Which Way Should My Startup Go?

The key questions you need to ask yourself to identify where to focus on growing your business

Written by Corinna vanGerwen

Just like everyone else on the planet, this month I’ve been reflecting on the past year and making plans for the year ahead. My first two years in business as a gift wrapping consultant have been marked by a lot of trial and error, taking what work comes my way, and slow growth. This has suited me just fine up until now. But in 2013 I’d like to be more strategic and purposeful in the work and initiatives I take on, to ensure I get jobs that will more directly lead to my short- and long-term objectives and accelerate the growth of my company.

The goal at the top of my list for 2013 is to make my business completely self-sustaining financially (right now I still rely on my “day job” of freelance writing and editing to pay the bulk of the bills). Unfortunately, I’m finding myself floundering as I strategize on how to go about doing this.

I know financial self-sustainment will involve getting serious about bookkeeping—transforming my freelancer’s spreadsheet-and-shoebox method into a more small-business-appropriate way of tracking what I make and spend. More importantly, though, I have to decide where I want this increase in income to come from—what types of clients and what types of jobs do I want? Where should I focus my marketing and new-client prospecting efforts?

As I wrote in this column two months ago, I had managed to whittle down my list of services into four main categories while writing my marketing copy for a promotional postcard. But of those four categories—consulting and design, styling, gift wrapping and workshops—where should my attention be directed to achieve the best results?

I’m not sure yet what the answer is, but as I work it out, these are some of the questions (of varying importance and in no particular order) that I’ll be asking myself:

€¢   Of the services I offer, which has the greatest potential to make the most money?

€¢   Of the markets I can service, which has the fewest barriers to entry and where have I had success before?

€¢    Which services do I enjoy doing the most?

€¢   Which services am I best set up to deliver?

€¢   What am I best at?

€¢   What has the most potential growth?

€¢   Can I turn the other things I do for my business that I enjoy—blogging, for example—into a source of income to support this goal?

€¢   What would best contribute to my bigger goals, such as hiring an assistant and renting an office space, and becoming the go-to gift wrapping and packaging expert?

I hope that answering these questions will help me figure out where to focus my energy over the next 12 months. I’m sure that as I go through the list more questions will pop up, but I’m determined not to get bogged down and be indecisive.

This introspection is harder than I was expecting, but I’m excited for what might happen in 2013 and anticipate looking back on it in 2014. I think it’s going to be a good year.

Corinna vanGerwen is a creative gift-wrapping consultant, the sole owner and only employee of her eponymous home-based startup, which provides gift-wrapping services, training and workshops, as well as packaging services for marketing and events.

Read more of Corinna vanGerwen’s adventures in solopreneurship.

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