Along with a desire to further control the work-life balance, passion for an industry is one of the top reasons for starting a business.
Whether you dream of turning your talent for baking, graphic design or programming into a full-time job, technology makes it easier than ever to transform your dream into a profitable company.
These tools can help you become the next Richard Branson, who turned his love of music into Virgin Records; the next Kelley Mason, who loved baby-wearing and created her own bestselling carrier; or the next John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines.
Here’s how to get started:
Make a Business Plan
Maybe you’ve already sold a few items to friends and family, or everyone in your neighborhood thinks your idea for a new café is brilliant. Wherever you are in the process of turning your passion into a business, creating a plan will help you go a lot further.
Enloop (Web, $6/month and up)
This website does the hard work for you. Just enter some basic information and Enloop will create numerical business projections for you. There are also charts and other visual aids to make it easy to understand the numbers.
If you’re going to seek funding, you’ll need a written plan as well. Enloop offers a general format for text in every part of the plan, which you can customize as much or as little as you need.
Enloop allows you to create one plan with basic details for free. If you want to do more than that or create multiple plans, you can choose from three paid options ranging from $6 per month with annual payment to $39.95 per month with monthly payments.
StratPad (iOS, Free | Web, $99 and up)
Anyone can work with StratPad through its website, and iPad users will appreciate the convenience of the app. Like Enloop, StratPad offers a free plan for startups and students, plus two additional paid options. They cost $99 (5 plans) or $179 (unlimited plans) per year.
StratPad will be especially helpful to beginning entrepreneurs, as it’s packed with video tutorials and other advice to guide you through each step of the planning process.
Download: StratPad app for free (iOS)
Create a Portfolio and Build a Following
Customers will want to read about your products and see proof of your expertise before they buy anything. That’s why a strong online portfolio with a website and blog, plus social media accounts, is crucial to building a following that you can convert to customers.
Here are a few tools to help you jump this hurdle.
Squarespace (Web, $8 and up)
This site will help you design a beautiful website, blog and store for your business. It’s geared specifically toward online businesses with integrated features such as professional email, accounting and other helpful features for entrepreneurs. You can try Squarespace for free in a two-week trial. After that, plans range from $8-$26 per month depending on whether you pay monthly or annually.
There are lots of other website and portfolio options out there, as well. Just make sure you look into the unique features of any website platform thoroughly before deciding to use it for your website.
While some businesses can get started with relatively little cost, others need investors to open or expand. Just as you look to the Web to find customers, you can connect with investors online, too.
IndieGoGo (Web, payment based on percentage raised)
Make funding easy with crowdsourcing. This could be especially helpful to entrepreneurs at the very beginning of business creation or who only need a small amount of money to get started.
IndieGoGo is free to sign up for and start a campaign. From there the site takes a certain percentage of what you raise, depending on your location and whether or not you reach your goal.
Unlike other crowdsourcing platforms, IndieGoGo has a flexible funding option that lets you keep what you raise even if you fall short of your goal.
AngelList (Web, Free)
This website is a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, investors and job-seekers. It is a social network, a talking shop, and a crowdsourcing tool — all in one. It is a good research platform. You can use your business idea to see how companies in your niche are faring.
Design your business pitch here. This could be the starter gun to help you find investors for your new company, hire employees as you grow and invest in other companies once you’ve become successful.
Scale Your Business from the Ground Up
Your business started as a dream of making your passion your job. Now you’ve outgrown your home office and you need a way to keep up with increasing orders. In addition to choosing some kind of order filling service or even an outside PR agency, you can also use these tools to scale your company smoothly into the future.
Docracy (Web, Free)
Find free legal contracts to suit the needs of your business. Docracy also enables you to sign contracts and other documents online. This will be helpful when you hire freelancers, contractors or other outside vendors.
Docracy is free to use and says most of its features will remain free in the future, but premium options may eventually become available.
Twilio (Web, Prices vary based on services)
Used by companies like Uber and OpenTable, Twilio will help you manage any and every way you need to communicate with customers.
From sending and receiving phone calls and text messages to video and other services you may not even realize you need, Twilio has a range of products and prices to suit your business needs.
Make Your Dreams Soar
Now that you’ve decided to turn your passion into a business, you’re about to embark on a rewarding yet challenging path of joy, sweat, tears and – hopefully – success.
For more help with your entrepreneurial pursuits, check out our articles on the best websites to help you start a business, hobbies you can make money from online and tips for starting a business from home.
Successful startup-ers: What other tools helped you launch your business? We’d love to hear about the successes (and failures) in the comments section below!
Image Credit: William Iven