The MOO Blog

Small Business – Taking the plunge

24th May 2010 by Simon G

It’s ‘Small Business Week’ in the USA, celebrating, helping and promoting independent small businesses. A small business ourselves – all be it much bigger than when we started – we get excited to hear about anything promoting smaller companies. So this week, we’ll be blogging about those that have started their own business, things they wish they’d known, ways to promote yourself, and ways to get – and stay – motivated.

Getting started; making it happen

Every business has to start somewhere – even ours. From big players like Google and Microsoft, to the local restaurant or bakery on your block, every business began with an idea. The guys at the99percent.com (from the creators of Behance) have written a book about what to do next; how to make ideas happen.

Their book, (“MAKING IDEAS HAPPEN“) deals with the obstacles of turning your ideas into actions and making them a reality. The ideas behind any business, whether big or small, are often just the beginning of a long road. “Taking the plunge” and putting your everything in to practice is often the first step that causes the biggest internal struggle; leaving your job to ‘go it alone’.

Online resources and Communities

There are plenty of resources online for providing advice and support, like StartupNation and Entrepreneur.com. For those starting off on their own, sites like FreelanceSwitch provide great tips, tools and advice.

We caught up with Dan Sharp who recently made the choice to ‘go it alone’ and set up Screaming Frog – a small and highly passionate search marketing consultancy. We asked Dan about leaving his job at an agency and starting his own PPC and SEO business…

What made you leave your previous job to ‘go it alone’?
“Ultimately leaving my old job was down to my desire to achieve more – I have always had a burning desire to run my own business. While my previous role working for a company gave me some great experience, it didn’t allow me to develop as quickly as I would like to achieve the targets I had set myself. I continuously needed a challenge and the confines of a company just don’t always allow that.

I have always admired people with ambition and an entrepreneurial spirit, so starting my own business was almost the natural path. By taking the plunge so to speak, it allowed me to have full control and direction of my own ambition.

And are you worried about the risks?
There is that risk factor, but if you believe in yourself and what you can offer then you have to give it a try. I have the freedom to take the path I think is right, while it’s certainly more demanding, it’s also so much more rewarding! While business is certainly not everything in life, running your own gets you closer to achieving your own potential.”

It sounds as though Dan has taken a big first step, and we wish him the best of luck for the future! Thanks Dan for telling us your story.

Now, we’d love to hear from you!

  • Do you have a story about leaving your job to start your own business?
  • Or perhaps you’re thinking about starting a new business soon?
  • If so, what’s stopping you from taking that first step?
  • Is there a favourite website you look to for tips, tools and advice?

Leave your advice in the comments below so other small businesses benefit too. The best comments and tips will win a copy of “MAKING IDEAS HAPPEN” by Scott Belsky (founder and CEO of Behance).

Read comments (30)

  1. Shannon:

    Make SURE you speak with an accountant and learn all of your tax requirements! I had to learn the hard way about Sales and Use Tax in the state of Virginia for instance. Good blog idea MOO! Should be very helpful for new small business owners in particular

  2. Katrina Wheeler:

    Make a business plan. It sounds hokey but i waited 5 years to do it and wish i had from the beginning. Especially the financial section, it really helps you see where your money is going to be going, coming in and how much you need initially to have to start up the business. Also, read the book “Getting things Done” by David Allen!! Priceless!

  3. Petrina Reyes:

    When I decided to start M.A.D.E. Images, I’d just quit two full time jobs in Austin, TX. I was working over 85 hours a week, making less than $24/hr with both jobs combined, and didn’t have a single thing to show for it. I was a fairly recent graduate of the University of Chicago and felt like, with all of the money I’d spent on a college education, I deserved more. So, more is what I gave myself.

    I took my top talents – my love of art and my ability to learn almost anything – and turned it into my career. Was it easy? No. I had just quit two jobs, I didn’t have any money to start a company. But, I improvised. The first question I asked myself was How can I make money without having any money? I began working on my art, simple pencil drawings on regular paper. Then I began doing photo shoots with my old point-and-shoot camera. Talent is as talent does. Before long, I was taking enough photos and drawing enough pictures to purchase real equipment. How did I spread the word about myself? I used Myspace. It was free and provided an easy way for me to locate individuals in my area. And the rest, as they say, is history.

