- Q. I am looking into starting
a childproofing and a unique gift service. That's the straightforward
part...now here are my questions:
1. Right now
I'm living in Mississippi but in June 2000 I'll be moving to
Florida. If I were to start my business here...ie: getting my
license and resale # and possibly starting to sell products and
offer childproofing services, how will that affect me when I
move? Will I have to reapply and
pay all the fees once again? or can I get my business license
in FL and still sell here in MS?
2. Also, re:
selling products on the Internet, should I collect taxes from
my customers? How does that work?
I guess my biggest
question is where to begin. I feel really overwhelmed. I don't
even know where to start. If you could provide any help, I'd
really appreciate it.
- A. April, it's not unusual to be overwhelmed
when you're faced with all the many details of starting a business.
Take heart in knowing that there's no magic domino that has to
fall first -- you can just dive in and start putting a lot of
pieces together, which is what I suggest you do here.
First, I'd think
carefully about starting a business for only a few months in
one location if you know for certain that you'll be moving. Without
offering you specific legal advice, it's my understanding that
your entire business will have to change, since you'll be operating
in a different state. Your Federal registrations (Federal ID
number, etc.) would stay the same, but your state licenses, including
your tax resale number, will
change. I'd check with your local Chamber of Commerce and an
attorney to confirm this. A quick phone call to your state department
of taxation would also be wise.
If you're eager
to jump in for just a few months, it may be worth the investment
in the registration fees -- but do the financial analysis carefully.
Review whether startup costs for things like checking accounts
and stationery are worth the short-term duration.
Of course, this
doesn't mean you can't get started on your business. There is
so much background work to do -- the business planning, marketing
materials development, etc. Think through your overall business
objectives and schedule, and see what works best for you. It's
also a great time to do your homework; find a few startup books
and dive into them to get your grounding. Check out my "Working
series as well as others at your local library, neighborhood
bookstore, or at your favorite online bookseller.
In regard to
taxes on Internet sales, this is a topic of hot debate -- and
one that is entering the presidential election discussions as
well. Several states currently have a moratorium on sales tax,
which means that customers are exempt from paying sales tax for
goods that cross state lines. (This is identical to the way land-based
catalog sales operations work today.) Several states require
that companies who have Internet-based operations charge sales
tax if they also operate brick-and-mortar stores in that state.
If you're confused, you're not alone. As you might imagine, the
stakes are high, with literally billions of dollars in potential
revenue for the states. So expect much more news on this topic.
In the meantime, a quick
call to your state department of taxation and finance will give
you the answer to your specific state's regulations.
Q. Dear Ms. Lonier,
I am writing
to request some of your expert business advice. At the moment
I am a college student looking to start a seasonal business selling
baskets for special occasions such as Valentine's day etc. I
sell baby shower favors on
auction sites, but I get very little business and want to branch
out since holidays can be a lot more profitable.
My main problem
is how do I go about finding wholesalers/manufacturers for products
to fill my baskets? When I do find a wholesaler they will not
sell to me without a Tax ID #. I am in NY and do not have $150
to spend on a license for a biz until I know it will be somewhat
profitable. If you can offer me any help I would really appreciate
Thanks In Advance,
- A. There are several ways to find products
for your gift baskets, RM. The first is to keep your eyes open
when you're shopping, and write down the names of the companies
of products that you find interesting. (Seasoned entrepreneurs
know that every outing usually turns into business research
somehow -- our brains never stop working!) You can also ask your
friends and family to be your "scouts" as well.
But most professionals
attend wholesale gift shows to do their shopping and buying.
These shows feature row upon row of specialty items, many of
which could be ideal for your baskets. The New York Gift Show
is held every August in New York City at the Jacob Javits Center,
and it's one of the largest. Some shows are open at no charge
to wholesale businesses; other charge a registration fee. You
will have to show proof of business ownership, since they do
not want the general public roaming the aisles and trying to
buy single items from the vendors -- that's not the focus of
the show, and it's very frustrating to the vendors who are there
to do major wholesale
on this show as well as dozens of other gift shows around the
country, check out the Trade Show News Network Web site. They have a sophisticated
search engine of their online directory -- and the gift trade
show section has numerous show listings, and contact information
for the shows.
