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How to Start a Successful Business and Increase Your Profits

How to Start a Successful Business and Increase Your Profits

It’s Sunday evening and you’re not looking forward to the start of the week. You’re not a pessimist but you can help to feel a sinking notion in your stomach–it’s the feeling of torture of another work week. You’ll attend boring meetings, dispute unimportant ideas, and desperately stare at the clock–hoping to see 5:00 pm.

You’ve dreamed of starting a successful business but you didn’t feel capable. After all, you’re not a computer nerd or have any business experience. So, you’ve kept your head down and crossed this dream of your list.

But, what if you were wrong? What if there was a better way to start a business? Not only that but you’d generate a higher income than your current job.

The good news is that it’s possible, but you need to change your approach. I’ve also been in this dark place–not believing I was worthy of building a successful business. But after 3 years of experimenting, I’m finally seeing some success.

I’ve made countless mistakes and learned which strategies work from other successful entrepreneurs. My hope is that you avoid the long road I took and to learn from my mistakes. More importantly, adopt proven strategies from other successful entrepreneurs and avoid wasting time.

Here’s how to start a successful business–one that you’ll be proud of:

1. Build your business around your lifestyle

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” – Benjamin Franklin

Don’t fantasize about starting a business so much that you forget why you’d wanted to start one. Sure, you want the freedom to choose which types of projects you’ll work on–but don’t create another job for yourself.

Take for example an entrepreneur who decides to start their own pie business. This person commits and quits her job to work on her business. After a few months, she’s earning a sustainable income. The only problem is that she’s no busier than ever.

She works 60 to 80 hours each week and doesn’t know how long she’ll be able to sustain her business. This is the case for many entrepreneurs who fail to plan. Before brainstorming business ideas, decide why you want to become an entrepreneur.

Do you want to spend more times with your family? Or travel the world? Whatever your reason, be clear on why you’re starting your business.

Once you know your reason, start building your business around your desired lifestyle, not the other way around.

2. Don’t wait for all the green lights to pick your business idea

You’re clear on why you’re starting your business, now what?

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Decide what type of business you want to create. Some examples include opening a restaurant or selling online products and services. Brainstorm a few business niches you’d like to explore (i.e. health, finance, and fashion.)

A few years ago, I was clueless about which business idea to choose. After stumbling upon blogging, I failed miserably along the way. My biggest mistake was spending months designing my blog.

The truth is building a blog is one of the most important things you can create for any business. It allows you to deepen the relationship with your customers by providing value. But it’s also time-consuming, making you prone to waste time as I did.

Instead, skip creating a blog and provide valuable content on an existing platform. This will help you determine if your business idea is something you’d like to pursue long-term while getting audience feedback. The best platform to do this is Medium for written content.

But if you love to speak, start a Podcast. You also have the option to create your own Youtube channel if you enjoy being on camera. Your goal is to produce quality content as soon as possible.

Jot down a few ideas and narrow your list down to 1 to 3, then focus on producing quality content. Once you’re confident about your idea, brainstorm how you’ll monetize it.

3. You don’t need business experience to get started

The best part about building a business is that the market doesn’t care about your experience.

If you can solve a problem, the market doesn’t care about a college degree or your business experience. Many entrepreneurs have built successful businesses without the help of their degree.

For example, Richard Branson quit school at age 16. Today he’s the founder of the Virgin group and worth billions. Bill Gates received his degree from Harvard 30+ after dropping out.

I share these examples to show that a college degree doesn’t make or break a successful business.

Instead, start a business on a niche that interests you the most.[1] Chances are that you’ll have some knowledge in this area. Eventually, you’ll become an expert on the topic you choose.

4. Don’t invest any money in legal

Investing money in your business is great only if you’re investing in the right areas.

An issue many entrepreneurs face early on their journey is spending money on legal fees. For example, when they have an idea they start registering their business or pay for patents. This may have been the route a while back, but it no longer is the case.

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Unless you’re creating medicine, there’s no need to spend any money on legal fees. Here’s why many times you’ll change your mind about an idea. You might discover that the type of business you’ve created isn’t one that you enjoy working in.

Wait until you’ve built a proven idea that you enjoy working in before you consider legal fees.

5. You don’t need to invest a fortune to start a successful business

A few decades ago, starting a business was an option only for those with enough money–this isn’t the case anymore.

The internet has removed most barriers, creating low entry business costs. For example, you don’t need to waste money on paying rent if your business is online based. You also have the opportunity to create profitable products (courses, and books) at a low cost.

