The 2-Week Plan to Launching Your Business
Got two weeks? Then you can get your business up and running!
A couple years ago, on an ordinary evening, I was sitting at my couch wrapping up my freelance work for the day. Just as I was about to shut my laptop, a little red “1” popped up. Another email from a potential client.
In the freelance world, that is GOOD news. One more client knocking on my door? Yes, please! Let’s celebrate! Getting a pipeline of clients is every freelancer’s dream.
But as I scrolled through the email all about the awesome project the potential client wanted to work on, I realized something: I had big ideas too. I wanted to spend some time making my own dreams come to life.
Luckily, I had plenty of options at my feet. In tech, freelance and consulting work aren’t your only choices if you want to work outside the office. If freelancing isn’t your jam, you can always put your energy into starting your own business, whether it’s a tech service, a cool new app, or maybe a nonprofit you’re passionate about. And even if you’re absolutely loving the freelance life, you can always reserve time for a side project you care about.
See, once you have the tech chops to turn a client’s dreams into reality, you can apply those same skills to your OWN project. Need a site with online shopping? You can do it! Need to work on an app with a UX designer and an iOS developer? In the bag.
But your tech skills and your big idea aren’t the only thing you need to start a successful business.
And I’m not about to tell you that you need a business degree, or even a bunch of experience.
What you need is a plan of action to help you get started NOW.
As online business expert Hilary Rushford says, if you haven’t gotten your idea rolling within 1 month, you never will. Translation, whether you feel ready or not, there’s no time like the present for getting started on your dream business.
That doesn’t mean you need to hit $1 million in sales in 30 days—it means you need to get your feet wet.
This 2-week plan will help you do just that. In the first week, you’ll iron out some of the most important details behind your business, your users, and how you’re going to get it off the ground. And in the second week, you’ll handle some of the logistics, like doing all the paperwork and behind-the-scenes work.
I talked to our very own founder, Adda Birnir, to get tons of insight into the process behind launching a business, and I also took a more critical look at the steps I’m taking to get my own dream business off the ground.
Of course, you’re going to put a LOT of hard work into this business if you want it to blossom—just ask Adda!—but you have to start somewhere. Remember, this plan will get you ready to START, and that’s the hardest part.
And if you’re reading this thinking, but I am in love with the freelance work I do? This is still a great exercise for setting up your freelance strategy. Download the 2-week bootcamp and whip your freelance strategy into shape!
Your 2-week Action Plan for Launching Your Business:
Okay, before we dive in, I want to reiterate how crucial it is that you spend some good solid hours creating a business plan. One book that can help you focus and speed up the process of figuring out EXACTLY what it is you’re going to offer is Running Lean by Ash Maurya. It’s part of the Lean Series, which is based on Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup.
And if books aren’t your scene, try an online course, like Marie Forleo’s B-School. The bottom line? This bootcamp will help you get moving, but you need to show up with a dream. ::cue inspirational sports movie soundtrack::
How to use this bootcamp:
- Download the guide.
- Print or save it.
- Block out time in your calendar over the next 2 weeks.
- Do each day’s step, referring back to this post if you need to.
1. Refine your idea. [Monday]
Like I mentioned, at this point, you should have a solid idea for your business, and you should already have thought about things like what problem your product or service is solving, who your ideal customers are, and how much launch is going to cost you, for starters. If all all that sounds like gibberish to you, don’t worry. Find a great book or e-course on launching a business and figure out the nitty gritty, then meet me back here.
But if you have already spent the time answering all those hard questions about your business idea, it might be time to take a step back. You’ve been deeply absorbed in this idea for weeks, months, or even years. Now it’s time to make sure to refine it. In the same way you should be able to explain your career in a short elevator pitch, you should be able to roll off the short version of your business idea at the drop of a hat.
What does that mean for you today? Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is simple: share your business idea with 3 friends and 3 strangers. If they don’t get it, what’s stumping them? Go back to the drawing board. What about your idea isn’t intuitive?
If your pitches to friends and strangers aren’t going so well, maybe you need to look back at what problem you’re solving and for who. Find some hard data, revise your idea, and try, try again.
