How to Start a Service Business

Starting Up

Almost everyone has knowledge or a skill that they can sell to start a service business. If you think you’re the exception, write down a list of your attributes, abilities and work history. Chances are, you have skills that are in high demand. Examples of basic skills for a service business that many people can perform are home help for the elderly, babysitting (with added fees for cooking and overnights), green cleaning services…and the list goes on. Here are some other ideas for great service businesses:

Here’s an idea for honing your skills. Adult education programs are available in most communities. They offer refresher courses that may give your confidence a boost. They also offer certificate programs where, for very little cost, you can gain additional expertise in, for example, real estate or bookkeeping. They can also increase your knowledge of bookkeeping and computer programs. Check them out if you’re still looking for ideas for a small business, service or otherwise.

Most people run their service businesses from their home, especially at the beginning. It’s cheaper and easier. Try to have an appropriate home office set up in order to consult with potential customers. Your basic equipment will be computer hardware and software as needed for your service. Include an office phone with separate fax line, fax/copier/printer combo, and the tools specific to the services you will be offering.

Your Business Plan

The importance of the business plan can’t be over-emphasized. This document is an overview of how you intend to operate your business and what your expectations are in terms of expenditures and income. It’s also your long-range view of your business’ future expansion. Basics for your plan are the same as those for any small business start-up.

  • State your business objectives
  • Indicate where you will get your start-up financing
  • Estimate your company’s potential for growth, based on your observations of similar businesses, your own research, and your personal goals
  • Clarify your marketing strategies
  • Spell out how you will develop your business
  • Lay out a preliminary budget, with earnings projections and estimated expenditures
  • Consult with an attorney if you need assistance with the form that the business will take (i.e. partnership, LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.)

You will find that state and federal governments have lots of resources for small business start-ups that will assist you with initial planning. SCORE is a nationwide group of retired businessmen who advise small businesses on any of the issues facing you. Chances are, you’ll find more examples of business plans than you imagined possible.

After deciding on the services you will offer, you’ll need to let others know about your expertise. You’ll need to convince potential customers that you offer something they need, and that you are the one who can provide for that need. This will require some planning on your part, convincing people to call on you and your business.

  • Invest in advertising in local media, aimed at your target market
  • Offer incentives and discounts for potential customers
  • Ask for a chance to speak at local service clubs and other groups about how your service can benefit attendees
  • Get the best price on brochures, flyers and business cards – then order a lot!
  • Allow some promotional dollars for a well-designed website

Remember, service businesses require more initial effort than businesses that sells widgets for your lawnmower. Customers always need widgets, but they may not think they need a personal chef. Offer to do a free dinner for a potential client who is interested but hesitant. Use your imagination – whatever the nature of your business, you can find a way to promote it to the people who are most in need of your service. If you offer a home cleaning service, what you are really offering is a fresh, clean home – and providing valuable time for the owner to do what she needs to do. In summary, service business start-ups must follow certain steps to succeed.

  • Promote your image, at home and on your website
  • Offer something more than similar services offer
  • Aim your advertising dollars at your target market
  • Concentrate your initial efforts at getting out the word about your services
  • Be innovative – think of new and novel ways of promoting your business
  • Be willing to stick it out – it may take some time for you to show a profit
  • That means planning your financing accordingly

Service businesses have advantages, especially if you’ve prepared well and feel secure with your expertise. Give your business the time and thought it deserves, and you’ll be well rewarded with the results.

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