    Within months I’d built MADEImages.com, and learned enough about basic web and graphic design, marketing, and photography to make it where I am today. I am chock full of ideas that grow and hatch daily giving me plenty of options to work with – all ensuring my company stays diverse and interesting.

    That’s my story :)

    P.S. “Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters” by Debbie Allen was my biggest inspiration once I got started!

    P E T R I N A
    M.A.D.E. Images Owner
    http://www.MADEImages.com

  4. Mary Schwarz:

    One of the key things I wished I’d learned sooner when starting my photography business was networking with my local “competitors.” Don’t overlook the value of getting to know your peers in your market. You might be surprised at how willing other small businesses are to help you, even if you are in the same sector. Your competitors can be some of your greatest allies if you are willing to work together.

  5. Tiffany:

    The best tip I can offer is to lead in debt-free (at least for your business start-up expenses – if you can!). I know it is often hard to be debt free in any economy, especially the one we are currently battling with, but it really will mean so much in the long run. Remember, starting your own business often means your income is going to adjust. If you don’t have to worry about additional *new* expenses when starting out, it helps to throw some perspective your way.

    I left my job last year, to finally devote my time to my own business, and it was wonderful and hard – but something I will never regret when looking back.

    Enjoy the freedom of running your own business, and even when it gets hard try to remember you ARE one of the lucky ones. Thanks Moo – great article to help so many out there.

    Tiffany
    http://www.bymasselyn.com

  6. Carmen Cay:

    I remember sitting in a meeting in a private in-patient drug rehab where I was a therapist when it hit me…what the heck am I doing here? My calling wasn’t working for a big organization the rest of my life. My passion is photography and school was always just a back up plan.

    It’s been a year and it’s taken that long for me to re-organize my thoughts and wrap my mind around this new thing called entrepreneurship. Over the past few months I have taken tons of photos, developed my website and collaborated with other photographers to gain experience and insight. The last step for me is advertising, so I ordered business cards, which I am currently waiting to be delivered from MOO!

    I am finally in the process of manifesting my dream of owning my own business! The best advice I could offer is to take your time and really sit down to get a clear picture of what you want (no pun intended). Write everything down. Keep a journal with you at all times to write down ideas and even a camera to capture a quick photo of something that inspires you. I made myself sit down and take 2 hours out of my day to work on my business plans.

    I always remember a quote one of my Professors once said “Some do and some don’t”. I want to be the “do”! Best of luck!

    Carmen
    http://www.carmencayphotography.com/

  7. Jacqueline:

    As a type A personality, I like to think that I can ALWAYS figure things out on my own. And usually I can. But if I’ve learned one thing from starting my own paper crafting business, it’s that it is OKAY to seek out the help and advice of others. There are plenty of other people who have gone through or are going through what we are, so take the opportunity to learn from their experiences, their mistakes and their successes, and glean some valuable knowledge. You don’t necessarily have to outright ask for advice, but don’t be afraid to look through forums and be involved in a community of other entrepreneurs. Since I sell my products mainly on sites like Etsy.com, I spend a lot of time in their community forums absorbing as much wisdom as I can from more experienced artisans. It may hurt your pride a little to know that you had to ask for help, but it saves you a lot of frustration and sometimes hours of research in the long run.

    Oh, and another thing I’ve learned. Sometimes you just have to walk away for a while. When you’re just starting, you want to work nonstop to make your business successful from day one. But you have to realize that it’s going to take a lot of time and work. So make sure to step away every now and then to gain perspective and to give yourself a chance to just relax and remember why you decided to start a business in the first place.

    I left my job over a year ago to start my business and though it’s been a bit of a struggle, and slow going, I haven’t regretted a single moment.

    Thanks Moo for this article, and for this chance for people like us to share our experiences with others!

    Jacqueline
    http://www.scrapsoflife.biz

  8. Brad Koehler:

    The number one piece of advice that I could give anyone, is to not feel that you have to take every single piece of work that comes along. Sometimes when you are busy, you hear about another piece of work that is well paying or fun to do. If you are already stacked, you compromise your current workload and risk damaging existing client relationships by taking on more.

    Someone once told me, if you do a good job, your client will tell one other person, if you do a bad job, they’ll tell five.

