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When Kevin Payne, the founder of this blog, announced he was leaving a full-time job to go out on his own, I was so excited for him because today is the best time to start your own business.
About 20 years ago, I jumped ship from the 9 to 5 routine to set the world on fire and bank a lot of cash. I devised a sure-fire, no-miss, simple plan: Publish a free newsletter available in doctor’s offices, convenience stores, and other establishments that would be full of important information for you and your family. Advertisers would underwrite the operations.
I scheduled lunch meetings. I went on cold calls. I had a laptop and a portable printer (unheard of back then) so I could actually produce a mock copy of the ad on-site and get approval. In no time, my little publication, Life Issues, was being distributed in a five-county region. Each page was filled with advertisements. I published the newsletter once a week. Life was good.
There was only one problem: I wasn’t making any money.
I was a one-man shop. I put wear and tear on my old car as I drove to all those counties trying to find advertisers. I burned gas delivering the newsletter. I offered complimentary ads for owners who let me put my newsletter in their businesses.
I was burning cash I did not have for a business where I never conducted one second of market research. Had I bothered to do a modicum of research, I might have noticed a free newspaper from an established publisher with deep pockets was poised to launch the same week as me.
Do you know why I was in five counties? Because I couldn’t find companies willing to advertise near me.
I started a business because I am a dreamer, what can I say. I loved the idea of having my own business and finally making a decent living. I even took on a part-time job to pay for my business. We do what we need to do, right?
So, I failed miserably with Life Issues. You might be thinking if that’s the case, then why am I so excited to see Kevin pursue his dream? Is it because I want to see someone else fail like me so I am not alone? Hardly.
It’s because I eventually did things right. I increased my gross income by 41% two years after leaving a career as an award-winning journalist. Tell me when is the last time you got a raise of more than 1 or 2%.
I am excited for Kevin because he knows what I eventually learned: It is relatively easy to start your own business when you put in the work. Here are some steps to guide you:
- Have a product or service people will pay for
- Conduct some research before you launch
- Establish your business identity
- Build a website
- Grow your business
When you start your own business, have a product or service people will pay for
In order to be successful when you start your own business, you need to solve somebody else’s problems. You can have the best idea in the world, but if it doesn’t solve an existing problem, why should people pay you? I help solve problems online businesses have, namely where can they get good, quality content for their websites so people will come back often?
I decided to leave journalism after hearing Claudia Pennington talk about how conducting technical SEO audits can be a wonderful side hustle. I planned to do it on the side and earn $75 an hour … that is, until the family-owned newspaper where I worked as a reporter was sold to a billion-dollar corporation. The new company had a rule that employees cannot compete with it. They offered SEO services.
I eventually decided to leave, but all businesses with an online presence need SEO services. So, I finally found a problem that needed to be solved. I already had training as a writer, so I could write content for websites. I have also been on social media for more than a decade, so I could do social media management.
With those services, I could solve companies’ problems, so the seeds of Wooster Media Group LLC were planted.
Conduct some research before you start your own business
Freelance writing plays a vital role in the paths Kevin and I have taken. Kevin was able to scale his writing clients and go full-time when he reached a nice launching point. For me, I had to go all in or not at all. Because I had to leave the newspaper before I could work in SEO, it helped me to do some research.
Claudia was a tremendous help in mapping out the kind of work I could do. Because of my connections from the newspaper, I started setting up meetings with business leaders to see if they would be interested in my services. A couple of them were, which was a good sign the services I wanted to provide were needed.
I talked to a couple of successful business owners, and they offered to mentor me through every step of the journey. They helped me understand about:
- Establishing an LLC
- Setting up a business checking account
- Getting a business credit card to use for every purchase (and pay off at the end of the month)
- How much money to keep in reserve in my business checking account
- Preparing for two months without revenue (because of landing a client and waiting on them to pay an invoice)
If you are interested in going the
Establish your business identity
Your business needs an identity. You need a logo, you need a color palette, you need font pairings, and you need a tagline. I had very little money starting out. I had someone on Upwork design my logo for about $50 to $75, I cannot remember. The graphic artist used a teal-like color for my logo, and while I love it, it’s a difficult color to match. When I went to get some polo shirts embroidered with my logo, the company did not have an exact match. Choose your colors wisely (or have a graphic artist do it for you, as well as the font pairings).
Build a website
When you launch your business, you will need an online home. I build all my websites on the WordPress platform. When you start, you do not need anything elaborate. Think of it as an online business card. However, when you build your website, keep in mind you are building a brand.
You want to give people a sense of:
- Who you are
- The services you provide
- Why you are qualified to provide these services
- Who you have worked with
The website should have an overview of what you do on your home page, an About page to talk about you and the company, a Services page, a Contact Us page, and a blog so you can continually update your website with fresh content and communicate with your clients and potential clients.
There are some things to know if you never launched a website. You will need a few things to get started.
domainname: My domainis woostermediagroup.com. It is the internet address for your website. You need to purchase one each and every year. Do not let your domainregistration lapse because you will likely lose your domainname. If you fail to pay for it, the domaindoes not go back on the “shelf,” rather it goes to an auction to see if someone wants to buy your domain. I like using Google Domains; the prices are very reasonable.
web hostingservice: Your website needs to be on computer servers that are running just about all the time. You can establish your own servers, but what happens if the power goes out? Your servers crash? You need reliable hosting services. Kevin recommends using Bluehost for your hosting needs when starting out.
- A content managing system: You need some type of system that allows you to publish content, which includes words, photos, and videos. Kevin and I use WordPress, which is a free platform.
A lot is involved with creating a website that will make money through advertising,
Grow your business
If you want to start your own business, I applaud you, but you need to work at it every day to grow your business. A friend of mine served as a vice president of a wealth management firm. He would see some of the young financial advisors make a good commission in the morning and take the rest of the day off. My friend told me, “You can make as much money in the afternoon as you did in the morning. Do not take afternoons off.”
Nothing in life is guaranteed. You need to work every day, trying to find new clients. You need to continue to learn about the industry you are in. Search engine optimization changes almost daily. It is tough to keep up, but that is what is required of me.
If you provide services to local companies, ask the leaders there if they know of anyone else who might be able to use their services. Join Facebook groups and network with others. Kevin and I met through Holly Johnson’s Earn More Writing Facebook group, and we continued to interact in Greg Johnson’s Earn More Blogging Facebook group. (Yes, Holly and Greg are married. Holly earns a six-figure income as a
Kevin and I have made a lot of great contacts by networking with other like-minded professionals.
More than two decades ago, I failed. Fast forward to February 2020, and my wife, Wendi, is leaving her full-time job to help me with my company. If you put in the work, you can start your own business and never look back.
So, what are you going to do now? If you are tired of making money for your employer and not receiving a fair wage, think about whether you can start your own business like Kevin and I did. I was in the same place just a couple years earlier, and I am so glad I made that step.
About the Author: Bobby Warren is founder of Wooster Media Group LLC, a search engine optimization/content creation/social media management company based in Wooster, Ohio. He won several journalism awards from the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists in Ohio before launching his company. He lives with his wife, Wendi, and their pets in Wooster.
Have you ever thought about starting your own business? Have any questions on how to get started? Let us know in the comments below
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