The Basics of Small Business: What You Need to Get Started

I recently dipped my toes into the world of small business. The whys and the hows are a little complicated right now and it’s too early to specify the details, but needless to say it was a surprisingly easy process.

There were a few misconceptions that I had before I got involved, and those misconceptions clouded my view of just what this process was all about. These misconceptions were:

You Need a Lot of Capital

The best businesses start from nothing but a good idea. They need money, of course, but once you have that idea then that money can be relatively easy to come by. These days everything from crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to investment pitching sites like Angel’s Den can help you to get the money you need. And if those “new” methods fail, you can just revert to the old ones.

All it takes is a simple grant and a business plan and then you can tap into a vast resource of money provided by government, charities and funds. As a freelance writer I understand the power of a grant, because I have helped to write them myself and I know many other writers who have also been involved with the process.

A good grant writer may cost you $1,000 on average, but they will secure 10 or 20 times as much as that in funding. And if all else fails, family, friends and colleagues are a great source. My own investor was a close friend and former client of mine who offered both his financial support and his expertise.

A good idea is better than tens of thousands in the bank, because capital goes quickly in start-ups, but ideas last and everyone will always want a piece of them.

small business startup.
small business and innovation. Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

You Need Legal Support

When I was 14 I helped my father set up a small computing business built on the back of a single contract. He wanted to make something of it, so he arranged a meeting with an accountant, and he asked me to go along with him. What followed was several hours of endless one-way conversation, after which I couldn’t help but wonder if that was just my father’s way of punishing me for something I couldn’t remember doing and if it would become a recurring thing, “Do that again and I’ll take you to see the accountant.”

My father, realizing that it wasn’t as simple as he had hoped, never did anything with the business. It’s a realization that many people have, but one that is completely false, because it’s really not that complicated.

Thanks to programs like QuickBooks, you don’t even need an accountant anymore and in most countries the process of officially starting a business is very simple. I would still recommend getting an accountant – my current accountant is a mathematical superhero and a life saver – and you should also seek advice from small business start-up professionals if you’re not sure. But if money is tight, you don’t really need any of that.

You can open up business accounts through PayPal; you can get software to deal with all of your finances and your legal matters; and you can free up time to deal with actual business issues.

You Need to Pay Wages to Employees

We live in a freelancing economy. I’m a freelancer, so it won’t come as a surprise to hear me say that. But it’s true. I work with many start-up businesses every day. They are all different sizes, they work on different budgets and they are based all over the world, but they all hire freelancers.

Let’s say that you want to build a website that utilizes a unique piece of software and you also want a customer support line. In the past, you may have been forced to open an office, hire IT professionals, customer support and managers to keep them all in check. If you were cutting corners you might have outsourced the support and hired expensive agencies to write the content and build the site.

Thanks to sites like Upwork, you don’t need to do any of that. It is a competitive marketplace filled with skilled writers, designers and admin staff. I know brilliant developers who will build software from scratch for a few hundred dollars, while many workers in countries like India will fulfill customer support duties for a few dollars an hour. The more you pay, the better the service you get, but in my experience you will always pay less than you would away from these sites. What’s more, many of the agencies that work outside of freelancing platforms actually use those platforms to outsource their contracts.

It’s Difficult and Scary

It’s not easy to get a business off the ground, but if you start small and with a minimal investment, then you have nothing to lose. With proper planning you can build your business around your current work, which means you can still earn and support yourself and you will always have that to fall back on.

It is a fallacy that you need to take big risks to get started in business and that you need to put it all on the line if you want to succeed. I mean, that’s certainly the case if you have capital of $10,000, you’re buying a franchise for $10,000 and you’re planning on quitting your job to work there, but that would be stupid. If you begin small, play it safe and work hard, then you don’t have anything to lose and you have it all to gain.