Back in 2008 I (Rick) had found myself working for a mid-sized server manufacturing company. With the economy as it was, this company decided that they couldn’t afford to have me continue testing their web software and I was let go. At the time the event was quite devastating. In addition to some health issues I was working through I wasn’t able to find work immediately. After a very uncomfortable period of time my wife and I decided to pull the trigger on being self-employed. We had heard a lot about it being difficult, but we knew we were up for the challenge. In our eyes, going back and working for someone else could land us in the exact same situation again… the economy could take a turn for the worse and leave us penniless.
Shortly thereafter I started my first incarnation of Bellingham WP, then named D’Haene Design. It was difficult to start, but we managed to get by the first few months. From the beginning I had set to work with my search engine optimization knowledge and, after a few months, my website was ranking really well for my targeted keyword search terms which were driving a fair bit of traffic that resulted in work and projects. In hind-sight, and you can quote me on this, the website made all the difference.
What Should My Business Offer?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Firstly, I believe it is important to look at your current situation and determine what you don’t like about it, and what you do like about it. And, perhaps more importantly, WHY you are where you are. For me, the lack of reliable employment and low pay were both driving factors. The best aspect of my previous job was that, from time to time, I was able to work from home. Consider what you like, don’t like, want, and don’t want out of a profession. Then take the next step and ask yourself why these things are true. If you’re in a relationship, discuss things with your significant other. They will likely have insights that you may easily overlook.
In my situation, fear of failure was limiting me. I realized this when I began asking myself why I held specific reservations about starting my own business. Having lost my job recently my self-confidence had taken a hit. All of my likes and dislikes were suspended in that moment and I was able to see through the haze of self-doubt that had been gathering.
From there you should spend some time educating yourself. Open the yellow pages and look at the advertisements. Think about the businesses that you see advertising and what they offer. If not the yellow pages, turn your attention online. You will likely be able to find business group websites with a membership directory. Use whatever resources are at your disposal to increase your knowledge. If you have a smartphone, consider downloading an entrepreneurial app. There are a few out there which will spoon feed you information about what you’re trying to do and ways to overcome obstacles.
Once you have a few business ideas in mind, take a look at your local market by, again, looking in the yellow pages or by doing online searches. See how many people or businesses are already offering those services in your area. Don’t fret if there are quite a few. Competition in a market means that the market can support multiple vendors. This is a good thing. By the same token, if you don’t see anyone offering these services, it doesn’t mean that there is not a market for it. Familiarize yourself with what currently exists and seek ways in which you can differentiate yourself. Maybe by offering lower rates than the competition you will be able to carve out a place for yourself. Consider finding a way to provide a more complete service offering than what is currently available. Maybe even roll two businesses or services into one and target companies or people who would ordinarily have to make use of two separate businesses. If you can find a way to change the game, with planning and effort, you can find a way to capitalize on it.
This may seem oddly self-serving, but I give the same advice to my friends and family. These days the internet is the best place to be found. Having a website is like having an interactive business card. People can learn from you, what you offer, become comfortable with your services, and even get in contact with you all from the comfort of their living room at 2am on a Wednesday while you’re asleep. An intelligent, well thought-out website will pay dividends for your business in the form of delivering targeted, qualified leads to your inbox or phone. With its constant online presence your website will act as an advertising billboard, shouting your message for anyone who finds it.
Why WordPress, you might be asking? The answer is simple. WordPress is easy to use. I’m regularly contacted by people and businesses seeking to create their websites themselves or otherwise in-house. This has become so common, in fact, that I’ve created an entire range of WordPress DIY Support services. These services allow for a la carte selection by the WordPress DIYers, allowing them to take care of what they are interested in while I manage the remainder.
Is WordPress really as simple as you say it is? I compare using WordPress to using a piece of software, not unlike Microsoft Word. In fact, adding a page or post is almost exactly the same as typing up and formatting a document in Word. As with anything new, you must be willing to learn. And some people are able to learn easier than others. One of the huge benefits to WordPress is its popularity. There are plenty of YouTube videos and blog-based tutorials available to help you get the hang of it. And remember, I’ll be here if you need me for anything.