Set up a home office
Setting up a home office doesn’t have to mean giving up the spare bedroom (although that’s a fantastic idea if you have the opportunity!). However, you do need to have a dedicated space to conduct your business. Working from home can mean long hours in the house alone with plenty of distractions such as Netflix, Facebook, the dog, the housework, and sitting in the garden soaking up the sun. Yes, you need to take breaks and not drive yourself into the ground, but at the same time, you need to be disciplined and focus on your fledgeling business. You need to give it every chance of taking off and becoming a success.
Even small spaces can become a neat little office area with room enough for some paperwork and a laptop. Having an organised space will also give you a feeling of professionalism and avoid the chances of you languishing on the couch. Order yourself some business cards too! Put them on your desk, because from that very first day, you are a business owner and you are going to make it work.
Create A Business Plan
A business plan is essential, and yet it’s a step skipped by most people starting a service business from home. A website and some shiny leaflets to post through doors do not a company make. Spend a good week just finding out what your competitors are doing and work out how you will do it different and better. Many service businesses are created in an already saturated market. Commercial cleaners, maid services and removalists are easily found, so you need to know what you are going to do differently. Undercutting your competitors on price alone will get you a few new clients to start with, but your business plan will tell you if this is a sustainable option. There is no small business which can survive on offering a service with too good to be true deals on a long term basis. You’ll likely end up with no cashflow, overworked and with disgruntled employees.
Don’t know where to start? There are plenty of great business plan templates to be found online, which can help you formulate the vision for your business. The trick to success will be sticking to plan and recognising when a new opportunity presents itself. Grow slow to increase the chances of success.
Create a realistic budget and stick to it
Once you set yourself up in a service business from home and have hit publish on your shiny new website, be warned that the salesmen will start calling almost immediately. If you are a cleaning service, a good idea is to set up a cleaning business expenses spreadsheet. Why? Well, think about your home expenses. You try each month to stick to the budget, but there is always a surprise expense you weren’t expecting. The same will happen as your business gets off the ground. There will be lots of costs when you startup, and it’s essential to keep track and avoid blowing the budget before you start. Avoid the spammy emails promising you top Google rankings for $100’s a month. They will have targeted all your competitors and will be doing the same, often in ways that will damage your relationship with Google. Instead, look to grow your business organically. Offer guest posts and backlinks on related websites and blogs and take an online SEO course (there are plenty of free tips on the web) and do it yourself.
While your current workstation works fine now, it’s imperative to include replacement hardware in your budget. Technology is a necessary cost for an efficient and organized business, but you can keep the acquisition costs low. With refurbished LCD monitors, achieving a dual-monitor setup or upgrading to a bigger screen is within your reach and budget.
Remember that some great businesses started with nothing. They simply offered an excellent service or had a unique product which people wanted. You don’t need to take out large loans or run up astronomical credit card bills if what you have is good. Take your time, be patient and think about every expense which leaves your bank account. Do you really need it? Can you do it better yourself? What should I be learning to strengthen my business?
Don’t employ cheap, employ outstanding
It can be tempting to try and save every cent when starting a service business. However, cutting corners will only bring you pain, eroding your company culture before it starts. Service based businesses often get a bad rap for underpaying and mistreating staff. However, the industry is changing. You only need to look in the news lately to see franchised stores, celebrity chefs and global brands exposed for underpaying staff. Take on staff, only when you need and pay them properly. The people that are there at the beginning, helping to make your business work will be the future team leaders and managers of your company. Instil in them values of treating people fairly, paying market rate and being passionate about delivering a good service. These values from day one will build a strong foundation for the future.
Do the right thing and register your business
Let’s say you have set up a small business from home offering green cleaning services. You have all the equipment, eco friendly products and a few customers are starting to come in. You are a sole trader. The moment you begin to employ people as you take on more jobs, you will have tax and government obligations to meet and need to set yourself up as a proper company.
This may sound daunting, but there is plenty of help to be found. Try searching the ATO website or joining small business networking and MeetUp events, even Facebook groups. A service based business must be fully registered and playing by the book, as our focus is usually on people and well, delivering a service! There will be times, through no fault of your own that a mistake may happen or a job may go pear-shaped. The last thing you need is someone asking questions, or an ombudsman or the tax dept knocking on your door.
A small business will only survive on a good reputation and healthy finances, so remember to diligently complete your cleaning business expenses spreadsheet or similar for your chosen service business. Make sure your business values and processes remain squeaky clean, and your customers will build trust and become loyal to you.