Anyone can start a business, but it takes dedication to grow it from that initial startup phase. For entrepreneurs that run businesses out of their home, the challenges are slightly different. Not only must they learn to run a business, but they also need to elevate their business to compete with bigger brands.
How to make your home business more professional
Home business owners are in luck: with a few changes, a freelance gig or startup can transform into a more professional and legitimate business. In this article, we’ll cover a few methods to help you get a head start.
1. Build out your team
When you start a company, you naturally have to wear several hats—from accounting all the way down to sales. All this multitasking, however, can put a strain on your time and energy. Eventually, all that work leads to burnout and even lost business.
Once the basic foundation of your company is set up (LLC, contracts, first few clients), you need to start looking for people that can help you out. This may include classmates, ex-coworkers, business partners, even family and friends. Standardizing the process is key. Once you begin delegating work to others, you can focus your energy on finding more clients to expand your business.
2. Rent an office (or a coworking space)
In a world where almost everyone owns a laptop and work is migrating to the digital realm, the traditional 9-5 is falling by the wayside. Working from home is becoming more commonplace, with 4.3 million employees working from home at least half the time. With that said, operating a successful business requires a step beyond the confines of your home.
As your business grows, expect to meet with more customers, clients, and potential business partners. Of course, you’re free to hold meetings in your home, but if you want to be taken seriously as a business, a dedicated office is crucial. For one, a private office (or coworking space) looks more professional to the clients and partners you bring over. But a private office also helps you to focus on your work, avoiding common distractions at home like pets, Netflix, or your comfy bed.
New to renting offices? Check out our tips for your first office space.
3. Boost your online exposure
Modern businesses cannot thrive without an active online presence. As modern consumers become more and more tech-savvy, they discover brands through search, online reviews, and social media. That’s why it’s important for any business to have an updated website (optimized for mobile devices) and the relevant social media profiles.
Don’t get carried away— you don’t need to have a highly active Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any other popular social media platform. Start with one or two that your audience typically uses and go from there. For a better idea of when to post and for how often, check out CoSchedule’s guide.
4. Focus on improving your customer experience
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Every interaction with your brand will be remembered–not for how much money they saved or how fast the service was provided, but because of how they felt during the experience.
Create a memorable customer experience from the moment they hear about you to the point where they consider purchasing again. The last part is key: it can be up to 25 times more expensive to find a new lead than to keep an existing customer. It makes sense to keep your customers happy even after they are served–particularly for a home business with limited resources. By keeping your interactions authentic and intentional, you can convert them into loyal customers and build a positive reputation for your brand.
5. Partner with other businesses
If you really want to take your business to another level, it’s time to begin partnering with other businesses. Just as we mentioned before, there’s only so much you can do before the work catches up to you and you need to team up with another brand.
For example, your business may use professional photography to sell products through an online store. At the start, packaging your own products is perfectly acceptable, but after some time, you may want to look at partnering with a fulfillment center. Not only will you save time from packing items yourself, but you may inadvertently be able to open your brand to a much wider audience.
The journey from a startup idea to a full-time home business is no easy path. You’re bound to encounter major challenges along the way— demanding customers, lack of work-life balance, and potentially even legal encounters. These are all trials that will test your mettle and passion for entrepreneurship. But with an ambitious mindset and strong work ethic, you can turn that passion into a successful business
Still just getting your business up and running? Read our post on building your startup from scratch.
If you’re ready to bring your product or service to more people, you’re going to need funding. Here’s how to find the right investors.
For more articles and content on entrepreneurship, follow Novel Coworking’s blog each week!
Out of all the risks that entrepreneurs take, perhaps the biggest is failing to establish a solid legal foundation for their startup. Legal documents for startups include protecting a startup’s inventions, or the rules which define each leader’s position in the company. Without them, the startup is no more reputable or organized than a scam.
Don’t make that same mistake. Start with the most important legal documents for the formation of your business. You may just avoid several headaches down the line.
Here are a few legal documents to get you started.
Articles of Incorporation
One of the first legal documents a startup has to concern itself with is the articles of incorporation. Although entrepreneurs have the option of foregoing incorporation in favor of sole proprietorship, this usually results in some major tax consequences later on. Incorporation is also ideal if you plan on attracting outside funding in the future.
Each state has their own unique laws regarding incorporation. For example, in Illinois, incorporation must involve a registered agent and include certain abbreviations.
Intellectual Property (IP) Assignment Agreement
Have you ever seen Shark Tank? The most commonly asked questions on the popular startup funding show almost always have to do with intellectual property. These IPs typically include software licenses, invention patents, secret recipes, and other proprietary knowledge. IP assignment agreements ensure the company has the sole rights over the intellectual property.
