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TONIGHT! Want to start your own business or already run one? Join webchat with panel of experts including Mumsnet CEO JUSTINE ROBERTS, Thursday 17 October 8-9pm.

(101 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 07-Oct-13 17:43:15

For the next two weeks Barclays are running an Online Business Fortnight. It's a collection of the tools, tips and know-how you need to take your business to the next level online, gathered together and brought to you by experts, from networking wizards to social media gurus.
 
At 8pm on Thursday 17 October, we'll be joined by Dan Posner who is Head of Innovation Optimisation & Performance at Barclays Business, Justine Roberts, co-founder and CEO of Mumsnet and Chris Spurr, Web design and User Experience expert at Redwood, the leading content and marketing agency. 
 
They'll be on hand to answer any business related questions you might have. So add your questions below and be sure to check back on the 17th.

Here's a reminder of our webchat guidelines

VelvetStrider Thu 10-Oct-13 19:36:17

What is the best strategy for marketing to small, creative businesses? In the last decade, email marketing has generally been the preferred method, with rising postage costs and a backlash against high volumes of 'junk' mail. However I'm wondering if things are now coming full circle? I get a huge amount of marketing emails, most of which I don't even open, yet the postman puts very little through my letterbox. Is it now worth the extra cost to send information to potential customers by snail mail? Also, if I do send marketing by email, what sort of wording should I put in the subject line to tempt people to open and read the message?

IsleOfRight Fri 11-Oct-13 08:38:25

How do I find out everything I need to know. Eg what forms to fill in, what info needs to be in public domain etc. I know vague areas I can look up but there may be areas I don't even know I don't know (known unknowns v unknown unknowns if you like)

kotinka Fri 11-Oct-13 20:21:17

I've just started a new small business & am mainly using facebook and Tumblr to market among other graphics people. I'm not that serious about making money yet, I feel I'm still in training but I'd be interested to hear any advice.

I've been a freelance storyteller for almost a year, the business is doing well, though it's been a steep learning curve most of the time.
My question is:
How can small business people make decent returns when so much these days is given away for free?
I keep being invited to tell stories at events (which charge admission) but expected to work for free because others do.

JillinSwindon Sun 13-Oct-13 15:06:07

My question concerns Working Tax Credits: between us my husband (working for himself as a limited company) and I have an income well below the statutory £15,000 (or thereabouts) level to receive WTC. I'm giving up my 10 hrs a week job at Christmas to concentrate on developing a creative business, but it's only recently dawned on me that I need to clarify things under the WTC system. So - please - will I still be entitled to this benefit, and what is the procedure I need to go through to set it up properly?

paulapg Tue 15-Oct-13 12:45:39

I have an idea to provide information to the public. As this would be online and I would not be selling any products, how do I make money from my website?
I could possibly sell items that related to the area in which I will provide information but I dont really want to have an online shop and hold stock and it would not be a large number of products.
The information on my website is about products so some form of advertising could be an option. I dont want to make the website too complicated but would obviously
like a good financial return.

Yiska Tue 15-Oct-13 17:23:52

Hi,
I'm in the process of putting together a business plan to try to secure investment but it feels like a bit of a Catch 22 situation. No one wants to invest before I've got a product that has a track record and I can't launch the product without any investment!
Have you any advice on getting over that first hurdle and convincing someone to invest in what I think will be a fantastically brilliant product wink
TIA

noidles Tue 15-Oct-13 17:26:03

My question is really about motivation, and I suppose it's really for Justine. I'm trying to start my own online business, and I am having to do this alongside my full time job.

How do you force yourself to be disciplined enough to dedicate enough time for your idea to really take off?

davidbowieisinside Tue 15-Oct-13 17:34:37

I have designed a product (childrenswear) with a patent pending, and after lengthy troubleshooting am about to start production. The next step is building the website and selling online, so my question is, how do I go about marketing from scratch with no marketing budget or experience? What's the quickest way to get noticed by parents?

I am looking to start a business that would conflict with my current employment, I know I can't bring the idea to fruition until I leave my job, how can I go about gaining support for my idea in the meantime?

bubbles3563 Tue 15-Oct-13 21:55:08

I have literally just gone self-employed in the last couple of weeks; do you have any must-have advice/tips to help me get started with it all?

if you were looking at going into consultancy and training would you bother to start a business or just do it freelance - what's the difference and the pros and cons of each please?

RubyRR Wed 16-Oct-13 09:57:21

In the process of developing a hobby into a business as it has grown and is taking up more and more time. We have had several questions re advertising on the website, how do we price this?

ThePennineWay Wed 16-Oct-13 10:10:17

We own a small hotel and so far have not used Facebook or Twitter to market ourselves.
How useful are social media to businesses like ours? Our average guest is probably 40+ - would you recommend we get involved and if so can you recommend any useful guides to help us get started?

I have a couple of questions if that is ok:

The first one is about expanding? DH is self employed and quite successful but very in demand. He is umming and aahing about taking someone on but there is always the worry that the demand could drop off. How did you/do you take that next step?

The second question is about social media. How often should you be tweeting and Facebooking a day? And what content should I be sharing to encourage people to interact? I'm finding I am getting more interaction on Twitter with other businesses but Facebook is quiet. Is that normal?

Sorry that was more than 2 questions. blush

katelouc Wed 16-Oct-13 15:42:22

I have a business idea but not sure how I can actually turn it into a profitable business. Are there any advisory services out there? I don't know where to start!
I need to feel confident about the idea and have a clear pathway to follow in order to succeed.

HRHLadyG Wed 16-Oct-13 17:48:20

Where/ who is the best place to get sound financial advise regarding possible loan to invest in property for a business?

