A lot of people really want to take that leap and start their own business. Working for someone else can be comfortable, less stressful but at the same time, why should skills provide a healthy profit for someone else? If you have marketable skills, you don’t need a college degree or even a business background to take that leap. I have spent years of my life unpaid and overworked. The final straw was when I went from making $30/hour to half that for an unappreciative employer. On top of this, even though I requested accommodations for my disability related to military service, I was fired for using those accommodations. How illegal that was can be saved for another rant.
This particular post is for those out there who need reassurance that forming their own company is not that difficult. The easiest was to get started is as an independent contractor. An independent contractor status is best approached by forming a sole proprietorship and obtaining what’s known as a DBA, or Doing Business As. Create a name for your service and simply register that name on Sunbiz.org for $50. This promotes professionlism and also allows you to create an identity beyond yourself. Take that DBA and open a business bank account. This also legitimizes your business in the eyes of future clients.
Many people struggle with whether to make their business an LLC. This is not necessary unless, first, you want to protect personal assets from any business liability & second, you are willing to learn and adhere to the rules required to be followed that make an LLC credible. If these rules are not followed, your LLC offers zero protection, also another rant altogether.
Once you formed your business, now it’s time to market. First, a logo and some business cards are a must. Next, take advantage of all the free marketing out there with social media, Facebook, LindedIn, Twitter, WordPress Blogging etc….Then get your business info listed in the search engines, Google, Bing, Yahoo & YP. Now it’s time to tackle a webpage. You can get a domain name for super cheap on GoDaddy and try a month free and build a website. They also offer free SEO optimization.I would also post a quick ad on Craigslist, we have gotten quite a bit of businessfrom there but update it often.
Next, do some market research. I would research competitors and businesses that complement your services. Get out there, introduce yourself and drop business cards off there and with family and friends. If people call for services you don’t offer, recommend places that do and don’t be afraid to ask them to mention your recommendation.
Accounting software is crucial. Accounting software like QuickBooks online will offer a free month and can be tailored to match your services. There is typically a small monthly cost but will save you money come tax time. QuickBooks is user friendly and will help you categorize income and expenses or assets and liabilities. It will also provide you will a professional way to give customers estimates and invoice them upon project completion. This screams professional! It also provides a way for customers to pay with credit cards and bank transfers should you use their merchant services.
Lastly, customer word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. Treat your customers with respect, always do what you say you will and be where you say you’ll be. Offer free estimates and competitive pricing! Discounts to military & first responders shows you are thankful and word spreads about that! And always ask them to give you a review online. If they are happy with your service, they will never mind doing it.
If you ever have accounting questions or need tax guidance, contact my wife, Nikki Hairston, our tax guru at 850-381-3249.
Coastie Marine, http://www.coastiemarine.com