Any of these
vendors (at the show or elsewhere) will require proof of your
resale license to sell to you, so your investment in your business
license will be necessary. By law, they cannot sell to you without
charging sales tax unless they have proof that you are a business
that will be reselling the goods to end users.
Also, as your
business develops, be sure to keep an open dialog with your customers
about what items they like or dislike in the baskets. You'll
find -- as so many entrepreneurs do -- that your best business
ideas can spring from a casual comment from a customer. Keep
your antennae out for their responses -- and good luck with your
- Q. Hi Terri,
I am trying to
start a photo restoration and enhancement business out of my
home. I tried it on my wedding pictures as a joke and since then,
family and friends have been giving me more and more pictures
to restore and manipulate. They're even recommending me to other
people and I've had to price my work (though I don't really think
I'm profiting from it). I'm also going for my BA in Graphic Design.
I need about two years to graduate.
My husband thinks
it would be a good idea for my brother-in-law (a graphic designer
working at home) and I to become partners and open a location
together in about 3 years.
Never in my life
have I enjoyed my work like I do this and I want to make it
legitimate. I'd really appreciate your advice on both ideas.
- A. Alicia, congratulations on finding work
you love to do that has the potential to turn into a profitable
business. Finding both these ingredients -- the passion and the
profit potential -- is often the biggest stumbling block for
many people who want to launch a business.
I'd keep doing
as much of this work as your other commitments will allow. It
will build your skill level, and teach you what customers like
and want. Listen carefully to what they tell you -- it may lead
to additional services your fledgling company can offer.
Pricing is often
tricky for new entrepreneurs. It's a balance between what you
need to cover costs and make a profit as well as what the market
will bear. Check out the sections of my books "Working Solo"
and "Smart Strategies for Growing Your Business" on
pricing -- I cover things you need to consider in much greater
detail. Also, keep track of what your expenses
are, and how much time you're spending on each job. Over time,
you'll get a better idea of what to charge, based on your expenses,
your time, the competition, and what customers are willing to
As for a future
business with your brother-in-law, it's premature to say how
this may develop. Three years is a long time, particularly with
anything involving technology, as this does to some extent. Some
people find they work better on their own; others like to team
up. It depends on your own personal work style, and how big you
want to grow the business.
For now, it's
OK to have modest goals and to keep expanding your entrepreneurial
dreams as your skills and experience grows. Over time, you'll
find what works best for you, and it will become clear what makes
sense for you as an entrepreneur. But at this point, congratulate
yourself on making a fine start. You're on your way to a great
adventure in business.
Q. Dear Terri,
My wife and I
have a four-month-old baby. We're both teachers. Recently, we
went back to work. You can imagine how difficult it's been leaving
our little girl every day. During my wife's pregnancy, we "invented"
and devised many conveniences for pregnant parents that are not
currently on the market.
We've summized that we could possibly start an online line of
products. Customers could place orders via the Internet, and
my wife could stay home with our baby to run the business.
Here's our question:
we've made copious notes and know how the products will look
and work, but how do we get from the "idea stage" to
actual inventory? Who do we go to to get prototypes made? Who
do we approach to get our
product mass produced? How do we go about this cautiously and
safely, so as not to lose our shirts and to know who is reputable?
We've got the ideas, the creativity, and the energy. We just
don't know where to go now. Please help. Our daughter is aging
by the second.
Leon and Mary
- A. Leon and Mary, congratulations on the
birth of two babies -- your lovely daughter, and this business
idea! Both will take a lot of your attention in the coming months.
First, let me
give a disclaimer that your question is much too complex to answer
in simple terms. There are so many variables. For example: Will
you design the products and have them manufactured elsewhere,
or construct them yourself? Will you sell direct or wholesale
them through other companies? Do any of your items have unique
designs or mechanisms that should be patented or trademarked?
