18 home-based business energizers for writers and professional service providers:
- Take the time to figure out what the one single main purpose of your business is and outline your business model. As the professor of my Developing Innovative Ideas for Entrepreneurs class said, ‘Figure out who you want to help and in what order.’ This does not mean all of the things that you hope to (one day) do for them but rather the one thing that you can do well now and that you feel passionate about. For the business model, zoom in on delivering to a few key groups that need and would be willing to pay for that service.
- Rent a PO Box at a respectable address like the U.S. Post Office in your neighborhood. Some box rentals even have prestigious addresses. I once saw an address at the Empire State building and felt impressed by the company. It turned out to be a box rental at that location. This is a good step to do before any of the steps that follow because you’ll be able to use your official PO Box address on things like your credit card statement, your paperwork with the government and your business cards.
- Pick a business name that is available. Decide whether you want to do business under your own name, known as DBA [your name] or make up a name and go through your state’s process for determining whether that name is available. Register one that is.
- Pick a website name that is available and register your domain name. This might be yourname.com or some other name that you would like to be using to do business online.
- Set up a basic website and the email address at your domain name. An email address with your own name in the domain name will come in handy with online registrations, online banking and more. WordPress is fairly easy to figure out; go ahead and give it a try. At first, you really only need Page 1. Include your business purpose, your About Us, how to get in touch with you and, if you have them, several testimonials.
- Open a business bank account. If you can put together $100, you can have your own business bank account. Shop around. Your bank may even help you get an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service. Be sure to check on fees and whether you can save money by online delivery of your bank statement.
- Set up a credit card connected with your business bank account. The bank will probably offer this anyway. It will come in handy for all of your business expenses.
- Give yourself a handle and a tagline. My handle is ‘editor and profile writer.’ My tagline, based on my true belief is ‘everyone has a story to share.’
- Beg, barter or buy a professionally-designed logo and business card. I had lunch with a friend who is a designer and, when we sat down, I had no idea of having a logo by the very next day. She showed me what she had done for other people and I asked whether she would want to do one for me. Because she knew me, she was able to intuitively design something that was a perfect fit after discussing my business for just 10 minutes. Ask to have the logo as a JPEG.
- Open an account with an online printing company and order your business cards.
- Order thank you notes … and use them. After I ordered my business cards, I got lots of followup emails from the printer. When I saw a 40% off sale, my next step was to order thank you notes that displayed my logo. These came with matching envelopes, plus I ordered large envelopes with my logo on the outside. That was all the stationery I needed for the first two years and provided a classy way to say ‘thank you’ to my referrers.
- Start with your local government and find out what you need to do to set up a business in your home. My phone calls to the city led me to begin with seeking a certificate of occupancy. That naturally lead to the next step of paying city business fees and taxes. From there, I registered with the state and picked up estimated tax payment forms from the tax office. When you receive your business license, frame it and put it on the wall above your workspace. It’s official.
- Check with the closest university and see if they have a small business development center. Ask whether they have free bookkeeping software that you can try. Find someone who can show you how to use it and start recording income and expenses, however little or much they may be. I live near one such university, and the SBDC gave me a free QuickBooks disk that I was able to use for several years to keep my books.
- Research and choose a business invoicing and/or payment system, such as Paypal. You can link your bank account and easily transfer funds.
- Go to Google and set up a gmail account, google drive, and google calendar. You’ll need them for sending scheduling invites if you have anything to do with the corporate world and, in any case, for sharing & editing documents. Learn how to use these tools.
- Go to a sign store and ask them to turn your business card or logo into a name tag for you. Wear it to all networking events and focus on finding out how you can help other people who you meet at these events. Give out your business card only to those you’ve spoken with long enough to find out how you can help them. Follow up.
- Now focus all of your energy on getting your first client. Once you have the first client and a successful experience, ask for a testimonial. Say, ‘What did I do for you and what was the most important benefit? What was the second most important benefit? May I include your comment on my website?’ Then focus on getting your next client; repeat.
- Write a short article as a blog for your website, with a title that includes the search engine keywords (ex. Managing editor Lehigh Valley). It’s best to make this article 300 words or more, and don’t worry about giving away secrets. Your job right now is to build credibility.
For ways we can help you get the word out about your new business, click here.