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Setting up a media business for free …

Setting up your own online media business is a very exciting prospect. Do it right and you can not only increase your earnings but improve your quality of life. But whether you want to set up a business as an aside to your day job or are planning to go freelance full time, it’s important to get the basics right. Here I outline the fundamental starting points that will put your new business on the path of success straightaway…and how you can do that for free…

Starting a media business

* Do your research. With the internet, there’s never been an easier time to check out what competitors are doing. If you are a writer don’t be put off by the fact there appears to be a lot of competition when you look. But at the same time don’t assume it will be enough to just copy what others have already done. These days you need to focus on what is different about you and ensure there is something about your business that makes it stand out from the rest.
* Start small.. Don’t invest any money at the start. Some people starting out in business are so caught up in the idea of having their own company they rush around buying new office furniture to convert the spare room or splash out commissioning fancy website design. But the great thing about the media industry – whether you are a journalist, novelist, PR consultant or TV producer – is it’s possible to start up your business for nothing.
* Take advantage of freebies. Test out the demand for your new business idea by setting up a website for free on WordPress.com or Moonfruit.com. If you gain more visitors to your site, and therefore your business idea seems to work, then you can employ a professional web designer. The first month I started up Sell Your Story UK I had 26 visitors (they were kind family and friends!) but by the second month that number had already grown to 600 and so I knew I was on the right track.
* Get yourself onto social media.. Setting up a Twitter account, Facebook and linkedIn is all free – and can be used alongside your free website to increase your profile on the internet.
* Learn everything you can about search engine optimisation (SEO). Too many people set up a website and think that’s it – then wonder why they hardly get any traffic (visitors.) You can pay to advertise on Google sponsored listings (Pay Per Click or PPC) and it can bring instant traffic – but the drawback is that it can soon prove far too expensive for a start-up business. So initially at least you need to invest your free time, rather than money, learning how Google works. Then you need to find ‘links’ – other websites (like this one!) that you can advertise or post on – that will give you a do-follow working link (worth a google – for example Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter links are no-follow) back to your site. Yes it is time consuming but lots of good links from well regarded sites will eventually push your site higher up the rankings.
* Get your accounts in order. It’s worth remembering the taxman is responsible for making the most small businesses bankrupt. It’s therefore very important to open a separate business bank account from the outset. Many creatives hate doing the business side of their jobs – but remember that is what business is about! You are in business to earn money. So you must be business-like from day one and keep records of every penny you earn and spend. Remember even if you are earning money on the side of your day job, you need to declare it. And it’s worth remembering that roughly a third of everything you earn should be set aside for tax (and not spent on shoes…)

Written by journalist and Media agent Alison Smith-Squire.

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Have you recently set up a media business? Find out how you can gain a profile and publicity on Sell Your Story UK: here.

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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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