These are all important issues.
me direct you to some resources to begin your homework. First,
get clear on what you want your business to be. Make a detailed
list of your skills and experience, and where you'll need some
help. Take into account things such as new product development,
marketing, sales, finances, management, and technology.
Next, surf the
Web for some information. If you're going to be looking for companies
to manufacture your designs, check out the Thomas
This site is the online companion to the venerable red hardbound
books that are found in nearly every public library, and list
more than 150,000 manufacturing companies in the U.S. and Canada.
Using this site's search engine, you can find companies who make
thousands of different products. This may be the source for raw
materials for your items, or you may find a company who will
manufacture goods to your specifications.
While on the
Web, do some hunting and see what your competition may be, and
track down stores who might be good customers if you decide to
sell your products wholesale.
For issues on
patents and trademarks, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site, where you'll find
details on steps to take to protect the intellectual property
of your designs and inventions.
If you're interested
in starting your own online business, check out Bigstep.com, a do-it-yourself Web
service where you can set up a complete ebusiness for free. I'm
working as the Small Business Advocate for this young Internet
company, and it's very exciting to see the professional-looking
sites that thousands of small businesses have set up for free
on their service. (And yes, it really is for free. If you want
to accept credit cards, they'll take you through the process
and get you accepted by a bank that will charge a small monthly
fee. But the Bigstep.com service, including hosting your site,
is absolutely free.)
guidance on getting your business up and running, visit the SCORE
where you can sign up for free email business counseling from
an experienced business owner. SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired
Executives, is a program partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration,
and offers email business counseling in more than 500 different
categories. Chances are, there's a SCORE volunteer with a background
in developing products similar to what you want to do. Good luck!
Hi, I'm a 23
year-old guy who's looking to start my own business from my home
and then work it up to a nice located office with a selected
few employees. (That's looking way into the future but nonetheless
a goal.) Since I can remember I've always known I'd be a leader
and was meant to do things on my own.
I'm looking to
venture forth and explore my options in building my own business
by providing a service to companies, small businesses (like myself)
and individuals. This service would be a Web Design business
possibly more later down the road). Creating, editing etc...
detailed websites for their business or personal needs. I have
many years of knowledge dealing with computers: building, repairing,
trouble shooting, design, software, hardware, programming, internet,
etc... you name it, I'm linked to it one way or
my current knowledge I'd like to build my small business with
my highly driven and motivated skills but there's so much to
know. How much capital will I need, will I be able to qualify
for a small business government loan, is this legal, do I need
a lawyer, should I get a merchant account, how much will my taxes
be, can I write off a part of my mortgage as a business expense
since I'm working out of my home? So many questions, no idea
where to turn. I've tried searching and searching on the web
but nonetheless I come up to a dead end on my search. Would you
have any information on any of the questions listed above and/or
have any suggestions where to look to answer these questions?
A. Rob, you're right, it
can be both very exhilarating and confusing when you're faced
with all the details of launching a business. In working with
small businesses and entrepreneurs over the last two decades,
I've realized that most want to go into business because they
have a passion or skill that they want to use in better ways.
It seems that's the way it is with your technology background.
What often happens,
however, is that new business owners don't take into account
another sphere that they have to master -- the one I call "the
business of making a business." That's what you're facing
now: the details of legal, financial, management, taxes, marketing
issues, and more. It can make your head spin.
that there is no single "perfect" way to start a business.
That said, there are some basics you have to cover in doing your
homework. First, make sure your business idea can turn into a
viable company. Just because you're excited about it, doesn't
mean that there will actually be customers willing to pay for
your products or services. I find this analysis is a step most
new business owners skip -- at great risk to their future
Once you've thought
this through clearly, it's time to turn to the many resources
available to you. Check out books such as my "Working Solo" series -- I wrote it
with folks just like you in mind, and made it straightforward,
jargon-free, and information-packed. There are literally hundreds
of other books that can guide you. As Online Resident Entrepreneur for barnesandnoble.com,
I've posted several "startup lists" that you may find
The Web also
has a wealth of startup information, only a click away. Check
out sites such as www.score.org for free online e-mail
business counseling from SCORE volunteers, the Service Corps
of Retired Executives, a program partner of the U.S. Small Business
Adminstration. Also, our Working Solo Website has numerous hotlinks
to valuable small business sites.