And remember that your idea will change over time! In the biz, it’s called iterating.
2. Write out your business plan. [Tuesday]
Yesterday you did an amazing job of getting your idea OUT THERE and getting feedback early on. You probably already have some semblance of a business plan, but before you start, now’s a good time to revise and refine it.
And your business plan will look different based on your needs and goals.
Are you pitching to investors? You’ll probably want a more detailed, traditional business plan like this one.
But are you working on a smaller company or organization, keeping it “lean” as they say in startup land? Then you might want to think about keeping that business plan concise and agile, since you’ll probably need to tweak it soon anyway.
Use this stage to look at your costs again before moving forward, especially if you’re going to use this business plan to go after startup funds.
What are you waiting for? Start writing! Or, you know, erasing…if you went a little overboard on your first business plan.
3. Define your user base. [Wednesday]
If you’ve taken a Skillcrush Blueprint or done any work with web design or product development, you’re probably familiar with the idea of a user persona. The idea is that before you can build a successful business (or website!) you need to know exactly who it’s for. No matter how great your product or service is, it will only be a success if someone buys it.
HelpScout just posted a great article about how important it is to identify your ideal user—read it here.
Or just dive in. Open a doc, and create a profile of a real person who you’ll imagine as your ideal user. Be specific.
What is her name? What does she do for fun? Where does she work? Does she have kids? What is her deepest fear? What are her frustrations in life? What does she want? If you’re stumped, it helps to imagine a real human who you know and go from there. Check out Entrepreneur’s 10 questions you need to ask before defining your target users to dive deeper.
Even if you want a lot of different people to use your product, it’s better to focus on thoroughly solving a smaller group’s problem than trying to create something that works for everyone. Don’t believe me? Read this.
So take 15 minutes and create a complete profile for a target user. And hold onto it! You’ll need it tomorrow.
4. Talk to a user. [Thursday]
Once you’ve dialed in on your user base, it’s time to talk to them. Yep, I mean you have to talk to actual people. One big mistake entrepreneurs make is putting everything they’ve got into planning and developing a product or service before they even know if their user base will buy it.
The bottom line?
Your assignment: Coordinate meetings with 10-15 (or more!) potential users and ask them to review different aspects of your business plan. Ask them point blank—would you buy this? Why or why not? What would you buy? Is it the name? The product itself? The price?
If your target user goes grocery shopping at Whole Foods or buys coffee at Dunkin Donuts, feel free to setup shop right there! You can walk around and nicely approach your “potential customers.”
Ask them anything and everything, take copious notes, and then see what about your plan you need to revise. Do you need to tweak your idea, or maybe you need to target a different audience. Then get ready to make things official tomorrow.
5. Claim your domain and social media handles. [Friday]
At this point, you have a good idea of your business plan and your target users, and you’ve taken the time to make any important tweaks. Of course, you can always make changes to your business as you go along, but now’s the time to put a stake in the ground.
Today your task is simple. If you haven’t already done it, buy your domain name and reserve those social media accounts. And just to be safe, make sure to reserve anything that might get mixed up with it. For example, claim the Twitter handle for your business AND your name, since users might use either of those to find you.
For tips on choosing a domain, check out this infographic.
6. Come up with a marketing plan. [Saturday]
Okay, so let’s get real. You obviously can’t create and implement a marketing plan for your entire business in one day, at least not if you have a day job. But you can get started and build up enough of a plan to take action.
3 places to start are:
- Building your email list. In the words of Derek Halpern, “If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot.” If you have no clue where to start, try Nathalie Lussier’s 30-Day List Building Challenge.
- Blogging. There are a ton of reasons to start blogging, but the most important for you, as a budding entrepreneur, is to build confidence and trust in your brand by providing tons of valuable information to your readers.
- Growing your social media following.. Even if content rules the marketing space at the moment, social media still carries its weight. For tons of expert tips, sign up for my favorite social media guru Laura Roeder’s email list.
Most importantly, make sure your marketing plan is based on your actual users and the channels they use. For example, if your users are all over Facebook, give them targeted Facebook ads. If they’re engaged on Instagram, try targeting with influencers to get your brand name out there.
