Business In-A-Box

All the Tools You Need to Start and Run a Secretarial Service

Top 11 Mistakes Secretarial Businesses Make
Before They Even Start ...
and How to Avoid Them

Mistakes can cost businesses thousands of dollars. Avoiding those mistakes is the first step to success.

Mistake 1: Starting a business without planning.

Studies show that businesses with a marketing plan have 24 to 30% more sales compared to those without one. Writing a marketing plan takes thought. It helps you focus, and helps you determine what services you want to offer.

It's important to write a marketing plan before choosing a business name, business cards, a domain name, and a web site. Your plan will guide you but it's not set in stone. When your business or your goals change, you can change your marketing plan.

Mistake 2: Spending too much start-up money.

Don't spend thousands of dollars before you've made any sales. Consider buying used equipment. Buy small amounts of supplies. Minimize costs and maximize profits. When you start to get clients, then you can buy additional equipment and supplies.

Spend as little money as possible when getting started. Only buy equipment and supplies that are essential. Start with a computer, printer, fax machine and a ream of paper. Buy supplies small quantities at first. Then, when you start making money, you can buy additional equipment and supplies.

Buy used. Look at your local newspapers, computer publications to find used equipment. You can find used items at garage sales, used stores, and at message boards. You can find lower prices on business supplies and equipment at
on eBay. Look for sales and specials where you don't have to pay interest for a couple of months.

Mistake 3: Charging less than you deserve.

Pricing is often a challenge for people who sell services. They are often tempted to reduce their fee to get the sale. Working for too little reduces your profits and can leave you exhausted and resentful. Have confidence in yourself and in your services. Don't underestimate the value of your services, and commit to asking for full fee.

Mistake 4: Not specializing.

Being too general. Being a "secretarial service" is too general. Successful secretarial services specialize. For example, Ann Johnson's Legal Transcription or Creative Designs immediately indicates that those people specialize in. Do you want to target academia, legal, medical clients? Specializing does not mean that you have to turn down the general public or general work. But you can reach your market better if you appear to be a specialist in a particular field. For example, if you put an ad in the Yellow Pages with a name like "A Winning Resume" you'll be taken more seriously as a resume writer than if your ad says "Leva's Typing."

Mistake 5: Not targeting your market.

Many home based businesses, when asked who their target market is, say that everyone is their market. If you think your market is everyone, you will fail. You don't want to advertise to everyone hoping that someone will need your secretarial services.

Successful advertising is always targeted. Think about what services you want to provide, and then advertise in places where these people are. For example, if you are targeting doctors, you should go to medical facilities instead of putting flyers on bulletin boards at grocery stores. If you are targeting students, go to colleges.

Mistake 6: Selling features instead of solutions.

If your services can solve someone's problem, you'll have a profitable business. Don't tell people how great you are. Instead, tell them how you can solve their problems. For example, providing word processing services is a feature. Saving businesses time by performing some of their routine tasks is a benefit.

Mistake 7: Not asking for the sale.

If you are not asking for the sale, you're not bringing in as much money as you could be. Have a call to action (e.g. call now) in all your literature and on your web site. Ask for the sale when talking to people on the phone or in person.

Mistake 8: Distractions.

When you work for yourself, an easy trap to fall into is not managing your time effectively. Your home is full of distractions, and nobody is telling you what to do. If you're daydreaming or procrastinating, whole days can go by without getting any work done.

You need to be have a schedule and stick to it. Draw a clear line between work and non-work time. Prioritize and make sure you get at least the important things done. Tell your family and friends that you are serious about your business and train them not to distract you during your business hours.

Mistake 9: Failing to market or marketing inconsistently.

Lack of marketing is the biggest mistake small businesses make. They may send out flyers or postcards once, or call a prospect once, and they expect the phone to ring off the hook. The key to marketing is repetition. It takes more than one contact for a customer to buy. You want your name to be in front of your customers and prospects on an ongoing basis. You want your prospects to think of you when they have a problem and need your help.

Mistake 10: Not asking for help.

Most business owners have strengths in a particular area but not in others and they don't ask for help in the business areas they need help with. If you don't run your business at maximum efficiency, you're losing money.

Talk to others in your business or join a local association. If there is no local group, put an ad in the paper or on the Internet and start one. Get expert advice from a business consultant, attorney, accountant, or other professionals when you need it.

Mistake 11: Trying to reinvent the wheel

Great marketing ideas are used over and over again with just the right twist to make them fit a specific business. Look at proven marketing strategies that are successful for others and copy their success instead of trying to create new ones. You can create your own twist on a proven, winning technique but you don't want to invent something completely new.

The rewards of having your own business are great. When you are financially secure, and independent from the corporate world, it will be more gratifying than you could ever have imagined.

Fortunately for you, you have the opportunity to learn from others' mistakes, and you can avoid making the same mistakes yourself. Do you home work and find out as much as possible about the business you want to start. Then, dive in and get started.


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