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Doing it your way - Part 2

By Sharon Aschaiek
Special to the Toronto Sun


Part 1 of Doing it your way looked at what I discovered, since launching my own editorial and web design company, Summit Media Group, to be two of the fundamentals of running a successful business: planning and financing.

But the prep work doesn't end there.

As the owner of your own business, you'll need to consider how advertising, networking, administration and professional development will play a role in your ongoing success.

Advertising

Will you need to advertise your business? If so, how, and how much? You'll need to figure out which forms of advertising -- TV, radio, print, e-mail, flyers, billboards, cold calling, yellow pages, media events -- best suit your business, and what you can afford.

Launching your own website is as essential today as having a business card. Its presence alone may not garner much business, but it comes in very handy when you are networking, in that prospective clients can easily check you out online.

Networking

One of the most important ways I am able to connect with others in my field, stay on top of industry trends and gain new clients is through networking. To succeed as an entrepreneur, you should embrace networking as a fundamental part of doing business.

Toronto is ripe with opportunities to network, ranging from events for new entrepreneurs held by the Toronto Board of Trade, to monthly breakfasts put on by the Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs, to weekly meetings held by the Pride Business Network, which connects members to gay-friendly businesses.

To find out about networking opportunities each month, sign up for the digital Network Newsletter at www.unleashpr.ca.

Joining your professional association and participating in its various meetings, initiatives and so on is another critical way to network. Through my own membership in the Editors' Association of Canada and the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, I've not only connected with other writers and editors, I've also been able to access contracts by posting my professional profile in their electronic member databanks. My partner Cary, meanwhile, connected with other web designers in the city to form the Internet Professionals of Toronto Network (iPROTON), through which members meet monthly to share ideas and resources.

Administration

From my perspective, administration is a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it. Keeping track of details such as invoicing, paying taxes, documenting expenses, filing receipts and so on are necessary; not doing these things can get you into trouble with the tax man.

On the plus side, keeping your papers in order can save you money. As a small business owner, you are often exempt from paying GST on reasonable purchases related to your business. Visit the website of the Canada Revenue Agency, www.cra-arc.gc.ca, and follow the links to find out how to claim GST exemptions.

For information on bookkeeping, accounting and managing your business, visit Canada Business Service Centres online at www.cbsc.org.

Professional development

Toronto's highly competitive marketplace means that you constantly have to be on top of your game. This means ensuring your skills and industry knowledge are relevant and up to date.

Check with your local college, university, community college or professional association about opportunities to take courses, or attend seminars, workshops or lectures that are relevant to your field. These may also be excellent opportunities to network -- I met one of my current clients through a copy editing course at George Brown College.

Wrapping it all up

I'd like to say that I followed every step in the book with regards to planning my business, but I'd be lying. Like most first-time entrepreneurs, I learned a lot of stuff along the way, and am still tweaking and refining my approach.

Part of that process, as is the case with most entrepreneurs, has involved responding to client demand by growing our services and outsourcing some of the work. Over the last few months we have added web updating to our service menu, and brought an associate photographer on board to expand our multimedia capabilities.

It's the nature of the beast that you will constantly need to adapt your business to meet changing demographics, fluctuating demand, shifting priorities and so on.

At the end of day, however, it really is determination that will help you survive your failures and enjoy greater success as an entrepreneur.



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