Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You’ve just had a wonderful idea for a startup company. It’s been spinning around in your head for months now, and you just know that you have something special on your hands. Your thinking is, “If only I could make it work” or “If only someone would give me the money to get it off the ground!”
Well, guess what? No one’s going to hand you a sack of cash. But the good news is that you don’t need anyone’s money if you can’t find anyone to help fund your business idea. Here are the steps you need to take to put your business idea into action:
1. Validate your idea
The best way to validate your business idea is by asking people for their thoughts on it. Don’t ask for money or investment. Ask them for specific feedback about certain aspects of your business. For example, if you’re opening a new restaurant, ask them what kind of food they like eating at restaurants and what restaurants they like going to most often.
You’ll get better results if you focus on one specific part of your business at a time rather than asking them if they’d use your entire product or service — it allows them to give more in-depth answers without feeling overwhelmed by everything else in your pitch!
Related: 5 Ways to Validate a Business Idea, Right Now
2. Write a business plan and business model
Writing down your ideas and plans not only helps you clarify what you want to do, but it also allows you to make sure there are no holes in your plan. Here’s what you should include:
A description of your business, including its mission statement and goals
A description of the target market for your product or service
A description of the competition in your industry
A description of how customers will find out about your product or service
How much funding is needed for startup costs and ongoing expenses
3. Talk to your potential customers
In order to put your business idea into action, you have to talk to your potential customers. That’s right — it all starts with a conversation.
When creating a new product or service, you can’t assume that your customers’ needs will align with yours, because they might not. You need to speak directly to potential customers and ask them what they want and how much they’d be willing to pay for it.
4. Develop a prototype
If you have a great idea for a product or service but want to know if people will buy it before you invest time and money into making it, you need to create a prototype. A prototype is a working model of your idea that allows you to see if it works, what needs to be reworked and how you might improve it. This can take many forms — from an Excel sheet or Google Sheets document with all the features you want in your product to a fully-functional website that mimics the final product.
5. Test it out and prove the concept
It’s time to test.
Test your business idea in a small way. For instance, if you want to be a freelance writer, write up a few sample articles and offer them free to some clients. If you plan on starting a food truck business, make one or two dishes and sell them at one or two events (or even in your kitchen). You can also use tools like Google Analytics or SurveyMonkey to see which ideas are most popular with customers before you launch your business.
Related: How to Take Your Product From Idea to Reality
6. Understanding the legal implications and registering your business
A big part of creating a business is selecting one available business structure. In the United States, no single government agency is responsible for registering new businesses. Instead, many different types of entities can be formed for small businesses, including corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and sole proprietorships. Each type of entity has its pros and cons and is suited to different types of companies. Once you have determined which type of entity is right for your business, you will be able to register it with the appropriate state or federal agency.
7. Financing and investors
While not all startups fail, those that do usually make one of two mistakes. First, they run out of money before they have developed a market for their product or service; second, they fail to persuade investors to give them money in exchange for equity. The best way to avoid these mistakes is to demonstrate that people will want your product or service enough to pay for it.
8. Build market awareness
Before starting your business idea, building awareness and credibility with potential customers is essential. Start by creating a website, social media profiles and a mailing list. Reach out to people who can help you get feedback on your idea; find out what business would best suit your skillset and where there is enough demand for it in your area. There are plenty of ways to get started without spending lots of money on marketing materials or advertising campaigns; just go through Neil Patel Blogs to start.
Related: 3 Strategies Entrepreneurs Can Incorporate to Build Brand Awareness
9. Hire employees
After you have completed the above steps to start a business, it’s time to begin hiring employees. You should hire people for customer service, sales, marketing and accounting roles. I have found that the best way to hire employees, in the beginning, is by word of mouth. If someone has had a positive experience working with you, they will tell others about their experience and recommend that they apply for a job at your company.
If you have a brilliant business idea, you should work hard to put it into action — but here’s one last tip: Before you start up your own business, make sure to research what the competition is all about. Is there anything already in place? Is there a product or service similar to yours? If so, look into the advertising and marketing strategies, and study the areas they’ve succeeded and failed. Don’t steal their ideas, but rather be inspired by them, coming up with an idea of what works for you since every business is unique.