NatashaBee Wed 16-Oct-13 19:24:49

PeteCampbellsRecedingHairline - Scott Stratten (unmarketing.com) has written a couple of books about social media and how to/ how not to promote your business and engage with customers. I found his books/webpage very readable even though I know nothing about marketing.

Thanks NatashaBee, I will have a google.

farrowandbawl Wed 16-Oct-13 19:55:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

farrowandbawl Wed 16-Oct-13 20:14:18

Thank you

Right, try again.

When you first started up, what was the thing that helped you the most? What is that you know now that you wish you knew then to make things easier for yourself?

A friend of mine has a great idea for a business and it's starting to take off already, but she's scared and I am too for her and we both know this can be big nad long lasting if we do it right.

SacreBlue Wed 16-Oct-13 21:38:03

My work is a specialised service and I have pitched myself at the higher end - which clients old & new respect so I have an established brand within the local end of the industry.

I am in NI and have expanded into three counties so far, now I want to expand into the South - any advice on moving into new markets like this (including the difference in currency) ?

I am working til 8 tomorrow but will try to be straight on iphone as soon as I finish <keen to get in a supplementary Q in> grin

nobutreally Wed 16-Oct-13 23:55:29

Hi :-)
I'm SE/running my own business for over 9 years (B2B/consultancy area) and currently looking to partner up with a couple of long term mate/partners to set up more of a real brand/identity

What would be your advice ito what business format to look at (we're thinking informal partnership - but people keep trying to push us towards Ltd Company); and what do you think are the advantages & disadvantages of going into business with people you like....

TIA

johnworf Thu 17-Oct-13 09:27:00

Do you think that paying to promote posts on Facebook works and if so, what is the average ROI?

Also, I'm interested in any tips to be a better (business) blogger. What would you say are the key elements to engaging your customers? (this could also apply to Pinterest content)

MakeMineAKorma Thu 17-Oct-13 11:05:08

Another one for Justine:
I'm in the early stages of setting up an online business, and it has heaps of promise but I am really struggling with finding time to do as much as I want. (have 2 young DC and preg!)
Plus social media is great for getting name out there but SUCH a distraction. blush <oh look, here I am on MN again blush>
Any tips to remain focused so that you actually get things done?

hambo Thu 17-Oct-13 11:16:56

Hello, I have a small business, (design/art type stuff) and I use facebook to advertise., but I find twitter a mystery.
My question is: How do I use twitter to 'advertise' myself in an interesting way and also how much time do I need to spend on twitter per day??

Many thanks indeed for any comments

Korma-I know what you mean.

Oooh I'll just pop on Mumsnet.
A quick game of Candy Crush won't hurt.

Then it's 3pm and time to pick up the kids.

Oops.

Another question if I may:
How best to tackle the general assumption that because I'm working from home I'm not "really" working.
Teachers, friends etc. assume that because I'm at home I can go out for a cuppa, nip to the shops for them, look after their kids so they can do some work.
I know, I need to grow a pair and tell them all to shove their little errands, my work is important, but I'm intrinsically nice (and inherently British) so I allow myself to get walked over then seethe about it.
Any good phrases I can use to make the point that WAHM is different from SAHM? (I'm not denigrating SAHMs by the way, but I need to concentrate to get my writing done, I don't work well when constantly distracted).

WinterBabyof89 Thu 17-Oct-13 16:49:52

My questions are related to the finance of starting up a business, specifically that In the bridal sector.
My husband is already a business owner so I have plenty of experience to tap into (albeit in a different area), and my mum has a diploma in marketing. However, my sister and I do not have a great deal of start up funds.

How much would a bank be able to lend to start us of, what interest rate would this be at, and as 70-80% of the money will be spent on stock that will remain unsold could this be used as a guarantee of some form? I appreciate that you won't be able to give specifics but just an idea of some sort would be helpful.

Thought I would ask on here first, before we get our ass handed to us in a bank ha!

Appreciate any advice.

WinterBabyof89 Thu 17-Oct-13 16:55:32

Just a quickie compared to other one!!
Thinking of starting up an online business in a similar field in order to raise savings and establish ourselves as business women in the eyes of the bank.
This prospect is not quite as exciting but it should help us achieve 'the dream' if you will.

So my Q is this, is it worth us committing to this or should we put all efforts into the initial plan?

Thanks again.

raffle Thu 17-Oct-13 17:19:44

Wanting to start small business and plan to employ around 10 staff, I am petrified of the new pension scheme...I fear if all 10 staff opt in, this would finish me.

So I wondered if I changed my business plan to an agency type model where the staff remain self employed but pay me a finders fee, would I still need to provide a pension (they would be contracted, trained and supervised by me)?

Thanks

Nix01 Thu 17-Oct-13 17:26:05

Where does one start with investigating if goverment/council would assist with start up costs for a retail store?

Florence1 Thu 17-Oct-13 17:46:31

I am hoping to turn my hobby of making handbags into a business. My question is - if I want to test how they sell at a craft market, what do I need to do. Do I have to be a registered company? Register for self assessment? I would really appreciate some advise, many thanks.

tattiehowker Thu 17-Oct-13 17:51:59

I've recently started a training business (also working full-time and mother to a toddler!). The first events sold out and we had great feedback. Now trying to expand and not sure how best to use social media. How do you ensure tweets get seen? I feel that I'd have to tweet the same thing 20 times per day to catch our audience! Also any ideas to build up number of followers/encourage sharing of our tweets?

emwah74 Thu 17-Oct-13 18:03:32

Hi
I have a model and process that is designed to help streamline patient processes, support GP's and save NHS money.
I want to pitch this to Comissioners, I have costed it to run it with my own clinicians but would also like the option of going to comissioners to develop it to be run by them. I am struggling with valuing my own time. I know how much the service would save however find it hard to cost myself. I feel im selling an idea ame my time so charging just a PM day rate seems to be selling myself short.
Any ideas?

