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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

After many years of office experience I have decided to have my own home based business. I purchased a bookkeeping program and now I need a name and what to charge for the service. I am also trained on a PageMaker and may incorporate that into the business. I'm very close to marketing myself but any help or input from anyone familiar with this would be greatly appreciated.

Answer from our Guest Expert Mark Bower of Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair

So you're thinking of jumping into the world of self-employment? It's a pretty exciting step! Are you ready?

Get Your Ducks In a Row

Hopefully, before you take that leap, you'll have some prospective contacts lined up ready to give you some initial business. If not, then a very sound marketing plan -- complete with info on how you'll find those start-up customers -- is a savvy, start-up chore. (More on that later.)

What's In a Name?

First, choose a name that really lets people know your business. For example, Academy Bookkeeping or Bookkeeping Plus. Don't use a name like Zachary & Associates or Ralph and Sons. These type of names say nothing about you or your biz. Personally, I like to use names that begin with the first letters of the alphabet; on the other hand, I also despise names like "A1..." or "Ace..." or "AAA..." As they say, "A name says it all!" Roll up your sleeves and get creative with a catchy biz name for a bookkeeping service.

Then get those biz cards printed up as soon as possible. Don't be bashful! Give 'em out like candy!

The Price Is Right

Many new biz owners underestimate pricing their services. They feel that since they're earning $10 per hour at their jobs, it'd be okay to charge $10 an hour in their new business. Wrong! As a rule of thumb, you'll want to charge roughly double your current income to maintain the same earnings, assuming you get 40 billable hours of work a week. So if you wish to earn $10 an hour, then charge your customers at least $20 an hour. The extra $10 will help cover your overhead, taxes and basic benefits.

I recommend small biz owners charge no less than $25 an hour for services rendered. If you can't charge at least that much, then why go into business? Of course, check-out what your competition is charging and try to stay in line with that.

Find Your Piece of the Marketing Pie

In the beginning, you may find it difficult to locate customers who need a full service bookkeeper, such as yourself. Many small businesses prefer to do much of the bookkeeping themselves. Don't be discouraged! Rather, look at it as an opportunity to develop a market niche.

Several months ago here at Idea Cafe, a person like you had a dream of starting a bookkeeping biz. She had one great idea for a market niche. She knew that many small businesses preferred to do much of their own bookkeeping on their computer. However, she also discovered that those same businesses weren't very comfortable in setting-up their accounting software. Ta Da! In steps her biz!

The same can be said for closing-out and starting the next year. When I last heard from her, she was developing a marketing plan towards helping small businesses who preferred to do their own bookkeeping, but wouldn't mind a little extra help when it came to year-end duties. Plus, she was always a phone call away if anyone had a question or problem throughout the year.

Get Those referrals

Most of your sales will come from referrals and good ole word-of-mouth. Start that ball rolling by knocking on doors. To back that effort up, place a small classified ad under the service experts section of your local newspaper, and get yourself listed in the Yellow Pages. Beyond that, I wouldn't spend much more on advertising. See what develops with your hands-on marketing efforts first.

As I've said before, when you first start your business, being a salesperson will be your main occupation -- bookkeeper will be your second.

Good luck!


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