been a better time to start a business -- both in terms of the
economic climate and the information and other resources to guide
you, Rob. Do your homework, and think before you leap, particularly
about your market focus and service offerings. Then make the
jump and know that figuring it
out as you go along is very much a part of the process -- and
I'm on the verge
of starting a service business that is unique to my community.
I do not want to give out prices and other information over the
phone as I am concerned about "copy-cat" businesses.
As part of my business I plan to give free consultations in order
to address services offered and price information. How do I address
those people who will try to glean this information over the
Thanks for your
- A. Your question is one that is often asked
in my seminars, Judi, along with concerns about sharing business
ideas that seem so perfect that sometimes the individuals don't
even want to tell ME!
Keep in mind
that there's often a fine line between caution and paranoia.
If you keep all your business details to yourself, you'll never
win over any customers. That said, it's important to be smart
about what you share with strangers who may be competition in
Begin by putting
together a list of all the benefits you offer customers who use
your services, and why you think your company is the best place
to turn to. Be very clear about what makes your service different
(and better) than others. Also, do not compete on price -- it's
a losing proposition for everyone involved. There will likely
always be someone who can deliver your service for a lower cost,
and if you continue to match the lower prices, your profits will
go sliding out the door faster than you can say, "Now why
did I think this business was such a good idea?" You must
show customers the total value of your service, not just how
much it will cost. (This is a subtle, but crucial, distinction.)
Your best marketing
tool is going to be recommendations and referrals from individuals
who have used your service. The more you can get this network
going, the less the competition will matter. Ramping this up
in the beginning can take time, but I encourage you to persevere
in getting written testimonials from satisfied customers. After
a while, a momentum builds and
marketing becomes easier.
My advice: when
in doubt, give out all the information you can so that customers
know the full story behind your business. Remember, it's a very
wide gap between having a business idea and actually launching
a business. Individuals calling your company snooping around
may never have the guts and determination that you do to make
their business a reality. And in the end, you'll have the head
start in the marketplace. Your bigger challenge is to keep serving
customers reliably, and in new ways -- so they keep coming back
again and again.
- Q.I have read, practiced,
experimented, and done my own house in faux and unusual painting
techniques. I've had great feedback on my work, and know I would
do better than some of the sloppy and expensive "professional"
jobs that I've seen. How do I get going? Is it a hindrance to
lack paid clients, or should I down play that? Should I put together
photos of walls I've done and samples of potential finishes,
and emphasize my satisfaction guarantee? I'm stuck and need a
shove in the right direction. Please advise me where to start.
- A. Your faux painting service
is one that could be very successful -- particularly since so
many people have discovered that just reading a Martha Stewart
magazine doesn't automatically turn them into a professional.
They like the sophisticated painted style, but have neither the
time nor talent
to make it happen in their own homes.
You need two
things to launch your service: satisfied customers and visual
examples of past work. Your ideas about taking photos of the
walls you've done is a great start. I'd put these together in
a nice portfolio -- make both the photos and presentation as
professional-looking as possible. (You want to avoid the hobbyist
look here at all costs, and eliminate any chance for potential
customers to think, "Oh, I could do this myself.")
You also need
other satisfied clients -- even if they are friends and relatives
at this point. You want lots of different room styles, and ideally
a few letters from clients saying positive things about your
service. Put these in your portfolio, too.
together a fact sheet on your service, along with a list of Q&As
that customers often ask. (For example, Can you paint any type
of wall?; What about outside walls?; How do I care for the walls?;
How do you charge?; What if I don't like the finished wall?)
You want to break down any hesitation they may have in hiring
Your idea of
having samples to show of different wall finishes is a good one.