    It is ok to say no :)

  9. Katherine:

    Always go for a walk around the block before starting work so you feel like you’re going to work, otherwise you end up taking important phone calls in you PJs from your bed, which is never good. By walking it feels though you’re work day as begun otherwise you don’t start work until late morning and your work day eats into your private time.

    Also when quoting for jobs, don’t only consider the time length and difficulty but also the value to you. If it looks good in your portfolio or may lead to other work it might be worth more than money.

  10. Carrie B.:

    My number one tip: Nine times out of 10, the Internet will not “make” your business. Sure, some Web 2.0 folks get lucky and strike 15 minutes of fame/gold, but getting a page loaded with “social networking” tools does NOT a business make. (I learned this the hard way.) It takes time to maintain Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. The business owner still needs to ENGAGE potential clients and not forget that in-person marketing/networking and referrals are really still the best way to build a business. Social networking and websites are enhancements, and are not the primary marketing model. Get a business plan and use the tools you have to enhance what you already do!

  11. Ariel:

    For several years I was working for other people and was miserable. Anyway, I read The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki and it was the first step to starting my own business. Also, subscribing to INC magazine just motivates you to go after your passions and ideas.

  12. Charity:

    Understand that start up is slow and their will always ALWAYS be problems. I’m not open yet and I am already battling a few missed deadlines. Only so much is within my sphere of control, sometimes it’s best to just leave something be for a bit and then come back to it.

  13. Lindsey:

    I’ve been working on starting my own business since I lost my job last year, can’t wait to see what helpful tips and sites you have to share. So far it’s slow going, things like money are still a big hurdle for me I think.

  14. Colleen:

    sort accountant straight away and a little thing that has saved me a lot of time was buying a label printer – I run an online business so post is a huge part of everyday.

  15. Cynthia:

    My dream of working for myself came to an abrupt realization when my regular job was ended. Talk about being pushed from the nest! The best advise I got? to stay clear on my vision and to try to make decisions that brought me closer to that vision rather than decisions out of fear that might take me further away. I listened…told lots of people what I was doing, took plenty of free gigs and asked lots of questions. I even happened upon office space within walking distance to my home. I’m celebrating 5 years “Independent” on July 1! And btw, my clients “ooh & ahhh” over my moo cards! Thanks for being a part of my dream!

  16. Ron Stauffer, Jr:

    I started my own business just over two years ago. The best advice I received before I started was from my boss at the time:

    1) If at all possible, start your business without any debt.
    2) Hire slowly– fire quickly.

    Fortunately, I’ve been able to do this. I’m glad I learned from his mistakes instead of having to make my own! …By the way, thanks you Moo.com–you’ve really helped me stand out from the pack with your unique business cards. That’s a very important aspect for Web/Graphic Design companies.

  17. Laura Lichiello:

    I opened my business 4 years ago after being laid off because the store was for sale. I had two really good years, then the crash of the stock market, now two years not so great BUT I’m still standing AND all of my customers with me. The best part is the support I get from them: the encouragement, the compliments, the promotion. My advice: if you don’t love it, it won’t work. The business and the customers just know.

  18. Diana Tower:

    I just wanted to say that the biggest obstical to starting your own business is time and also fear. (ok ok so that isn’t one thing). If you are slaving away at your job you won’t have time to make things happen.

    If you are scared of failure…you won’t want to change or to take a chance.

    I was unemployed for 6 months and that is when I started my website http://www.helping-you-learn-english.com

    I started it two years ago and it is paying for itself and then some. I have some ways to go before it will replace my day job but in the mean time I am making things happen.

    Make it happen! You know you can!

    All the best,
    Diana

  19. opica:

    Resist the temptation to work for free. I am a sucker for sad sad stories of poor little companies that have no or very low budgets, so I many times ended writing copy for their websites or brand strategies while poor little enterpreneurs where sitting on a lounge chairs somewhere in the Carribean.

  20. Mike Richardson:

    Best tips – use whatever local resources are available to you to help you get started. Whether it’s free small business advice, local small business groups or just networking, drawing on other’s experience is invaluable.

    If free advice isn’t available to you, PAY FOR IT!! It may seem like an uneccessary expense when starting off but it will show dividends before you know it.

