Well, a lot of that stuff you think you need, or that other people think you need, you totally don’t. Here are some specific examples of shit you don’t need to start a business:
1. A ‘Professional’ Phone Number
I work with most of my clients exclusively via email. I do occasionally throw phone calls and Skype sessions into the mix, because it’s helpful for me to get a feel for my clients’ personalities before I start writing their copy, but it’s not totally necessary. Depending on your business, it may not be necessary at all.
So ignore all those douchewads who tell you you need a ‘professional-sounding phone number’ (what the fuck does that even mean?) to run a ‘proper business’. I once met an old-school business guy who was thrilled that I could run my business from anywhere in the world, but he couldn’t understand how I could do it without setting up some convoluted phone/voicemail service with a landline number from the UK. I’m just like, “Dude, Skype.”
Nobody is going to think any less of you if use only Skype or your mobile number for conversations with them. You do not need a frickin’ 0845 number, or even a landline number. T’aint the 90s any more.
HA! Some days I don’t even wear trousers.
3. Set Working Hours
What is the point of running your own business if you have to start work at a certain hour? One of the great joys of being your own boss is doing what you think needs doing when you think it should be done.
I prefer to structure my days in a certain order, without ever worrying about what time I actually start work. After all, getting enough sleep is the number one most important thing ever, so if starting work at 9am sharp means you don’t get your full eight hours? Screw it. Stay in bed.
Bonus points: The only time I ever set an alarm now is if I need to catch a flight.
4. An Office
Think you need a fancy, official workplace to start your business? Incorrecto! You can almost definitely start your business from home.
To show to whom, exactly? Your boss? Oh wait, that’s YOU. No, you don’t need qualifications. What you need is knowledge, which is an entirely different thing, and one that is available for free from your local library and the good old interwebz.
6. To Be Formal
AKA serious. Not at all the same thing as being professional, which you most certainly do need to be.
7. A Website
Okay, so I actually think having a website is a really good idea. You should get one eventually (especially if you want to run one of these magical online businesses). But, hey, you don’t technically need one when you start out, especially if you’re beginning life as a freelancer. Email and word of mouth are your friends.
8. To Appeal to as Many People as Possible
9. Business Cards
I have business cards. They are handy. But I can count the number of clients I’ve scored from them on my thumbs.
Sure, maybe treat yourself to some swanky business cards after you’ve been going for a while, or if you attend events regularly, but definitely do not worry about them to begin with. You’ll get by without ‘em.
10. A Business Plan
LAUGH. A vague idea of what you’re going for would be a good idea, sure. But fancy schmancy official documents? I think not.
11. To Keep an Eye on the Competition
No. Do what you think needs to be done, regardless of what everyone else is doing. That’s what winners do.
12. To Not Swear
Fuck that for a barrel of biscuits. Yeah, sue me: this is something you “don’t not need,” or whatever. Anyway, it goes hand-in-hand with the whole not-needing-to-be-formal thing.
Yes, a lot of businesses do have a lot these things. But if you want to start an online business — like the type I run — then I can guarantee you don’t need ‘em. And not having them is a shitty excuse for not getting started.
If you still have The Fears about starting your business, check out this post I wrote on taking things slowly. A lot of my readers have found it helpful.
Photo by Phil Whitehouse.