Many times people can't translate a photo into the reality of
a painted wall. Help them overcome all these obstacles, give
them an interior that will enhance their living environment,
and you should have a very successful business.
- Q. I
am interested in starting a tutoring business in my community
with outreach focus on the homeschool population (but not necessarily
limited to), which is growing. My background is in education.
I have a current teaching license and have been teaching in my
local school district for eight years. Do you have any advice?
Do you have any success tips or stories?
- A. Dear Jennifer,
- While homeschooling
is not something we have direct experience with here at Working
let me address your question from the entrepreneurial/business
start-up standpoint. It
sounds like you have a clear picture of what you would like to
do, and that you have the skills and experience to pursue it.
What you need now is a strategy for putting your idea into action.
- As you know,
having a great idea for a business does not ensure having a great
business. We urge you to do your "homework." Make sure
there is a need in your community for tutoring services in the
- Are there a
significant number of people opting for homeschooling?
- Have you canvassed
them to determine if tutoring is a solution they'd like to have
- What is the
general attitude and acceptance of homeschooling in your area?
- Is there any
additional certification or training you may need to qualify?
- Know too how
to reach your audience...since PTA meetings are out, you'll need
to make sure you know where and how you'll find your clients,
and how you can make it easy for them to find you. You don't
indicate if tutoring would be a part-time business in addition
to your current teaching position, or your new full-time occupation.
While it's not the option for everyone, testing the entrepreneurial
waters while you're still employed full-time can be a great way
to minimize the financial risk of launching a new business, giving
you a chance to get up and running (and work the bugs out) before
making a complete commitment.
- Thank you for
writing Jennifer. We hope these suggestions help you with your
planning and launch. We wish you great success!
- Q. My sister-in-law and I are looking into
starting up a home-based mail order business. I have been using
the Internet as my primary research tool as I have a 3-year old
and an 18-month old and the library just isn't what it used to
be. From the volumes of information I have already been through
I have yet to find any information under home-based mail order,
and I'm sure that there must be specific regulations governing
mail order companies. My question is this: do you know of any
resource specific to this field? Perhaps I've been looking in
the wrong places, but I've tried just about every search engine
that I could think of. Of course I have "stumbled"
across a lot of great information along the way and your site
is one that I plan to return to. (Right now I need to put laundry
in the dryer, take my child's temperature and get started on
Thank you very much for any assistance that you may be able to
- A. Dear J. Burke:
- Your question
covers all of the bases regarding conducting research on the
Internet. As you've discovered, it's fun, accessible and you
don't have to leave home. However, the quantity of information
can be overwhelming, and finding what you went looking for can
seem like attempting to locate the proverbial needle in the haystack.
- Mail order is
a big topic. And as with any business start-up, you'll want to
do your homework: make sure you have a business plan, that you
have arranged for adequate financing, that you have identified
who your customers will be, and that you have done your market
research for your product or service.
- Here then are
a few resources to get you started:
- Since you seem
primarily concerned with the legalities of operating a home-based
mail-order business, you may find help in the books available
from Nolo Press. Nolo specializes in self-help law books for
entrepreneurs and individuals. And yes, you can browse and order
online. Visit Nolo Press at: http:www.nolo.com.
- Similarly, you
may want to also search on the Amazon.com booksellers site. Do
a subject search for books on "mail order businesses"
or "home-based business." Two books on the subject
of mail order that we like, (we included them in the resources
inside the second edition of the Working Solo Sourcebook,) are
and Run a Profitable Mail Order Business, by Robert W. Bly, Self-Counsel
Press, (800) 663-3007, and How
to Start a Home-Based Mail Order Business, by Georganne Fiumara,
Globe Pequot Press,
(800) 243-0495. Both books should also be available through Amazon.com,
http://www.amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com,
- One of the top
associations for mail order businesses that you'll want to be
aware of is the DMA, or Direct Marketing Association.
You can reach them at (212) 768-7277 or online at http:/www.the-dma.org.
