Starting a Home-based Office Support Business?

    June 23, 2003

Are you tired of the rat race and thinking about resigning your Stress City job and starting an office support business in a month or so? Hmmm. You might want to come back and re-read this article if things don’t work out. I won’t say, “I told you so!” Promise.

Do you have time to gather information on starting a home-based business? Do you have time-once you start your biz-to wait for the income to pour in? Like a year? Shazam! Let’s get started.

How do you describe yourself? Try it. If you intend to start a home-based office support business, you need time, paper and pencil, and honesty. About yourself. What motivates you? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Successfully operating a secretarial or office support business depends as much on personal characteristics as on technical skill and talent. In addition to a good product, prospective clients look for integrity and dependability. Anyone can type. Anyone can start a secretarial service. But most data passing through our hands is, to one degree or another, confidential. You must become known as someone people can trust and respect.

To begin, I’m going to point you to one of the finest small business resources available: Janet Attard. Her site, Business Know-How has a special start-up section. And her Answer Book is worth every penny. Attard also provides links to many sites that support small business startup.

Anyone giving good advice will tell you that you need a business plan and a marketing plan. These will, in a sense, be the foundation for your business, so make a commitment to have both plans.

Study your community to determine the need for your type of services. Analyze what type of work (for consultants; outsourcing from larger businesses, etc.) you want to do, relative to what is available. If you find there’s a need, then move to the next step. If not, regroup, and find people with whom you can brainstorm. Additionally, increasing numbers of community colleges in the U.S. and Canada are offering Virtual Assistant certification. It’s worth a look.

Check out your homeowners association rules/regulations/covenants; and city/county/state laws governing such businesses (licenses, taxes, etc.)

People like you do well to consult with accountants, attorneys, business coaches, organizational specialists, chambers of commerce, public libraries, Small Business Administration, and people offering business support services.

True professionals will not be threatened by you, but will understand your needs. Generally they respond with tips or perhaps paperwork you can use as a basis for starting your own business (price lists, work orders, brochures, business profiles, etc., names of professional associations, etc.). They are busy, so keep your conversation brief, and follow up with a thank-you note.

You will also need some of the following during the planning stage:

  • Biz Name
  • Biz Plan
  • Marketing Plan
  • Budget
  • Fee structure
  • Initial promotional material (brochure, flyer, press release, etc.)
  • Biz cards, letterhead, envelopes, etc.
  • Software and hardware
  • Courage

Don’t print up too much of anything at the start, unless you’re working with a business coach. You will need time to define who you are and what you do and how to present it. If you want to start on a very low budget, order VistaPrint’s free business cards that have a bit of promotional printing on the back.

Today, more and more work is virtual, even if local. I have a local client who needs occasional but important letters sent to clients. The client also needs forms created or updated. We transact almost everything by fax and phone.

The phrase “Virtual Assistant” is becoming very popular. Some think of a VA as a virtual secretary, but in fact, the category is expanding rapidly. There are two VA organizations worth investigating: IVAA and IAVOA.

People can give advice, but the only way to find out if it will work for you is to try it, after you’ve done your homework. Was I ignorant in the beginning? Absolutely. At first I offered everything: free pick-up and delivery, availability 24 hours a day seven days a week. People Pleaser Plus. Anything and everything for the customer, who was always right. Right? Wrong. But that’s another story.

To read my expanded booklet on this subject, go to Basics of How to Start a Home-based Biz.

Writer, copyeditor, and web developer Judy Vorfeld offers website makeovers;
small business consulting; along with website, document, and book copyediting.
She publishes two ezines, offers a grammar and writing resource section on
her site, and also offers a free text-only ezine template.
Vorfeld, who started her business over ten years ago, lives in the Phoenix,
Arizona area. Her companion site is Webgrammar: