Starting your own business is an exciting endeavor, and unfortunately, it’s also a “learn as you go” experience for anyone who tries it. There are no one-size-fits-all manuals on the right way to go about it; how you’ll build your business and client base depends on your industry, interests, schedule, and personality.
There are a few things that are good general guidelines for anyone who plans to go into business for themselves and we’ll cover them here, as well as discuss some tools that will help you along the way (free invoice templates, for example).
Lay Out Scope and Fees in Advance
First things first. Especially if you’ve dealt with a few excellent customers, it’s easy to assume that all you need to do is chat with a client about the product/service you’ll be providing them, shake hands, and call it a day. Unfortunately, it only takes one bad experience to totally shatter this illusion.
It’s important that you lay out everything in writing, every single time. This includes what the client can expect from you, as well as what you expect from them. You don’t have to write out a lengthy legal contract; simply create a document that specifies who both parties are and what they’re agreeing to.
If it’s a landscaping project, for example, lay out what the project will entail and what parts of the project will be completed by when. Also specify when payment will be made. Will it be all paid up front, according to specific milestones, or after the project is finished? (We don’t recommend the last option for large projects; payment by milestone is much safer for both parties.)
Your contract can be spelled out in a Word document or even typed out in an email. Just make sure you get it all down in print.
Get Paid in a Professional Manner
Once that’s behind you and you’ve gotten the work complete – whether it’s the entire project or that first major milestone – it’s time to get paid. The best way to put forth a polished, professional image is to use an invoice template from a service like Invoice Home. Using their invoice generator app, you can easily create requests for payment that look as though you have an administrative assistant handling all your front-of-house business. They have over 100 free invoice templates, making it simple to find the right one to represent your particular company or industry. You can even customize your invoices with your company logo.
When you use a service like Invoice House, you’ll get more than a simple invoice generator, however. They also enable your clients to pay you via PayPal or Authorize.Net. This helps you receive payments more quickly, and also makes the process easier for your customers.
As your business grows and you add more people on-board, you’ll likely need someone to help you out with the record-keeping. Until then, you’ll be wearing many hats and covering all of the essentials yourself. This is why in addition to providing the amazing product or service you hope your business becomes known for, it’s important to document all product/service agreements with every client, as well as keep track of payments with a professional-looking invoice template service. The first can be handled via email or simple word documents, while you can do the latter with an invoice generator app. After this, you’ll be freed up to do what you do best: running your business.