You can build a website for less than $100 or spend a few hundred hiring a professional developer. Gary Vaynerchuk says that these are some of the best years to start an online business. Not only do you have low business costs, but you’re now able to reach more customers.

How?

By using Facebook Ads to target your customers at a low cost. The internet is making it easier to do business for online and offline businesses. Get practical and spend only on what’s necessary for your business.

6. Surround yourself with all types of people

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

If you’re an entrepreneur, you should only be around other entrepreneurs, right?

Wrong.

Entrepreneurship is a long and lonely journey. The truth is you’ll benefit being around other entrepreneurs and learning from others.

For example, your friends and family can potentially be your customers. Use this knowledge to test your product or create new features. Be willing to learn from everyone but also be careful with who you spend most of your time with.

Take my case, for example, when I was in high school, I began hanging around the wrong crowd. Being a good student, I didn’t imagine this would have any effect on me. Eventually, my grades dropped and I began caring less about school.

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As an entrepreneur, similar instances can happen to you. Surround yourself with supportive people who’ll help you in your lowest points. Spend less time with those who don’t believe in your goals.

7. Learn more about other things besides business

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to read.

Bill Gates claims to read 50 books per year, and Warren Buffet recommends reading 500 pages per day. So you should only read business books, right? Yes and no.

Business books will teach you more about running a business effectively but these shouldn’t be the only types of books you read. You’ll limit your growth in other important areas for your business.

For example, human psychology is important to better understand how your customers think. Reading fiction can spark creativity for you to innovate in your business. The truth is expanding the type of books you read will only benefit you.

Mix it up by creating a reading list in a variety of categories. Also, join book clubs to become inspired to read different types of books with others.

8. You don’t need to wait 10 years to see profits

It’s true, building a successful business takes time. But this doesn’t need to take 10 years.

To be clear, there are no shortcuts to building a successful business. But you can save time by avoiding common mistakes. The best way is by learning from entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses.

Listen to their podcast, buy their products, and stalk them on social media (not in a creepy way.) Master being a student and you’ll spot patterns that contribute to their success.

If you have extra money available, hire a business coach. Your other options are joining masterminds or business groups. It’ll be easier to succeed when you have a strong support system. One that challenges you to grow and helps you avoid common mistakes.

9. Focus on value instead of money

“Serve a million people—and serve them incredibly well—and the money will follow.” – Dharmesh Shah

Focusing only on making money can be toxic.

Many people have ended their life after losing their entire wealth. This doesn’t mean that wanting to build large wealth is bad; but putting money on a pedestal is. Instead, focus on a higher purpose.

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When you focus on giving more, you’re more likely to build more wealth.

Gary Vaynerchuk shared a story of a time when he delivered a low-end wine to one of his customers during a snowstorm. He didn’t expect anything, but this customer’s wealthy son later placed a large order with Gary.

This doesn’t mean that you should give for the sake of receiving something. Give out of the intent to help others and experience the positive benefits. Studies have shown that people who give money away experience happier moods.[2]

Focus on increasing profits for your business but remember to have a higher purpose.

10. Be fulfilled running a profitable business

Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. It’s a journey where you’ll fail dozens of times. But if you want to live your dream life and impact other people’s lives, it’s a journey you’ll need to take. Imagine not dreading Monday’s anymore, every day’s a Friday.

You still have challenging days but you’re now more in control of your life. Although your income is increasing, that’s no longer your motive. You’re motivated by the positive impact you’re making to other people’s lives.

You’d started this journey wanting to build a successful business. Now you’re looking for more ways to impact people’s lives. To others, you look the same, but you know you’re a better person than before.

Wouldn’t this be amazing?

Final thoughts

Stop letting your fear take over and begin taking action towards your dream lifestyle. You now have a mini-blueprint on how to get started.

Don’t waste time fumbling on bad ideas, building unnecessary websites, and learning alone. Instead, surround yourself around amazing people and invest in you’re personal growth.

It took me years to learn from my mistakes. It doesn’t have to be the same for you. Your business idea is waiting–will you have the courage to pursue it?

Featured photo credit: Tim Mossholder via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Christopher Alarcon

Finance Analyst and Founder of the Financially Well Off Blog & Podcast

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included)

15 Ways to Set Professional Goals (Examples Included)

It’s hard to describe the frustration you feel when your professional goals keep falling flat. You’re floundering and you’re not where you want to be professionally, which bleeds into your personal life and causes you to get upset and sad easily.

