So you’ve been looking into starting your own business but are not really sure what you need. In this article, I am going to explain, in simple terms, what you need to start your online service-based business.
Before getting into products I want to also discuss very briefly how to start an online business. One of the first things you must do is register with your state, province, or country. It has been some time since I have discussed this but in the U.S. you have to decide also in the type of business you are starting. Not just that it is online but if you want to be a DBA (Doing Business As), solopreneur, LLC, Corporation, etc.
I usually suggest getting your LLC (in Canada it is an Ltd). If you file this yourself it will cost around $100. I always recommend when starting something new like this you should consult a lawyer and your accountant to be on the safe side.
Now we are ready to start discussing the products and equipment you will need to start a business.
First, let’s talk about the basics that you need to start your online business. This is the hardware and equipment.
- Computer or Laptop – add a Monitor or 2nd Monitor if a laptop.
- Desk or Workspace
- Mouse (optional)
- Mug Full of Coffee – oh, nevermind, that is necessary for me (hehe)
When I started over 14 years ago you really did not have overhead costs. That was because you purchased your computer with most of the software needed. Microsoft was a one-time purchase for a number of years. Most of us made it work with that and a good Gmail account that we plugged through our website. Today it is different and you need a number of monthly subscriptions to help your business thrive.
Software You Need To Start A Business
- Microsoft – $6.99 – $22 – I use Microsoft for everything, especially OneNote and OneDrive, but also Word and PowerPoint for presentations. Some use Google documents and presentations but maybe I am ‘old school’ I still like the Microsoft versions.
- Google Workspace – $6 – $18 This is the professional version of Gmail. I cannot stress this enough – this is a MUST if you use Google Drive or Gmail. You should upgrade as the free version is NOT Secure. You should also have a professional email address (email@example.com) which you can do with Workspace.
- Backup Program – BackBlaze, Barracuda, Carbonite, iDrive, and others. Cost range from $6 to $15 per month, with discounts for doing it a year at a time. You must back up your data and media every day.
- Internet – a good high-speed internet connection is a must!
- Phone – whether you use your cell or get a separate landline or even a VoIP phone line, you need a way to communicate easily with clients. If you use your own cell phone I highly suggest you get an app or sign up for a service with your own business number. Most will have an app you can use so that when you make outgoing calls it will show up as your business phone number calling others.
- Video Conference/Meeting – The two most known are Google Meet and Zoom. You need to be able to meet with your potential clients (& clients) via Zoom video calls. Today this is an essential product.
- Calendar – This is a necessary feature so you do not miss that important client meeting or attend a webinar to continue building your skills. The two that are most common are Microsoft Calendar and Google Calendar.
- Scheduling Calendar – A scheduling calendar is different than your general calendar as it has the ability for others to schedule time with you. It helps to cut back on those emails and texts that go back and forth to find a time to meet. The two most widely known are Calendly and Acuity.
- Continuing Education – You may not consider this a necessity but I do. The online area is continually changing. Therefore, I think it is important to stay up to date on tools, software, and strategies for yourself and your business. The best one around, in my humble opinion, is Freelance University. The reason I love this online continuing education to upgrade your skills is that it has so many certification courses (from becoming a VA to Digital Marketer and even a Graphic Designer, plus more). They also have regular workshops, live sessions with one of the Founders, and more. The platform releases new courses all the time. The Best Part? ALL IS INCLUDED! You do not get just one certification course but you can take as many as you like! Certificates added to your website and LinkedIn profile can add to your credibility significantly.
- Online Security for Your Computer – With all of the security issues today it is even more important than ever to have good security covering your computer or laptop. I’ve tried the free and paid versions but for business, I found a great one that covers a number of things on your computer, which is Avast. They have a business hub you can purchase that covers more than the standard security. This will also give your clients peace of mind.
The best part of starting a business is you can invoice clients directly and do not need a third person (company) to get it and then pay you. The list below is filled with the most widely accepted invoicing systems.
You do not need all of these but rather choose from these to use so that you can invoice clients and receive online payments. Clients want to be able to pay online as well as use credit cards.
- Freshbooks – they are perfect for service-based businesses.
- PayPal – you can create an invoice and receive payments but not the best for your Accountant at the end of the year.
- QuickBooks – the best overall system that integrates with most other software that you could use in the future.
- Wave – a number of online service providers use this free option. It does not often integrate well with others. Keep this in mind as it is not fun to have to move all of your items over to another one later on.
Using one of these software systems is much better than sending an invoice document and waiting for your client to mail a check. Yes, you will be charged a fee by these systems for processing your payments. And it can add up, however, this is the most widely accepted client payment method and is necessary these days.
Other Useful Systems To Start A Business
There are a few other useful systems you can get that are not necessary to start a business, but will be helpful as soon as you begin adding clients. Therefore, these may come later if you cannot afford them right away.
Some of these software systems are even free and may be added sooner than later.
- CRM (Client Relationship Management) – This system is to help you keep track of your relationship building and leads. Will help you with keeping track of those business cards from networking (online and in person). Most online service providers use their email marketing system as a CRM.
- Email Marketing – Once you begin collecting emails from the free offer you will want to begin sending regular emails out to these warm leads. It will keep you at the top of their mind.
- Project Management – A very important piece to your success will be your project management. It is easy to get lost in your projects and to-do lists. A project management (PM) system will help you stay on top of them. It is also of great use if you want to add your clients and/or your team eventually.
- Graphics – One of the things you will quickly discover is that you must continually produce content. With this content, you will find that you need photos and graphics. Whether including them in your blog writing or posts on your social media they are a necessity.
There are several software systems I would recommend under this category however this article would be twice as long. Perhaps I will do that in a future article. You can always Google these terms to find out which one is best for you.
Congratulations if you are just starting your online service provider business. You are not alone. If you need help beyond reading articles feel free to set up a Mini-Session with me. I would love to help you.
*affiliate links are contained in some of the links in this article. I only share software and products I use and believe in. An affiliate link is a link that if clicked and a purchase is made I receive a small commission from the sale.