Why it's smart to start a business in 2012

Opportunities abound

We're not saying it's easy to start a business in choppy economic waters, but in many cases it's no harder than starting-up when the going is good, and successful entrepreneurs from all walks of life swear by recessions as a goldmine of opportunity.

Massive brands including Penguin, Hewlett Packard, Specsavers, Wikipedia and Shortlist all began life in times when the market seemed unfavourable and all 'overcome the odds' to establish themselves and grow.

Recessions and periods of flat growth can be a friend to entrepreneurs for a number of reasons: for one, starting in a recession means your rivals are less likely to spend money to counteract the impact of your business hitting the market.

In the good times, when there's more money to splash around, competitors will be tempted to plan a big marketing push or product offer that takes the spotlight off your launch and squashes your start-up before it has the chance to get going.

Most successful businesses have lived through at least one recession. Even if you start yours during a period of high-growth it is just a matter of time before the tide turns - despite what Gordon Brown said, there's still no cure for boom and bust economic cycles.

But if you launch into a downturn, you'll know straight away how robust your business is and how much demand there is for your products. If it holds up now imagine what it will be capable of when people have more to spend.

Another reason for launching during economic gloom is that everything is cheaper than it was during the last period of growth. Suppliers and retailers are falling over themselves to attract customers and are slashing prices. As a result, you can stock, house and kit-out your business at a knock-down price.

In boom times there may be a bigger supply of customers with money to burn, but if you research your market thoroughly and find a product or service that people really need, then it will sell regardless of prevailing economic headwinds.

To start your journey, check out Smarta.com's other startup guides and check out Smarta Business Builder for all the best tools to help get your business off the ground.

Job security? What job security?

In 2012, job security is a myth. With more than one million young people out of work and official forecasts suggesting nearly three-quarters of a million public sector employees will lose their jobs as a direct consequence of George Osborne's Autumn Statement, now is not necessarily the time to keep your head down and hope for the best.

Starting your own business is never seen as the best way of securing your income, but with the jobs market in peril it isn't necessarily the step into the unknown it used to be either.

This is not a decision any of us would take likely, especially not if others rely on your salary to pay the bills, but offering yourself up for redundancy could be the first step to entrepreneurial freedom, and perhaps greater job security.

But when should you quit your job? Read our essential guide here.

It's cheaper and easier than ever before

Starting a business has never been easier: simply get a laptop, register yourself as self-employed and you're away. You no longer need a physical presence to establish a business, only your brains and a means of communication.

What's more, in 2012, clients and partners are more likely to applaud your business savvy for not renting premises than sneer at your lack of a shiny office to impress them with.

Another pleasing development is the comparatively new concept of 'freemium', where businesses give away basic products for free in the hope that customers will upgrade once their needs go beyond the bare minimum.

Spend a little more and you can get a professional website, email, accounting software, planning and legal documents for just £20 a month with Smarta Business Builder. It gives you access to the essential ingredients of a start-up business; all you have to do is think about what you want to sell.

Monetise your passion and skills

Working for yourself is an empowering, exciting and fulfilling career choice. Even better, it allows you to build an income around what you're either really good at or most passionate about.

2012 will be the year of the individual and sole trader as more people go self-employed and trade skills to get ahead.

Work out what you can do that others need and find a way of packaging it that can bring you an income.

This path presents a world of options, such as working from home, choosing your own hours, varying your workload, combining your business with a part-time job and deciding how much profit to keep and how much to reinvest.

Cheap start-up costs combined with a potentially advantageous economic climate, ever-improving technology and the built-in flexibility to do what you want is an attractive mix - more so in 2012 than any previous year.

If you're planning to start a business from home, take a look at our Working from Home checklist.

David Cameron wants you to do it

Do a Google search for 'David Cameron small business' and it will immediately become clear exactly where the government's priorities lie.

With the public purse empty, ministers are relying on small businesses - "the engine room of the economy", as they keep telling us - to get things moving again.

There have been measures to encourage lending to small businesses in a post-credit crunch era, actions giving small businesses better access to government tenders, a promise to cut employment law for micro-firms and plenty more besides.

There's a scheme in place giving start-ups £1,500 of support in the form of free office space, mentors, marketing, advertising and internet connections. Even school kids are being offered £10 loans to help them kick-start playground enterprises.

In short, it's as benign a political environment for start-ups as there has been in living memory. The government is counting on entrepreneurs to help boost economic growth and it is doing its level-best to promote small business in all its forms.

For all the government's main initiatives and to scrutinise policies emitting from the Department for Business, visit http://www.bis.gov.uk/

The power of the crowd

The power of the crowd is definitely on your side in 2012. Crowdfunding sites such as Crowdcube and Civilised Money are becoming increasingly popular and viable sources of start-up and growth capital.

Crowdsourcing sites such as Smarta 100 winner Concept Cupboard and Elance can also help you source talented freelancers and suppliers at affordable rates.

And, of course, social media continues to be your window to the world: be that customers, suppliers, contacts or simply as a sounding board.

In short, the economic outlook remains bleak, but there have never been so many reasons to start your own business. And remember, there's never a bad time to start a GREAT business!

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