At one point in time, most of us would have considered starting a business. Well, I've gone against common sense and what most people do and started to work from home. I came across this article by Kevin Potts that offers real-world advice from the trenches of a small start-up, and is applicable to designers, web developers, copywriters, usability experts and all manner of service providers. Here's a summary of his points.
Write a Business Plan
It's important as it forces us to clarify with our own business ideas. We have to decide :
- how income is generated
- what are the expenses. Fixed and variable.
- who are our competitors
- evidently, what the business does
- what sets the business apart
- what are the unique services offered
- what's the key that will put us ahead of the pack
Here are 2 good websites that will help form a solid business plan.
- Business Plan Archive (learn by viewing other company's business plan)
- Businessplans.org (get sample plans, guidelines, resources, software tools)
Register for a Fictitious Name
Fictitious is the government's term for a company's name. The reason is to prevent others in the same industry from using it. However, if it's a different industry, you can have the same name. For example, Flame (steamboat restaurant) and Flame (teen's clothing).
General advice is to take from :
- own savings or/and
- borrow from the bank
Golden rule is to not borrow from:
Most of the time, we won't be able to pay them back. Even if we do, it'll take months or years. Any amount, $1,000 or $100,000, can create bad blood.
Get an Accountant
An accountant will be able to give advice on countless prospects on our new adventure. They can advice on how to set up bank accounts correctly or a better way to do invoicing and collecting.
Advice On Accountants :
- Go with an accountant in the same state. Each state has different laws
- Go with an accountant who knows business taxes and not a family oriented one
- Try to get an outside accountant. Try to avoid a family member accountant as we'll will get unbiased viewpoints on our finances and keep it away from our family member's knowledge.
Start with a Partner
Benefits of a partner :
- question our spending decisions
- Best results come from group efforts
- We'll have someone to remind us of business priorities when we slack off
- 2 complimentary skill sets is definitely better than 1
The New Office
- A place for clients to visit
- Establishes an image. Proper presentation helps build client trust
- Write off office expenses (deduct from tax)
- A business out of the house forces us to take it more seriously
- Money will seem like going to waste when the client base is thin/inconsistent
- Additional expenses in fire inspection, occupancy certificate, additional phone lines, internet connection, furniture, etc.
Maintain a Good Paper Trail
Keep hardcopies of :
- time sheets
- financial records
- bank statements
- deposit slips, etc
Don't do any work without a copy of the contract with BOTH signatures or else we will legally have a hard time in getting an overdue client to pay up. Indicate additional overdue fees in the invoice when it is sent during early stages of the project. Remember, the business that does not call to get paid won't get paid.
Be Flexible, Charge Accordingly
When we undercharge, we'll be taken advantage of when the clients ask for similar rates in the future. When we charge properly, clients will feel like they've hired the right people.
Use Legal Software
Let's avoid legal trouble and use retails. Let's not use 'educational' nor pirated softwares.
Separate Business & Personal Finances
It will help during tax season.
Word of mouth rules. However, getting work usually requires spending money.
Get business cards, letterheads and envelopes. Get a good logo. Dress like someone who's come to do business when meeting a client. Make the office welcoming, keep it clean, organized, get comfortable chairs.
Here are several places that help businesses succeed and get work.
- Our local Chamber of Commerce
- Attend Business Seminars. Learn and build networks. Most are free.