Do you want to know how to start a business? In my book, The Other 8 Hours, I talk about Cre8tor Channels, and of course one of the most popular of the channels to make money is to start a business. Maybe you have an idea for a clothing line, a website, or Facebook application. There’s no doubt starting a company takes a lot of time and energy, but it can be exhilarating and life changing. The stakes are high, but to minimize your risk, follow these rules.
- Start small. This is a common theme across all Cre8tor Channels. Why? I don’t want you to risk too much. If you go all out on your first t-shirt design but nobody likes it, you’re stuck. Make it a goal to start as small as you possibly can. Instead of 12 different necklace styles, focus on your best one or two designs. If you are successful with those, you’ll have plenty of time and money to expand the collection.
- Research and test the product. You have to develop a research mentality. But this is hard for most creative types for two reasons. First, they think they are betraying their creative integrity if they must get feedback. Second, when you’re selling something you’ve created, you are exposing yourself. Most people feel vulnerable and want to avoid criticism. I totally get that. That’s why it’s important to get feedback from people you trust. I’ve got a friend who always ends his scathing criticism with, “I’m just keeping it real, man.” You know what? Just keep it to yourself. Consult friends who will be honest but supportive about your efforts.
You can use Google AdWords to test any product in a day with just a couple hundred dollars. If you have a great idea for a new ab machine, create a digital image using Photoshop (you can sketch the design and then hire someone on elance.com to create a digital image), upload it to a website, buy a few targeted Google AdWords, and see how many people first click on your ad and then click on “buy.” If you get a lot of clicks but little interest, you may want to make some changes. This strategy works great when you can create a sample product and take a picture of it, but it can also work for less tangible products. Determine the best price point. Play around with different pricing strategies. Look at what your competitors charge. Test to see what works.
- Get educated. You may be an expert in fashion design but there’s more (a lot more) to creating a successful clothing line than design. You need to know about accounting, marketing, writing, networking and more. Don’t know about Internet marketing? Google it. Even if you have a partner or plan on hiring consultants, get educated enough so you can at least evaluate different marketing strategies.
A Cre8tor must have a Ph.D. in resourcefulness. When my wife started her clothing line, we didn’t know anything about the fashion industry. We went to one tradeshow and talked to a few people. Then we talked to a few more. A week later, we knew 95% of what we needed to know about sourcing—where to get blanks, which dye house to use, how to grind, where to get tags, who does the best screen-printing, etc. We went from completely clueless to educated in about a week and all of this was done offline (i.e., tradeshow, talking to people, etc.). There’s a lot you can learn online through eBooks, websites, Podcasts, etc. in even less time.
- Sell, sell, sell. Put just as much time into thinking about how you are going to market and sell your product as you do in designing and creating the product. I’d take a mediocre product that is marketed well over a superior product that isn’t marketed well. I know. It’s not fair. The success of a product should be based on how good it is and not how well it is packaged and sold, but we live in America folks (ever hear of the Snuggie?!). Develop a killer marketing strategy and get out there and sell, sell, sell.
If you are starting a business, do your best to keep these five rules in mind. They will save you a lot of time, aggravation, and money.