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Where Do You Start?
Posted 11 August 2003 - 01:07 PM
What IS the first step to branching out? I am one of those compulsively organised people, and I would appreciate any help in getting my ducks in a row!
Do I seek clientele first? The business license? The contract?
It's Monday ALL OVER THE PLACE--can someone give me a gentle push in the right direction? Thanks for the help, ya'll!
Posted 11 August 2003 - 01:30 PM
Then again, I'm still working on getting my first paying customer, so maybe my advice isn't so valuable
Posted 11 August 2003 - 01:32 PM
Who are your potential customers? (If you say "people who need SEO", think again. REALLY think about people who need your service. Why do they need you? How are you different? What is your "promise"?)
How will you market to them?
What exactly will you be selling them? (processes, forms, contracts, reports go here)
How much will you charge?
Now you have enough info to build a business plan. Estimate startup costs including professional fees, licencing, software, office needs, etc. Project marketing costs and sales. Include your goals and a written version of your vision. This is your blueprint.
Go to the library or look up the local library online. They have tons of locally-relevant info on starting a small business. They can help you find out what needs to be filed, applied for, or processed in your area.
Contact the state Department of Revenue to find out the specifics for taxes and business licences. You may also need to check with your city, county, or locality.
Join the local Chamber of Commerce. Many, many benefits to being involved locally.
Clearly define the processes and steps you will take on a client's behalf. Be ready to answer questions. Define pricing for everything so that you don't end up absorbing "extras".
Start marketing! Create a logo, a site, and marketing materials like business cards.
How's that for a start?
Posted 11 August 2003 - 02:50 PM
I am ready to rock and roll right now (except for the business cards, domain name, license....etc LOL). I will start small and get bigger. Thanks again ya'll.
Posted 11 August 2003 - 04:22 PM
Hi, Scottie had some excellent suggestions. I thought I'd add a couple more.
1) Consider doing a pro bono job for a local business. They could become your best "sales agent" and will tell others what a great job you did (I know, doing pro bono work is controversial, but it is a method of getting word out that you're here, and that you're GOOD).
2) Find out where the "movers and shakers" in the local business arena congregate. The COC is good, but in some cities, folks like to hang out at other networking events, or Business Marketing Association Meetings. These make a natural audience, if you spend your time first learning about them, and what they want and need. Listen a lot. Ask questions. Then, when they ask you, be ready to answer.
3) Give your cards out everywhere: to your dentist, at the local coffee shop....
4) Contact some local web designers. Not all designers are SEO gurus (and some think they are who aren't The wiser will realize that it's smart to team up with someone who understands SEO, like you. YOu can send a small post card, create a great flyer that educates about what you can do for them....
These are a few ideas. Good luck with your new business!
Posted 11 August 2003 - 04:24 PM
Market FIRST...that's my priority
And yes, put your web site up and get the best cards you can afford ASAP....
Posted 11 August 2003 - 05:57 PM
Because of where I live (Orlando/Disney area), these small businesses could benefit from both the local and the international scene. We have tourists from all over the world who come here to "experience the magic".
Scottie, my "target market" right now are small sites run independantly. I'm not in it for the $$ right now, cuz that'd be stupid for me to expect the big bucks without an impressive resume. Truth is, I just want to do it for the experience (read:fun). I think I'd have a lot to offer some of the local businesses here and am willing to go for it.
Thanks again to all of ya'll for the encouragement. Sheriw, thank you for the feedback here and also in the other threads I saw you on. Welcome to the forums, by the way--look forward to "bantering" with you soon!
Posted 11 August 2003 - 06:07 PM
Same with your website, logo and so forth. How can you expect a customer to take your business seriously if you don't? I don't know how many people I sent walking as an IT manager because of things like this. You can only get away with it if you have absolutely no competition at all (which is unlikely), or the client is sloppy as well.
A corporation usually expects people to be as professional as they are. If they go on a handshake, you can too. But if they want to hold a 2 hour meeting and ask you to send documents for review to the legal department and have embossed business cards, then that is how they want to be seen, and how they expect their partners to be (birds of a feather). Forget this and you can get very embarrassed. Be at least as professional as your clients.
To many people, skimping also means you aren't sure that you will be in business later on and don't want to invest in your own company. Why would they want to invest in you if you don't? BTW, the "you" I'm talking to here is not Deb per se, but every small business startup. It's so frustrating watching wasted potential!
One (of several) "I have no money but need to start up" Checklists:
1. Forget the business card for now unless you can afford really good ones (Not gold plated, but quality - raised ink, etc) No clip art.