You need a system, a way to set goals that makes them attainable 100 percent of the time. When you establish your system, it takes the guesswork out of goal achievement and makes it a matter of completing specific steps.

Where would you be right now in your life if you had followed such a system from the beginning of your professional career and stuck with it? Would you be owning and running your own business, would you be working for a company you love, or would you be independently creating great work that keeps you in high demand?

This is where it gets good. The following tips will cover the most actionable ways to set professional goals (with professional goals examples included). If you follow these tips and do your absolute best each step of the way, you’ll have no choice but to launch into a new, exciting period in your professional life.

Start with tip number 1 — this tip is essential to any and all of the other tips on this list. Although you’re starting with 1, this is not a linear list. You can take each tip by itself and run with it, or you can implement as many as possible — the choice is yours. That said, the more action you take, the closer you are to making tip 1 a reality.

Ready to grasp the very essence of what it is to succeed? Keep reading.

1. Identify What You Love — and Make a Statement

This is it — the single most important word is not career, it’s love. Your primary, overarching, life-defining career goal must center around what you love.

You figured out what you love when you were young, and then somewhere along the way you lost it in the noise, the pressure, and the clutter of everyday life.

Billions of people exist on this Earth, and things aren’t what we wish they could be because we succumb to fear instead of doing what we love.

How can you take what you love and serve this love with your career?

  • Create a statement, a single sentence that encapsulates your overarching career goal. Make it specific.
  • Write the love-of your-life career goal sentence down and pin it to the wall where you’ll see it every day.
  • Make sure this sentence informs all your other objectives.
  • Make sure your primary career goal is the result of what you love to do.

Example:

“Be a successful nonfiction author: Write nonfiction content — books, poems, essays, blog posts — to help people realize the priceless importance of love and the imagination, and get your content published.”

2. Don’t Just Create SMART Objectives — Be Ultra-SMART

Now that you have your ultimate career goal nailed to the wall, it’s time to get SMART. That is, use the SMART acronym to create objectives:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timed

Your SMART objectives are micro-goals that fit all of the above criteria. They are not nebulous, vague, and tough to complete. They are daily objectives you know you can handle, and they’re necessary.

You have to complete SMART objectives in order to meet other, tougher goals, which ultimately contribute to your main goal.

So how do you make your SMART objectives ultra-SMART? Push yourself. Don’t settle for the same level of output every day. Don’t hold yourself to low standards. Think about quality and do your absolute best.

Example:

SMART: “Today I will write 500 words about the power of love between 10am and 2pm.”

Ultra-SMART: “Today I will write 500 words about the power of love between 10am and 2pm, and will find 3 accredited, scientific sources to backup my argument.”

Note that “Ultra-SMART” is not about writing more — more isn’t necessarily better, and if you’re just starting out, may not be achievable; rather, ultra-SMART is about focusing on quality within a reasonable framework.

3. Identify an Absolutely Essential Stepping Stone and Step to It

No one realizes their ultimate goal without finding a job that will push them in that direction. Jobs pay, and you need money to survive, but you don’t want a job that has nothing to do with your career goal. Pinpoint a job that is like an apprenticeship for what you ultimately want to do.

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Example:

When famous author Neil Gaiman delivered his commencement address[1] — which, by the way, is phenomenal — to University of the Arts in Philadelphia, he said something that makes perfect sense:

“I wanted to write comics and novels and stories and films, so I became a journalist, because journalists are allowed to ask questions, and to simply go and find out how the world works, and besides, to do those things I needed to write and to write well, and I was being paid to learn how to write economically, crisply, sometimes under adverse conditions, and on time.”

Note that Gaiman’s goal was to be a creative writer, but he took a position in journalism, which isn’t creative writing; it’s about facts, writing them well, and having discipline. For Gaiman, journalism was a stepping stone towards achieving his overarching goal.

4. Get Really, Really Good at Crafting Your Resume

You’re not going to settle, and there are multiple stepping stones towards your final destination. But here’s the clincher:

Crafting a great resume is about more than landing a job.

Crafting a great resume is about learning how to think from someone else’s perspective. If you can imagine what someone else wants to see in a great resume, you can view other things from their perspective too, and that’s important in the professional world.

To do a resume the right way, consider the mistakes you should avoid:[2]

  • Avoid disorganization: Provide your name, work experience and corresponding titles, education, relevant skills.
  • Avoid irrelevant information: Consider the position you’re applying for carefully and focus on information relevant to it.
  • Avoid length: A one page resume with just the right wording is a thing of wonder.
  • Avoid showy fonts and words: Be basic but let your personality shine through.
  • Avoid sloppiness: Check for typos, misspelling, and grammatical mistakes.

