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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I have one small problem. I live in Cleveland, Ohio -- divorce central as I call it. I currently have a home-based business that does data entry/processing, word processing, resumes, and database construction/manipulation. I'm not doing well at all with locating clients.

Also, I'm a certified paralegal, and I'm thinking that it 'd be very simple to complete Dissolution/No-Fault Divorce documentation. Is there a specific guideline or special permission that I'm required to get before I place an ad in the newspaper for doing these services?

De'Wayne

Answer from our Guest Expert Laura Wiegert of Creative Consultants

Dear De'Wayne:

I think you're on the right track with your business. A home-based secretarial service such as yours is a growing job market. Good job in recognizing the need and going for it. Initially locating clients is always tough for any business -- so don't get discouraged! With a little patience and some hard work, you can whip up a smorgasbord of clients. Here are some juicy tips to get you going:

Meet, Greet, and Mingle
Don't be shy! Sometimes it's hard to leave the cozy, warm feel of your home-based biz for noisy, crowded biz gatherings. But hey, what better way to meet potential clients? Networking in business and professional organizations, including your local chamber of commerce, is a valuable, if not fun, way to make new contacts who need your service.

Many biz organizations offer committee and volunteer opportunities that'll allow you to schmooz with local businesses. Don't be afraid to volunteer your time and skill -- you could write articles for their newsletters or handle their databases. You may even be able to "trade" services and get some free advertising in their newsletters in return. Just get your name floating in certain circles.

Leftovers Can Be Great!
Do you know of any other local word processing/secretarial services who might have too full of a plate and need someone to handle the leftovers? If so, why not call? It doesn't hurt to ask and you might find yourself getting work and establishing a good biz relationship at the same time!

Check the Classifieds
When browsing thru your local "Help Wanted" ads and sipping a cup of hot cocoa, jot down the numbers of those companies advertising for clerical work. Then give them every reason in the book to contract your free lance services rather than hire an employee, who'll cost them tons in payroll taxes and paperwork! If they're advertising for help, chances are they have too much work on their hands. At the very least, you may be able to help them out in the interim.

Market Yourself Close to Home
Keep your marketing efforts within a 20-minute drive of your home. Advertise in university newsletters, church bulletins, civic club and other business bulletins. What about nearby hotels? Consider offering your services to their business guests. You never know! Try your luck with local resources first before trying to advertise farther away.

Be Part of the Welcome Wagon
Be downright neighborly, De'Wayne. When a new biz arrives in town, send them a direct mail post card that describes your services. Watch your local paper for announcements of new businesses. Also, check city business journals and your chamber membership directory for the names of addresses of potential businesses you'd like to work with. Send them your post card and follow up your mailings with phone calls.

The Carrot at the End of the Stick
Offer discounts on future work to current customers who refer new clients. It's smart marketing to use your existing clients as a source of new clients. If you do a good job with one customer (and I'm sure you will!), ask them to refer another business to you and thank them by giving them a discount on their next project with you.

A Tie and Jacket Only Type of Biz
Make your biz stand out from the rest -- go in style! Make sure your company maintains a professional image on and in all marketing material. Have business cards, letterhead, and envelopes professionally printed in a consistent style and color. Local quick printers can coordinate this for you, including the design. It's worth the investment. What you send to others is a reflection on you and your company. It gives them their first impression of you, so make it good!

I hope these tips help you entice more clients your way. Regarding specific guidelines on placing an ad for dissolution/no-fault divorce documentation, I'd recommend that you consult a lawyer in your state about this. You also may be able to find the answer at a local law library. A web site, www.lawinfo.com, may be able to assist you as well. This site contains a legal directory for all states, links to net legal resources, lists of legal support services, and self-help resources.

Have a biz question of your own? Go post it in CyberSchmooz

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