You’ve been thinking about it, but something keeps stopping you from starting your business? By now you’ve most likely come across many articles such as this on ‘How to…’. If the truth be told, giving advice is sometimes easier said than done – I myself can testify to that. However, here are a couple of practical tips you can easily implement today to help you raise finances and kick-start your business.

Do your research. Research simply put is knowing your market and customers. How do you know your market? Read trade magazines and newspaper, visit industry seminars or conferences, check online or take a drive round your business geographic area and see what similar services and products exist. Sample some of these services, ask suppliers about the market, and ask potential customers who they currently patronise. All these and more will help you build a broad picture of the market before you entering.

How do you know your customers? If they will want your products or services and what exactly it is they want? As many people as you come into contact with will be potential customers, ask them questions. Firstly, brush up on your communication skills with this post and this infographic from STL. The amount of people I have seen who have very little idea how to conduct themselves in either face to face business or via email is amazing, and it really hinders you.

When you go to an event, take the opportunity ask people pertinent questions in a conversation-like manner. Develop a questionnaire, and email to all your family, friends, colleagues and former colleagues. Ask them to email to their network of people, and voila, you have conducted your research. However, do bear in mind that the bigger your investment risk and the more complex your business model, the more structured your research should be.

Raising finance
The usual advice is personal savings; loans from family, friends or the bank; government funding; grants; venture capitalists etc. But what if these sources don’t quite cut it for you? You don’t have the savings, you can’t get a loan, or you fall outside the qualifying criteria for grants and funding. Here are some additional avenues and tips:

Trade by barter
Offer your services, products or skills in exchange for goods or services that will help build your business i.e. you need to develop your website, and you are a marketing consultant, why not offer some free consultancy to the web designer in exchange for your website development

Cut down on your personal overheads
This may include; downgrading your car or moving back to live at home saving on the monthly rent, reduce your spend on social outings such as cinemas, suspend club memberships (except of course it is required for effective business networking purposes)

Start your business with incremental steps
Such as piloting your business idea, or starting with one product or service, and as the business starts bringing in returns, you can then consider expanding and implementing more plans and ideas

Consider alternatives to reduce your start-up cost.
If you are low on capital. This includes working from home without needing to lease office space, converting your garage, shared office space, virtual assistants, start with offering your services and products online etc.

Consider crowd funding
Or, sourcing capital from customers or suppliers. With some services pr products you could actually seek to get upfront payments or deposits from clients, which could then be used for your initial capital requirements. A successful example is that of a hosting company who offered potential clients a lifetime hosting package if they would pay a certain amount upfront to help fund the start-up of the business.

These tips are not all-encompassing, and there are many things that go into having a successful business such as a business plan. There is no running away from it, either now or later in your business life cycle.

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