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Checklist for Starting Up Your SME Online

Many of us dream of breaking out and going it alone with our very own business. The chance to be your own boss, determine your own future and ensure that someone else isn’t benefitting from all of your great ideas and hard work is something that many of us yearn to take. Indeed, in 2016 businesses were being set up at the rate of 80 an hour.

The digital world has made starting a business easier than ever before and online-only firms can pop up with little or no overheads. Your bedroom can be your boardroom if you wish.

Yet as it becomes easier – and more common – to set up a new business how do you ensure that yours sticks out from the crowd? Four in ten small firms, after all, don’t last five years.

There’s a lot on your plate when you start a business, even if you’re launching online and avoiding some of the offline considerations. Here’s a checklist of some of the questions that you need to answer:

Can you sum up your product or service?

Right, first things first, what have you got? What is your product or service? How will it help others and how is it different from other products on the market? This might sound simple but it’s pretty fundamental. Don’t go ahead and launch before you’re absolutely clear about what it is you’re offering and can explain it to others. Try to sum up your business in the length of a tweet. If you can’t do that, your message isn’t clear enough.

Have you checked what your competitors are up to?

You can learn a lot from your competitors. Where do they sell their products? How do they promote themselves? What do their customers say about them? What awards do they win? Which events do they attend? All of these things are over and above a simple analysis of their products and will tell you a lot about their products.

Do you know what your customer wants?

You also need to know as much as you can about your target customers. Build up a rounded picture of the people who you’re aiming at – how old are they, what is their relationship/family status, what do they do with their spare time, what else are they shopping for? Answering these questions will give you an in depth picture and help you to target these customers more effectively.

Have you thought about what you need from your website?

If your business is online, then it goes without saying that your website is key. Look at your competitors and think about your product and decide what you need your site to do.

Will you be selling on your site or do you just want your page to promote your stock and signpost people in the right direction?

If your business is solely online it’s likely that you’ll need to include a sales function and ensure that your site is hosted by a provider that can give you the right scale and speed for this. There are plenty of small business web hosting packages that will allow you to take the space you need – and give you the flexibility to grow should your product take off.

Do you know how to promote yourself?

You need your target customers to be able to find your business. Once you’ve analysed their tastes and preferences, use this information to promote yourself. Social media allows this to be done in a cost effective way, and you’ll need to be cost effective if you want to avoid spending too much.

Have you sorted out your paperwork?

Just because you’re online it doesn’t mean that there’s no paperwork to sort. Far from it. Startups.co.uk points you in the direction of the documents you need to set up your business. You need to start as you mean to go on when it comes to your accounts too.

That’s not an exhaustive list – every business will encounter its unique set of challenges along the way. You also, for example, need to set and track performance targets that are relevant for your business and budget once you’re up and running. However, these are some of the fundamentals that you can’t do without. If you can’t answer yes to any of these then it’s time to act.