Most people believe that starting their own venture is hard. Yet, with all the technology and a global market of opportunities available right at your doorstep through the world web, the whole thing is much simpler than you think.
As long as you have certain skills others are willing to pay for, you can launch a successful service business in just a few days. All you need is – some upfront investment, a honed business idea and the right amount of creativity with a pinch of patience and determination to make it work!
Step 1: Take The Time To Brainstorm Your Unique Sales Offer
You already have an idea of what kind of service you will sell. That’s great. But to make real business happen, you’ll have to narrow down your big general idea of say offering design services, to a more specific set of routines and tasks. Having a niche and honing your sales pitch to cater to a very specific target group will increase your chances of winning that business.
So start with asking yourself the next questions:
- Who is my ideal client? Is it a small business owner, startup, independent creative entrepreneurs? What are their key problems and how can I help to solve them?
- How will I bundle my services to win more work consistently? Do I plan to offer standalone services only, retainers or specific packages? How will the prices differ in each case?
- Will I charge per-hour fees or flat project rates? There are certain pros and cons involved in each case.
- What can possibly go wrong? How will you handle difficult clients or refunds? What would be my policy in such cases?
Step 2: Create a Simple Business Plan
After you’ve pondered a bit on the questions outlined above, mold your thoughts into an actual business plan. No, there’s no need to write a lengthy corporate-styled copy. Think of this as a quick and motivating document, which will help you to keep the focus on your initial business vision and future objectives.
Here are some of the important elements to include in this case:
- Your mission statement aka how you will differentiate yourself from other service providers; what are your main goals and what value do you plan to deliver to your customers.
- Add a summary of your ideal client.
- Outline your brand’s vibe, style, and objectives.
- Outline the exact services you are planning to offer along with prices.
- State your desired monthly income, a number of hours you plan to work per week/month and calculate the respective hourly rate.
- Jot down the monthly business expenses you’ll possibly have – payment processing fees, domain + hosting, subscription tools etc.
- Summarize how you plan to attract clients and promote your business – via social media, cold pitching, blogging, through freelance marketplaces etc? Be crystal clear with the strategies you’d be trying and how much time you can devote to those on a daily/weekly basis.
Step 3: Prepare The Required Resources
Considering that you now have a clear vision of how your business will operate and how you may need to organize your day-to-day chores, it’s time to focus on assembling the right list of essentials you need for operating. That includes:
A Portfolio Website/Blog
This is that piece of web estate, where you’ll advertise your services and expertise. Choose a professional sounding domain/brand name or purchase a domain under your own name (if those are available).
Your website should include at the next key pages – homepage, services page, portfolio/testimonials, contact and about you page. Also, don’t forget to create or update your social media profiles with the handle to suit your business name.
Project Management and Time Management Tools
Think how you will handle your client work and what kind of tools can facilitate you to reduce the time required for routine tasks. Here are some handy suggestions:
- Boomerang for Gmail – to schedule auto-responders and delayed emails. Handy when you need to send out the initial project requirements survey/template to the clients.
- Bookinglive – a handy software to allow clients to book sessions with you straight from your website and charge payments.
- Trello – a visual project management tool to manage your day-to-day tasks.
- Toggl – a time-tracking tool, which will help you estimate more accurately the time you spend on various client tasks.
- Freshbooks – accounting and invoicing software for small business owners and freelancers to keep all the financial data neatly organized.
You can grab more suggestions on apps and tools from this post.
Do you plan to run your venture solo or hire some assistance early on? Make sure you only commit to hiring the team, when you have enough capital to invest in the first place.
However, even if your financial resources are somewhat limited, do consider outsourcing such mundane tasks as accounting/taxes, legal work e.g. company incorporation and small admin tasks e.g. managing your social media or doing some kind of data entry work. All of the routine, which can be summed up as non-billable hours.
Step 4: Start Marketing Your Services
Your website is up and running. Your LinkedIn profile is updated and shining. You’ve stashed your portfolio with some goodies and grabbed the testimonials from former employers.
Now, it’s time to market your services. Here are some of the most actionable strategies:
- Browse remote positions at popular job search websites.
- Cold-pitch businesses, who fit into your target audience mold.
- Write a guest post on a popular blog in your niche.
- Get active in relevant Facebook Groups and online communities where other freelancers and business owners hang out.
- Consider registering at a few popular online freelance marketplaces and pitch clients there.
- Tell your friends and family about your new status and ask them to spread the word for you.
- Network on LinkedIn and in relevant LinkedIn groups.
- Attend a networking event in your area to make business happen in person.
- Reach out to your former employers and ask whether they’d be interested in working with you or can refer you to someone.
Step 5: Set Your Future Goals and Optimize Your Performance
After your business finally takes off, you should not sit down and relax immediately. Make sure that you are marketing your services consistently to avoid the notorious feast/famine cycles; track your income and expenses accurately and consider various further optimization strategies (aka how you can earn more while working less); thinking about the supplementary non-service based income streams and work hard on keeping a pool of happy anchor clients, who pay you diligently on a monthly basis.
Don’t forget about investing in self-education either as that’s the key to further business growth!