For instance, you may hire a graphic designer to create your brand’s first logo and other branding material. But without an IP assignment agreement, they may be able to walk away with the rights to that material- even if you paid them! Make sure any technology, design, or information unique to your brand has a corresponding IP assignment agreement to avoid any future disputes.
Pandadoc has an example of what an IP assignment agreement looks like here.
Also known as an operating agreement, this document prevents any sort of disagreement between the founding parties and co-founders. This document sets out to define the basic roles, rights, and responsibilities that each of the founders have in relation to the company.
Starting out, agreements may be informal and spoken, but without having them in writing, conflict can quickly arise. Arguments may break out, but without any evidence, it essentially becomes one person’s word over another. Protect everyone involved by hashing out the initial founder’s agreement early on.
Similar to the Founder’s Agreement, bylaws dictate the business’s internal rules, leadership roles, and shareholders’ rights. Bylaws also clarify the voting requirements for introducing new laws, electing new board members, or raising topics for discussion.
Nondisclosure Agreements (NDA)
An NDA is a contract signed by individuals protecting confidential information in your startup. For example, startups may ask contractors to sign NDAs when they are shown an unreleased or unannounced product, or when a vendor is asked to review a marketing plan for the following year.
NDAs typically define:
- The information considered confidential or not for disclosure
- The manner in which confidential information is meant to be handled
- The owner of the information
- The time period for confidentiality
Employee contracts and offer letters
Companies that plan on hiring new employees need to have clear documentation on the nature of the business relationship. Employment contracts and offer letters clearly communicate the following:
- Responsibilities (from daily tasks and monthly goals)
- Ownership of IP (graphics/ written content)
- Best practices/ expectations (how one is supposed to conduct their job)
- Company policies (working hours, dress code, office conduct)
Shareholder agreements define how among shareholders how a company should be operated as well as shareholder rights and duties. It ensures shareholders are protected.
Creating a startup and seeing it to fruition can be one of the most rewarding feelings. But far too often, entrepreneurs and founders forget to take basic but important steps in protecting their future. As a result, competitors manage to steal proprietary software, founders bicker over profits, and new hires may cost the business a fortune.
Take the long route and seek professional counsel. It may seem tedious, and even overwhelming at first. That’s natural. But by establishing these six legal documents at the onset of your startup, you can safeguard your business from years worth of financial and legal chaos. In fact, these initial steps can make all the difference between an amateur startup and a long-lasting business.
You may have heard the term “unicorn startup” thrown around by venture capitalists, entrepreneurs
, or business publications. It’s been used to refer to companies like Snapchat and Uber. But what exactly does it mean? How does a unicorn startup differ from a traditional startup?
What is a Unicorn Startup?
The phrase was first used by Aileen Lee, a venture capital investor and founder of Cowboy Ventures. Back in 2013, Lee referred to 39 startups as “unicorns”, since they were valued at more than $1 billion, a rare occurrence in the industry.
Today, the definition remains the same: a unicorns startup is any privately held startup company with a valuation of more than $1 billion. The only thing that has changed is the rapid growth in the number of unicorns.
Traits of a Unicorn Company
Innovators – Unicorn companies are seismic industry shifts, not passing fads. They represent a complete disruption in the industry and a radical new technology or service. For example, SpaceX has revolutionized reusable rockets for space exploration, while DoorDash has simplified mobile food ordering.
B2C – Most unicorn companies tend to be consumer-facing. According to Visual Capitalist, 62% of unicorns are B2C. One startup called Robinhood, for example, makes it easier for average consumers to invest in popular stocks.
Privately held – Unicorns are usually for-profit and privately held. Their funding and valuation come from investors and private stakeholders.
Tech-based – Unicorns are almost always software companies, with a small few being hardware or traditional goods and services. There are a few exceptions, like popular streetwear clothing company Supreme (valued at $1 billion).
Unicorn company statistics
How many unicorn companies are there in 2019?
Based on estimates by CB Insights, there are a total of 348 unicorn companies in 2019, with a total cumulative valuation of $1.16 trillion.
Where are unicorn companies mostly located?
55% of unicorns are found in the United States, 25% are in China, while the rest are found in UK (5%), India (5%), and Germany (4%).
What is the average founding team size?
Unicorn startups often accomplish big things with small teams. 35% of founding teams had two members. The second most popular team size was one.
How long does it take for a company to become a unicorn?
On average, it takes about 5 years to reach $1 billion or more.
For more unicorn company statistics, check out this infographic from the FounderKit blog.
