By Lori Wagoner

In the United States of America, the small business sector is booming, thanks to the entrepreneurial drive of people who dream of the flexibility and income of self-employment. There are many reasons why individuals pursue small business ownership, and it can be a challenging but deeply rewarding opportunity to earn an income doing exactly what you love.

Before you quit your day job and jump head first into building a small business, it’s important to understand that growing into the level of income required to make that leap, takes time. In fact, many business owners slowly develop their small business as a side gig to augment their income for years before making the transition from part-time business owner, and then to full-time self-employment. We’ll break down the critical steps to launch a successful small business from home.

1. Explore What You Are Good At

Running and growing a small business takes passion. The more you enjoy what you produce as a good or service in your business, the more successful you be, because your personal interest will create the drive and momentum to stick with it. Starting a small business is easier than running one, and growing it into a viable income generating opportunity, so start with a list of marketable talents and skills that customers will be willing to pay for. Make it something that you love, register your business name and get ready to roll.

2. Find and Talk to Local Business Owners

Every successful small business owner was, at one time, exactly where you are now, pondering a start-up and figuring out how to get it rolling. One of the most valuable things you can do is meet and interview other business owners in the same niche. You’ll be surprised how much small business owners enjoy meeting other entrepreneurs, and while some may be tight-lipped about trade secrets, many owners are happy to share a few tips and insights to help get you started. Listen to their advice, and enjoy networking with other small business owners. It can begin to connect you to your supportive local business community.

Feeling a little shy about approaching other established small business owners? Do some research and look on for local entrepreneur groups, who can offer resources and support. Join your local Chamber of Commerce to meet other business owners, and tap into programs and municipal supports that encourage small business development in your area. Have plenty of business cards available to hand out.

3. Create a Workspace

Whether you are running a dog walking business, a catering company, a landscaping and gardening service, or selling a product or other service, you need to have a place that is all about your business. If you have an extra room in your home, convert it to an office, and make that your command center. Remember that you will be booking customers, making sales, engaging in advertising and social media promotion, filling orders and bookkeeping for your business. Get organized from the start by designating an area that works.

4. Build Your Online Presence

All small businesses start with a website. E-commerce is the most valuable form of advertising, and customers will be able to find you, learn more about your products and services only after you’ve created your online presence.

No money for a professional designer? That’s no problem. Companies like GoDaddy and Wix provide an easy-to-use drag and drop website design program that is perfect for beginners. Monthly service fees for hosting average at a cost of $20, and SEO tools are included to help customers find you on the web.

If graphic design and creative is not your forte, you can access affordable website design and copywriting help from websites like Professionals around the world can help you create a logo, website, brochures and other marketing collateral affordably, starting from only five dollars.

5. Get Family & Friends Involved

Word of mouth advertising is invaluable to small business owners, and no one can help you better or faster than family and friends. Ask for referrals, or consider giving a coupon or free incentive to encourage those you know to tell others about your small business. Provide them with business cards and help them help you get the word out, and increase customer awareness in your community.

6. Explore Free Advertising Opportunities

Advertising is critical to small business success, but when you are starting out, there may be little to no budget available for paid advertising. Savvy entrepreneurs know that some of the best and most effective advertising opportunities are free.

Social media costs nothing but time and effort, to make quality posts, videos and graphics about your product or service. To launch your Facebook business page, host a grand opening contest and encourage people to ‘like’ your page to be entered to win a draw for a prize, or free product or service from your business.

7. Organize Your Bookkeeping

While the focus for small business owners is generating sales and a profit, most small businesses operate at a loss or break even margin, for the first 1-2 years on average. In the United States, tax laws account for new business launch and incubation phases, and provide some credit for expenses and investment against taxable earnings.

Invest in a filing system (which can be as simple as a portable accordion file box) to label, sort and file your receipts from operating expenses. From the equipment, you purchase for your business, to office supplies (paper, printer toner and mailing supplies) to restaurant expenses for business meetings, and mileage, there are numerous tax write-off’s that can be applied to help reduce your tax bill at the end of the year. Consider purchasing QuickBooks or other accounting software that makes expense and profit tracking easier.

Join more than 5 million small business owners in the United States, successfully building income opportunities through self-employment. It’s challenging, rewarding and fun.