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22 practical ways to plan a startup while you’re in your job

I’m by no means an expert. However, there’s nothing like a bit of retrospect to work out a few useful things.

If Escape the City is an Everest ascent, we’re not even at the base camp yet. We’re somewhere in the foothills.

Here are a few things that have got us this far though…

  1. Evolve the idea – sit on it, think about it in the shower, on the tube, on your weekends because it will undoubtedly change A LOT while you do.
  2. Speak to people who know more than you – really listen to what they have to say. Ask the right questions.
  3. Listen politely to the people who don’t ‘get’ what you’re trying to achieve – even if they’re completely off the mark with their advice – there is a lesson there – probably in terms of how you are communicating your concept…
  4. Find a partner – someone who you work really well with – you can’t underestimate how much easier (and more fun) this is than going it alone. Develop the idea together.
  5. Search the internet – really search it (we’ve been planning Esc for 9 months now and we’re often finding sites that we wish we had seen ages ago)
  6. Save money for when you really need it (even if it is just £10 per week or all the way up to your entire salary bar the essentials – nice one Dom)
  7. Check 123 reg for the website domain name and register it. Even if you’re not set on the name. It’s a few pounds and you’ll regret it if it gets taken. Buy .com and .co.uk.
  8. Read this post by Paul Graham on ‘What startups are really like’ – some great things to think about in here.
  9. Go to Companies House and buy the company name (you don’t have to do any tax stuff or accounts until you properly start trading) – or at the very least check if the name is free with their database.
  10. Start a blog about your concept and develop your ideas in public (uncomfortable at times but worth it in terms of how it develops your thinking). It’s SO easy (if I can do it anyone can)
  11. Use your blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page to reach out to people in the same space – share ideas and information with them – you’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help.
  12. Write a pretend business plan just to test some of the concepts – how does it feel?  Would you be comfortable showing it to someone?  To an investor?!
  13. Read absolutely masses.  Can’t stress this enough.  Buy lots of books (or go to the library if you’re on a budget).  When you read something relevant (or not even that relevant) and you’ve got your idea in the back of your mind – great things often happen.
  14. Arrange meetings with friends of friends who might be able to help you – there’s a certain point beyond which you’ve got to stop taking advice and start executing.  But at the beginning you should follow up all potential leads.
  15. Realise that no one can give you permission but yourself – this is really important – so many of us (myself included) want approval from others before we start.  It’s better to ask forgiveness than to beg for permission.
  16. For some empowering inspiration read Seth’s blog (with your idea in the back of your head).
  17. Don’t worry about  your lack of experience – naivety and passion is not to be underestimated ;-) – you won’t be limited by the dogma and limitations that hold back some people who do have experience (often the older you get the more risk averse you become) – besides, as you get older you’re only going to get more responsibilities – your 20s are a great time to try something.
  18. Start with the problem you’re trying to solve – understand it – then work out the solution – the best businesses do it this way round (rather than having an amazing product and being convinced that there is a need for it). Tom Pakenham from greentomatocars said exactly this in his Hero profile
  19. Don’t worry if your idea doesn’t conform to an established business model – invent your own (OK, I stole this one from gapingvoid.com but it’s great advice)… with the technologies we have access to today there is NO SET WAY of doing things.
  20. Following on from this idea – just because something is done in a certain way doesn’t mean that it is the best way.  This is something of a mantra for Esc.  There are ways to improve almost everything.
  21. Read this post by Al Humphreys – who is speaking at Esc’s launch on Wednesday 27th January (very, very exciting) – the advice is about expeditions but it is definitely relevant for startups, in fact, for anything).
  22. Check out this list of the best online advice for entrepreneurs (confession – I haven’t dug through it yet so please let me know if there is any good stuff in there)

What have we missed?

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