Examples of unicorn startups
Uber – Uber is perhaps the most popular and most successful American unicorn. Now valued at $72 billion, the company was one of the first to popularize the ridesharing model.
Toutiao (ByteDance) – ByteDance offers content platforms powered by AI technology, and is used for TikTok, Vigo, TopBuzz and more. It is currently the most valuable unicorn at $75 billion.
Airbnb – Just as Uber revolutionized ridesharing, Airbnb has transformed the hotel industry by allowing ordinary homeowners to rent out their space to guests. It is valued at $29.3 billion.
Stripe – Stripe allows merchants to accept credit cards or other online payments. Most importantly, they ensure financial transactions remain secure. Stripe is currently worth $22.5 billion.
SpaceX – Elon Musk is perhaps most well known for his Tesla line of cars, but SpaceX has gained steady recognition as the world’s most innovative spacecraft manufacturer. They are valued at $18.5 billion.
Epic Games – Epic Games is most well known for their video games Gears of War and Fortnite, but they also developed the Unreal Engine, software used to design and create popular video games today. Epic is worth at least $15 billion.
Slack Technologies – Slack has become a staple in office and team communication, even replacing regular email communications. The instant messaging business is worth $7.1 billion.
Vice Media – A global youth media company, Vice specializes in highlighting modern culture, news, and technology. Vice Media is worth $5.7 billion.
The Path to Unicorn
While many founders would like to establish a unicorn startup, the reality is that it is much more difficult and rare than people would like to believe. Not only do you need the right idea and mindset, but they also require the proper resources and timing. It’s equal parts luck, hard work, and originality.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try anyway! All the largest unicorns had humble beginnings and major ambition. Airbnb started when a group of friends rented an apartment out to visitors.
Want to get more news, tips or guides for the entrepreneurial world? Visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.
Getting off the ground
One of the most common concerns we’ve heard from students, aspiring entrepreneurs, and other professionals goes something like this:
“I want to start my own business, but I don’t know what to do.”
“What type of business should I start?”
We completely understand. At Novel Coworking, we’ve worked with a variety of different businesses, from tech to healthcare, startups to enterprises. Starting a business can seem like a daunting undertaking, and in many ways it is. But nothing seems more overwhelming than deciding on an initial business idea.
Why you need a business idea
Every business starts with a single idea. Even if you don’t have any employees, office space, or money, you cannot run a business without a good idea.
Consider this Twitter account, nomoneynoideas, who intended to write about his experience starting a business without any money or ideas. The account and website lasted about two months, before activity ceased completely.
You must start with an idea. Otherwise, you may end up working hours on countless tasks without any real idea of what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Entrepreneurs will always experience risk, but you have to find ways to mitigate it as much as possible.
Brainstorming business ideas
There are a few ways to go about this:
Find a problem to solve.
Maybe you don’t like how energy bars are branded. Or perhaps you want to create a more efficient way to travel. Rachael Chong was inspired to start Catchafire after a volunteering experience in which she was not able to utilize her financial skills.
Stay ahead of the industry.
Notice a new trend or technology taking off? Why not explore its capabilities and potential? Some of the strongest businesses today, like Cisco and Amazon, saw the cloud revolution and have organized their business to deliver on that front.
Create a better, cheaper product.
Not everything needs to be reinvented. Sometimes, you just need to take a product, put your own spin on it, or cut out some of the most costly steps. Skullcandy is known for making affordable, highly stylized headphones, but is by no means the first to invent the product.
These are just a few ways to get started. Check out Entrepreneur’s other suggestions, from asking shoppers to innovating in a stagnant field.
Developing business ideas
An idea is only the first step. The question becomes- how does one develop a business idea? Once you find a problem and come up with a solution, or once you find a unique niche to operate in, what comes next?
The importance of industry knowledge
It’s best to get in touch with professionals in your network- industry experts, mentors, professors, and other business owners. Especially if you’ve never started a business before, there’s only so much you can do with an idea. You need some feedback and guidance to bring it to life.
Contact these individuals on LinkedIn, Facebook, or at local networking events. You may even want to network in your own office or coworking space. Don’t just explain what you plan on doing, offer your help first. Business partnerships begin with the help you can offer others.
Set up a business plan and a timeline
What’s the difference between a dream and a goal? Two things: a plan and a timeline. Create a system of organization for clarifying your idea, the steps you will take to achieve it, and the deadlines and milestones to shoot toward.
