There aren’t many business owners out there that will tell you starting a business is easy – particularly a service based business. Most anything you will read about starting a business will tell you that the most important part of getting it off the ground is getting your head in the right space, and they are right. Attitude, self-confidence and ambition are all crucial in developing the resilience to start and maintain successful business.
But there are a few other things new service based business owners will need to do, in addition to developing the right attitude in order to make their business a success.
…is a big task. Before any business goes to market it’s important to have all the ducks in a row. Service based businesses need to have things like rates, timelines, and customer service standards put together before they start doing business. With a little bit of industry research, anyone can establish the appropriate rate structure for their business, keeping in mind all of the costs that should have been determined in the business plan to be sure the business can be profitable. Timeline standards are important for both the business and the customer – it keeps the business on track when things get busy (a good problem to have, gives the business a gauge on when they may need to hire additional help, and gives customers and prospects a sense of security in knowing their service will be rendered in a timely fashion.
Customer service is huge. Many times, customer service standards are an afterthought, which can really end up destroying a business in the long run – especially if it is SERVICE based. Service IS THE BUSINESS. This means it’s important to pay close attention to the basic principles of customer service, creating a system for service requests so that issues can be tracked and resolved quickly and taking it one step further, building elements in to your service structure that are going to WOW the customers. Things like blogging, offering educational resources, doing courtesy calls, sending thank you notes or holiday cards – can all go a long way in customer retention and to provide referrals.
Usually a last minute decision, accepting payments should really be number one on the agenda since the whole point of starting a business is to make money. Unfortunately many business owners look to payment companies they are familiar with, high profile companies like PayPal or Square that can be set up quickly online. This becomes problematic when the business starts generating significant cash flow and realizes that the processing rates they are being offered may not be the most competitive option. Before long they realize they are giving away 1-2% on their cash flow unnecessarily. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s important to do adequate research, understand payment processing rates, what effects them, who your customers will be, what payment methods will they use, what types of credit cards will they most likely use (debit vs reward cards can affect processing rates), and most importantly what payment software/hardware will best serve the needs of your business.
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One thing is for sure – if you are starting a service based business – you better know your craft. One way to show prospects that your business is the best choice is to curate testimonials and reviews from previous clients you have worked with maybe as a freelancer, apprentice or volunteer. In today’s “Yelp” age of consumerism, nothing goes further than a handful of strong recommendations and endorsements. Recommendations and testimonials are a great, low-cost way to drum up business and will likely prove to be way more valuable than expensive advertisements. Depending on your service, building a portfolio or creating case studies can also speak volumes to the quality of your work. Portfolios or case studies can be displayed on a simple website and can either be done in-house by using free online design programs like Canva or, if the budget allows, can be designed and set-up by a professional graphic designer.
Once the ducks are all in a row, you are ready to accept payments and have some work to show for yourself – you’re ready to start recruiting customers. This step can look very different depending on the service or industry, but one method that never fails regardless of the industry is networking. Figure out where your target market is spending their time and go to them. That could mean joining different networking groups, membership organizations, attending tradeshows, public events…the list goes on. Wherever they are, go there and stand out. Create contests, giveaways, opportunities for them to learn – anything that creates value and incentive to draw them in will give you a minute to make an impact and brand your business.
And that’s not limited to face to face events – social media also offers a variety of opportunities to network. This could be through specialized LinkedIn Groups, Quora question and answer forums, Twitter feeds or private Facebook Groups serving your market. If there is money built in to the budget, social media ads can also help to boost exposure for a small business. Online opportunities are really endless but it’s important to make sure that you have a credible, professional, updated website to direct prospects to.
Needless to say, this is only the tip of the iceberg of starting a service based business. Like anything else in life, you will get out of your business only what you put in to it. It can be exhausting and feel overwhelming at times but in the words of the great Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”