Essential Tips for Starting a Service Business

Anyone can start selling a service. If you have a certain skill, knowledge or experience that other people deem valuable, you immediately become qualified. A service business model has hardly any entry barrier. However, it certainly doesn’t mean that you should come unprepared.

Operating your own business, whether it’s a solo venture or a small team, requires some pre-planning, especially in terms of potential income and the investment money you have at your disposal. Now, before you start calling yourself a business owner, make sure you are covered in the following areas.

You Have the Exact Goal in Mind and a Plan How to Reach It

In other words, you have a business plan for running your venture. It shouldn’t be a lengthy copy like the one required for a business loan (unless you plan to obtain one). Yet it should clearly state your objectives, your income goals, operational model, expenses and a detailed map of how you plan to achieve your goals.

For instance, as a freelance writer, you may need to calculate:

  • How many posts you’ll need to produce per month to meet your income goal.
  • What should be your hourly rate based on a number of hours you plan to work daily/monthly.
  • How many clients you’ll need to have on board to make all of the above happen.

Additionally, you’ll need to think of the ways how you plan to attract those clients – cold pitching, referrals, social media marketing? Outline everything you are willing to try in the first month of your operations.

You Left Your Employer on Good Terms

Former employers or referrals from them often become your first clients. So, speak about your transition to a business owner with your boss in advance and ask how would they feel about working with you on the new terms.

You Understand How You Will Manage Your Time and Finances

As a service provider, you will have to juggle multiple chores at a time and your monthly paycheck will directly depend on how efficient you are. Time is money now and you won’t get paid for just showing up each morning and sitting at your desk.

Hence, you need to clearly understand:

  • How much time does it take you to deliver a certain type of service?
  • How much non-billable hours will you have (those spent on marketing, invoicing, admin work etc)?
  • How can you reduce/diminish those non-billable hours (e.g. by creating retainers and packaging your services or including an extra percent to the new clients check)?

Additionally, you may need to hone your time management and organizational skills. Start with:

  • Creating a set of autoresponders and client templates to reduce the time spent on discussing each project
  • Consider getting an online booking system, which will automatically accept payments and bookings via your website.
  • Ruthlessly track the time you spend on each task. Toggl and Rescue Time are two good tools to try.
  • Create a set of business systems and simple automations for dealing with various aspects of your business – communication, finances, marketing etc.
  • Consider outsourcing various routine and time-consuming tasks e.g. accounting, taxes, invoicing etc.

You Are Actively Looking for Anchor Clients

Anchor clients are your secret to making really high income as a service provider. In a nutshell, those are returning client, which bring you the most income on a regular basis. They hire you for a set amount of hours/services per month and you can grab additional smaller projects to meet your monthly income goals.

Moreover, anchor clients are usually excellent sources of further referrals and don’t mind sharing your contacts with their peers.

Now, how do you find those?

  • Make sure you treat your early clients as royalty – they are always on top of your priority lists, you are willing to give them a slight discount for repeat business, but ask not to tell anyone what they pay you.
  • Stick to certain niches and push your name out there through guest blogging and social media. Hone your sales message accordingly to their needs.
  • Network both online and offline in the places where your ideal clients hang out too.

Last, but not least – never compromise your integrity as your reputation and credibility are the backbone of your service business success.

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Written by:
Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien
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