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Start with the fuel tank. Drain it, make sure there is no sediment in the bottom.
Pull the pickup tube, inspect the screen for deposits/blockage, replace if necessary.
If there is an anti-siphon valve, check if working properly.
Check fuel line/primer bulb for brittleness or cracking.
Check connector o-rings for cracks or splits.
Check all filters, replace if you haven't done so in the last year.
Check fuel pump. If after all that it still isn't running right
then you probably need to clean the carb.
 

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Sounds like a good time to start your education.  ;)
I learned the hard way, you can learn easier.
Pick up the Mercury Shop manual for your outboard.
In it you'll find all the steps and tools needed to maintain and repair your outboard.
First thing I do when I buy an outboard.
Pays for itself the first time something goes wrong.
 
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