2. Write up a one page services agreement in plain english, and a payment structure.
3. Get a client through a friend/non-profit/etc. Do it for free if necessary - the payment structure helps you focus - it's a guideline, not a law. If you are uncomfortable charging, try telling them that you need $100 for business cards because you are just starting out (works great with NPO's - not so good with established businesses)
3. Do a great job on the site. Once they are happy, give everyone there who will take it a business card (remember the $100?) along with a "cheat sheet" of what you do (not a brochure, unless it's Grade A)
4. Now review your services agreement and change it to reflect what you just learned.
5. Get another client - this time charge them for something else you need. Like a trade name registration and a business bank account - usually $150. Do not incorporate at this time! If you want I'll post reasons for that later. Just don't.
6. Lather, rinse, repeat for a while Everytime you finish a client invest into the business - buy a copy of your fav SEO software or what ever. (or pay yourself back for buying it).
7. After a bit you will be profitable and won't need the rest of this checklist, so I'll stop now.
Bottom line - invest in your business and so will your clients. People notice and react to quality.
On contracts - I've noticed several people on several forums here mentioning contracts and guarantees and other legal documents. Since I'm a lawyer, obviously I don't have a lot of problems myself, but I was wondering if it would be worth it to make an SEO Legal Kit or some such, with sample contracts, invoices, and so on. Would anyone here be interested in this, or would it be a waste of my time? And what would you want in it?
(I'm hope that didn't come across as commercial - not intended that way)
Posted 11 August 2003 - 06:40 PM
I'm NOT a lawyer, and I know laws vary from state to state, but even giving people (such as myself) a guideline would be great.
Insofar as guarantees, I know better than to give them. I will take the time to explain to them (obviously the Cliff's Notes version!) of what my job is and what I intend to do for them, but to guarantee "The top 3" positions on the SERPS is suicide as far as I'm concerned. Once I explain how the engines work, I will let them know I will do all I can for their site to the best of my ability, but I make no guarantees for anything.
I am straying from the point--sorry. If you were to create a basic document outlining SEO/SEM contractual agreement, you'd never have to work again a day in your life (although I'm sure some of us here would like the Forum Discount! )
Thanks for your input!
Posted 11 August 2003 - 06:43 PM
Posted 11 August 2003 - 08:21 PM
I'll start putting something together - any volunteers to be bored to death giving feedback on the inevitable draft?
Posted 11 August 2003 - 08:34 PM
I would LOVE to jump in on this one--and I don't have the expertise Jill and Scottie and the rest do.
I can't say I could offer much by way of input, but I'd love to see this! Consider this.......
Posted 11 August 2003 - 09:27 PM
Maybe she'll pop in and mention it... Oh, Kal...
Posted 11 August 2003 - 09:50 PM
I came from a venture backed company that didn't need to prove itself to spend money. As we have all learned, that can be medicine for disaster.
The thing about going at it alone on cash flow is that you have to provide something of real value that people will pay for right away. I think you need to prove that if a client gives you a dollar, you can either generate or save three in return. Clients latch onto sales and savings, so this type of discussion is essential with your sales pitch. Also, be honest as many can people empathise with the hurdles with a start-up.
As far as getting started, I think the first thing prospects need to see is results. Unfortionately, you can't get results without clients and you can't get results without clients.
Thus, do whatever you can to get clients. Since it will be hard to get them to pay much without much proof their investment is worth it, maybe you could base it on results. For example, if I am a home builder trying to sell homes I would pay you to get me to get qualified leads. The problem is these are often tough to quantify and if their content or sales team stinks you can't help that. Therefore, you might make a general deal that if your work is successful, you'll compensate me x in 12 months. Obviously a deal riddled with liability, but most people are willing to send you a bone if you really nail it for them. Just pick you first clients carefully. Winners are surrounded with winners and those looking for something for free are usually a waste of time.
On a side note, you are only as good as your last project IMO. Thus, your first job may be pro bono and worth $1,000. Your second job may be worth $2,000 but you will likely only be able to charge $1,000, and so on. Eventually (in years) your worth will equal what you charge. Thus, you are going to have to always overdeliver while you grow.
Starting a business typically takes two years, so patience is a virtue and your hard work will pay off before you know it.
Thats my experience for what it's worth.
added: be clear with what you are delivering with a contract. You don't need a laywer, just be specific and get them to sign it. Then make sure you can prove you delivered what you said you would. I take a 50% deposit and full payment on delivery. Make sure not to deliver until final payment is recieved. Look at other contracts and try to gleen the key points from them. I have several you can use as a guide if you would like (just email me).
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