AUTHOR: JO MCCARTHY
The concept of working a traditional 9-5 is becoming more unpopular, with many people taking on the challenge to be self-employed. A Google search for ‘How to Set Up a Business‘ returned 5,450,000,000 results – more people than ever before are setting up their own businesses, and D/deaf people are part of this trend. The reasons for this shift are varied, from wanting more control over our time to turning our hobbies and side-hustles into full-time jobs. Maybe you are reading this thinking, ‘I would love to be self-employed, but I don’t know where to begin!’. Read on…
Being an entrepreneur has unique challenges and it’s sensible to be as prepared as possible before embracing a new business idea. However, every challenge is surmountable and these 10 tips will help you to get excited about your goals and succeed in making the dream come true.
- Ask lots and lots of questions!
To succeed with your business idea, you need to know what you stand for – Ask yourself these questions to help you figure out your purpose:
- What business am I in? What kind of company do I want to build?
- Who is my customer? What are they Googling? What tabs do they have open on their computers? What problem do they have that am I trying to solve?
- What does my customer value? Are they looking for bargains or a more quality product? Can I deliver?
- How is my business distinctive? Why is my perspective different?
- Why do I want to work for myself? Am I ready to be my own boss with all the responsibility that brings?
- Why do I think my idea will succeed? Why might it fail?
- Why do I want to start on this journey now? Why is this stage of my life the right time to take the plunge?
- Is my business designed to appeal to the D/deaf market? If not, why not? If it is designed to appeal to this community, is anyone else already doing it?
If you are stuck on some of the answers to these questions, try to explain your idea to someone else. Having a second opinion can help us to understand our own rationale. Write your answers down and keep adding to them when you think of new ideas.
You will need to be knowledgeable about your potential business and the sector you want to work in. Look at your competitors – what do you like about them? What do you truly hate about them? What would you do differently? Why? How can you bring your unique perspective as a D/deaf person to your business?
Research as much as you can but beware that you are not getting overwhelmed by all the advice out there. The internet is flooded with advice but it can make you freeze with fear. Being so swamped by all the information available can mean that you are afraid to actually set up your business.
There is invaluable advice on the website Deaf Business Training website, including some brilliant free courses that will help you gain confidence before you open your new business.
- Find a Mentor
In fact, I would suggest that you find several mentors! It’s useful to talk to someone who has worked in the same sector as your proposed business but make sure your support network also includes someone who has no idea about your work or area of expertise. If you can successfully communicate your idea to someone who has no experience in it, you have won a battle!
Collaborate rather than compete – make friends with people who can help you, and make sure you offer some support to them too!
If you are struggling to find a mentor, don’t be afraid to get in touch with someone you admire. Send a respectful email asking for advice, or send them a direct message on Instagram and ask if they could help you with an issue. The vast majority of people are looking for ways to help others; we all have to start somewhere!
Deaf Unity works to connect diverse communities and this includes supporting you reach out to the people who can help you. Get in touch with them and ask if they can assist in identifying and connecting with someone who can support you work through the early-stages of setting up your own business.
- Remember that you cannot do everything yourself
It can be tempting to think that you need to take on every task involved in setting up your own business and this can feel so daunting that it paralyses you into not moving forward with your idea. Your time has a price. What is your hourly rate? Break down the tasks you expect to do in your new business and work out if you think you are capable of doing them or not. If you are good with numbers, perhaps you won’t need an accountant to help you. If you are terrible at taking photographs, you might want to consider hiring a professional photographer instead of producing sub-standard marketing materials. Do you know how to create a website? Do you know where to begin with SEO? Take time to really drill down into what your new business might need to make a success of it.
A danger in taking on too much when setting up your business is that you might burn out. Look out for signs that you might be overly stressed and make sure you have a break from your computer and screens from time to time.
- Know your strengths
Just as you can’t do everything yourself, try to work out what you are very good at. Do you find it easy to create videos? Can you spot a good deal? Do you find it easy to meet people face to face? Are you good at selling? How can you work to your strengths? If you aren’t sure where your talents lie, ask your mentors and friends for honest feedback. You might be surprised what they have noticed about you!
