I started Lighter Note in 2018. I didn't know much about starting a business at all.
If I could sit down with you for coffee and tell you everything I know now it would be a long conversation. If you didn't like the business it would be mainly boring.
But if you're wanting to start a small business, this is content for you. I have a product-based business so this advice is mainly for a product-based business model. However, I hope you find it useful no matter what business you have or want to start.
- Start an email list early. Email lists aren't overrated, and they aren't just for sales. This is how you can stay connected with your audience even if Instagram and the like shut down tomorrow. It's old school, and it's effective. The aim is to add value. Share helpful blog posts, coupons, free things, and yes share about products, too!
- Let your marketing be wider than your product list at first. What does that mean? Well, it's a phrase I made up... but it's got truth in it. As an example don't make 30 cards then only market them in two Facebook posts and expect the sales to come in. Instead spend more time marketing a few really well-made products. Go wide in the marketing: Pinterest, Instagram/Facebook (Reels, Ads, Photos, Videos, stories, etc), Emails, Word of mouth, Influencer marketing, and Tiktok if you really want to.
- Stop and celebrate milestones. I never used to do this and it drained me. I was always thinking okay what's next. That's no way to live. If you make your biggest sale yet go for a fun dinner, buy the shoes you've been saving up for, or even just get a latte next time you want one. It doesn't have to be anything huge but this will help you to not burn out.
- Set up work/life balance early on. Yes, there are a million things to do in the beginning. But make sure you have time to still be a real person and enjoy time off work. Make a plan and stick to you. Please don't let the business take over your life because it will be tempting.
- Dream bigger than you think you can. Being interviewed on tv, getting your product in Target, getting a storefront, having a sell-out opening weekend... Let yourself dream HUGE. It won't all happen the moment you begin but you'll be blown away by what things you will accomplish in the years to come. Nothing is impossible.
- Keep up with your income vs. expenses. This will help you to know what your actual profit is. Start a simple spreadsheet and be diligent.
- Save 17% or more of what you make for taxes. This is pretty straightforward. Tax season will come and you want to be prepared.
- Use the right Website host that is user and SEO-friendly. Let your website host do work for you. Choosing the wrong one can mean fewer sales and more work for you.
- Find your demographic (target customers) and don't take criticism from people who aren't in that. Let's say you're making leather bags meant for moms to use as a diaper bag (maybe a 20-35-year-old mom specifically). If a 75-year-old man tells you that your business isn't going to work and that no one will buy those bags, don't let it discourage you. He probably never will buy one but they aren't meant for him. He's not your target audience so don't allow his words to discourage you.
- Stay in touch with what made you start in the first place. To keep with the same example, if you started the leather diaper bag business because you couldn't find a bag you liked when you became a mom, remember that passion. Let it fuel you on the days that are long.
I hope these tips were helpful for you. If you ever want to talk about small business I'd love that.