If the housing bubble is making that American Dream a bit harder to attain, the American Dream of owning one’s own business is very much alive, thanks to virtual offices. I’ve gotten into that game in a couple of different ways myself — allow me to share some advice before you take the plunge.
Q: How much time should I invest in marketing?
A: You will need invest ALL of your time. Every waking hour, 24-7, 365. Because your business is going to be your life. Well, it is going to be your livelihood, so it should be your focus. Don’t get me wrong — be healthy — eat right, exercise, spend time with family and friends, have a work day scheduled and be sure to schedule an end. But when you own a business, everyone you meet is a potential client. Does the woman at the table next to you in the restaurant have a website you could host? How can you figure out a way to get your business card to her?
Q: How much money should I invest in marketing?
A: This is not a good way to ask this question. So I am going to ignore it. (Not really)
Q: How do I recognize a good marketing consultant?
A: A good marketing consultant will ask you about your business goals; who your customers are and where you find them. Or they will be able to help you find them if you don’t know. (If you don’t know who your customers are and where you find them, you are probably not ready to start your own business yet.) You should plan to invest up front in a good consultant to help launch your business and have some a marketing plan devised, perhaps some signage and advertising designed — even if it’s just one ad that they can run in one valuable place.
You may pay a few thousand dollars up front for a strategic marketing plan which lasts you for 3-5 years or more. That plan may make or break your business.
When you own a business, you have to know that being your own boss puts you in a very hard place. If it’s snowing out, for instance, you no longer think ‘I hope they let us off work today!’ — instead, you’re thinking ‘I’ll bet there will be more people out shopping today — ‘I’d better go get the steps cleared off.’
Also see: I asked, how much?