- For answers
to your government questions, contact the SBA's Answer Desk,
at (800) 8-ASK-SBA. They have free and low-cost small business
publications available, including the classic "The Facts
About Starting a Small Business." You can request a
catalog of all available publications when you call. And be sure
to visit their richly informative web site, at http://www.sba.gov, for valuable information
and links to other small business sites.
- If your business
will involve exporting, then a visit to the US Department
of Commerce's Information Trade Center (ITC) site, can be
valuable. Check it out at http://www.ita.doc.gov/tic, or call the Trade
Information hotline at (800) USA-TRADE (800-872-8723).
- We hope this
helps you and your sister-in-law launch a successful home-based
- Q. Hello, my name
is Prakes S'pore. I am 39 years old and currently am working
for a shipping line for the past 17 years (I've been in this
trade as long as I can remember!). I would like to start a part-time
biz from my home in my spare time.
I have a PC/printer/modem connected to Pacific Internet.
My expertise is shipping. What can I offer in this trade to expand
- A. Dear Prakes:
- It sounds like
you are starting your business thinking on solid footing. Taking
something you know inside and out -- as a foundation for launching
your own business -- is an excellent way to test the waters of
solo entrepreneurism. Doing it on a part-time or moonlighting
basis is also a good strategy, and may require a smaller financial
cushion while you are getting up and running.
- You indicated
that you're looking for suggestions on types of businesses, probably
related to shipping, that you can successfully run from your
home. While we can't give you a failure-proof list of business
ideas, here are some questions that can help to clarify your
- What parts of
your current job can be outsourced?
- What aspects
of shipping can be handled by an individual?
- What parts of
the shipping industry don't rely on geographic location of supplier?
- What technology
changes will bring new opportunities for shipping?
- As for general
business start-up information and counseling, it's hard to beat
the combination of the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA)
and their program partner, SCORE (Service Corp of Retired
Executives). As we related to Lisa in the above reply, you
can contact the SBA's Answer Desk,
at (800) 8-ASK-SBA for information on the closest SBA office
near you, and for info on available free and low-cost small business
publications. Also, do visit their "granddaddy" of
all small business web sites at www.sba.gov for valuable information and links to
other small business sites. SCORE is also online, and
now offers free business counseling via their site and your email
address. Check them out for a full list of services at http://www.score.org, or by calling (800)
- You may also
be interested in visiting the US Department of Commerce's
Information Trade Center site, at http://www.ita.doc.gov/tic. Or you can call the
Trade Information hotline at (800) USA-TRADE (800 872-8723).
- Good luck making
your decision, and we wish you much success with your new business!
- Q. This question is
for Terri: I have an idea for a part-time business at home. I
would like to employ independent contractors, specifically moms
at home, to assist busy working mothers have it all (with a little
help of course). I already have a craft business that is under
the name of Marketplace
Promotions. I chose this name so
that it could possibly cover a few ideas that I might have. I
hope this is legal.
- Anyway, I would
like to call this personal service to working mothers "MOM",
meaning "Moms on the Move." The personal services would
- 1) Kid transport
- to/from school, or other
after school activities.
- 2) Meal preparing
- Too busy to cook, or working overtime? Let a MOM prepare a
meal, on site or off, and bring it to you.
- 3) House cleaning
- Too busy for housework, want to catch up on some sleep? Let
a MOM employee do the work for you.
- 4) Elderly services
- Lots of working mothers, especially the baby boomers, have
come of age - and so have their parents. They are not only taking
care of their households, but are also taking care of their parents
either at their residence or their parent's residence. I thought
that maybe personal services could come into play here, such
as grocery shopping, doctors appt., etc.
- 5) Personal
Shopper - Picking up, picking out gifts, or whatever need there
- 6) Laundry Services
- Pick up and delivery.
- 7) Party Catering
Services and meal preparations would be only for those MOMs who
are proficient in this area.
- 8) New Mothers
services - assisting the new mothers when they arrive at home.
- I would like
to know how to begin this venture. I thought about putting an
ad in the newspaper to find out how many MOMs would be interested.
