Many of us dream of breaking free of the nine-to-five grind and setting up our own businesses, but few of us actually get round to doing so.
Given the bleak economic climate, becoming your own boss may sound like a foolhardy undertaking. But with belt-tightening affecting more and more of us, it's a good time to start considering your options and working out what you'd do should the security of a monthly pay cheque be whipped from underneath you.
Setting up a business no longer has to involve a nerve-racking interview with your bank manager. A good idea, some careful financial and strategic planning and a website to show off your wares are enough to get you started.
This is just as well, since there's almost certainly a huge queue of jittery homeowners keen to offload their negative equity woes and hope that nice Mr Pritchard at the building society understands.
You don't necessarily need to lease offices or take on full-time staff. This means your overheads can be kept under control — you can always rent secretarial services or office space as and when you need it. What you can't do without, however, is somewhere that your customers can find you. You will also need a memorable company name and, preferably, a distinctive logo or means of creating a brand identity.
This is where the internet comes in. The web is where it's at when it comes to establishing a name for yourself. Having decided what you intend to offer, assembling a means of showcasing it is a good next step.
In line with the difficult economic times, we gave ourselves the tongue-in-cheek business name of Easy Street Business Books. We hope to be able to help customers through these tough times with our well-chosen line of get-ahead-in-business books.
As you'll see from the following walkthrough, we haven't had to use any of our professional design and layout skills to come up with a convincing business website.
We got ourselves started using Microsoft's free Office Live Small Business tools. All we needed was an hour or so to come up with a good business model and name and a credit card to buy our own domain. After that, almost everything was suggested by the online template.
1. To get started with Office Live you first need a Windows Live ID. This can be generated from an existing email account. You'll need to create a secure password to protect your login and supply a secondary email address in case you can't access the primary one.
2. You need to provide some basic details about yourself and the type of business your website is going to promote. It pays to run a Google search on the name you've chosen, to check you won't be competing with several similarly named companies. It's illegal to pass yourself off as another firm, so choose the name with care.