networking.
You need to be a part of the scene related to your business. If you work in an office, especially one without a window, it’s easy to lose track of time. Schedule periods for rest, fresh air, and movement.
10) Be Patient & Persistent
Gaining an audience is slow going. Try not to compare your project to other people’s projects. A 20+ year old alternative indie weekly is hugely popular in my town. I’ve only been around for 2 years. Of course my stats are going to be much lower. My content is also different.
Many people haven’t discovered my magazine yet. I will continue doing what I’m doing. My work inspires me, and my small following is loyal and growing everyday.
11) Join Clubs, Attend Festivals, Enter Contests
Last year I joined the Society of Professional Journalists. This allowed me to enter a contest with the local chapter. My fledgling online magazine won 4 awards for photography and videography! This year we had a booth at several festivals. We met many like-minded people. For outdoor festivals, consider having a dog water bowl available. Dog owners appreciate it, and they will linger longer at your booth. Look for clubs and contests showcasing female entrepreneurs.
Your local YWCA might have an annual contest. Find opportunities by using query phrases like “women in leadership,” “women entrepreneurs”. Winning a contest is a great excuse to circulate an updated press release about your company.
12) Be Generous
Giving away free swag is fun, but engaging in community building is better. Share articles by other writers. Publically give kudos to your competitors when they deserve it. Share your booth at a festival. Volunteer at non-profit special events. Hire senior citizens. March for a cause.
Buy an advertisement in an indie theatre’s show program. Be the guest speaker at a high school English class. Introduce people who need to meet. When you start to notice the interconnectedness in your work, it’s a great feeling.
What have you tried that boosted your start-up? What failed? Please share your ideas in the comments below.