Example: Here’s a great resume example, courtesy of Shayanne Gal from Business Insider:[3]

    5. Ask Yourself the Most In-Depth Questions

    Throughout your educational career, you heard teachers say, “There are no bad questions” or something to that effect.

    It’s true; however, this mantra ignored the fact that some questions are better than others.

    Asking, “How can I do x in a unique and interesting way?” is better than asking “How can I do x?”

    You can set professional goals that you might accomplish, or you can set professional goals you’re highly likely to accomplish because you went in-depth with your questions. This goes very well with SMART goals. Specificity and detail are the hallmarks of achievable goals.

    Example:

    Say, for instance, you’re at the point where you feel you can start your own business from home. The Hartford offers pertinent questions you should ask before doing so:[4]

    • Will your house accommodate your business?
    • Can you find work-life balance?
    • When you interact with customers, how will you showcase a professional image?
    • Are there city zoning ordinances you need to consider?
    • Do you have the insurance and tax liabilities covered?

    6. Use a Digital Assistant to be Insanely Efficient

    Executives and bosses have personal assistants to help them with scheduling, organization, and other time-consuming tasks.

    You may not be at the point in your career where you can afford to hire somebody, which is why it helps to have a productivity assistant to help you be more efficient.

    Use an app to keep track of mundane scheduling and other minute details so you can free up your mind for creativity.

    Example:

    See this list of task management apps . Out of all of them, Any.do has one of the best interfaces, and it will give you the reminders you need to stay on task.

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      7. Create a Vivid Mental Picture

      Discouragement can and will happen — it’s a part of life, whether professional or personal. Don’t wait until you get discouraged to visualize yourself doing well.

      Practice your mental picture of success even at the times when everything is going so well it’s unbelievable, but you’re not quite at the end-point yet.

      When things aren’t going well, it’ll be the much easier to remain in a positive mind-state because you practiced being there.

      Example:

      Social scientist Frank Niles provides a perfect example of goal visualization:[5]

      “Former NBA great Jerry West is a great example of how this works. Known for hitting shots at the buzzer, he acquired the nickname ‘Mr. Clutch.’ When asked what accounted for his ability to make the big shots, West explained that he had rehearsed making those same shots countless times in his mind.”

      Note that West visualized sinking the exact shots; again, specificity matters.

      8. Express Your Professional Goals Positively

      This goes directly with the visualization process. Goals can seem like chores, which is why it’s important to use positive, proactive wording when you’re vocalizing or writing things down.

      Through positive expression, you’re training your brain to take a certain path whenever you think about your professional goals. This translates into forward, positive momentum whenever you take action.

      You’re more likely to take action if you associate that action with positive thoughts and feelings.

      Example:

      Instead of, “It isn’t that hard to type 500 words in 4 hours,” say, “I like taking advantage of the time I set aside to zone in and really have fun with what I’m doing.”

      Note that the specific goal — 500 words in 4 hours — is implied because you already know it.

      The point of this statement is to associate a feeling of enjoyment with commitment and focus.

      9. Build Your Network with Passion and Purpose

      A professional network will help you hit those stepping stones necessary to achieving your ultimate goal. But you don’t want to network with just anyone.

      Build a network with other people who share your passion, build it based around your specialty, but also look for people from outside your usual sphere who can help you gain a different perspective.

      Demonstrate your passion by helping other people, and listen more than you talk.

      Example:

      Find a mentor — it’s perhaps the most critical networking move you can make. MileIQ provides some examples of where to start:[6]

      • The SCORE Business Learning Center
      • Small Business Development Centers
      • Women’s Business Centers
      • Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers
      • Minority Business Development Agency
      • A trade association through your SBA district office

      10. Benchmark a Competitor Like a Boss

      If you’re freelancing or running your own business, this one is particularly applicable to you.

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      Is there an exemplary freelancer or small business owner with whom you’re impressed? Analyze what this person has done to get where they are, find a metric to serve as a benchmark of their success, and aim to do better.

      Example:

      Benchmark social metrics — say, for example, you’re writing an article on cryptocurrency for a finance website. Buzzsumo[7] provides a tool you can use to benchmark the number of social shares a competitor has earned for this topic:

        11. Master Time Management

        Here’s the thing about professional goals:

        You must master time management to accomplish them. Understand how much time to set aside for each objective; and when you’re working on objectives, use your time not just efficiently, but mindfully.

