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We all have to start from somewhere right? Yes, and I remember those days crystal clear. The very beginning, where Google was my best friend. This was back in 2017 and the information was different. Not a lot of entrepreneurs were revealing their secrets of how to become successful, how they built successful companies, and of course, NO ONE was revealing their pricing. Everything was a secret and it was very difficult to figure out where to even begin.
So I started Googling “How to start a business” and “What do I need to start a business” and the best one “What qualifications do I need to start my business.” All were questions that I Googled when I first started. I didn’t know any other entrepreneurs in my industry, so I did what I could. Now Google only got me so far. After Googling for hours, I tried A LOT of different methods, and in the end, some worked and some definitely did not.
Over the years as we’ve helped more businesses we’ve also learned from working with them what’s really really important when you first get started, and what can sit on the sidelines a bit until the funds start coming in. From my own mistakes and the businesses we’ve helped grow, here are the 5 business essentials if you have a service-based business and are just getting started that you need to implement from the very beginning:
Contracts, Contracts, Contracts
This needs to be the first thing you invest in when you first start your business. I have a bit of a story behind this, from personal experience. To this day, a client still owes me $20,000 and with interest, it’s probably another $5,000 on top. So what happened? I trusted a client too much and my contract wasn’t strong enough. I thought I could get away with it when I first started. I copy and pasted my first contract from the internet. Well, you can probably guess what happened next.
The client signed the contract, I started working, the client didn’t pay the invoice, I continued to work, the client didn’t pay the invoice, finally I stopped work, and the client has never paid the invoice. Unfortunately, when I reached out to a lawyer to explore my opinions, he chuckled and said my contract would never hold up in court. Learn from my mistake, invest in hiring a lawyer to create strong contracts for your business.
Now, I do want to mention why I don’t advise just buying a template contract. In some scenarios, it makes sense HOWEVER if this is your first time EVER dealing with contracts yourself I would advise hiring a lawyer to create a contract for you. AND make sure they walk you through everything that is stated in the contract. I highly recommend, Not Your Father’s Lawyer. I found her a little over a year ago and instantly we connected. She explained everything to me, added in some extra clauses that I wanted, and always answers my questions in a timely manner (if you’ve worked with other lawyers, you know this last point is huge). If not her, I would find a lawyer that specializes in your type of business and has worked with other clientele in your industry.
Proposal and Invoice System
Long gone are the days when checks and Venmo (it’s actually highly illegal to use Venmo for business transactions, you don’t want any reason for the IRS to come knocking on your door) are acceptable. It’s time to upgrade, automate, and never have to email clients 4-5 times just to get one invoice paid. Implementing an invoicing system can save you so much time and money. Instead of waiting by the mailbox, you’ll receive email notifications of when your clients have paid, and on time. I highly recommend and currently use HoneyBook*. It’s simple, easy to set up, and I never have to worry about when or if a client has paid their invoice. The system is very comprehensive, easy to manage, and everything is in one place. Trust me when I say, I gained so much time back after implementing this into my business that it was when I did that it started to grow even more. No more chasing clients. Instead, you’ll be gaining more!
Think of your website as your business resume. To get any new job you need a resume, so starting a business is no different, you need a website. To get started you could create a simple landing page that explains who you are, what you do, and the services/products you have to offer. Also, include a section for testimonials and case studies from past clients you’ve worked with. Eventually, I would invest in a Website Designer, if you aren’t one yourself. I would also recommend using WordPress from the very beginning. We used to suggest SquareSpace, Wix, and the other website builders, and here’s why we don’t anymore; they are VERY VERY limited in everything you need to do as your business grows. Sure, it might be great at the beginning but as time goes on you’ll start realizing that the platform doesn’t have this feature or that design capability that you want. Learn from my mistake and start with WordPress from the very beginning.
Also, I DO NOT recommend GoDaddy to purchase your domain and hosting from. Why? Because their customer service is awful, you’ll receive a different answer for every problem, and they will start charging you hidden fees that they make you think you need but in reality, you don’t. They lost an entire client’s website once because of misinformed information. The client was lucky as we had backed up the website but if not, the client would have had to start redesigning their website from scratch. For domain and hosting, we recommend SiteGround*.
To learn more about what this is and why you need it, read this blog post. After you read that post you’ll completely understand why this is a business essential for when you first are getting started.
Brand Photos & Videos
This is definitely something most service-based businesses don’t think about when they get started, and they NEED to. This will set up for business for marketing success. Having brand photos and a brand video will uplevel your business from the very beginning. Not only will your business appear more professional but you’ll also connect with those potential clients a lot faster because they’ll be able to understand who you are, what you do, and how your services can help them.
Typically you think of brand photos, but I also suggest having a brand video BECAUSE no matter how pretty your website is people are going to skim through it. According to Wyzowl, where both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service.” AKA your brand needs a video to connect with your clients a lot faster than them just reading about your services.
We offer Brand Photography & Videography packages for clients in New York, Massachusetts, and the states in between. If you don’t live in those states, reach out to us as we know plenty of great photography and videographers that we can recommend all over the United States.
Alright, so there you have it. Those are our 5 business essentials you need to get started. Other things we didn’t mention include marketing strategies (email marketing, social media, video marketing, etc), and SEO. There’s a reason I didn’t. If you don’t have these essentials set up first and you go right into marketing your business, you’ll end up going back to the drawing board 6 months after starting. Start with the essentials first and then you can implement the marketing strategies.
If you have any questions, comments, or other suggestions please let us know! We’d love to hear from you.