You can start a business. Hey, you lose more than five bucks in the couch each month. Skip one fast food meal and start a business.
For 12 years, Susan had been an office manager for a service provider in an affluent, Connecticut community. She WAS the office for this sole proprietorship so Susan had developed an enviable skill set.
She did order capture, kept the books, maintained the client d-base and she was the only one who ever figured out how to use the dusty old copy machine. She was indispensable to the company, or so she thought.
In 2011, with the U.S. economy in the tank, Susan was laid off in a last-ditch effort by the company owner to stay afloat. So, at the age of 54, Susan got her pink slip and left a career that had helped support the family since 1997. Stunned, she wasn’t worried. Like most of us, she figured another job was just a classified ad away.
Didn’t happen. Susan updated her resume and cover letter and undertook a methodical campaign to find a new job. But even with an enviable list of office skills, Susan couldn’t even get an interview, much less a job. No one was hiring and living off unemployment didn’t cover the bills.
She spent months trying to find another office job. ANY office job, but companies weren’t hiring. Every small business owner was laying off, not hiring. Then, one day, Susan got an idea.
She spent some time on line, did a little research and started her own business on the world wide web. She became a virtual assistant with an on-line presence that cost her $5 and took a day in front of the computer to construct.
Susan built a web site. She created an on-site blog, she signed up with the big freelance connections like Elance, oDesk and Findafreelance, she posted her virtual assistant resume on Craigslist and optimized her digital classified to the geo-specific region of Connecticut where she lived.
Success in 14 Days
Really. Once Susan launched her on-line presence through a variety of low-cost and no-cost means, within two weeks she was making more money than she’d ever hoped to make working as the office manager for the past 12 years.
Here’s what happened. Her first client was a local cell phone B2B who worked out of his car and, so, he was on the road all day. He needed someone to capture incoming calls and short message them to his cell each business day. A simple assignment and one Susan could easily handle, though the client was only willing to pay $9.00 an hour, way below what she’d been earning. But it was a start so she took the long-term assignment.
A few days later, Susan gets another call from a small overseas company looking for call capture services in the U.S. Pay? $10 an hour. Now Susan was making $19 an hour, about what she was making as an office manager.
Next, she received a request for virtual assistant services, including bookkeeping, from a small plumbing company. Pay? $12 an hour. In less than 14 days, Susan had landed three regular clients – one from the European Union – and was earning $31 an hour working in her slippers.
In 14 days, Susan had created a successful on line business – one that she controls. She cherry picks requests for work, she’s gradually raised her hourly rates, she’s in a position to say ‘no’ to prospects to best manage her workload and, best of all, Susan started her on-line business for $5.
Here’s How She Did It
Okay, she had a set of skills. You do, too. What have employers paid you to do in the past? There are people reaching out via the world wide web for those skills. You just need to connect up.
Make a list of the things you do that people will pay you to do. Hand stitching? Babysitting? Bookkeeping? House cleaning? All of us can do something that others will pay to have done. Make your list.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do (Susan chose to use her office skills to become a virtual assistant), choose a web hosting company. A web host will place your web site on line so visitors can find it.
Choose a host that offers lots of freebies:
- 24/7, real-time tech support
- 100% uptime (when your web host is “down,” so’s your business)
- web site templates (you don’t have to be a programmer. Create your site using good old cut and paste. And change your web site as often as you like.)
- free software like a free checkout, a free payment gateway, free blog, free content management software, free web site creation software (if you want to get fancy), free everything
- free customer support. Building your first web site may require some hand holding, though it really is easy. Look for a web host that delivers hand holding tech-heads who will walk you through the web site creation process.
- no advertising. You might be tempted to go with free web hosting. DON’T! These companies make money placing advertising on your web site, and you have no control over who or what’s going to appear on your site hosted free.
- low monthly cost. Here’s where the $5.00 comes in. You should be able to find a web host that delivers all the tools and information required to design, build and run a web site for five bucks a month.