Just like your business plan, your marketing plan will change over time, but take some time today to make a plan for building your email list, launching a company blog, and building a social media following.
7. Take a break!! [Sunday]
Overworking might be the hallmark of startup founders, but you need a clear head! Take some time to decompress!
8. Call an accountant. [Monday]
Before you can figure out the logistics (like your business bank account, for example), you need to consult a professional. Your needs will vary wildly based on your business model, but a few questions to ask are:
- What kind of business should I register? An LLC? An S-Corp? Something else??
- What kind of records should I keep?
- What do I need to know about taxes?
So read up on the most important questions to ask your accountant, and make an appointment. That wasn’t so hard, was it? :)
9. Register your business. [Tuesday]
Today’s the day to file all the forms you need to get your business set up. Luckily, you can do a lot of this online these days, but you might have to pay a small fee. If you still aren’t sure whether you should be setting up an LLC, an S-Corp, both, or something else entirely, read up on sba.gov. Keep in mind that this protocol will vary by state, so just Google the appropriate terms to find what you need, like, “register my business in Texas,” and go from there.
Don’t forget to set up DBAs. “DBA” stands for “doing business as,” and it’s a special form you file to account for your company’s “aliases.” So, for example, maybe your company is called Gina’s Pasta, LLC, but your restaurant is called Pasta Pantry. “Pasta Pantry” is a DBA for your business. You might also need to file one for your own name, so if you get a check made out to you, it’ll all be in the clear. Confused as the dickens? Read this.
10. Open a business bank account. [Wednesday]
Ahh Wednesday! The perfect day for talking to a banker.
Today your task is to get your business bank account all set up. Aren’t things starting to feel real?
Here’s what you should bring with you:
- DBAs we talked about.
- Business registration papers. If you opened an LLC, they’ll probably be called “Articles of Organization.”
- EIN Number, or employee identification number. You might need one of these for tax purposes, and you can find out if you do and how to get one at irs.gov.
- A deposit! You gotta put something IN that account! If you don’t have a lump sum ready, ask your banker how much is required.
- Any other things required by your bank! Call the bank or read up here to figure out what else you might need to bring along.
11. Check with a lawyer. [Thursday]
If you haven’t already run your business plan by a lawyer, now’s the time to make sure everything is above the radar. Ask a lawyer about anything you’re concerned about. If you’re unsure, start with any questions you have about:
- Paying people
- Starting your business plan while you’re still at your full-time job
- Sharing your business plan with friends to get feedback
And if you’re looking for a lawyer, check out Priori Legal.
12. Make a list of everything you need to do. [Friday]
Tell me if I’m right. At this point, you have about 2.3 billion tasks, ideas, and worries swirling around in your head.
Well today’s task is simple: write them all down.
Don’t worry about what’s important, or what you’re ready to do. Just write it ALL down. One long list. Tomorrow we’ll worry about prioritizing.
13. Make a 30-Day Plan. [Saturday]
I’ll never forget the day my husband decided to open our restaurant, Shorty’s Pizza Shack. He had a business plan, he had done research on the market, he knew how much it would cost to finish the building—he even knew what he would call it. But he was still stalling. I didn’t realize how much of an impact my words would have, but I said something like, “Well, if you don’t do it now, when you’re totally READY, you’re just chicken.”
Sometimes you really DO need to go back to the drawing board. Other times, you need to SHIP IT. Just start. Take the first step.
Today’s task? Create a 30-day plan for getting started, and a month from today you’ll have accomplished more than you could have imagined.
The only rule is that your plan must be possible. So don’t give yourself 1 day to build a website or 2 hours to test your social media strategy. The key is to plan a step for every day, and stick to it.
Of course, like any great startup, you’re going to change that plan as you go. But for now? You just need a plan. And what else? Do you remember?
So get out a calendar, and give yourself an action item (refer to your mind dump from yesterday) for each day.
14. Celebrate! [Sunday]
Pop the champagne cork! You’re in business!
And if you want to stay on track, make sure to find a supportive community, whether it’s online or in person. One Woman Shop is a great community for entrepreneurs. While you’re checking them out, scan their list of helpful tools and resources for starting your business.