I also thought about starting small with a few services and building
on that, such as personal services to New Moms. I could contact
hospitals in the area and let them put my services in the material
given to new moms before they leave the hospital to find customers.
I could also give my information to employment services looking
for women interested in this type of employment. I could also
attract customers with flyers. I could leave this information
with doctors' offices (those who would allow me to place them
in their offices).
- I believe this
is a good idea. I am in desperate need of guidance. Please HELP!!!!
- A. Dear Entrepreneurial
You have enough good ideas here for eight different businesses!
- Your task now
is to narrow down your ideas to the top two. You'll need to determine
which of your ideas comes with strong, built-in customer demand,
and then analyze this potential market for its size and ability
to buy, among other things. Because as you are probably aware
-- just because you have a good idea, doesn't mean you have a
- Conduct market
research, perhaps forming a focus group of local moms, to find
out which services they'd be most interested in. Find out too
whether these would be services associated with newborn care,
or with children in the Pre-K to 6th grade, for example. Faced
with several strong possibilities, you can then choose the one
that most appeals to you, or that most closely complements your
skills and interests.
- Then figure
out where people would be most likely to hear about the service:
a grocery store, the hospital, a PTA newsletter? Start with inexpensive
marketing first, rather than advertising in the local paper or
Yellow Pages. Let word-of-mouth and community marketing tactics
work for you during your start-up phase.
- Starting a business
is challenging enough; adding employees into the mix at the starting
gate can make it difficult to focus your energies where they're
most needed. Before you think seriously about hiring, you may
want to think about starting your business as a solo enterprise,
or with a partner, laying the groundwork, then adding contract
or part-time help as
your business grows.
- Line up your
support team now. Interview prospective bookkeepers, attorneys
and so forth now. (For example: child and elderly transport may
involve liability exposure, and the need for insurance.) Then
when you need those services, you'll know where to turn.
- You will also
want to make sure you've done your business-planning homework.There
are also any number of good books and audio programs on the market
today designed to help you navigate the finer points of planning
and launching a new venture. Books on designing business plans,
tackling financial, tax and bookkeeping details, even handling
legal issues, can be found on web sites like Amazon.com, Entrepreneur's
(self-help legal books) as well as at Working Solo and here at The Entrepreneurial Parent's Bookstore.
- And last but
not least, make sure you avail yourself of the excellent help
available to you through the US government and its small business
programs. Get familiar with the US Small Business Administration;
they offer a toll-free Answer Desk number (800 U ASK SBA), free
and low cost booklets
that address all manner of business start-up questions, and a
terrific web site that is a must-see for all solo entrepreneurs
- You will also
want to get acquainted with SCORE, the Service Corp of Retired
Executives, a program partner with the SBA. They offer free small
business counseling services, among other things, both online
and at offices throughout the US. Call 800 634-0245 or visit
- We hope these
suggestions will help you in your planning and lead you to some
top-notch resources. We wish you much success with your new business!
I am trying to get my home-based business going, but I can't
seem to get any clients. I offer off-site secretarial support,
specializing in word processing/data entry, etc. I am not sure
what the best marketing idea is to get my clients.
Can you give
me some advice on how to get clients? I have over 10 years office/administrative
experience. I would really appreciate all the help you could
Thank you very much.
- A. Dear Lindy,
You don't mention
how recently you launched your new home-based business, or what
kind of market research you did before you got going. If you
haven't already, ask your friends what kind of services would
be helpful at the offices where they work. And conduct a small
focus group with local business owners. Find out what services
they most need, and what they'd be willing to pay for them.
Some more marketing
suggestions might be:
- Decide what
qualities makes your business unique. What sets you apart from
your competition is often referred to as your unique selling
proposition, or "USP." The USP for your business could
be based on one or more of the following: price, availability,
selection, location and service. What sets your business apart?
From this exercise develop a USP that you can use in marketing
- Make sure you
have a clear idea of who your target customer is. Is it a local
small business, who needs temporary support to get through a
crunch period? Will they want you to be available to work for
them on site? Get out and meet your local business community.
