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5 Key Steps Towards Starting Your Service Business Today

5 Key Steps Towards Starting Your Service Business Today

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.

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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:

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  • 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.

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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.

Human Resources

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.

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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!

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Elena Prokopets

Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Traditionally, when you have a lot of ideas in your mind, you would create a text document, or take a sheet of paper and start writing in a linear fashion like this:

  • Intro to Visual Facilitation
    • Problem, Consequences, Solution, Benefits, Examples, Call to action
  • Structure
    • Why, What, How to, What If
  • Do It Myself?
    • Audio, Images, time-consuming, less expensive
  • Specialize Offering?
    • Built to Sell (Standard Product Offering), Options (Solving problems, Online calls, Dev projects)

This type of document quickly becomes overwhelming. It obviously lacks in clarity. It also makes it hard for you to get a full picture at a glance and see what is missing.

You always have too much information to look at, and most often you only get a partial view of the information. It’s hard to zoom out, figuratively, and to see the whole hierarchy and how everything is connected.

To see a fuller picture, create a mind map.

What Is a Mind Map?

A mind map is a simple hierarchical radial diagram. In other words, you organize your thoughts around a central idea. This technique is especially useful whenever you need to “dump your brain”, or develop an idea, a project (for example, a new product or service), a problem, a solution, etc. By capturing what you have in your head, you make space for other thoughts.

In this article, we are focusing on the basics: mind mapping using pen and paper.

The objective of a mind map is to clearly visualize all your thoughts and ideas before your eyes. Don’t complicate a mind map with too many colors or distractions. Use different colors only when they serve a purpose. Always keep a mind map simple and easy to follow.

    Image Credit: English Central

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    By following the three next steps below, you will be able to create such mind maps easily and quickly.

    3 Simple Steps to Create a Mind Map

    The three steps are:

    1. Set a central topic
    2. Add branches of related ideas
    3. Add sub-branches for more relevant ideas

    Let’s take a look at an example Verbal To Visual illustrates on the benefits of mind mapping.[1]

    Step 1 : Set a Central Topic

    Take a blank sheet of paper, write down the topic you’ve been thinking about: a problem, a decision to make, an idea to develop, or a project to clarify.

    Word it in a clear and concise manner.

      What is the first idea that comes to mind when you think of the subject for your mind map? Draw a line (straight or curved) from the central topic, and write down that idea.

        Step 3 : Add Sub-Branches for More Relevant Ideas

        Then, what does that idea make you think of? What is related to it? List it out next to it in the same way, using your pen.

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          You can always add more to it later, but that’s good for now.

          In our example, we could detail the sub-branch “Benefits” by listing those benefits in sub-branches of the branch “Benefits”. Unfortunately, we already reached the side of the sheet, so we’re out of space to do so. You could always draw a line to a white space on the page and list them there, but it’s awkward.

          Since we created this mind map on a regular letter-format sheet of paper, the quantity of information that fits in there is very limited. That is one of the main reasons why I recommend that you use software rather than pen and paper for most of the mind mapping that you do.

          Repeat Step 2 and Step 3

          Repeat steps 2 and 3 as many times as you need to flush out all of your ideas around the topic that you chose.

            I added first-level (main) branches around the central topic mostly in a clockwise fashion, from top-right to top-left. That is how, by convention, a mind map is read.

            In the next section, we are covering the three strategies to building your maps.  

            Mind Map Examples to Illustrate Mind Mapping

            You can go about creating a mind map in various ways:

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            • Branch by Branch: Adding whole branches (with all of their sub-branches), one by one.
            • Level by Level: Adding elements to the map, one level at a time. That means that firstly, you add elements around the central topic (main branches). Then, you add sub-branches to those main branches. And so on.
            • Free-Flow: Adding elements to your mind map as they come to you, in no particular order.

            Branch by Branch

            Start with the central topic, add a first branch. Focus on that branch and detail it as much as you can by adding all the sub-branches that you can think of.

              Then develop ideas branch by branch.

                A branch after another, and the mind map is complete.

                  Level by Level

                  In this “Level by Level” strategy, you first add all the elements that you can think of around the central topic, one level deep only. So here you add elements on level 1:

                    Then, go over each branch and add the immediate sub-branches (one level only). This is level 2:

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                      Idem for the next level. This is level 3. You can have as many levels as you want in a mind map. In our example, we only have 3 levels. Now the map is complete:

                        Free-Flow

                        Basically, a free flow strategy of mind mapping is to add main branches and sub-topics freely. No rules to restrict how ideas should flow in the mind map. The only thing to pay attention to is that you need to be careful about the level of the ideas you’re adding to the mind map — is it a main topic, or is it a subtopic?

                          I recommend using a combination of the “Branch by Branch” and the “Free-Flow” strategies.

                          What I normally do is I add one branch at a time, and later on review the mind map and add elements in various places to finish it. I also sometimes build level 1 (the main branches) first, then use a “Branch by Branch” approach, and later finish the map in a “Free-Flow” manner.

                          Try each strategy and combinations of strategies, and see what works best for you.

                          The Bottom Line

                          When you’re feeling stuck or when you’re just starting to think about a particular idea or project, take out a paper and start to brain dump your ideas and create a mind map. Mind mapping has the magic to clear your head and have your thoughts organized.

                          If you can’t always have access to a paper and pen, don’t worry! Creating a mind map with software is very effective and you get none of the drawbacks of pen and paper. You can also apply the above steps and strategies just the same when using a mind mapping tool on the phone and computer.

                          More Tools to Help You Organize Thoughts

                          Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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