ReLIKEAbbe Thu 17-Oct-13 19:04:19

Hello
Our two year old start-up business www.relike.co.uk is a website for parents to buy and offload their children's good condition outgrown clothes in bundles, in return for vouchers and a high feelgood factor (we give to charity when a bundle sells, they get credits and make another mum's day). It is social enterprise with the mission of encouraging reuse rather than recycling or worse. Our collaborative consumption model is unfamiliar and new in the UK, but it is scalable and solid.

My big question is: who do we talk to within large retailers (for cross promotion purposes) or logistics companies to discuss collaborations and forge new business relationships? So often it seems sales people are reticent or unsuitable, whilst getting hold of the CEO is unrealistic. Who in between - and what roles, department names, should we be seeking out?

Thank you very much for your time and insights!
Abbe

bt1978 Thu 17-Oct-13 19:43:28

Hello,
I will be taking over the (very small) family business next year - book publishing - and as yet I have only been involved in the finance aspects as this is what I am trained in...but they want to move it into the 21st century, which is where I come in! Would you recommend that I push advertising on Facebook/Twitter etc - or does this just generate loads of 'likes' and 'followers' without any actual sales? Is it worth the effort?

Thanks!

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:00:44

Hello everyone and welcome. Literally just got in having been stuck in traffic for eons. Imagine that, late for my own web chat. We're all in different locations, so this is all a wee bit experimental but fingers crossed…

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:00:58

Welcome everyone to our webchat this evening. Dan, Chris and Justine are about to join us and will try and get through as many of your questions over the hour as possible.

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:02:11

Hi, Chris Spurr here, designer and user experience (UX) specialist, at strategic content agency, Redwood. I’m really looking forward to answering some of your web build and design questions, as well anything else I can help with!

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:03:01

InMySpareTime

Another question if I may:
How best to tackle the general assumption that because I'm working from home I'm not "really" working.
Teachers, friends etc. assume that because I'm at home I can go out for a cuppa, nip to the shops for them, look after their kids so they can do some work.
I know, I need to grow a pair and tell them all to shove their little errands, my work is important, but I'm intrinsically nice (and inherently British) so I allow myself to get walked over then seethe about it.
Any good phrases I can use to make the point that WAHM is different from SAHM? (I'm not denigrating SAHMs by the way, but I need to concentrate to get my writing done, I don't work well when constantly distracted).

Just be firm and say, I'm sorry I can't, I'm working. Keep banging on and the message will get through eventually.

HRHLadyG Thu 17-Oct-13 20:04:51

Hi! Who/where is the best place to go for advice re initial investment/loan for a new business? In particular in terms of buying/renting a property and refurbishing to make fit for purpose? Thank you!

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:05:19

VelvetStrider

What is the best strategy for marketing to small, creative businesses? In the last decade, email marketing has generally been the preferred method, with rising postage costs and a backlash against high volumes of 'junk' mail. However I'm wondering if things are now coming full circle? I get a huge amount of marketing emails, most of which I don't even open, yet the postman puts very little through my letterbox. Is it now worth the extra cost to send information to potential customers by snail mail? Also, if I do send marketing by email, what sort of wording should I put in the subject line to tempt people to open and read the message?

Hi, VelvetStrider, great questions! When it comes to marketing, it really depends on who you're trying to reach and how you think they will react. A great example of a small agency promoting themselves is a small London studio, Mat Dolphin. They 'rose to fame' when Creative Review celebrated their first anniversary on twitter. Mat Dolphin decided to design and print a lovely poster for them and had it delivered to the Creative Review offices. CR tweeted the poster to their 90,000 followers and the rest is history.

In terms of subject line for email marketing, do as much testing as possible. Use a control group and test one subject line versus another and see what your audience responds to. Obviously avoid words which might end up flagging your email as spam (free, sex, viagra, etc)! If it's possible, personalising the subject line ("Hey Jane…") will can really help your open/response rates.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:06:02

MakeMineAKorma

Another one for Justine:
I'm in the early stages of setting up an online business, and it has heaps of promise but I am really struggling with finding time to do as much as I want. (have 2 young DC and preg!)
Plus social media is great for getting name out there but SUCH a distraction. blush <oh look, here I am on MN again blush>
Any tips to remain focused so that you actually get things done?

Prioritise - make a list each day and make sure you put the important things - the 2 or 3 things you really want to address TODAY at the top, and don't let yourself do other things (even Mumsnet grin) until you've done them. I find it quite useful sometimes to turn the wifi off - Twitter/FB and Gmail have all spent a lot of time, energy and money designing things that will grab your attention and distract you. Sometimes the only way to get on with stuff is to disconnect.

Whistleforit Thu 17-Oct-13 20:08:08

Inspired by the reasons for setting up Mumsnet & our own experiences we run a business www.villas4kids.com that provides fully stocked/child proofed holiday homes for families. Am never sure how to use Mumsnet best for it - nervous of even mentioning name in case am breaking rules. Modest budgets etc. MN seems more targeted than Facebook but is that right? And how to start.

Just looked at relike - great idea - v glad Abbe shared it.

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:08:25

Good evening everyone. I'm Dan Posner, I look after Business Banking Innovation at Barclays and I'm here to answer any questions you may have around technology and finance...so online banking, mobile banking software...and of course anything else I can help with...

