Written by Mark Williams
More than 660,000 businesses were started in the UK last year. While some people leave paid employment to start their own businesses, others seek to supplement their day-job earnings with a “side hustle”. If you’re considering starting your own business, rather than trust things you assume or that you’ve heard, it pays to find out the facts. Let’s look at some common start-up myths…
1. “It’s not for people like you…”
Successful business people are usually hardworking, committed, determined, resourceful and resilient. Some are super self-confident, others aren’t. Successful business owners come in many varieties, from all manner of backgrounds and places.
Gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, class, location, accent or lack of academic qualification is no barrier. People like you start businesses every day – and that includes those with children and other family commitments.
2. “You must be an ‘entrepreneur’ to start a business…”
“Entrepreneur” is the most over-used word in the business lexicon. Very few business owners are true entrepreneurs, they’re simply people who run their own business. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.
Entrepreneurs are usually serial business founders. They’re willing to take risks and sometimes lose if it ultimately means they’ll win. They defy convention. They focus on ideas and opportunity, not markets. Overuse of “entrepreneur” can lead some to doubt whether they’re the “type” of person who should start a business. But just because you’re not an entrepreneur, doesn’t mean that you can’t be an extremely successful businesses owner.
3. “Registering a new business is complicated and costly…”
It isn’t. The process is quick, simple and inexpensive, once you’ve decided whether to become a sole trader (aka “self-employed”), set up a partnership or register a private limited company. Some people start a social enterprise or a charity, to make a positive difference rather than chase profit. Visit government website gov.uk to find out more about different legal structures. If you can afford it, you can pay an accountant or agent to register your new business for you.
4. “You need lots of cash to start your own business…”
Much depends on what type of business you want to set up, but it’s possible to start a business with very little money. Controlling your costs is a great habit to get into. If you need money to start your business, you’ll probably have to use your own savings. You may be able to lend from friends or family, but all parties should be aware of the risks. You may be able to get a grant or start-up loan, while your bank may help. Launching your business on a smaller scale to test its viability means you risk losing less if the business doesn’t work out.
5. “Starting your own business will make you richer…”
Not necessarily. Some people earn much more by starting their own business, while others earn slightly more. If you run your business from home or have a home office, you may also be able to claim back some of your domestic costs as “allowable expenses”. However, not everyone starts their own business to get rich, some just fancy a change or seek greater flexibility or they simply want to be their own boss and decide their own destiny. Prepare yourself for the fact you may even earn less by working for yourself, with fluctuating monthly income.
6. “Starting your own business will make your life easier…”
For some people, it’s true. Starting your own business might enable you to say goodbye to commuting. You may dislike your current boss or job, which may stress you out. Starting your own business might finally enable you to do something that’s much more enjoyable and rewarding. However, running your own business can be tougher. You may need to work longer hours and work harder, take care of more tasks, do things you dislike and take on more responsibility. An easier life isn’t guaranteed.
7. “You need to come up with a totally original business idea…”
Nope. Very few business ideas are original, they’re variations on an existing idea. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you must give customers a clear reason to buy from you and not your competitors. You need to find ways to be different to the rest. And just undercutting their prices won’t necessarily guarantee your success. You should always aim to offer superior customer service. It can be a cheap way to gain competitive advantage.
8. “You don’t need to do any market research…”
You do. Whatever business you’re starting, you need to speak to actual potential customers – not just your friends and family – to find out what they think of your business and what it plans to sell. Crucially, you must find out whether they’ll pay your prices. If they don’t like what you’re planning to sell or won’t pay you planned prices – your new business won’t get off the ground. Carry out comprehensive research on your competitors, too. What do they sell? How do they sell and what do they charge? Can you compete? These are key questions.
9. “You can do it all yourself…”
If you haven’t started a business previously, inevitably, you’ll lack knowledge. Accept this, but be willing to learn. Also reach out to others for support, those with the knowledge and experience that you lack. Visit gov.uk to see a long list of organisations that help those starting or running their own business. Sometimes you’ll get support for free, other times you’ll need to pay for it, but it can make a big difference. Never stop researching and learning. Even the most successful business people rely on others.
10. “You’re bound to succeed/fail…”
There are no guarantees of either. If your business is to survive and thrive, it takes hard work, commitment, skill, knowledge and a fair measure of luck. Overnight success stories are very rare in business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start and grow a highly successful new business. Out of a total UK business population of 5.7m, in 2017, about 357,000 firms failed (in previous years, far fewer businesses failed). That’s a fairly high survival rate. So, what you waiting for?
Mark Williams is a freelance editorial consultant, editor, journalist and SME content specialist with more than 25 years’ experience. He has written for The Guardian, numerous leading brands and award-winning magazines and websites. Visit www.markiwilliams.com