Some initial things you’ll need to consider in your plan:
A description of your company
An analysis of the market
Your organization and management
Cost structures and revenue streams
To learn more about writing your own business plan, check out a few pointers and examples from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Examples of successful business ideas
Digital Photo Mentor
Photography can be deceptively difficult. Some people think it’s as simple as pointing and shooting, but in reality, their photos always lack something. Few people understand this like Darlene Hildebrandt. She helps people learn how to use the camera, troubleshoot their problems, and reach the next phase in their photography career through workshops and photography tours.
Darren Rowse read an article about blogging, and within 24 hours had decided to start his own personal blog. Over the next few years, his blog would explode in popularity, from hobby to a major business platform. Today, ProBlogger has offered invaluable resources for people looking to start making money through blogging.
Starting a business seems tough and complicated, but coming up with an idea to work on isn’t something that should turn you away. An idea is just the beginning- the initial spark or footstep. It’s by no means the final product. Even the best businesses today are nothing like their founders intended. They changed paths, narrowed their focus, or grew beyond that starting point.
Want to learn more about starting and running your own business? Visit Novel Coworking’s blog today.
Starting a business can be daunting and there are endless learning opportunities involved with being the boss. Luckily, there are plenty of books, podcasts, and workshops to help entrepreneurs build their brand and reach their potential. But what about the unique challenges facing women in leadership positions?
Reading about successful women and their stories of triumph can help empower future leaders to pursue their goals. In this week’s blog post, Novel Coworking provides a list of inspiring stories by women who have paved the way in business and entrepreneurship. Here are 5 books by women that can take any business to the next level.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert may be best known for her novel Eat, Pray, Love, but in her latest book about personal growth, she explores how creative types can find their muse. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is perfect for the entrepreneur who is grappling with the realities of being a creator, producing quality work, and the fear of inadequacy. Get a preview of the book by viewing Gilbert’s TEDTalk in which she shares her own experiences and creative challenges.
Girl Code: Unlocking Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur by Cara Alwill Leyba
It’s no secret that female entrepreneurs are making waves, but Cara Alwill Leyba’s book Girl Code explores what powerful transformations can occur when women collaborate. She writes, “I’m convinced that there’s no reason to hoard information, connections, or insight. Wisdom is meant to be shared, so let’s start sharing what we’ve learned to make each other better. Let’s start building each other up. Let’s live up to our potential and start ruling the world.”
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
Last year, Shonda Rhimes was named the highest-paid showrunner on television and she may be most commonly known for creating hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. In her memoir, Rhimes gives an honest portrayal of how she attained personal growth while saying yes to the things that scared her for an entire year. Read her journey of empowerment and self-love in Year of Yes.
“I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices and know that they come to Shondaland.” – Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
The NY Times bestselling how-to guide provides inspiration, insights, and humor for female entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid of strong language. Chapters such as “Fear is for Suckers” and “I Know You Are But What Am I?” are perfect for helping savvy business women reach their career goals. Read You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero to learn how to reach your full potential and have some fun in the process.
“The only failure is quitting. Everything else is just gathering information.” – Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass
This Is How We Rise: Reach Your Highest Potential, Empower Women, Lead Change in the World by Claudia Chan
Leadership expert and social entrepreneur Claudia Chan breaks down why people of all genders should work together for social change and follow a mission that’s bigger than personal success. In This is How We Rise, Chan advocates for entrepreneurs to become change makers while sharing insights from her own life. She also offers a blueprint that will help female entrepreneurs develop their purpose and start building a different world.
For more wisdom from female entrepreneurs, check out Novel Coworking’s previous blog post in which we share 5 Inspirational Quotes from Successful Women Entrepreneurs.
Dying to write your own entrepreneurial book? Check out Novel Client Holon Publishing, a book publishing company that works with brands and authors around the world to craft beautiful digital and printed media.
Follow Novel Coworking‘s blog for more resources for entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers.
As a society, we tend to fixate on each individual’s intelligence, showing off IQ numbers like scores on a final exam. But there is another, perhaps more accurate indicator of one’s success, particularly in business: emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), also known as emotional intelligence (EI).
What is Emotional Quotient (EQ)?
While IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is a standardized score that measures human intelligence, EQ measures:
- How well each individual can identify and understand different emotions (in the self and others)
- How one can best manage and control certain feelings and emotions
- How to use emotional information to lead, adapt, or affect certain situations for the optimal outcome.
Emotional quotient is less about knowing facts and statistics, or about keeping up with current news. Instead, EQ is all about our understanding emotion, the various ways it presents itself, and how it can be used as an important tool to achieve one’s goals.
Why is emotional intelligence important for success?
Everyone has their own image of what success means for them. For some startups, it might be national or international recognition after staying independent for so long. For entrepreneurs, it could be the satisfaction of introducing a unique solution to a market problem or just the sense of creating a coherent, well-supported team.