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:10:54

paulapg

I have an idea to provide information to the public. As this would be online and I would not be selling any products, how do I make money from my website?
I could possibly sell items that related to the area in which I will provide information but I dont really want to have an online shop and hold stock and it would not be a large number of products.
The information on my website is about products so some form of advertising could be an option. I dont want to make the website too complicated but would obviously
like a good financial return.

Think about why people come to the site and what they might be prepared to pay for. Maybe there's some part of the information that is very valuable - maybe you could offer to package it up or deliver it in a way that adds value - like a subscription newsletter? Add on a forum? So folks who come can share a conversation around the info you're providing (forums are usually quite good for traffic wink - then maybe you can monetise by selling ads)

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:11:57

PeteCampbellsRecedingHairline

I have a couple of questions if that is ok:

The first one is about expanding? DH is self employed and quite successful but very in demand. He is umming and aahing about taking someone on but there is always the worry that the demand could drop off. How did you/do you take that next step?

The second question is about social media. How often should you be tweeting and Facebooking a day? And what content should I be sharing to encourage people to interact? I'm finding I am getting more interaction on Twitter with other businesses but Facebook is quiet. Is that normal?

Sorry that was more than 2 questions. blush

In answer to your second question, @PeteCampbellsRecedingHairline, there aren't any hard and fast rules about the frequency of your tweets/posts. The more regular the better, but not at the expense of quality. You'll lose followers if you're posting rubbish or irrelevant information. Find a tone of voice that works for your audience (are you chatty? quite formal? funny?) and stick to that – it will help you work out if something's worth posting! Keep an eye on your followers too, if an particular tweet gets them talking, try more of those. If you drop followers after a tweet, avoid that style in future!

thethighshaveit Thu 17-Oct-13 20:12:22

I have a website, lots of people visit but they don't buy things. What am I doing wrong??

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:15:39

Whistleforit

Inspired by the reasons for setting up Mumsnet & our own experiences we run a business www.villas4kids.com that provides fully stocked/child proofed holiday homes for families. Am never sure how to use Mumsnet best for it - nervous of even mentioning name in case am breaking rules. Modest budgets etc. MN seems more targeted than Facebook but is that right? And how to start.

Just looked at relike - great idea - v glad Abbe shared it.

What a good idea! I'd say think about reviews and free publicity first. Maybe offer a few press trips and make sure you get happy customers to review if you can. A good start is to ask them, some folks just will if you ask.

Mumsnet sounds like bang on your target market, as you say, so as and when you've got some budget come talk to us smile.

Re mentioning it - it's fine if it comes naturally in the conversation - we'd not worry about that. Spamming and signatures is another matter.

Whistleforit Thu 17-Oct-13 20:17:29

Thanks Justine... Good advice. Will do!

angelart Thu 17-Oct-13 20:17:39

Hello, having set up a small business as a face painter, in April this year, my work is predominantly bookings on a weekend but not every weekend. I would like to have an account to keep income separate from personal account and enable clients to pay into it or use a credit card or cheque with it for purchases. Does this have to be a business account? could you advise what would be the best and least costly way of doing this please? Thank you smile

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:18:02

johnworf

Do you think that paying to promote posts on Facebook works and if so, what is the average ROI?

Also, I'm interested in any tips to be a better (business) blogger. What would you say are the key elements to engaging your customers? (this could also apply to Pinterest content)

Facebook can be a great place to start with paid-for marketing, as you can tailor your ads really specifically so they only show up in certain relevant people's timelines or appear on their pages (say, only men in Wales who support Arsenal). This means you can test out what works for your audience right from the beginning. And you can set a budget cap, so you won't overspend. In terms of ROI, Facebook marketing reportedly outperforms a lot of other online advertising, but I'd need to get back to you with exact data.

When it comes to business blogging. Make sure you're up to speed on developments in your industry. Post regularly and confidently. Pitch it at the right level for your audience (no jargon or overly technical language). And remember to take note and respond to comments, good and bad. Mixing up the style of posts can help keep people engaged too.

When you've posted, make sure you post about it on your social media too!

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:19:56

Yiska

Hi,
I'm in the process of putting together a business plan to try to secure investment but it feels like a bit of a Catch 22 situation. No one wants to invest before I've got a product that has a track record and I can't launch the product without any investment!
Have you any advice on getting over that first hurdle and convincing someone to invest in what I think will be a fantastically brilliant product wink
TIA

Hi Yiska,
As someone who singularly failed to raise any investment, I'm probably the wrong person to advise... but I do think I had a very poor business plan based on pretty much thin air (and then the market collapsed) so I would advise putting a lot of effort into a 3-5 year plan and making very realistic assumptions based on solid research. Find similar businesses and look at how they've grown revenues and profits. Basically make sure you can justify every number in your plan. You might end up being wrong but you'll sound convincing. Good luck!

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:21:44

WinterBabyof89

My questions are related to the finance of starting up a business, specifically that In the bridal sector.
My husband is already a business owner so I have plenty of experience to tap into (albeit in a different area), and my mum has a diploma in marketing. However, my sister and I do not have a great deal of start up funds.

How much would a bank be able to lend to start us of, what interest rate would this be at, and as 70-80% of the money will be spent on stock that will remain unsold could this be used as a guarantee of some form? I appreciate that you won't be able to give specifics but just an idea of some sort would be helpful.

Thought I would ask on here first, before we get our ass handed to us in a bank ha!

Appreciate any advice.

