12 Things You DON’T Need to Start a Business



When you first told your friends, family or co-workers that you wanted to start your own business, did they reel off a whole bunch of stuff you’d need before you could get started? Or are there things you think you need to sort out before you can do anything ‘properly’?

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.

2. Suits

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.

5. Qualifications

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

I will keep beating you over the head with this until you believe it.

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.

6 Awesome Things That Will Happen After You’ve Been in Business for 2 Years

I’m coming up on the two year anniversary of starting my business. Almost two years since I made my first money from writing. Wow. Sometimes that feels like a long time and sometimes I can’t believe I’ve only been doing this a couple of years. The first year of running a business is tough. You […]

Continue reading...

3 Things You Need to Stop Doing Immediately, You Amateur

You probably don’t even realise you’re doing these things. Or maybe you do, but you think your actions are the height of good manners. And you’ll probably think I’m a rude bitch who doesn’t give a shit about anyone after reading this (except not really, because obviously I’m going to put forward a highly convincing […]

Continue reading...

How to Attract Clients Who Understand Value (and Are Willing to Pay You What You’re Worth)

Last week we talked about how to identify and avoid clients who don’t understand value. You want to avoid those guys because, to put it simply, they won’t be willing to pay you what you’re worth — because they don’t understand the value you provide. So how do you attract clients who DO understand the […]

Continue reading...

How to Identify Pain in the Ass Clients BEFORE You Start Working With Them

You’ve experienced it, right? The client who always wants just that little bit more? For that little bit less? Who appears to thrive on making your life a misery? These guys are the total douchenozzles who: Take an age to pay your invoices. Email you on weekends and expect immediate responses. But don’t bother responding […]

Continue reading...