Following on from our overview of how to turn your hobby into a business, let’s look at that fourth step in more depth:

Do you look like a professional business?
By “professional business” – I mean the image that your business portrays to the public. This means a logo, business cards and an online presence. Online presence could mean a business Facebook page, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter and LinkedIn. You don’t necessarily need a website immediately, but most people who want to do business with you, will likely want to read more about you on a website.

Logo
Your logo is your business signature as such. It is stamping your message, your personality and the first impression that the public has of your business. There are many things to consider when designing a logo – but the most important for me is that the logo should be timeless, and functional. Your logo should work as well on a business card as on the side of a truck or up in lights on a billboard. A good logo should be scalable, easy to reproduce, memorable and distinctive. Icons are better than photographs (avoid clipart). Consider colours and ensure your logo can be reproduced in black and white (when faxing or copying or clients print in black and white). Sometimes a gorgeous 5 colour logo is very expensive to print, and often mediums only allow two or three colours (think sponsorships/expo marketing etc). You should design your logo to stay current. Avoid what is on trend now. Ten years from now, it is not so trendy!

If you are thinking of hiring a designer (and most new businesses do invest in one) – professional does not need to equate to expensive. Many things can be set up for free, and you may find designers willing to swap your products or services in return for a design of a logo. Otherwise – look at websites like www.fiverr.com for affordable design offerings or search for local freelancers. Don’t choose them based on price – look at other designs that have done, especially in your industry. You may also approach the local universities, or colleges to see if a design student needs a practical project. If you are clear on your design brief, colours and concept, the design time is limited, and so are your costs.
Just remember – your logo is the foundation of your promotional materials, so investing in it really will pay dividends in the long run (and if you divide the cost by the number of times and the years you will use it for – the cost is far most palatable).

Once designed, you may consider protecting your logo with a trademark.

Business Cards and Print Media
Business cards do not need to be OTT and fancy, but they do need to show you are serious about your business and you are professional. The days of writing your number on the back of a napkin are over. You can connect electronically (think LinkedIn, Facebook etc) but it’s still useful to have printed business cards especially if starting out at markets or expos, and at network events.

You may want to do information brochures or pamphlets as well that you can distribute, especially if you are “pounding the streets” and doing some targeted “cold calling” – think dropping off at local schools, community centres, libraries etc depending on relevancy for your business. Ensure that your information brochure always includes a call to action, which bundles value instead of offering a discount.

Website Basics
This topic has whole books written on it! Your website needs to display your business’ personality, image and brand, be easy to use, meet user’s expectations and enable visitors to find what they are looking for quickly.

So just a couple of key points to get your started;

  • Your website is your gateway, especially if you are going to be selling online;
  • Your domain name needs to be unique, and as closely related to your business brand as possible. Domain registration is not expensive and lasts for two years;
  • To save costs, you could set up a shop front like Shopify, Etsy or Squared. You may soon outgrow this shop front and need to invest in your own website, or upgrade from an initial basic website, but you can start off on a cost effective plain and simple platform;
  • Invest in great photos and images that sell your product or services. The age old adage “a picture is worth a 1000 words” has never been so true.
  • Functionality, ease of use and incredible pictures will sell your stuff. Use readable fonts and colours.
    Be mobile friendly!
  • Home page – Within three seconds you want to be able to answer the website visitors’ question: “What can this site do for me?” That’s all the time you have to to grab and keep your customer’s attention. We are human goldfish! Minimise the number of clicks needed to get somewhere or find information on your website. Make sure your call to actions are big and bold. Testimonials (or proof) of what you do also needs to be visible. People today shop on reviews and want to know you are authentic.
  • Make sure, when you do set up the website or shopfront, that you set up all the basic SEO stuff – your H1, H2 and H3 banners, page titles and URL’s, focus keywords, meta tags (Google ignores these now, but other search engines still use them) must be set up properly to maximise organic rankings. The pages of your website should contain textual information that explains your products or services and their benefits. It is the textual information on your website that Google uses to determine the subject matter of each page and for which keywords your site should be listed as the result of a search.
  • Set up what is called “back links” – register on free directories, ensure you are registered on relevant industry pages, blog regularly and publish on industry pages etc.
  • Own your “real estate” – top right hand corner is where your information needs to be. Studies show people automatically look top right corner to get contact info etc.
  • Name your media – an image that is not named is viewed as blank space by search engines.
  • The keywords you choose also need to be something that people will really use, so consider what your customers may type in the Google box. Once you have decided which keywords to target, make sure that you use them on your website, and preferably in headings. Don’t use synonyms; stick to your chosen phrases.
  • Ensure you maintain the integrity of your website – make sure all links work, and there are no errors when clicking through. Also – a static website is classified by Google as being “dead” – make sure you make changes at least once a week to the back end of the website.
  • Have an opt in or sign up (newsletter or a downloadable free resource (think 5 latest trends if you are a property stylist or clothing stylist, or tips to solve leaky taps – if you are a plumber etc). Make sure you engage with this list regularly.
  • Analyse your statistics (available from your web hosting company) and search for yourself on Google regularly to make sure you are coming up in the search lists.

First impressions count – make sure your professional business image speaks for you across all platforms you engage in or are active in.