Hi WinterBabyof89 This is a great question. Most banks offering start up accounts, will do everything they can to support new businesses in terms of making education, business planning, networking events and support available. It's in their interest to make sure that new businesses succeed. However, they often wait 12 months or so before starting to offer loans, to make sure that the business is making money and are managing their account ok. Most new businesses start out with savings or have borrowed from family and friends initially and there are often schemes which are available locally. It is worth going in to speak to a Business Manager in a branch to discuss what options might be available in your area.

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:23:15

thethighshaveit

I have a website, lots of people visit but they don't buy things. What am I doing wrong??

Look at your analytics and find out where you're losing people. Are they bouncing from your homepage? If so, check where they are coming from. They might not really be target market. Or they might just be put off by your homepage (sorry!) Do some user testing and see if people are responding to it, and that they can find their way around. Nothing turns off users like difficult to navigate sites.

Are they falling off at basket/checkout stage? Or anywhere else? You have to track down where along the "customer journey" you're losing them and then start to do some multivariate testing to see how you can fix the problem. Bigger product images? Better descriptions? A simpler checkout process? Could you accept other payment options, such as Paypal?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:26:02

farrowandbawl

Thank you

Right, try again.

When you first started up, what was the thing that helped you the most? What is that you know now that you wish you knew then to make things easier for yourself?

A friend of mine has a great idea for a business and it's starting to take off already, but she's scared and I am too for her and we both know this can be big nad long lasting if we do it right.

Well, it's a wee bit cheesy this, but truly the Mumsnetters were really helpful from launch onwards. There weren't so many back then but as now they were very forthcoming with feedback, suggestions and genuine support (in the early days they sent us money to keep going!)

I also think what helped was having a clear vision of what it was I wanted to build. I really believe that by allowing folks to pool knowledge it could help make parents' lives easier and over the years everything we've done has been seen through that prism. Is it useful, will it make parents' lives easier. If not we don't do it. It's very helpful to know what your purpose is when you're deciding what to do, and just as importantly what not to do.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:30:29

nobutreally

Hi :-)
I'm SE/running my own business for over 9 years (B2B/consultancy area) and currently looking to partner up with a couple of long term mate/partners to set up more of a real brand/identity

What would be your advice ito what business format to look at (we're thinking informal partnership - but people keep trying to push us towards Ltd Company); and what do you think are the advantages & disadvantages of going into business with people you like....

TIA

Working with friends is a great idea - you do after all spend a lot of time working - especially if it's your own business. Make sure to be very clear about structure and responsibilities and to keep communicating - build regular get it off your chest sessions in to your plans - as people's motivations and ambitions can change and you want to stay friends!

Am sure Dan will have some good advice about business format...

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:30:36

HRHLadyG

Hi! Who/where is the best place to go for advice re initial investment/loan for a new business? In particular in terms of buying/renting a property and refurbishing to make fit for purpose? Thank you!

There are literally lots of places...the first place I would start is very close to home. Put a simple business plan together...(there are loads of templates and examples available online) and test it on family and friends and literally anyone else you can find. Find out what they think is a good idea - what will work and won't work. I would then contact, your local enterprise agency or business library. In London for example, the British Library has a whole unit where you can carry out research, get ideas and swap skills with other entrepreneurs - and the librarians are brilliant - they can provide lots of free advice direction for your business. There is something similar in most big cities - it's just a matter of hunting it out. They will probably be able to put you in touch with other people that can provide specific advice on the area you're interested in.

babytigerno1 Thu 17-Oct-13 20:32:50

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

thethighshaveit Thu 17-Oct-13 20:33:08

Thanks ChrisSpurr I will do as you suggest. Thanks for the advice.

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:33:41

ThePennineWay

We own a small hotel and so far have not used Facebook or Twitter to market ourselves.
How useful are social media to businesses like ours? Our average guest is probably 40+ - would you recommend we get involved and if so can you recommend any useful guides to help us get started?

Social media is great for recommendations, which as a hotel, is exactly what you need. And the 40+ market do tend to trust peer recommendations a lot. Sites like Trip advisor have a huge impact in the hotel industry, so it's definitely worth looking into promoting yourselves on there and other travel sites.

You can set up alerts for Twitter with tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite for posts about about your area, and you react more quickly. If you offer "added value" tweets about fun things to do during people's stay etc, you will set yourself up as a local expert and trusted source. A Facebook page could also be a great place to showcase your local knowledge and sell your lovely hotel in the process.

If you're looking to read up on the subject, Econsultancy and Mashable are great online resources for Social media. Econsultancy have whitepapers you can purchase, or you can access their blog which is full of great stuff for free.

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:34:27

katelouc

I have a business idea but not sure how I can actually turn it into a profitable business. Are there any advisory services out there? I don't know where to start!
I need to feel confident about the idea and have a clear pathway to follow in order to succeed.

Hi Katelouc. Try the British Library IP Centre. If you're in London they are a great place to visit and if you're not in London they should be able to advise you about business centres which are closer to home. Hope that helps.

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 17-Oct-13 20:37:06

Evening all smile

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:42:11

angelart

Hello, having set up a small business as a face painter, in April this year, my work is predominantly bookings on a weekend but not every weekend. I would like to have an account to keep income separate from personal account and enable clients to pay into it or use a credit card or cheque with it for purchases. Does this have to be a business account? could you advise what would be the best and least costly way of doing this please? Thank you smile

It would definitely be worth opening a business account. It makes it much easier with the taxman at the end of day - particularly if your business starts to grow. Most banks also offer free banking for an initial period of 12 months or so. It also pays to think about how you want your customers to pay you...cheques can be a pain - you have to wait for them to clear and get down the bank to cash them. Have a look at payment methods such as Barclays Pingit which gets the money into your account instantly by someone tapping in your mobile number. Or some of the new card readers which plug into your smart phone. It means you can take cards and they are good value for money - you can use them wherever you have signal, and there are a few on the market. Good luck.

