Do you find yourself in bed at night or in the shower with thoughts such as, “My business isn’t good enough… My business isn’t big enough to beat my competitors… It’s just me, why would anyone hire me…”
These are common thoughts for entrepreneurs just starting out, so you can at least rest easy knowing you’re not alone. Everyone has the fear that their business won’t compare to others who started earlier or have more experience. It can be tough to break through your limited experience while you’re battling a huge learning curve in owning your own business instead of collecting a paycheck from someone else. To help ease your fears, we’ve gathered five simple but effective ways to make your business appear as if you’ve been in business for years (even if you’re just starting out).
1) Build a Great Looking Website
Just five years ago, the thought of building a website seemed overwhelming to most people who weren’t professional web designers. Now, there are some great website building platforms available that don’t cost an arm and a leg or require a degree in web design. Instead, they use easy “drag and drop” widgets that allow you to build a website pain-free. Squarespace, Wix and Duda are just three of the most popular choices available. With awesome templates, blogging tools, affordable options and basic image editing, the hardest part left for you to figure out might be finding an available domain name. But, on that note: make sure your brand name is consistent and matching for the URL for your business (also, the shorter the better) and all of your social profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Even if you’re not going to use the social profiles right away, save your branded URLs so another business doesn’t take them.
2) Get (Free) Earned Media Coverage
You’ve spent months creating your business model, your website is up and your software is ready to process orders. But wait…how are you planning on attracting customers to your web page? Have you thought about investing some time and energy into getting your local media to cover your new business? Or, what about national media?
While that sounds like a daunting task (or something reserved for big, established brands), there are a few great tools that can get you attention from the right people. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) gathers expert sources for journalists to interview. On their free basic plan, you’ll receive three emails a day with topics that reporters are researching based on keywords. Just respond on topics you’re knowledgeable about, and you might see your business featured in some major media outlets.
Followerwonk is another interesting tool; it uses Twitter to help you find potential customers and influencers. Using one of their unique features, you can search Twitter bios to connect with an audience that will be interested in your product. For example, if you’re in the SaaS business, you could type in “tech writer” to find journalists to contact.
3) Create a Business Email
We’ve all received those emails that looked legitimate at first, but then the “business” email address ended in @yahoo.com or @me.com. In today’s world of spam and hackers, looking like an official online business will make your customers way more likely to open your email or sign up for your list. Since a business email is so simple to set up, there are practically no excuses for getting one.
If you use Google Cloud, you can set up a business email using G Suite products to sync with your current tools. If you prefer Microsoft, check out their version called Rackspace. Pricing for a customized email can be as little as $2 per user, and the cost is usually based on the number of users, amount of storage space and other options that scale to your business as it grows.
4) Send Professional Invoices
I like Excel Spreadsheets as much as the next guy, and they can be great for tracking inventory. But it’s not going to say much about you or your business if you send one to a client and call it an “invoice.” You need a professional tool that incorporates your business logo, clearly displays your contact info and most importantly communicates your legitimacy to clients.
A great option to look into here is FreshBooks. Not only can they design beautiful invoices that carry over the branding of your website, but they can also automate invoices for monthly fees, send payment reminders for delinquent clients, add late fees and more.
You might be awesome at creating the product or performing the service you’re selling, but (unless you’re an accountant) you’re probably lacking when it comes to bookkeeping and tracking income. With FreshBooks, you can focus on doing what you do best and leave some of the financial headaches behind.
5) Officially Form Your Business as an LLC or Corporation
While tips 1-4 above will polish up your image and branding, filing for an LLC or Corporation proves your business has credibility and substance — to both your customers and the government. Registering your corporation protects your personal assets against debts or liabilities, and it also protects your company name so no one else can use it.
There are more advantages that vary by state. California-based CPA Michael Lynch explains it this way: “Incorporation also offers tax benefits to the business owners, which include health and life insurance, travel and entertainment deductions, retirement plans, educational benefits and dependent care assistance. In some situations, items that may be only partially deductible by a proprietor become fully deductible in a corporation.”
Using an online formation company can help you to determine which business entity is right for you, file your paperwork with your secretary of state and find advice on how to manage your business. Once this major task is done, you’ll be one huge step closer to running the company that you’ve dreamed of.
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