Starting a business from home is something that lots of my readers are interested in, but there’s one major block to getting started: not having the technical skills to pull it off. I’m talking about both technical skills and marketing skills.
This is a legitimate concern, especially if you have no idea where to begin. But the great thing about this “problem” is that it doesn’t have to stay a problem. Nobody is born with technical or marketing skills, after all — these are things that can be learned.
What You Do Need to Know Before You Begin
You might not need highly specialized skills before you start your home business, but there are a few things you do need:
- Hard work — Getting a business off the ground doesn’t necessarily require a major skill set, but it does require consistent effort over the long haul.
- Willingness to learn — You might be able to start off limited knowledge, but you can’t expect to stay that way for very long.
- Good models — Look for and surround yourself with people who are successful with a business model that’s similar to yours. Their knowledge and experience will be invaluable if you take the time to ask for — and follow — their advice.
The long and short of home-based businesses is that you can start at Square One, but you can’t stay there. You need to work on your business every day (or almost every day) if you want it to succeed. You need to be asking questions from people who have taken the same path — and a great question to ask is “what would you NOT do right at the beginning?” — this will help you avoid major wastes of time and money.
You need to seek out the knowledge you know you lack — simply do the “next obvious thing.” Have the conversation, join the Facebook group, buy the book, take the course, hire the expert. Don’t stand still — make yourself do the work and grow.
No Marketing Skills? Here’s a Crash Course to Get You Started
Many people lack marketing skills because they think marketing is “icky” somehow. There’s a general perception out there that anyone who’s selling something is “selling something,” and no one likes to be sold to.
This is a skewed understanding of marketing. When done well, “marketing” is simply the way that businesses help people solve their problems. If you’re running a business, you aren’t in the business of “selling stuff” or “making money” or anything like that. Of course those may be part of your goals, but what you’re really doing is meeting the needs of your customers and clients.
The people whose needs you don’t meet are not your clients. The people whose problems you can solve are your clients. And as your business’s primary marketer, it’s your job to get in front of your clients and show them that there’s a solution to their problems.
There are a few things you need to do to be an effective marketer. These are broad strokes, but they should help you be able to start thinking about ways you can market your business — and how to start learning about marketing:
- Take targeting seriously. The more targeted your marketing is, the more effective it will be. You can put up a paper flier advertising your business at the library, but if your market is online shoppers, this is probably not a winning strategy. If your market is caregivers of young children, though, you might get much better results. Ultimately your goal is to be visible where your people are looking. Not sure where to begin? Read my next point.
- Find out how people seek out the solution you solve. You fill a need, whether it’s a need for a pet sitter or a need for information. One of the best things you can do at the beginning (once you’re clear on the problem your business will solve) is find people who need what you offer, and simply have conversations with them. Ask them how they go about finding this thing they need (Do they ask their neighbors? Do they look on Google? Are there Facebook groups where they’ll ask for recommendations? Do they go to vendor events to find lots of niche products and services at once?).
- Pick one or two strategies, not every strategy. When you first start looking for information on how to market your home-based business, you’re going to find lists of dozens and dozens of marketing ideas. It’s ok to skim a few of these lists to see if there’s any valuable insight, but at the end of the day, focus on one or two marketing strategies. Trying to do more than that will overwhelm you. Pick something and spend a month on it. Then pick something else if you want, but don’t try to do it all at once.
Quick Tips for Different Business Types
There are a few broad categories of home-based businesses that you can start. Each one has its own specialized marketing strategies and business growth best practices, and each one is well suited to some people and not ideal for others. Here’s a quick overview of a few major categories:
- In-person services: Whether it’s dog-walking or in-home care, in-person services will work best with someone who’s comfortable dealing with people face to face. Your marketing efforts will likely focus on your local area, and your business will probably benefit from a mix of online marketing (like websites and digital ads) and offline marketing (like business cards and local events). Word of mouth will also be a big part of your pipeline.
- Freelance writing: This is one of many online services you could provide, but I like this one specifically because it doesn’t necessarily require special knowledge from the beginning. You need to be able to write a decent sentence, of course, but the main “special skill” you need to have is the ability to apply for writing jobs that you find on the job boards. That process is called “pitching” and there are plenty of good, free tutorials on the web for putting together good pitches.
- Direct sales: Some people love being involved in direct sales, and for others it’s a real struggle. There are two keys to doing well with a direct sales organization: having a product you really love and having a supportive, involved upline. Direct selling is not about hitting up your friends and family over and over, it’s about networking — and a good upline will be able to show you the ropes.
- Reselling: Reselling is especially attractive for people who want to get out of the house to run their home-based businesses. You need to be able to follow sales, find the places where your discounted merchandise tends to pop up, and keep good records. When you’re selling on sites like eBay and Amazon, there are specific best practices you can look up so you’re starting off strong. A big part of your marketing will boil down to good keyword research.
My Final Advice
Starting a home business is a great idea for many people. Through a combination of consistent effort, following good advice, and learning as you go, you can turn your home business into exactly what you’re dreaming it could be.
Don’t let your fear of failure hold you back from something that could end up being a great thing for you and your family!