Starting your own business can be a very overwhelming and a daunting experience, and sometimes you might have a great idea but you just don't know where to begin.  So in this post I'm going to share some tips and and valuable advice that I have learnt from my own experiences.

Before you embark on this new and exciting journey, you need to have some idea of what you want to sell.  Are you selling a product or a service?  Having prior knowledge and experience can be a great advantage as it will help you to run your business successfully and build trust with your customers and potential customers too.

My number one tip would be to sell something that you already know enough about and that you're familiar with.  If it's something new, then go and learn more, take a course and practise your  new skill, really get to know the ins and outs of it.

It's no good selling plumbing equipment if you haven't got the foggiest about which pipe goes where or which tools you'd need for fixing a leak!  Yes, you can Google it but what if a customer enquires about a specific tool or piece of equipment? What if they want to know about any other options?  What if they ask for advice?  What can you offer them so that they become a customer?  And have you thought about your stock?  What will you order?  What type of products will you have in your store?  See, if you have no idea what plumbing involves then starting up and maintaining your store is going to be more than a challenge and a half.  You can't just Google it and say you'll get back to them, because by then you'll have lost a customer already.

As you know I run a hijab store, so when a customer asks me which hijab I can recommend for their trip to Hajj or which hijab is best for cooler climates, I can answer them confidently.  I have enough knowledge and experience, since I wear a hijab myself, to be able to offer the best and right advice.

Knowing enough about the product or service you're going to offer means that you can give more back to your business and customers too.  Not only can you help your customers by giving them valuable advice but you can also build your business further in terms of adding new products or services to go alongside your existing ones, come up with fresh, new ideas and in general offer more than just what you started off with.  With any business, you need to be able to introduce new products to keep it going, otherwise it will just die a sorry death.

What ever you choose to do, you need to make sure that you have a passion for it as in the long run this will keep you going.  It's not always about the amount of money you'll make because without the passion and desire to give your all to your business, you'll soon get bored and demotivated.  You'll start to swtich off and won't be able to give your business the time and attention it needs to keep going and eventually there'll be nothing left of it.

If you ask anyone how to start your own business they'll say 'do your research!'.  Research, research research.  But what does that mean exactly?  So, let me break it down for you.  So, what are you going to sell?  Is it profitable?  Is there a demand for it?  Can you bring your business idea to life?  It's very important to make sure that you don't make any rash decisions, but that you take your time and as soon as you're sure, just go for it.

If you have decided to sell a ready made product then you need to find suppliers that you can trust.  A good reliable supplier is essential to help you to run your business smoothly otherwise it will have a knock on effect on you, your customer and ultimately your business.

Notice I said 'suppliers' and not 'supplier'.  You need to find where you can buy great quality products from more than one supplier because the last thing you want is to be left with a business and nowhere to get any stock if your one and only supplier happens to close down.  Yes, that can happen, so it 's important to have more than one supplier in your diary.  As I always say, be prepared for the unexpected.  Make sure you have a contingency plan in place.  It will help you to get out of any sticky situations and even better, avoid them!  The great advantage to this is that in doing so you'll find that one may be slightly cheaper than the other and they will each have something different to offer as well.  So you have more to choose from too.

If your business is handmade then you will need to source supplies that can help you make your finished product. And when pricing your items make sure you never undercut yourself.  Remember to counter in your time and effort.  It takes time to design, source, plan, make, photograph, list and package your handmade item.  Even if your item is not handmade, a lot of time and skill is still required to get a sale and finish it.  Things like maintaining your website, photography, packaging, product descriptions and advertising all take time.  So it's important to take those into consideration too.

Once you have found your suppliers then try and visit them if you can so you can see the product or buy a few samples online.  You don't want to invest all your money in your stock only to find that the quality doesn't match the description or images you saw online.  Get a feel of the product and choose the highest quality even if it's going to cost a few pounds more.  At the end of the day a good quality product will guarantee repeat customers and bring new ones too.

What if you don't have lots of money to buy all the stock?  Should you borrow money or should you start small?  Maybe it's just me but I prefer not to borrow money.  I'd rather not have to owe anyone anything so I started small.  I didn't know if my business would work or not and I was going to sell online so I didn't want to give myself the extra pressure.  Starting small meant that if it didn't pan out then it wouldn't hurt me so much and wouldn't put a dent in my savings either.  But depending on what you're selling you might have to borrow if you don't have the funds outright.  Some businesses will require a big investment to get off the ground and these are usually the brick and mortar kind.  For example, if you're looking into opening up a pizzeria, then you'll need to invest in an oven, fridge, freezer, shop fittings and fixtures too, as well as employing staff before you can even start making and selling your pizzas.

And here's a little secret.  Some businesses don't require any financial investment at all!  Just time.  If you're good at designing and know how to use Photoshop then you can sell digital downloads on Etsy.  Wall art and quotes are a great seller but there's lots of competition!  If you can offer something unique then it'll be worth your time.  And since there's no packaging and posting, or even holding stock, there's very minimal work on your part once you sell your digital download.  All you need to do is design your poster, card, or anything you can offer as a digital download, upload it, select the quantity (which is endless obviously) and wait for a sale.  As soon as you sell something, the customer is sent a link to download it and that's it!  Well kind of, because you will need to promote your store and social media is great for that.  So you see, it is possible to start a business with little or no money at all!

I started small and I built my business from that.  After I sold the first batch of hijabs, I used that money to buy more, and I continued to do that.  So I just built my business up from nothing.  Other business ideas that you can start small are baking and selling cakes or even hair and make up.  They require a skill so if your good at something then use that to your advantage.  In the beginning you most likely won't be able to pay yourself but at this point you're just concentrating on building up your business and eventually reach a point where you'll be able to pay yourself a wage.