- a 30-day guarantee. Any web host that doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee is more concerned with its own success than in the success of its clients, a skewed corporate value that reveals a great deal about a company that, in actually, will be your business partner providing access to the W3.
- no long-term contracts. You may change your mind down the road or have built a stable client base and want to eliminate maintaining a web site. If you’re locked in you could be spending money you shouldn’t have to spend – again, the sign of a company that recognizes the importance of client success to its own, long-term growth and profitability.
Choose a domain name that is keyword dense
Your domain name is your on-line business name. You’ll have to register your domain name so someone else can’t use it. Look for a web host that offers free domain registration. It’ll save you a few bucks and it’s further demonstration of a web host that wants you to succeed on line.
Choose a domain name that says what you do: XYZdrycleaning.com, XYZvirtualservices.com, XYZhandsewingservices.com. These domain names are keyword dense – they say what the web site is about. A domain name like johnsmith.com, cookiecoocoo or some other “made-up” name, i.e. advetcoworldenterprisesinc.com won’t mean bubkus to search engine spiders that will crawl your web site, or to prospects.
Choose a domain name that tells search engine bots and prospects exactly what you do at XYZcardetailing.com.
Use Free Media to Advertise
Open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plurk, Technorati and all of the other social media web sites and start creating a web “presence.”
All of your social media activities should focus on driving traffic to your web site – the place you tell your story. Don’t just hawk your services on these social networking web sites. Provide helpful tips and suggestions on your Facebook wall, start networking and get linked in on LinkedIn.
Join associations on LinkedIn to build your credibility. Display the logos of these groups on your web site to demonstrate your expertise and involvement in your particular business sphere.
Build a Blog
A blog is an easy way to communicate with your prospective clients and existing client base. Post useful informative articles that add value to associating with your business. It’s called a value-added feature, or more generally, a soft incentive to prospective clients to engage your services.
Susan maintains an on-site blog using a simple blogging platform provided by her web host – a free blog module. Keep your blog up to date, adding content two-three times a week – even if it’s just a few words. Blogs build a site community, site stickiness (visitors return over and over) and it’s a simple means to interact with your clients and prospects.
This one is a no-brainer.
In Susan’s case, she localized her on-line, social media advertising, emphasizing that she was in Connecticut, serving Connecticut businesses. Even though Susan offers virtual assistant services, her CriagsList.com listing is posted under Connecticut service providers.
Lots of prospects prefer doing business locally, even though in today’s on-line business realm, any outsource can be located anywhere through the use of on-line collaboration software – another freebie your web host should offer.
Susan’s first European client wanted a U.S. presence and, with Susan answering the phone in Connecticut, USA, the small European company had a U.S. presence for a few bucks an hour.
Tell clients where you are. Provide numerous means to contact you to engage your services including:
- complete company name
- address (this is only appropriate if it’s a brick-and-mortar business or a PO box. Leave your personal address unlisted.)
- email user name
- web URL
- telephone number
- Skype user name (Skype is a VoIP – voice over internet protocol service that allows you to talk to clients half-way round the world free)
- fax number
- social media user names
List this information on your profile pages of all your social media accounts to integrate your marketing channels. List it on business cards, post card mailers, brochures, print media advertisements and other marketing collateral. This market channel integration creates a bigger impact as you build your presence in a highly-competitive market.
The world wide web is the last, best chance to start a business on the cheap – for just $5.00 a month. Pocket change. Just choose a good web host, use all of the free resources you can, tweak your business model as you go and shoot for the stars.
Today, Susan controls her work schedule. She even turns down business if she needs to focus on other things.
Like Susan, you can start small, and on the cheap, and see business success in a matter of days. The tools to build and operate a web business should be provided free. Use free social media to your advantage and wait for the calls and emails to start coming in.
It worked for a 54-year-old, laid off, long-time office manager. What skills can you sell?
There’s a buyer looking for you right now.