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:42:35

babytigerno1

hello, i am a mum who is trying to start an online childrenswear range, i studied fashion design in university, but i really dont know how to set the busniess up. I am at the stage of market research, but not many people get back to me with my survey, what should i really look at? and where can i get more advices as i dont have much fund?thank!

There a few options out there. You could pay an agency to do some research on your behalf, but this can end up being very expensive. Another more affordable option is to make a bit of an event of your market research. Hold a coffee morning for other mums in your area and bring along your questions – be upfront about why you're bringing everyone together though and make sure you provide good snacks! Otherwise, collar parents at pickup time for two minutes, just to get some quick answers (nothing as formal as a survey).

Don't give up though, market research is crucial before you start. If you need more general information about your chosen sector, you can buy online market research papers, from organisations, such as Mintel.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:42:42

ReLIKEAbbe

Hello
Our two year old start-up business www.relike.co.uk is a website for parents to buy and offload their children's good condition outgrown clothes in bundles, in return for vouchers and a high feelgood factor (we give to charity when a bundle sells, they get credits and make another mum's day). It is social enterprise with the mission of encouraging reuse rather than recycling or worse. Our collaborative consumption model is unfamiliar and new in the UK, but it is scalable and solid.

My big question is: who do we talk to within large retailers (for cross promotion purposes) or logistics companies to discuss collaborations and forge new business relationships? So often it seems sales people are reticent or unsuitable, whilst getting hold of the CEO is unrealistic. Who in between - and what roles, department names, should we be seeking out?

Thank you very much for your time and insights!
Abbe

Fab idea! You might want to try the corporate responsibility or communications bods. Search for companies that talk about sustainability/reduction of waste as part of their mission statement or core values. They might see collaboration as a social responsibility and want to work with you accordingly.

LovesBeingOnHoliday Thu 17-Oct-13 20:46:18

I want to start a business but just don't know what in, needs to be something I can fit around work and probay Internet based but how do I find something that's not already overdone.

AbbeReLIKE Thu 17-Oct-13 20:46:56

Thank you Justine. Appreciate your thoughts on it. We'll keep trying :-)

angelart Thu 17-Oct-13 20:47:15

Fab Dan, thank you smile x

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:49:28

babytigerno1

hello, i am a mum who is trying to start an online childrenswear range, i studied fashion design in university, but i really dont know how to set the busniess up. I am at the stage of market research, but not many people get back to me with my survey, what should i really look at? and where can i get more advices as i dont have much fund?thank!

At the risk of sounding like I have an interest in promoting them (and I assure you I don't) the Business and IP Centre at the British Library is exactly what you are looking for. They give you access to all of the marketing survey reports and databases which can help you answer your questions. It's also a great place for inspiration - several of the entrepreneurs that started there have made it big and they are showcased. The Centre should be able to put you in touch with units around the country which offer something similar.

farrowandbawl Thu 17-Oct-13 20:50:05

Thank you Justine, that's helped massively. smile

GNICHOLLS Thu 17-Oct-13 20:50:21

Hi,

Quick question:
I run a website that is getting approx 3000 Unique hits a day, I have google adsense but was wondering how I go about getting private advertisers to advertise there brands on my website?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:50:52

RubyRR

In the process of developing a hobby into a business as it has grown and is taking up more and more time. We have had several questions re advertising on the website, how do we price this?

I'd say the simplest thing initially is to go for a set price for a set format. Whether it's an advertorial or display advertising - take a look at Mumsnet local - the advertise your business here button on right hand side by way of example. Try to automate it as much as possible and vary the price according to supply and demand.
When you get bigger you will probably move to a more stats driven model - sites like Mumsnet will price ads according to page views (CPMs or cost per thousand views) - the going rate is anywhere from £5-50 per 1000 depending on ad format, targeting etc.

Episode Thu 17-Oct-13 20:51:55

Hi

I hope I'm not too late here, but I have a question for Chris.

I understand your expertise are in Web design and user experience but I'm hoping you may be able to help.

We run a pretty successful online business from which 80% of our customers were coming in online - Google to be precise.

With the various Google updates we have seen hits of 300 a day go down to 40 on a good day! Now, I wont pretend there was no 'bad practice' SEO in the old days but for the last year at least we have been working hard to do things the correct way.

It is really hard to find comprehensive advice and online there is so much contradicting advice, but we suspect the largest problem we have is that our links (of which there are hundreds) are all associated with spammy sites which have also dropped in rankings.

We have had no email from Google to suggest we have been individually penalised, is it true we would have one if we were?

Is there a single easy way to remove the links already in place without contacting their webmasters? Most of which have now moved on as you can imagine....

We have just started to use PPC and we are not yet seeing an improvement in conversion but I have been told that to find the best keywords, phrases etc often takes time. The main reason we are doing this is with the hope that it improves our SEO one and secondly so that we can diversify our acquisition strategies. But with regards to improving our SEO is it worth doing any of this or any new SEO with our previous issues still in place?

And to summarise is there any single way to find out that our suspicions with what our issues actually are, are correct?

Sorry for the essay!!!

And thank you smile

Adair Thu 17-Oct-13 20:52:03

Hi all,
InMySpareTime and the poster who talked about pricing yourself, I agree that it can be really hard to say I want £xxx per hour without feeling guilty (is this a -conditioned- female thing?). I am learning to have high value/charges on my time and then reduce/offering freebies for those who are deserving!

