Growth / Planning & Strategy

How to start a small business: 13 tips to earn your first dollar

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Updated: Dec 06, 2023 · 7 min read

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13 tips to start a small business

Starting a business can be nerve-racking, but nothing tops the thrill of earning your first dollar. This can be difficult when considering all the components that lead to your financial success. What is the process, from beginning to end, of making that first dollar? How many roadblocks will you encounter before you get there?

Below, 13 experts offer advice for those looking to start a small business and take those steps toward earning their first dollar.

1. Promote, promote, promote

"Starting a small business is nerve-racking, but exciting. When looking to earn your first dollar, promote your business like crazy. Utilize social media platforms and create your own website to carve out a brand presence online. When potential customers are searching for your industry, they will likely turn to the internet or social media to help them find a company. This means the more put-together your online presence is, the more attractive your business will be." -- Vanessa Molica, The Lash Professional

2. Don’t be afraid to lean on your connections

"When you are starting a small business, it is natural to have fears about how successful your endeavor will be. This is the time when you should lean on your connections, both professional and personal. You want to get your customer base up and running; that means your first few dollars will be from friends, families and peers. Bring in your connections to be your first clients and have them spread the word." -- Megan Chiamos, 365 Cannabis

3. Ask for the first dollar

"Sometimes there’s a lot of hype that you’ll hear as a start-up about how great your idea is. When you hear the hype from someone, ask for their money on the spot. Nothing is more of a reality check than actually asking for your first dollar and seeing if the person hyping your idea will part ways with their money for your product. There’s really nothing to lose by asking. Best case, you get your first dollar. Worst case, you call a bluff and learn that the person doing the hyping may not be your actual target customer." -- Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

4. Focus on solving a problem

"Find someone who’s struggling with something in their life and ask them how much they’d pay to have this problem solved for them. If the amount they’d be willing to pay is enough to make it worthwhile researching and developing a solution, then you have a business. This is the simplest and easiest way to start a small business because you know there’s a need before you invest any time and effort into coming up with a solution, thus avoiding the biggest mistake any entrepreneur can make: building a product that nobody wants." -- Leigh Louey-Gung, Life Operating System

5. See what your competitors are doing

"Review your competitors' top keywords and search queries. Try to cover them uniquely with some value addition, such as added infographics or user problems with your product as a solution to their problems. For example, if your query is highly TOFU (Top of the Funnel) in intent, and you're directly pitching your product, then there are more chances that you are wasting your time and efforts in the wrong keywords which will never help you in achieving your sales goal. Try to target industry-relevant keywords by applying a competitor watch using different tools like Ahrefs, Mangools, or Semrush." -- Syed Usman Hashmi, PureVPN

6. Test run your business

"Recruit a small group of people, friends or family to test run your business. Whether you want to offer a product or service, your subjects will be the ones to tell you what works well and what doesn’t. This practice works for testing your service, website, business plan or any other aspect that you want to start before you put yourself out there. Who knows, maybe one of them will have a golden idea that generates your customers!" -- Carey Wilbur, Charter Capital

7. Ensure a market exists

"Make sure a robust market exists for the product or service you want to offer. It’s important to enjoy what you do, of course, but if there’s little market interest, you won’t see a return. Take the time to do some research and ask around to learn if there is something you can offer that you enjoy doing and has an audience willing to pay." -- Dan Reck, MATClinics

8. Have a backup plan to go online

"For me, whether it is a small or a big business, I recommend that you always create a plan to shift business online. Online business, especially in 2020, is among the favorable ideas and there are great statistics that prove this as well. Large corporations are doing it, so why should smaller ones not imitate it? Even if a small business does not have the budget to create an online platform, run an online marketing campaign to reach a higher number of audiences. Successful online advertisements will introduce you to a huge crowd, raising your opportunity to sell higher. This is the digital age; the one who successfully surfs this wave will be the first to reach their goals!" -- Furqan Aziz, InvoZone

9. Focus on the core, immediate goal

"When I started my business, I had grand visions and wanted to start work on all of them at once. The problem here is that you spread yourself too thin. I wanted to add lots of products to our site for comparison, write fitness articles, grow social media channels, reach out to build links—and many other things. I should have simplified this. If I could go back, I would have asked myself this question: which of these activities is likely to start bringing in revenue fastest? It sounds like you are selling out, but if you can prioritize your key revenue stream, you will begin generating income to invest in the other areas." -- Robin Young, Fitness Savvy

10. Have enough start-up capital

"Although you're still in the start-up phase, your initial investment must be enough to cover up possible expenditures. The thrill of every starting business is when they earn the first amount of money from their first customer. From that moment, every decision may change the fate of their enterprise. What matters most is that you should not stress yourself to earn cash, but to enjoy the experience of being an entrepreneur." -- Willie Greer, The Product Analyst

11. Have a clear idea of your target audience

"When you're starting a small business, I believe it's important to have a very clear idea of the type of customer that you're targeting, and exactly what it is that you have to offer. Knowing exactly who you're targeting will impact a lot of important decisions like where you advertise, what social networks you use and how you aim to get exposure for your business. Having a clear and compelling offer will help you to make your product or service as appealing as possible so that when you do get in front of the right people, they'll decide to buy. Many people who are starting a business rush to get started and don't take the time to fully understand exactly who they are trying to serve." -- Marc Andre, Vital Dollar

12. Build your foundations while you still have a stable income

"Ditching your day job to leap into the world of self-employment sounds adventurous, but in reality, it’s going to take several months to build your business and start making a genuine income. Use the stability of your current job to work on your own business in your spare time. For the first six months of setting up my business, I worked every evening alongside my full-time job. It was a lot of work, sure, but it meant I could build my portfolio, acquire a reputation and secure my first long-term clients before I took the risk of taking my small business full-time. It’s a longer route, but it gives you the confidence needed to make your small business sustainable in the long-term." -- Yasmin Purnell, The Wallet Moth

13. Build rapport with customers

"Provide as much value to your customers as you can from day one by building a rapport and trust with your target audience. In many cases, customer value is more important than the product or service you're selling. Remember, not everyone that comes to your business is looking to buy; they may just be looking for some answers. Focus on how you can help them with your unique insights and solutions to meet their needs." -- Alex Denholm, Ghost Betting

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