Talk to them at Chamber of Commerce mixers. Send them a letter
introducing your company and its services, perhaps with a discount
coupon for a first time purchase. Make sure they know who you
are and what you have to offer.
marketing ideas, and don't rely solely on costly
advertising. Some "marketing on a shoestring" ideas
- Offer to give
a talk on a topic related to your business (maybe in conjunction
with a mixer at your local Chamber of Commerce).
- Give discounts
to customers who refer new customers to your business.
- Post colorful
flyers about your business on local bulletin boards.
- Create inexpensive
but useful printed items that have your company name on them,
such as pens, pencils and note pads that you can give to prospective
customers or use to thank returning ones.
Once you know
what services to offer and who your target customer is, then
get ready to market your services consistently and repeatedly.
Studies have shown that it can take as many as 7 to 9 exposures
to a message before
Once you have
new customers, do everything you can to hold onto them. They
can be your best source of advertising as well as a continued
source of business. It may take a while to get it going, but
word-of-mouth referrals are the single most powerful marketing
method for any small business.
We wish you much
success in your business!
Q. My friend and I are starting
up a home run business offering our organizational skills and experience,
i.e. for help in organizing parties, home, office, life in general,
etc. We live on the Isle of Man, British Isles and believe me
this is a very new concept over here. Basically we need advice
- on courses available
for us, regulations, where to start etc.
- I understand
that this may be difficult as we are not in the USA, but any
help you can give us will be gratefully received.
- Thank you
A. Dear Entrepreneurial
on your decision to start a business! While we can't really speak
to resources and regulations outside of the U.S., we can offer
you some general suggestions as you contemplate the start-up
phase of your business. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Just because
you have a great idea does not mean you have a business. Be sure you do your homework
-- including adequate market research. You may want to conduct
a focus group within your community -- especially important if
the service you are going to offer is new to them. You may be
doing some educating of your would-be customers.
- Narrow your
Pick one or two services to offer at first -- maybe home and
office organizing, or career and family time management -- then
expand your services as your customer's perceived needs grow
and your capabilities (increased cash flow, additional staff)
- Let technology
help you take advantage of all the small business resources out
Most small business sites not only have free helpful articles
and newsletters on tap for you, but they also post reviews of
top small business books, (which are worth buying and using)
and most have hotlinks to other recommended small business sites.
Both the Entrepreneurial
are good starting points.
- On the subject
of organizing, here a couple of books you may want to check out:
"Organizing from the Inside Out", by Julie Morgenstern,
and "Taming the Paper Tiger: Organizing the Paper in Your
Life," by Barbara Hemphill. Both books are available in
the Book Review section of the Working Solo Web site, or through
on-line booksellers like barnesandnoble.com and Amazon.com. Another great resource
is the web site for NAPO, the National Association of Professional
in the U.S. It's full of tips and resources for those looking
to get organized at home, work or in any other aspect of their
- Check with your
local government about home-based business regulations. We refer
business start-ups in the U.S. to both the SBA (The U.S. Small
Business Association) and SCORE, (Service Corp of Retired Executives,
a program partner with the SBA.) These organizations are part
of the U.S. Federal Government's programs for assisting small
businesses with start-up and growth issues. There may be an equivalent
organization where you are.
- Finally, on
a local note, we'd like to refer you to a fine colleague in the
UK, Ron Sheppard, who is very knowledgeable about freelancing.
A speaker and author, he operates two Web sites that will be
of interest to you. The first is the Freelance Centre which has articles,
information and products for solo entrepreneurs. The second,
RoySpeaks.com, gives you some background
on Roy Sheppard, his speaking topics and his expertise as a freelancer.
- While visiting
the Freelance Centre, be sure to check out his book "Your
Personal Survival Guide to the 21st Century", which shows
individuals how to successfully navigate the opportunities of
the coming decade, and the audio program "The Secrets of
Successful Freelancing", which covers all the bases of being
a successful, organized freelancer.
- Good luck with
your new enterprise, and thank you for your interest in Working
- Best wishes,