Which leads on to my next question for Justine... Not sure about you but
I kind of want to do everything! I see opportunities for pop-up shops and think I could do that! Or opportunities for classes for little ones, or adults classes (I run drama classes for kids in Walthamstow). Do you have a strategy for deciding which avenues to say YES to? And do you regret any of these avenues you said yes to (or no!)?

giveamonkeys Thu 17-Oct-13 20:52:11

Do you think CSR/charitable engagement could/should play a part in founding a biz?

cyclemater Thu 17-Oct-13 20:52:23

I have designed a product that is manufactured in the UK. It will be launched in Feb 2014, the factory we are working with only has capacity for 5000 handmade items per year. If we receive orders in excess of that we will need to invest in injection moulding and larger production premises where can I go for advice on how to set up manufacturing? It is important to our brand that the manufacturing stays in the UK.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:53:39

GNICHOLLS

Hi,

Quick question:
I run a website that is getting approx 3000 Unique hits a day, I have google adsense but was wondering how I go about getting private advertisers to advertise there brands on my website?

See my answer to RubyRR below/above, depending on your customised settings. Also you could create a page saying "how to advertise with us and why you should" and run your own ads directing folks to that page.

cyclemater Thu 17-Oct-13 20:54:51

ps apologies saw this webchat advertised 5 minutes ago and scan read it to beat the deadline. I see now it is about online business queries so my question is not at all appropriate. sorry!!

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 20:55:59

nobutreally

Hi :-)
I'm SE/running my own business for over 9 years (B2B/consultancy area) and currently looking to partner up with a couple of long term mate/partners to set up more of a real brand/identity

What would be your advice ito what business format to look at (we're thinking informal partnership - but people keep trying to push us towards Ltd Company); and what do you think are the advantages & disadvantages of going into business with people you like....

TIA

Difficult to give advice on this one - it very much depends on your personal and business circumstances. The link below provides a quick intro but if you have a good accountant I would start with discussing it with them.

www.smarta.com/advice/starting-up/company-formation/company-formats-and-business-structures-explained/

ReLIKEAbbe Thu 17-Oct-13 20:58:30

Just wanted to say - this is a really great webchat/resource... so many questions and ideas. Thanks

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 20:58:34

GNICHOLLS

Hi,

Quick question:
I run a website that is getting approx 3000 Unique hits a day, I have google adsense but was wondering how I go about getting private advertisers to advertise there brands on my website?

You could look into using smaller, niche advertising networks, which target audiences really well for your business. I'm most familiar with ones I associate with creative industries, and I know networks like influads.com and carbonads.net/ can be great for facilitating this sort of thing.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 20:58:46

Adair

Hi all,
InMySpareTime and the poster who talked about pricing yourself, I agree that it can be really hard to say I want £xxx per hour without feeling guilty (is this a -conditioned- female thing?). I am learning to have high value/charges on my time and then reduce/offering freebies for those who are deserving!

Which leads on to my next question for Justine... Not sure about you but
I kind of want to do everything! I see opportunities for pop-up shops and think I could do that! Or opportunities for classes for little ones, or adults classes (I run drama classes for kids in Walthamstow). Do you have a strategy for deciding which avenues to say YES to? And do you regret any of these avenues you said yes to (or no!)?

It's a very good question and one I wrestle with all the time tbh. There's so much we could do! But I'd say one of the things I've learned with regard to digital products is that you can't just develop something and move onto the next thing. Developing it and releasing it is just the first stage. You need to hone and refine and keep refreshing it. It's better to do a few things really well than lots of stuff mediocrely (is that even a word hmm). So focus on what's unique about this idea, why can I do it better than anyone else and am I prepared to keep working on it. If it passes all those tests it's probably worth doing, but don't spread yourself too thin!

RubyRR Thu 17-Oct-13 21:00:41

Thanks Justine, that's great to know.
If business banking Dan is still answering, we are looking for business bank accounts, there seems to be more exciting offers open to customers setting up as company through an online company rather than dealing directly with Barclays, is it possible to get a similar deal, ie cash back and free accounting software direct from Barclays?

Thanks so much everyone, this has been really helpful.

Can we do it again soon? smile

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 21:03:39

giveamonkeys

Do you think CSR/charitable engagement could/should play a part in founding a biz?

It's always good to try to include some way of giving back. In some industries, this carries more weight than others and can actually be a great way of spreading the word about your business and getting some positive PR – sorry if that sounds a bit commercially-minded and not too benevolent!

Of course, the most important thing is that you could be doing some good and this is certainly something that lots more businesses are incorporating into their business plans nowadays.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 21:07:40

giveamonkeys

Do you think CSR/charitable engagement could/should play a part in founding a biz?

Interesting question. When I think back to pretty much the first half of MN's existence we just didn't have the cash or bandwidth to do anything other than soldier on. But admittedly we didn't really earn enough to pay ourselves for about 6 years and that felt like our charitable contribution! When I started looking at how MN could formerly incorporate fundraising into what we do - a foundation type thing - I found it pretty darn complicated involving forming a trust and having trustees etc. (So we've decided to have an annual match funded giving week instead - starting next spring.)

If someone could come up with a simple solution to corporate giving - I'm thinking you incorporate with companies house and you can elect to give element of profits to charity as part of a govn scheme with no complicated legals or tax stuff involved then that would be ace.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 21:12:19

LovesBeingOnHoliday

I want to start a business but just don't know what in, needs to be something I can fit around work and probay Internet based but how do I find something that's not already overdone.