- Have a very good financial plan
Like many things, setting up a successful new business does often come down to money. Do not be naive – most new business fail in the first year and often it is because of bad financial planning. It might not cost a lot to set up your new business, but make sure you have enough to cover your costs and hopefully turn a profit. Keep a tight grip on every pound being spent. How much will your website domain cost each year? How much will it cost to buy stock, if you are opening a shop? How much will it cost to get business cards made? How much will you pay yourself? If you have a business idea that requires more money than you have in your bank account, don’t give up. There are many people out there who want to support new businesses, and funding platforms such as Kickstarter and Crowd Funding can help you find investors in your business.
- Create your brand
Richard Huntington, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of Saatchi & Saatchi London Group says that “a business is what’s in your head, a brand is what’s in other people’s head”. Your job is to communicate the message from your head to your customer and get them on board with your business. Write down your thoughts. This is not an exact science but there are two important things you can do to help this process:
- Be consistent in your marketing message. Use the same logo across all your platforms so you are instantly recognizable.
- Decide how personal you want your brand to be. Are you going to share pictures of your family with your social media followers? Is it relevant to do that? Or will you draw a line between ’work’ and ‘home’?
There are so many free resources you can use to create your brand elements. Check out Canva to make Facebook posts and Pinterest graphics; use Da Font to find downloadable fonts that you can use in your marketing materials. Do you know of any other great resources? Share them with us in the comments!
- Use social media wisely
If you had opened a business ten years ago, the social media landscape would have looked very different to the one we see today. You might have paid for adverts in newspapers and magazines or on the radio, which are all still valuable places to market your business. These days, in addition to having a website (which might include a blog) you will need to decide which social media channels you want to use. Although these resources are free, they are based on algorithms, so you need to know how to play the game. Here are the biggest channels for you to consider using:
- Instagram – Business expert Holly Tucker describes Instagram as the best free marketing tool ever invented and you’d be missing out of you don’t use it! Use hashtags to find like-minded people and potential customers and spend time looking at how people communicate with their customers – many ask questions to start conversations. You can use ‘Stories’ and ‘IGTV’ to share videos which is brilliant for anyone using sign language.
- Twitter – you can embed videos into your Twitter feed so this makes it an ideal platform for speaking directly to those in the global community who use sign language.
- Facebook – It’s good to have a Facebook presence as a way of widening your net, particularly if you are looking to create a global customer-base.
- You Tube – brilliant for communicating face to face with your customers; look at your favourite You Tube presenters and figure out why you like what they do. Can you be inspired by their style, whilst being yourself? Remember that people buy from people!
When you are first starting a business, it can be tempting to bombard the world with your new business idea. Take it slowly by planning your social media content and using your time wisely. Check out the article How Social Media Became a Game-Changer for the Deaf Community for some more tips.
- Get your paperwork in order
Do you need a new bank account? Do you need to register as a sole trader? If you need equipment for your new business, is the warranty paperwork in order? Can you easily access your records? You will be eligible to apply for Access to Work – do you know what you are entitled to and what support you can access? Are you planning to scale your business? If yes, do you need to employ people? What paperwork do you need to arrange for that? Are you aware of all the legal implications of running a business? Remember that your bank can arrange for an interpreter for your meetings with their staff and don’t be afraid to ask for everything you discuss to be available in writing, if you are finding it hard to communicate.
If you are in the UK, check out the article ‘Set up a business’ on the Gov.uk website for some practical advice on opening your new business.
- Create a launch campaign
How you go about this will depend on your business. If you are opening a shop, maybe you can have a launch party? Invite other local businesses as well as friends and family. If you have products that you can give away as treats, try to be generous without bankrupting yourself! If you offer a service, can you do a few sessions for friends and family to create some buzz around your new business? Some businesses like to run a countdown on Instagram to build momentum for their new business. Try to be original and be confident – people are hoping for your success, even if you are nervous!
AND NOW… Launch your business
Press ‘GO’! You will now need to hang on for the ride. You might want to give up within weeks but don’t give up!
Remember to register your business on the Deaf Business Academy Directory – be brave and we wish you all the very best for your new enterprise! Let us know if you are running a new business, we would love to hear from you.