I just started using Yahoo’s online “Answers” service to suss out some anecdotal information for an upcoming speech. Today I discovered its daily archive of questions relating to “small business.” Scores of people looking for very specific business intelligence, such as how to conduct online surveys, how to make aromatic candles, or, hmm, how to recruit actors for an adult video business.
Anyway, the more general questions fit my expertise. I wrote the following reply to a recent college grad who says he hates his current job and wants to open a private music studio in his apartment. (Of course, most of this advice will relate to starting any kind of business.)
Some of the best businesses in the world have been started by people who hated their jobs and longed for something else. But new businesses fail when they are launched on impulse, without proper planning. Don't you make the same mistake.
You will be telling your students to practice every day - and so should you. In business, it's called planning. You must know what your costs are going to be, how much you will charge, how many students you need to make a profit, and how you are going to attract them.
Set out a timeline for starting your business. Allow adequate time for researching the market, preparing demo videos, developing a professional name and logo, researching your pricing, identifying potential allies and partners, creating a thoughtful marketing plan, and exploring zoning and licensing laws (you can flout them if you want, but you should know what the laws are that you are flouting),
Most importantly, find a mentor (or maybe two): someone who has run a business like yours, knows what he or she is doing, and is willing to share experiences and teach you the ropes. Don't try to do it all yourself: you will be wasting time reinventing the wheel and making old mistakes.
You may have to stick with your job for another few months. But it will be easier knowing that you are working on an exit plan. And you will have more time to bank money to support you during the first lean months.
For online advertising, learn about pay-per-click ads: Google AdWords, for instance. They let you target people who are searching for information on specific keywords - say, "music teacher" or "saxophone lessons" - within your own geographical market. And you pay (say, 20 cents a click - you set the price!) only if someone clicks through to your website.
Your site can be a one-page information site to start - that often comes free when you buy a domain name.
The good news is that since you are used to working for minimum wage, your revenue goals can be modest. If you are good at what you do, and you do a proper marketing job, you should have no problem replacing that income.
Follow your dreams - but run a check on them first to make sure they make sense.
* For more questions and answers on small business issues, check out Yahoo Answers here.
Should you start using Yahoo Answers? It may help your search engine positioning. I registered three days ago. Today my Yahoo registration (with my scanty record of questions and answers) ranks 9th when you Google my name. That ranks ahead of all my columns in the National Post or (sigh) 19 years of writing for PROFIT Magazine...