(ARA) – Not a day goes by that you are not bombarded by news of the recession and high unemployment figures. With this kind of climate, it’s no wonder many are looking toward starting their own businesses instead of competing for the few jobs available. So, how can you aggressively compete when faced with starting your own business and branding it? Debra Pierce, Director of Career Services from Miami International University of Art & Design, offers some tips for doing just that.
How do I even determine what business to start?
  Self-assess and research. It is imperative that as an individual, you are honest with yourself and truly understand what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. Doing a SWOT analysis — analyzing Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats — is a great way of assessing that. Having a good understanding of yourself will help you identify areas that may need some work. After assessing yourself, it is important to determine the type of business and research the viability of that business in the area you plan to live in. A business plan is highly recommended as it will include a marketing plan and SWOT analysis, which will help identify those industries that have a true need and those that are already being served. This exercise will also help identify if there is a smaller, but important niche market that your business can focus on and be profitable. The business plan also helps determine the goals and objectives of the business, which serve as a guide when making decisions.
Do I have to incorporate?
  Incorporate or not. It is especially important to formalize your freelance business by deciding what legal structure would suit your business needs best. It is a good time to invest in some advice from an attorney or certified public accountant to help you make this decision as there are advantages and disadvantages to each type of structure that need to be considered.
How soon can I expect to make a profit?
  Be realistic. People often envision being successful within a short period of time. Developing and building a business from the ground up takes time, energy and a lot of hard work, but can be very rewarding. It is important to have realistic business and financial goals. The industry research you did early on for the business plan will come in very handy in determining what “realistic” means for your industry and area.
How do I get business? How do I start?
  Marketing – Create a logo. This is important since the logo will be a very important part of your branding. In many instances, business prospects will see your logo before they know anything about you. Take your time and make sure that you create a logo that not only fits you now, but can grow with your business as it grows.  A word on marketing – most new businesses start off with a shoestring budget and decide that they don’t have a budget to market themselves. Even if it’s a small budget, if you don’t market yourself, how will potential customers find you? You won’t need thousands of dollars, but it’s important to reach your target market. And, if you did your research for your business plan, you will have a good understanding of who they are and where you can find them.
Network, network, network.
  The importance of networking can’t be stressed enough. As a small business owner, networking may be your only means of marketing for quite some time. It is important to get in front of as many people as possible and give them your elevator pitch (a quick story about your business that you can say in 90 seconds or less). When meeting each person, make sure you take their business card; this comes in handy when writing a “nice to meet you” note the next day. Yes, you should write a quick note to each person you meet. In this note, you should mention where you met them, refer to your conversation, and remind them what your business does and how it can be helpful to them.
  It will take a lot of hard work to be an entrepreneur. This is the case in almost all instances whether you open your own business or work for someone else. There are no shortcuts, so put in the time and you will reap the rewards.
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