Although intelligence and high IQ are ingrained into our society’s mindset as the ultimate keys to success, for many personal and professional goals, emotional intelligence is a far more valuable asset. Here’s why:
- Emotional intelligence helps forge strong relationships. No matter what industry you’re in, it’s not always about what you know, but who you know. Even if your agency is only a year old and has very few experts on the team, you still have a major advantage over other startups if you have solid connections to clients, partners, mentors, and other people that can help. These relationships aren’t built on IQ, but an understanding of each other’s emotional habits and personality.
- Emotional intelligence affects your physical and mental wellness. Emotions aren’t just how we feel, they tend to manifest themselves both physically in our body and in our minds. When we’re frustrated and stressed out, our body feels tense, and our mind is clouded in judgment. When we master our emotions, we can take control of any situation.
- Emotional intelligence can resolve disputes and conflicts. As much as we try to keep business professional, as long as humans are involved, it will always be an emotional ordeal. Ego, greed, jealousy, and other dangerous mentalities can sometimes take over.
When we approach problems with empathy and understanding, we’re in a better position to prevent arguments and conflicts in the workplace. Emotional intelligence is necessary in any leadership role.
EQ vs. IQ: The difference between emotional quotient and intelligence quotient
- Definition: IQ is a measure of intelligence. EQ measures one’s ability to identify, assess, and control emotions.
- Skills and Abilities: IQ measures how much one knows, and the application of knowledge in certain situations (like understanding math in accounting). EQ is the ability to recognize emotional reactions and understand how to best use emotional information in a given situation (such as negotiating a new deal).
- Application in business: IQ is useful in conducting research, analysis of large data sets, and objective tasks like managing finances. EQ is more subjective and involves human concerns, such as teamwork, leadership, and negotiation.
- Relevant traits: IQ emphasizes logic, knowledge, and memory. EQ emphasizes intuition, creativity, and empathy.
- Tests: IQ is often measured by the Mayer-Solvey-Caruso Test. EQ is measured by the Stanford-Binet test or the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities.
EQ or IQ: Which one is better?
With all this talk of EQ, one might get the idea that it’s substantially better or completely replaces IQ. That’s not the case. IQ still plays an important role in helping identify individuals who are able to use logic and reason to make vital decisions. But it’s not the only way to measure or evaluate one’s contributions. Think of EQ as the other side of the coin, or a different lens- it’s not necessarily better, it just evaluates completely different aspects of a person.
Can EQ be changed?
Absolutely. Just as we have learned to express ourselves in more nuanced ways since birth, we have also learned to analyze and interpret emotions in more detail. This skill is not something one is born with, it’s something that must be learned over time, through daily interactions, and through regular self-reflection. But first, people have to be open to the idea of improving their EQ.
Tips to work on your emotional intelligence
- Study your own emotions. If you want to get better at reading other people’s reactions and feelings, start with your own. Often, we aren’t aware of our feelings until they subside. Pay close attention to changes in your mood, and consider writing them in a journal or diary.
- Get some external feedback. As humans, we’re limited in our capacity for self-reflection. Sometimes, it’s just too difficult to accurately understand why we feel a certain way when we’re the ones experiencing it. Consider asking family, friends, mentors, or even professional counsel about your reactions and emotional states. You may find their feedback illuminating in your own progression.
- Analyze common triggers, patterns, and remedies. Over time, you’ll come to realize that certain personality types tend to follow emotional patterns, usually caused by common themes or concerns. Listen carefully to what others say, to how they behave, and you will soon be able to preemptively recognize similar patterns in other people’s behavior.
- Practice every day. Improving EQ is not a one-and-done deal. You need to work at it, making it a weekly priority. Consider reading The EQ Difference by Adele Lynn, Building Emotional Intelligence by Linda Lantieri, or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Check out Ramona Hacker’s TED Talk on improving emotional intelligence. Finally, apply these lessons in your own personal and professional life.
- Help others. The best way to put emotional intelligence into practice is to use your knowledge to help others. Find the team members struggling with their work and see if you can assist in any way. Empathy is at the core of EQ, and can only be truly demonstrated when you can help someone without getting something in return.
In a world where many of our communication is increasingly digitized and abbreviated for the Internet, true emotion can be difficult to identify and control. But the leaders who work on their EQ daily will find that they have more mastery and control over their situations than those who ignore EQ. How will you apply emotional intelligence in your business?
To learn more about becoming an effective entrepreneur or applying useful skills in the workplace, follow Novel Coworking’s blog today.