Deciding on a Business, Promoting and Growing Your Business

INTRODUCTION
So, by now, you may have thought of setting a home based business.  With the benefits — work your own hours, comfort of your own home, no commute in traffic, you keep and benefit more from your hard work — more and more individuals and families are choosing to embark on this endeavor.  Here, we will explore what kind of home based business you might want for yourself and your family, and how to effectively promote and grow your business over time.  You might want to take notes, as we will progress quite quick into unraveling some of the mysteries and myths of being a home based business owner.  I know — I own three businesses right now — and can share first hand experience in this arena of study.

PICKING A SUITABLE BUSINESS FOR YOURSELF AND FAMILY
The best rule of thumb, for picking a business industry, is what is both of interest to you (and ideally your family), something you (or your family) knowns something about or has experience with, and does not require supplies that are too expensive, too dangerious, too big, or restricted or simply not allowed in a residential home setting.  Some good things to consider are web design, web hosting, web promotion, typing services, proofreading services, editing services, small volume printing of fliers, newsletters, advertisements, and perhaps low-impact manufacturing of candles, clothing, business cards, gift/promotional item assembly, and perhaps woodworking to make funiture for sale.  Some examples of things you do not want to do are use/mix dangerious chemicals, work with explosives, anything with noxious or strong odors, matchmaking (due to fire hazard) or work that requires customers come into your home (due to zoning restrictions).

Upon picking an industry, you probably will want to call or visit your local city or courthouse building.  There, you can learn about and purchase permits, such as a ficitious business name, a business license and a zoning permit.  Often, a tax and/or resell certificate will be of interest and/or required for certain occupations.  You will probably need some cash, so bring $100 with you, but for the entire process, unless you are getting a liquor or check cashing permit/license, you will probably spend less than half that, perhaps even much less than $50.

With your new business, you may want to consider Quick Books software.  Quick Books Pro is quite commonly used, because most accountants can read the files created with that application, and do more complex filings and reports for you with no more than your Quick Books software user files/records.  In any case, you should keed records, ideally on paper, in Quick Books, and of course your original receipts.

Something else to consider is hiring an attorney.  There are various prepaid legal services in the United States, and any one of them may prove invaluable to your business.  When finding one, check to see if they provide services in case you are ever audited by the IRS.  Many services of this type (prepaid) let you call them asking many legal questions for your self and your business.  If you have the money, you might want to get the attorney membership prior to going to the city or courthouse for permits, although those permits are often quite straightforward and many times free legal help is provided by law students at or near the city or courthouse buildings.

PROMOTING YOUR BUSINESS
Now, you may have a home based business, but are you making enough sales?  Or making ANY sales?  That can be remedied, quite often, with a combination of a web site, content on the web site, engaging deals and offers, advertising and word of mouth.  To start, you might want to hire a web master, or perhaps learn HTML yourself.  With many powerful HTML editors out there, you might fare well investing in a HTML editor and building your website yourself.

In any case, be sure to advertise your web site, using various methods, to help ensure business success.  This might be done with a search engine registration tool, maybe some pay-per-click advertising, such as from Google, Yahoo!/overture, MSN, speedyads.com, Kanoodle.com, and many others, although these listed are among the largest.  You may want to invest $30 to $150 per week, if possible, in advertising, then set aside 15% to 35% of all gross sales for future advertising.

Note that Google, for instance, allows post-pay billing.  This means you get advertising first, then after a month, or $50 is due, they bill your card.  This can help you, or hurt you, depending on how organized you are and how well you can keep money on your credit or debit card associated with Google.  Google is one of the more expensive ad agencies, so keep that in mind, too.  They also have among the best targeting, as well.

GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
With your business starting to make profits, you may want to expand it.  This can be done by boosting advertising money, by buying more supplies and equipment, to both diversify your services and do existing services faster or better.  Also, by getting a merchant account to bill customer’s Visa or Mastercard cards may help you get more sales, as well as gain the option to get cash advances at discount prices when using your expected, future business income to secure the loan.  Word of mouth also helps, and happens automatically when you take good care of your customers or clients.

Finally, be sure to take good care of the needs, wants and desires of your customers or clients.  They are, afterall, the one’s who ultimately pay your salary, and may provide income for other family members, as well.  Keep good records, and be sure to pay taxes on time.  When paying income tax, many experts agree that paying three weeks before it is due is best, because you are the least likely to be hit with an audit at these times.  Those who pay taxes early, some experts warn, get audited much more often.

In summary, enjoy your home based business.  After all, it is controlled by you and your family, and may provide years of prosperity and excitement for your family.  Hopefully, this essay will prove useful.  I sincerely hope your future business endeavors are pleasent and profitable.

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