Keeping costs down will ensure you make a good profit too.  If you have too many expenses then nearly everything you make is going to be spent in paying bills.  That's not a good business move if you ask me.  Keep costs down as much as possible.  I work from home and so I don't have to pay rent for hiring out a place to work from and I still use my iPhone for taking product images.  I'm not saying you can't get a DSLR, but at the beginning this is going to be a big investment so with money being spent on stock as well as business stationary, you have to ask yourself, do you really need that camera or can you make the best of what you've already got?

Besides business stationary, other business things that cost money are packaging, website plan costs, PayPal/transaction fees, internet charges, domain name costs, accountancy fees and banking charges.  These all apply to online businesses but some will also apply to brick and mortar stores.  I'm not trying to scare you, just letting you know these important factors that make up a business because usually as a customer, you don't see what goes on behind the scenes to keep a business ticking.  You just see the end product.  And as a new business you need to take them into consideration to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible and with as little being spent from your income or pocket as possible.

So, it's a good idea to not only research your suppliers, but also research services that you will require to set up your business too.  There are so many platforms out there that can help you to set up a website for your business and each one offers different features.  Choose one that suits your business and sometimes that might mean that it's not the cheapest.  But if it's the best one for your business, then go for it.  If you've been around from the early days you will have noticed that Love Hijab started off on Tictail.  This platform cost next to nothing when I first started.  Things have changed slightly since the company has been around for a while but do check them out as they might still be the cheapest around.  It's also very easy to use and add products, a bit like the Ikea version of setting up a website!

Whilst we're talking about online businesses, let's take a look at some of the options we have in front of us.  We've already looked at having your own website and for some types of businesses this is the right move.  But for others there are better options.  For example, if you're selling handmade items, then Etsy will be the best choice.  Since there are already so many people on this platform looking for handmade items you have a ready made customer base.  Your target market is right there!  It's not as simple as that though so do your own research and learn how to use Etsy to drive customers to your store and make a sale.

There is also Ebay!  I'm sure many of you have sold a thing or two on there so will be familiar with how it works.  Toys are a great seller and so again using this platform will mean you have a wide range of customers to attract to your store.  And if you're selling books, then your best option would be Amazon.

So as you can see, making the right choices for your business model and your niche is very important as this will help you to target the right kind of people to visit your store.  Once you have established your business you can afford to step it up a little.  You can then create a website too and if you can manage it then even start selling on other platforms as well if your product fits the bill!  Having many avenues to sell will mean you will be able to reach a larger audience and so your sales will increase too.  But be warned, it's not an easy task to manage all of them in one go, so start with one and add more as you start getting used to selling, managing orders, packaging and customer enquiries.  You want to ensure your customer service is always the best and with so many things to manage you really can't afford to slack on the service and quality you provide.

Find your feet first and then spread your wings.  This will pay off in the long run.

I know I haven't touched on all the legal side of things yet, but do make sure that you get your business registered, set up a separate bank account solely for your business so you can see your incomings and outgoings, and get yourself a good accountant to help you manage your books.  You can do your own books if you want to, but there's a lot of other legal papers that for me, are a bit too difficult to understand, so I leave all that to my accountant instead.  He knows what he's doing and is fantastic at his job so he takes care of everything for me.  

And remember, things won't always go to plan, you may hit a point where you can't move forward and have to rethink your business plan.  You might have to make decisions you hadn't accounted for but it's all part of the journey.  It's not going to be absolutely perfect from the start and comparing yourself to businesses that are already established won't help either.  Yes, be inspired by them to help you with yours but keep in mind that they too started exactly where you are right now and built themselves up to a point where you now aspire to be like them.  It didn't happen overnight but over time through hard work, passion, dedication, a dream, hours of creativity and most likely gallons of coffee, sleepless nights and under eye bags for days!

Every business makes mistakes and so will you.  This is all part of the learning process as these mistakes will teach you skills you never had before.  They will help you to make the right business choices and help you to understand what works for you and what doesn't.  My dad owns a Newsagents and I've learnt many skills from him and how to make the best business choices.  If a product doesn't sell as well or is too slow and takes up a lot of effort to get sold then he won't buy it again.  If there's a demand for it then stock up and keep up with it.  And as Sir Alan Sugar says 'Smell what Sells'.  If you do that, you're on to a winner.

And even after you've done everything you can to create some noise about your new venture, you might not even make your first sale on the first day or week of launching.  But that's ok because sometimes it just takes a little time to pick up.  No matter what you do though, don't give up because giving up is not an option.  You WILL make a sale.

Keep making all the noise you can to spread the word, use social media to get yourself out there and think of strategies that can help to create interest in what you have to offer.  Newsletters are a fantastic way to remind potential customers of any special offers you have.  I mean just look at your inbox!  Giveaways and competitions are also a great way to do this.  Look at your favourite stores and see how they entice you into buying something.   After your first sale it'll start picking up and you'll see that it was worth it.  And when you do, celebrate that small victory because after this every achievement is worth celebrating.  Your business is now live and kicking and YOU did it!

And finally, whatever you decide to do, take inspiration but don't copy.  Make your brand your own so that you stand out from the crowd for being you, and when someone sees you, they know it's YOU!

I really hope you find this post helpful and if you've been thinking of starting a business, that it gives you the push to go for it.  Let me know in the comments below what you think and if you have any advice you can share with everyone, then we'd love to know.  Feel free to share this post with anyone you think might need it too.

Thank you