Business Planning: The Online Resources You Need to Get Off the Ground

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Businesses can use freelancers to get their business off of the ground in a cost effective way. This article helps you get started.

Over the past few years there has been a revolution in finding resources through online freelancing platforms.

Similarly, there is also a rise in small businesses and individuals that set up, and run, companies on their own (also known as 'solopreneurs'). In fact, the independent workforce is expected to grow to 24 million by 2018, up from 18 million in 2013.

Following in these solopreneurs footsteps, here are some pointers to lead you to success.

Related Article: We're Living In a Freelancer's Paradise

1. Create an Identity

Every business has a:

  • Logo,
  • Copy guide and tone of voice,
  • Images to support the messaging,
  • Materials to support PR and marketing activities and
  • A business card to wow people with.

Getting this right first time is important and, remember, this is the foundation for the look and feel of your brand.

Many people try and sketch things out but really lack the skills. Now online they can go ahead and hire designers to create that unique identity and even run crowdsourced contests that provide them with dozens of options.

Image via Freelancer.com

Pro tip: Write a brief for the identity that includes details of the:

  • Product truth: what does it do and how does it work?
  • Consumer truth: what does it do for me?,
  • Brand truth: what is the ethos of your brand and what impact will it make on the world?
  • Also, highlight competitors and list you unique selling points. Then, run a contest online to get a number of options before choosing the final design and designer (remember to provide feedback through the contest to get the best results).

2. Create a Website and Email Capability

Think mobile first. Your customers will connect to your website via their smartphones and Google will penalize you on mobile if you site is not compatible with mobile devices (that means no-one will find you, even through a specific search on a mobile device).

Websites can be daunting, especially if you are not technical and well-versed in modern web design. It's hard to know where to start. Getting a website up and running is as simple as looking to open platforms like Wordpress or Drupal. There are many out-of-the-box templates that can fast-track design and development.

Wordpress Themes

Image via Wordpress

Pro tip: Don't panic! There is an abundance of choice out there for designs and styles of websites. Before looking around think about what your site needs—About Us, Product Details, Blog, Contact etc. Formulate a separate brief, a site that is easy to browse on a smartphone that has beautiful imagery and video content.

Then bundle all of the design work into one online project. Work with a designer to get all of the webpage mocks done prior to any development. You can also use tools like Invision to see how the site will work and make it perfect. Then show it to other people to get feedback. Remember, your friends will be kind to you and may not give you the best feedback. Round up five people that would be your ideal target customers and ask them. Don't be afraid to keep adjusting and to make it perfect.

Related Article: How to Balance Your Personal and Professional Identity on Social Media

3. Create Your Community

Once you have an identity and website then it’s time to start building your community. Over the past few years this has meant heading over to Facebook and Twitter and engaging people, sharing useful information and details on your products.

These days, businesses are having to get a bit smarter and think about both content, and the number of channels to work in—Facebook and Twitter are still there but they are more fringe activities. Tumblr, Snapchat, Youtube, and Pinterest can be powerful for your brand. You can kickstart your community by sharing content that is relevant to the audience and by producing some imagery and blogs about what is going on each week. 

In addition to social networks, other important activities that will need to be considered are:

  • Publishing to your website blog.
  • Getting email sign-up from your website.
  • Publishing newsletters.
  • Holding local meetup groups to engage people in person.
  • Creating a YouTube channel and uploading videos when you have them.
  • Posting images to Pinterest and Instagram.
  • Posting to Google+ (Google cares deeply about this for serach ranking so don't listen to people that say this channel is dead)
  • Updating LinkedIn company information and getting employees to link to this.
  • Sharing articles and upvoting on Reddit. This is one of the most powerful channels but also the most difficult to promote through. It will mean you have to be an active part of the community.
  • Sharing presentations and brochureware to Slideshare.
  • Guest writing on external blogs. This helps with search ranking.
  • Attending conferences and guest speaking. The more people that hear about the brand, the better.

Social Media Infographic

Image via A Virtual Blessing

Social media is not that easy (I don’t think it ever has been) and needs some real strategic planning. Look at the objectives you have as a company, think about what would be needed to gain attention, and drive valuable engagement that can lead to a sale or subscription.

Pro tip: Start small but be impactful. If you are more visual as a company then use Pinterest and Instagram. If you want to tell stories then use videos on YouTube and your blog. Get the message right and be authentic. If your brand speaks to people then they will listen and share. Also, establish social listening capabilities using Google Alerts or Mention. Knowing when your company or product is mentioned is key to be able to manage reputation and drive buzz. 

 

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