Friday, July 20, 2007

Building Your Virtual Business From Scratch

I've been getting lots of inquiries about what it takes to get a business going from scratch, so I put together this list based on helping my friend Marge transition from full-time teaching to creating an editing business she named CLEAR CONTENT.

I walked her through these steps last March while visiting in Tucson. It was a crash course, for sure, but you can see that things are popping for Marge when you read a snippet of an email she posted to me today. Here's what Marge, and you, will need to do to get up and going:

BRANDING - Finding a product/service that suits you and branding it. That means giving your business a name that carries the message you want to empart.

ESTABLISHING A BUDGET/BUSINESS PLAN - For a small business (or any) the budget will dictate direction. We look at easy money versus building a business pipeline.

EQUIPMENT - Folks have to have the right technology, which will include a computer, Internet connection (preferably broadband) and a phone/fax. A laptop helps many stay sane as they can work outside the house.

FINANCES - Learning about the IRS and schedule Cs, plus keeping good accounting is very important. Some really smart people work with Quicken, but computer adverse people can do just as well with an accounting ledger.

BUSINESS NETWORKING - Exploring local/national networking options is important to the next category - sales/marketing.

SALES/MARKETING - This is a constant. People need to learn to crack a leads list, cope with cold-calling and how to handle interviews (both in person and remotely)

MANAGING TIME - Another biggie. Everyone has their rhythms. Being a virtual company means you can work with not against yours. But there's danger of sliding into inaction without a schedule

NEGOTIATING A FEE FOR SERVICE OR PRODUCT - Another stumbler for newcomers, but those business networks you join will help you establish the fees that are acceptable in your area versus what you can charge a client in a metro area.

COPING WITH GROWTH - It's often feast or famine in this world. AZ has developed the "accordian" approach to coping with multiple projects (see early blog entry).

Almost five months later, after working through these steps, Marge is getting results. Here's what she has to say:

Two meetings and lots of leads today! Let's see if they truly "lead" anywhere. But one man in BNI, who already does one of those advertising mailers, is starting a tourist-type quarterly magazine, the kind that gets left in hotel rooms, and he wants me to edit! And I have a meeting next week with someone who is a graphic artist who also writes, but I'm hoping she's willing to give some of the writing up to me because the woman who put us together told me that she (the artist) is not that crazy about writing.

Sometimes it's fun here in virtual company land!

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