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As the end of October rolls around I am in planning mode for the winter season. As a wedding florist, this is my down season, so I have a long list of things — personal and work related — that I want to catch up on over the next few months. This past summer was a total whirlwind. It was definitely my busiest year to date and, although I feel like I haven’t had a chance to sit down and think in months, I also feel like I really hit my stride as a business owner this year. I wasn’t nearly as stressed about weddings, and tasks that used to daunt me were easy and routine parts of the job. I guess what they say is true — everything gets easier with time!
This year, more than ever, I have had a lot of people ask me how I started my own business and how they can start one too. A question to which my general reaction is definitely ‘you want to know that information from me?!’ I guess I shouldn’t sell myself too short though and ultimately, I would love to help anyone looking to start their own journey of owning a small business. There are so many ways to start but if you have the dream of owning your own business, the most difficult but important thing is to just get started.
Below are a few important steps that I think are good to consider before you really get into providing your product or service to the public. These are the more technical things that can feel like intimidating roadblocks in the beginning but that really help set you up for success and actually don’t need to be intimidating at all. Things like: registering your business, invoicing clients, and separating finances — the nitty gritty! RBC offers many integrated programs and platforms beyond traditional banking that help make these foreign processes easier for new business owners. I’m sharing a few of these programs and some of my business starting tips below!
Obviously, right? There are a lot of reasons why someone might decide to start their own business — often you are following a passion that you are really good at or your entrepreneurial spirit recognizes a need within an industry where you could make a contribution. Once you decide what it is you are going to do, it is helpful to create a framework for what you want your business offering to look like. For example, I knew I wanted to be a florist, but I also knew that daily flowers were not something that I wanted to offer and that I wanted to focus on weddings instead. From there I defined things further by looking at the geographical areas I wanted to serve, the size of weddings that I wanted to focus on, and how many weddings I wanted to service on a given week or in a month. Having some framework in place gives you direction as you begin to market your service. However, this will likely evolve as your business grows so it is great to check back in every so often and see that your systems are still in line with your overall goals.
This is the part where a lot of people freeze — actually registering your business. I was lucky to have three older siblings — all business owners — to talk me through this process. Official websites can be intimidating and just the thought of making your new business known to the government can be scary. In all reality though, this is the EASIEST part of the process. What could be easier than filling out some paperwork with information that you definitely know (I’m talking name and address type of easy information!)?
However, from a technical standpoint it can be challenging to figure out what exactly it is that you need to register for. That’s why a platform like Ownr.co is so great. Ownr is available through RBC Ventures and it helps you easily register your sole proprietorship or incorporate your business. A great bonus is that the sole proprietorship business registration fee is even waived if you open your RBC business account within 60 days of registering your business with Ownr.
On the topic of finances, one of the first things I did when I started my business was create a separate bank account for my business and I found this really helpful. If you are starting out super small this might seem unnecessary but separating finances really helped me have a clear picture of what I was charging, spending, and profiting within my business. It also makes doing your end of year financials much easier when everything for the business is confined to one account. With RBC’s Online Business Deposit Account Application, setting up a business account takes minutes versus hours and will save you a TON of time in the future by helping you separate your personal and business finances.
Another thing I liked about keeping my business finances separate from the start was that it made it really easy for me to put some of the money that I earned back into my business. I would often use some of my profits to buy flowers to practice making arrangements and photographing them to share my work. I became a master of the ‘one-person styled shoot’! I found this a great way to share the sort of work that I wanted to be creating for clients at a time when I didn’t necessarily have the portfolio to show it otherwise. It was also a great way for me to practice floral design and also create content for my social media. I actually still do this, and it is one of my biggest suggestions for new florists starting out. These images helped me land almost all of my jobs in my first and second year and immensely helped me build my skills as a florist and photographer (a really valuable skill as a business owner in any field!).
So you actually have a business now. Woop woop! How are you going to share about your new product or service? Marketing and branding is a huge topic and definitely a job that is easier said than done. Many small business owners will find that this takes a large chunk of their time but there are so many valuable resources online to help you learn how to share your business with your ideal client. I’m just here to tell you that after you register your business, now is the time to decide on which platforms you will share your business and then create your online (or in person) presence. For me, most of my clients find me through my website and Instagram. A friend of mine has created a business selling refinished furniture and he does this entirely through Instagram with great success.
Do a bit of research to determine what platforms will help you find your client (and vice versa), make your page, and start sharing about your service or work. To give yourself a professional look online, the same platform that I mentioned above, Ownr, even has an affordable service to design a custom logo to help your business get started — a polished look without a huge initial investment.
You got a client?! Woohoo! I’ll admit that for the first year of business I didn’t know any better and did my invoicing through a website that cleared all my invoices every time I closed my browser. You have no idea how much time I wasted rewriting invoices that needed items added on or taken away. A professional invoicing system where all your invoices are securely stored in one place is a MUST.
As your business grows, having easy access to invoicing and expense information will make your job a lot easier.W
So there you have it! In my opinion those are some of the important technical things to help you get officially started. With these systems in place you can more clearly focus on the stuff that made you want to start in the first place — creating and delivering your service.
I have learned that running a successful small business is simple but not easy. Simple because it really makes sense — do what you would want someone to do if you were getting that same product or service from them. Reply to inquiries, provide a quality product/service, clearly communicate what you’re going to do and do it. However, when you are the one managing all of these tasks doing the simple things sometimes is not easy. Always try to be realistic with your abilities but do not shy away from things just because you don’t know how to do them — remember that everybody starts out not knowing how to do what they’re doing and with practice you become better at whatever the task may be. My biggest tips would be to take educated risks, don’t spread yourself too thin, and never over promise but always try your best to deliver something better than agreed upon.
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