I think it's really important to fill a need - the best businesses are ones that identify a problem and solve it for people. It helps if you're interested/passionate about the product/solution too, as it's not always plain sailing and in tough times what keeps you going is believing in what you are doing, irrespective of whether it's going to make you a fortune or not.

Hope that helps and best of luck!

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 21:13:43

Episode

Hi

I hope I'm not too late here, but I have a question for Chris.

I understand your expertise are in Web design and user experience but I'm hoping you may be able to help.

We run a pretty successful online business from which 80% of our customers were coming in online - Google to be precise.

With the various Google updates we have seen hits of 300 a day go down to 40 on a good day! Now, I wont pretend there was no 'bad practice' SEO in the old days but for the last year at least we have been working hard to do things the correct way.

It is really hard to find comprehensive advice and online there is so much contradicting advice, but we suspect the largest problem we have is that our links (of which there are hundreds) are all associated with spammy sites which have also dropped in rankings.

We have had no email from Google to suggest we have been individually penalised, is it true we would have one if we were?

Is there a single easy way to remove the links already in place without contacting their webmasters? Most of which have now moved on as you can imagine....

We have just started to use PPC and we are not yet seeing an improvement in conversion but I have been told that to find the best keywords, phrases etc often takes time. The main reason we are doing this is with the hope that it improves our SEO one and secondly so that we can diversify our acquisition strategies. But with regards to improving our SEO is it worth doing any of this or any new SEO with our previous issues still in place?

And to summarise is there any single way to find out that our suspicions with what our issues actually are, are correct?

Sorry for the essay!!!

And thank you smile

This is a really tricky area, and as such there are lots of expert sites and agencies out there. However, I will try to help...

Unfortunately there could be a number of reasons for your drop in Google traffic. It sounds like the old links could well be part of the problem and I'm not sure of any quick way to resolve that. Make sure you do a full sweep of your site and check your site structure up to date. Are you using heading tags properly etc? No duplicate content?

I think you would only receive an email from Google if you were fully blacklisted. It sounds more like there is something in the newer algorithms which isn't sitting well with your site.

You're right, PPC will take time, but as you say will help diversify your acquisition, so it could be worth sticking with it, especially if organic results are dropping. Keep an eye on what's working and what isn't thoguh and make adjustments where necessary.

Overall, I would always recommend you write and create sites for users, not search engines. Google will always catch you on any 'tricks', so I wouldn't try to push it too hard!

There are some good online SEO reporting tools which you can plug your site into to check if there are any big issues. Or SEO agencies who will do a report on your site.

Hope that helps.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 21:17:05

I think we're done now. Blimey, it's exhausting being on the other side! Thanks for brilliant questions and to Dan and Chris for joining us.

Do check out our starting a business pages put together by the folks at Barclays - there's some useful stuff there.

And very best of luck to everyone - sounds like there are some fab nascent businesses out there.

ChrisSpurr Thu 17-Oct-13 21:20:41

Thanks for all your questions, everyone. And thank you for having me!

Good luck with your all your businesses!
Chris

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 17-Oct-13 21:21:15

Thanks everyone for a really interesting and informative webchat. We'll be archiving this so the Qs are together with the As and will link to the archived webchat from this thread early next week. You can check out Barclay's Online Business Fortnight for more information and tips.

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 21:22:34

RubyRR

Thanks Justine, that's great to know.
If business banking Dan is still answering, we are looking for business bank accounts, there seems to be more exciting offers open to customers setting up as company through an online company rather than dealing directly with Barclays, is it possible to get a similar deal, ie cash back and free accounting software direct from Barclays?

Setting up a company through a formation agency 'online company' is a great way of setting up your business as a limited company. You need to check though, that setting up as a limited company is right for you. Depending on your circumstances - you might be better off as a sole trader. Assuming, that a limited company is right for you, then dealing directly with Companies House to register your company is also an option.

With regards to start up accounts, banking for the first 12 months is free, you get access to Connector - an online community which can help you find suppliers and new business leads. Barclays also offers accountancy software, online marketing courses and a whole load of other help for new business - some free and some not.

The stand out aspect of the Barclays account though, is that it rewards customers for loyalty - both the length of time and the amount of business customers do with Barclays. Barclays also offer a service guarantee which says that if anything should go wrong, we’ll give you a named point of contact who’ll take personal responsibility for resolving the query and keeping you informed.

It's worth checking out more details online.
http://www.barclays.co.uk/Businessbankaccounts/Bankingshapedaroundyourbusiness/P1242634487153

DanPosner Thu 17-Oct-13 21:25:16

...and I always thought I was fast at typing...Wow! That was intense. Thank you so much for all your great questions and best of luck with all your great business and start up ideas. Dan

lemonygem Thu 17-Oct-13 22:05:51

I personally have found that you don't need to be on all social networks. If it doesn't gel with you, chances are it won't really gel with your target client. Pick the networks that feel best, work them well, and that way you don't dilute the message.

Hope that's helpful!

lemonygem Thu 17-Oct-13 22:11:35

Would seriously recommend Neil Patel's SEO tool at quicksprout.com. it can give you a basic overview of the main areas you need to focus on.

This was the first web chat I'd posted on and I'm not sure if it's usual to not get a reply?

Adair Fri 18-Oct-13 09:44:24

Fated, it's one of the first I actually did get a reply!
And Justine didn't answer my question about regrets... (But thanks for your reply about trying to stick with things... V pertinent)

Adair Fri 18-Oct-13 09:46:19

Fated, could you get the bones ready? So rather than the PR bit, get sorted with a clear business plan, admin, systems etc.
Alternatively, what about working with someone else and then jumping on board when you have left your job?

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