4 Steps to Starting a Successful Small Business

David Bakke is based out of Atlanta. He runs a side business reselling popular products online, and also writes about personal finance on Money Crashers, a blog that covers budgeting and money management topics as well as the best new bank account promotions.

One of the very best ways to generate income in your daily life is to start your own business. Yes, you can focus on saving as much money as you possibly can, but to truly expand your financial horizon, you must generate income. However, that is much easier said than done.

I pondered the concept of starting my own business for a long time, and the images that went through my head were pretty nerve-wracking. I imagined substantial bank loans, licenses to be paid, forms to be filled out, huge upfront expenses, and more. But when it comes down to it, starting your own business can be much simpler than that.

I consider myself a successful small business owner of two side businesses that yield a decent amount of income. When it comes down to it, all you really need is a marketable talent, the right mindset, and the laser focus. However, you do not need a ton of money – it is possible to start your own business without a lot of cash. There are, however, a handful of necessary steps you must take, and essential traits you must possess.

1. Identify Your Core Talent
Every single one of us on possesses natural talents. They might be hard to recognize, and they may be hard to market, but we are all good at something. What you must do is recognize your talent. It may take you a long while to figure out how to market and capitalize on this talent, but the first step is to identify it.

2. Think Outside the Box
Even after I identified my personal knack for writing and realized that I could pair it with my knowledge of personal finance, I was still hesitant to make the leap professionally. My first thought was, “Well, there must already be a million people who know how to write about money, so why should I even bother?”

Let me tell you why you should bother: I published my first book on personal finance a few years ago, which opened up many doors. Before I start to sound too much like an infomercial, let me say this: I am not trying to sell you anything – I am trying to sell you yourself. So, when identifying your talents, think in terms of what is possible, not of what is impossible.

3. Take the Risk
Suppose, hypothetically, you possess excellent skills in do-it-yourself home repair and dabble in writing. Maybe you have even thought about starting a blog to advertise your carpentry skills. However, you don’t know much about blog design, advertising, or any other aspect of creating or maintaining a website. This is where you have to make the jump.

This is exactly what I did. I had no idea if I would ever succeed, but I took the risk anyway. I spent the money to publish my book and create a companion blog, and I have been handsomely rewarded ever since. To paraphrase the great Geoffrey Chaucer, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

4. Employ an Extraordinary Work Ethic
No, you do not need to work 100 hours per week, but the best way to go about it is to start your own business while still working your current day job. That way, you are hedging your risk. I would never advocate quitting your day job to delve into the world of entrepreneurship – you should be willing to bust your tail to build your side business while sustaining your day job. The point at which you free yourself of your nine-to-five employment to fully depend on your side business income will be up to you.

You will have to work extremely hard in the beginning when you launch your business. However, if you do it right, the ultimate rewards are well worth the effort.

Final Thoughts
Before I started my two businesses, the mere idea was intimidating – almost incomprehensible. How do I do it? When do I do it? How do I finance it? How do I maintain it? All of these concerns were major obstacles to me.

However, once I realized my talents, as well as my potential, it was only a matter of being creative, persistent, and daring. The effort it requires is great, but the payoff for succeeding is ultimate satisfaction.

What are your thoughts on starting a home-based business? What’s holding you back from making the jump?

Organizing the World: The Faces of Shoeboxed part X

With Shoeboxed there has never been one “best” way to use our service to stay organized. And after scanning millions of receipts and business cards since 2007, we say that from years of firsthand experience!

Shoeboxed takes enormous pride in serving clients from around the country and across the globe, all of whom use our service in a myriad of ways to fulfill a whole host of organizational needs in both their personal and professional lives.

With that in mind, Shoeboxed is both pleased and honored to launch a series that spotlights our wonderful users, their success stories and countless ways satisfied Shoeboxed customers worldwide are utilizing our service to stay organized.

The Art of Making Clever Simple & Simple Clever: Keith Harper & Well Crafted

“I like simple things, and Shoeboxed is a beautifully simple product.”                                                                                                                              Keith Harper

Shoeboxed Users: Keith and Jana


Introducing: Keith Harper

Profession: Graphic designer

Location: New York, New York

Website: www.wellcrafted.is

Twitter: @keith_harper and @well_crafted



About Keith: Keith Harper is an independent graphic designer with over eight years of experience across print and digital media. He’s worked at design firms, for startups, in agencies, and has also pursued his own freelance work. Currently, Keith is running Well Crafted, a simple customizable portfolio, with the drive to take digital portfolios to the next level.