        That means immersing yourself in the activities that are essential to completing objectives. Focus on what works best to achieve your desired outcome.

        Example:

        Life and business strategist Tony Robbins recommends “chunking your goals,” otherwise known as compartmentalization:

        • Write down tasks you need to get done during the week.
        • Group different tasks together based on their categories, e.g. “Consult SCORE about a mentor” and “talk to Ted about job opportunities” would be categorized under “Networking.”
        • Set aside time for each category.
        • Work on the tasks for a single category during a specific chunk of time.

        12. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses — and Get Strategic

        As you move toward accomplishing your primary career goal, you’ll note that different objectives fit into different categories, and you’re better at some categories than you are others.

        Once you know what you’re good at, focus on it. Spend as much time as you can concentrating on your strong-points.

        When it comes to your weaknesses, ask for help.

        Forbes contributor Elana Lynn Gross reveals that asking for help the right way can advance your career. “Ask targeted questions that will allow you to set your strategy,” Gross says.[8]

        Within any category, work on what you’re good at first, and then ask your network for help with blind spots.

        Example:

        Christine Wallace, VP of Branding and Marketing at Startup Institute, told Fast Company how she ended up dropping her first venture:[9]

        “I took a train from the Valley up to San Francisco and met with two mentors, who agreed that it was the end of the road for Quincy [Apparel]. After it was all over I spent three weeks straight in bed. Then after 21 days of sleeping, crying, I put on my big girl pants and rejoined the world.”

        In Wallace’s case, she needed to ask her mentors for help to understand when to move on.

        Don’t be afraid to ask for advice when something isn’t working.

        13. Take Advantage of Awesome Resources at Your Disposal

        When it comes to setting professional goals, tunnel-vision and short-sightedness are big problems for many of us.

        We think there’s only one way to complete an objective. The truth is there are multiple ways to approach any problem.

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        This implies taking a moment to step back, view your objective from a distance, and survey your options. Think differently, use your imagination, and do a thorough search — online and off — for resources.

        Example:

        Get a library card, scour the shelves, AND crowdsource ideas from social media — you may find something unexpected.

        14. Be a Brand That Stands Out

        Believe it or not, your brand is a very important part of your overall career goal. There are two aspects here:

        • How you appear via any published format
        • How you appear in person

        It’s more important to have a quality brand than it is to be prolific, so don’t publish anything — on social media or elsewhere — that you will regret.

        You will make mistakes in your endeavors, and in fact it’s important to take risks and make mistakes.

        There are good mistakes. Good mistakes are the screw-ups that show you’re striving toward your goal. Anytime you set an objective, think about how it aligns with brand and overall goal. In other words, know when to say “no” to projects that don’t compliment your brand and overall mission.

        Example:

        View yourself as a thought leader, be one, and make content that showcases your thought leadership:[10]

        • Videos: Post on YouTube, your website, and social media
        • Podcasts: Learn how to start podcasting.[11]
        • Workshops or meetups: Look for a community space and invite others to join you in discussion.
        • Blog posts and newspaper op-eds: Share your knowledge and opinions.

        15. Steal Ideas from Your Competitors

        This is the one truth that’s hard to stomach. Great ideas come to those who steal. You may not be sure of your next step, your next objective, and time is precious.

        Observe what other great professionals are doing, capture the core of their objectives, make them your own, and craft them into something new.

        Example:

        Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple, fully endorsed the Picasso quote, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”[12]

        In 1989, Xerox sued Apple for stealing ideas and incorporating them in the Macintosh and Lisa computers, but lost the lawsuit. That’s because Apple made something new.

        Here’s a simple way to go about this. Say you’re writing about freelancing, and the Freelancers Union blog is one of your top competitors. Pop the URL into Buzzsumo. You’ll see that the top articles are about taxes:

          In that case, you can write a “Definitive Guide to Taxes for Freelancers” or “Definitive Guide to Tax Breaks for Freelancers.”

          It’s About Passion and Practicality Combined

          Your primary career goal must be about what you love to do. Otherwise, why would you want to do it?

          To reach your goal, you must make small, practical steps. Don’t expect everything to go perfectly along the way, and don’t eschew hard work that isn’t exactly exciting.

          Too often, we get caught up in the excitement of the dream, and when the step-by-step isn’t nearly as exciting, we quit.

          Learn how to do the boring, rote tasks with joy because you’re doing them to achieve greatness.

          Always remember why you set out on a mission to begin with, and let your brain follow your heart.

          More Tips for Setting Professional Goals

          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

          Reference

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