Seven tips to getting your startup together for the coming year

It’s that time of the year when you’re so frikking bored of eating turkey and playing snakes and ladders for, like, the millionth time that all you want to do is get back to the office.

But wait, hold on a minute, remember – when you’re sitting at your desk facebooking working on that report your boss needs delivered before 5pm, normally you can’t wait for the clock to fast forward to 5.05pm so you can start getting ready to go underground on that hour long journey with a sweaty armpit stuck in your face just to veg out on the sofa shouting at the z-listers on Britains-Got-Celebs-Dancing-In-The-Jungle-Factor.

Oh, how you wish you were the boss running your own company, working the exact 18 hours each day that you choose, on the projects that you want for way less than minimum wage.

Well, guess what, you can, starting right now, with these 7 tips to getting your startup off the ground.

1: The difference between a hobby and a profession is the invoice being paid.
Half the battle is having a passion for what you’re doing, so choose something that you actually enjoy.
You can’t sell something without fire in your eyes. There will be no trust, no belief and people will see right through the fakeness and they will go somewhere else.

For the first few weeks/ months you’ll have no/ low income so you better love your new excuse for getting up in the morning or you’ll be back checking out lolcats researching how the fiscal cliff will affect European inner city ‘i-generation’ with your tail between your legs before you can say “i really can’t be arsed going to the gym tonight”.

2: Bootstrap the mother.
Seriously, trust me on this one – sniffing around for investors, drawing up 45 page business plans or sitting in your local bank waiting for your ‘business manager’ (whose entire experience of running a business consisted of a paper round when he was 12 and helping out at weekends in his Dad’s shop) to pull himself away from updating his LinkedIn profile just to tell you that your loan application has been refused really is a total waste of your time.

All you really need to start up a business is a phone, a laptop and a website – Use Skype for the company landline or when you’re really busy, use a telephone answering service to take your important calls, get a shared hosting account and install WordPress in 1 click to get yourself online and look at co-working spaces and definitely get into using Google Apps.

3: You’re not the CEO, you’re a bloke with a laptop and a WordPress theme.
A really simple way to win over people, and therefore clients, is to just be yourself.
Would you want to work with someone with delusions of grandeur – “I’m the Chief Social Media Gooroo and International Head of Making Shit Up” – or would you prefer someone that doesn’t just need a hug?
Exactly – so, concentrate on making your products the star, yourself the twinkle and give people benefits not bullshit.

4: Any cowboy can set up a company but it takes balls to run a business.
You’re good at drawing/ coding/ sales/ electronics ..? Great, that’s the key product right there BUT you are a Corporation of One and need to learn new skills – fast – accounts, HR, online legalities, negotiating, networking, sales – the list goes on … and on … and on.

If at first you don’t succeed, outsource.
Don’t restrict yourself to everyone having to drag their arses across the city just to clock in at 9am everyday – Look at building a distributed firm where your co-workers are able to work from the location of their choosing, at a time to suit them. You’ll save yourself a fortune in holiday pay, empty desks and ‘borrowed’ stationery.
Build up a network of reliable people who you can outsource to especially all the stuff that you are useless at.
Let’s say that you’re charging yourself out at £50 an hour and it takes you 8 hours a month to sort out your accounts. Surely it’ll be cheaper, and less stressful, to pay an accountant to do it which’ll leave you to concentrate on doing what you’re best at.

5: Leave him, he’s not worth it.
Come here a second, I need to let you into a little secret. No … closer, closer … right … your idea … the one you’ve been slaving over for the last 20 minutes – it’s been done. It’s not original, you’re not the first.
No, seriously, the location based, socially aware shopping experience app that you think is the most radical thing since threatening to leave instagram … done.

In business as in life, you’re not unique. In business as in life, there are those that do stuff before and even better than you – there are plenty more that are way, way worse, but the ones you need to have in the back of your mind are those doing their stuff bigger, better than you.
So, what do you do, get all baby crying jealous of them? No way, you build a better product, you develop a more disruptive method, you puff up your chest and grow bigger balls.
This is business, not the playground.

6: Focus, adapt, rinse and repeat.
The day you start your business, write a note to yourself. Write, in 140 characters or less, your main pitch for your new business – what is the main product/ service that you’re unleashing onto the world? Put that note in an envelope and on the front write the date as it will be in 3 months time.

To survive as a business you need to be able to adapt.
Look at the recently defunct Comet, HMV, BlockBuster, City Line, ToysRUs, Maplin – they failed because their system was stuck in the dark ages of retail shopping. The beauty of your Corporation of One is that you can be nimble, Jack, you can change quickly to embrace a new found technology, skill or market, you can accommodate your clients wishes slicker and quicker and you should be able to dig yourself out of a hole more dynamically.
But take care to always focus on the core products and services that you are getting known for. You’ll find yourself being driven into a niche area but should always look to be offering more.

After 3 months, open that envelope you stashed away and see how much your core ideas have changed.
Have you grown, what have you learned and is the passion and focus still there?

7: Choose life.
There are only 24 hours in a day. You can only give 100%. You are only human.
No matter how many times you say yes, your clients will always want more.
No matter how many new projects you take on, there will always be more.
No matter how many all-nighters you rack up hunched over your machine, stuffing your face with pizza and beer, you need to stop and stop that right now.
That is not what you signed up for.
That is not what you dreamed of.
That is no way to run a business/ family/ life.

Your family, your friends, your clients will all be more thankful if you put yourself first, them second and your work third.
Never be afraid to delegate, outsource or even say no.
Enjoy.

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