SBX: Before you started Well Crafted, you said your background was as a graphic designer. What inspired you to pursue the entrepreneurial route and create your own company?

Shoeboxed Users: Keith and Jana HarperMy background is rooted in graphic design, but I consider myself a maker now as well (the word “entrepreneur” is far too complicated). When my wife Jana and I moved to New York in 2009 we decided to start our own company, which we call Duo. The goal was to take on our own client projects, but we quickly realized there was a greater opportunity at hand. We have a unique blend of skills in both design and development,
so we decided to put them together and start making our own products.

SBX: Excellent! How’d your first company endeavor transpire?

Shoeboxed User: Jana HarperOur first product attempt, a simple financial tool for young people, failed before we could even build a prototype. The business model was simply not viable, and we didn’t have the resources required to remedy this. It was good to fail quickly though, and we switched gears to a project that had been sitting in our back pocket.

We then spent the next thirteen months bootstrapping Well Crafted – a simple, customizable portfolio. Funding your own endeavors via client work takes longer, but is worth it in the end. We answer only to ourselves and our customers. Our goal is to build the best portfolio system on the planet, as well as a sustainable business. Maintaining a business requires quite a bit of time and effort, but this is where the amazingness of the internet comes into play.

SBX: We can certainly attest to that! And after Well Crafted gained momentum, did you start finding yourself up to your ears in paperwork?

Shoeboxed Users: Keith and Jana HarperMoving to New York was a great catalyst for a new crusade against clutter. I became obsessed with digitizing everything. I bought a Neat scanner after randomly seeing them in an airport kiosk. Finally, I could digitize my documents! The scanner works tremendously well for letter-size documents, but scanning countless smaller receipts was a chore.

Shoeboxed takes that pain away – it automates everything but the first step for me. I can’t tell you how much I love stuffing those bright blue envelopes with receipts every month. I only have to concern myself with separating business from personal receipts, and I can manage that part easily.

SBX: Do you utilize any other online tools to simplify your paperwork management?

We utilize a myriad of niche web services for both Well Crafted and our client work. Harvest handles our time-tracking and client invoicing. Outright automatically tracks business expenses from our bank account. They are both invaluable tools for managing our business, but I still needed a way to track physical receipts in case we are audited by the IRS.

SBX: Hey, that sounds familiar!

Shoeboxed Users: Keith and Jana HarperWell I believe that great businesses solve a pain point. That’s why we started our first (failed) product, and also why we created Well Crafted. Updating my portfolio was invariably labor-intensive and painful. Scanning receipts was an absolute hassle – it was a manual, multi-step process. First I had to identify which receipts were business expenses. Then I had to scan them. Next, I had to name the PDF files. And finally, I had to shred them, because the whole point was to digitize them.

After Shoeboxed receives my envelope they scan, upload, and shred my receipts. I sleep well knowing that if we have to return an item – or if we are audited – I have an acceptable, searchable, digital copy of every business expense at the ready.

I like simple things, and Shoeboxed is a beautifully simple product.

SBX: Thank you, Keith! We wish you all the best in your future endeavors and will be anxiously awaiting your next batch of receipts and invoices!

Are you a Shoeboxed user who has a success story and would like to be featured on our blog? Then we would love to hear from you! Please reach out to Jake at jake@team.shoeboxed.com for more information.

Until then, stay tuned… and stay organized!

ScanSnap Profile Maker for Shoeboxed Released!

Hey ScanSnap users! Thanks to the new free Shoeboxed Profile Maker, scanning items directly from your Fujitsu ScanSnap into Shoeboxed is now a seamless process that won’t disrupt Shoeboxed ScanSnap Profile Makeryour normal workflow in the slightest.

If you’re a ScanSnap user, simply scan your receipts, business cards and other documents using your scanner as you normally would. Then, by using our new Profile Maker, you can now choose to have these files simultaneously sent to Shoeboxed, where we data extract, organize and archive everything for you.

To begin enjoying the benefits of our new Profile Maker immediatly, simply download the free Profile Maker here and then follow the easy step-by-step installation instructions, found here. For more information, including screenshots, you can also visit our ScanSnap page here.

If you are a Mac user, you can download the Shoeboxed ScanSnap Profile Maker for Mac here.

If you have any feedback or questions about our new Profile Maker or how to use your ScanSnap with Shoeboxed please reach us 24/7 at help@team.shoeboxed.com or give us a shout on Twitter @Shoeboxed.

We’ll be sure to keep you in the loop as more upgrades and fun new features are released!

Stay Organized,

The Shoeboxed Team