    And lastly, get yourself some funk MOO Mini or Business cards. You’ll look cool and people will think you mean business ;)

  21. Noel Hannan:

    As a photographer it is a no-brainer; it has to be your name. However, how you brand the name can be crucial to how you are perceived in the market place. I use a pair of my wife’s red shoes…

    http://noelhannanphotography.blogspot.com/2010/05/follow-red-shoe-part-one.html

    I have just written a blog entry on this very topic. The best advice is to keep the branding simple but dynamic, unique and memorable. Remember whatever logo / brand you come up with must be somehow anchored to your product, with me it was the photographs, and an extensive use of Moo Minicards to… ;-)

  22. Natalie:

    Wow! Great idea for a blog post Moo! Today just so happens to be my first day working full time with my business, Nephos Design. It took me exactly 2 years to get my stuff together and prepare myself for this step, and also find the guts and the courage to quit my full time job and just do it! Fear is a major thing that makes you hold back. And so I say (as naive as it is), life is to short, just do what you love and the rest will take care of itself!

  23. Kerry Harrison:

    I think one thing is outstandlingly important – make sure that you have PASSION for whatever you choose to do, because when times get stressful/tough/money is short, you need to have that passion for what you do to keep you moving forwards. I love, live and dream photography… and I love that it is now my business too – http://www.kerryjphotography.co.uk.

  24. Jade:

    I am a student at the moment doing TV and Radio, it isn’t what I want to to. I want to be a primary school teacher and do photography on the side for a bit of extra money but I’m so scared that I won’t make it and I’ll feel silly. But these comments have really inspired me to just throw myself in at the deep end and go for it.
    I love Moo and everything that they do, their products are amazing (and ever so cute) and I like receiving their emails telling me about little things like this. I really wish they would hold an event in Manchester so I can see more work. Flikr doesn’t do them justice!
    When I’m slightly successful I’ll say a big thank you to Moo.
    I Love Yoo
    hahaha!

  25. blue:

    I would like to start a business with a friend, but what’s stopping me right now is homework! Once we get down to it though, I think it will be an interesting learning experience… We’re both art students so it will probably be pretty free-form. But we also both love scheduling so everything will probably still be organized. An organized mess… just like my room!

  26. Rosie Rowe:

    Stay passionate, define your goals and network, network, network! Maintain really accurate records and file accurately – the “devil is in the details”!
    And the best of luck to you!

  27. Gareth Rees:

    I’d suggest only take the plunge once you know you have a core set of clients in place that you know will provide you with the income to “survive” while you build the business. I’ve been in instances where this wasn’t the case, and where is was and I’ll leave it to you to guess which was the more difficult situation to be in.

  28. Chaitanya:

    Im just starting my first proper buisness venture teaching mantra yoga. I have found the power of positivity to be soooooooooo useful. Knowing what you want then going about your day – before too long an opportunity will come knocking at your door/ your face. When you are pursuing your true dream the universe will support you. I keep meeting people who open their mouths when the y meet me and say “this is so fortuitous…my friend was just telling me…” You never know just how the universe is helping set it all up!!! Good luck following your dreams everyone!

  29. Marisa:

    I just started my own business, I’m selling men’s underwear via the Internet in an onlineshop on http://www.gentspants.eu ! It’s still a small shop but I love the idea of being self employed and able to realize your own ideas!
    My tip: Be careful with your choice of business partners! I learned to hard way that it is naive to trust s supplier’s word without having a contract, the first one I chose to do business with kept me hanging on for over two month promising me to alreday be working on my desings and the just let me down because my ideas were “too complicated to realize” for him. That delay cost me a lot of time and money, luckily my current supplier is trustworthy and reliable and creates great goods! So don’t lose your hope even if there will be obstacles to overcome from time to time!

  30. SYOBO Works:

    The key to my success upon taking the plunge in starting my own business was to keep my focus first to last upon my future and, subsequently, my current customers. From the very beginning I thought “Who do I want to serve?” then “What do they want most that I alone can do for them?”

    This drove every effort. It cleared all clouds from the sky during those unavoidable rainy days. It helped me get help when I needed it.

    It is the main reason why I’ve done what I’ve done. I track my success by how well I’m able to stay on this course.

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