Whether your entrepreneurial dreams include starting your own web design company, tech services firm or even a tax prep business, you’ve probably considered a virtual organization. In fact, for many common services like accounting, law, consulting and web design, going virtual can make more sense than dumping a ton of cash into a brick and mortar entity. So, if you’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of starting a virtual company, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Build your technical tool base
Virtual firms rely on high-speed Internet, a dedicated telephone service and several essential add-ons like call conferencing, call waiting and an additional line if you have a business partner. Plus, make sure to upgrade your laptop and desktop computers so they’re both equipped to handle HD video connections and all the latest technology. As a virtual business owner, you can’t get the job done if your PC or laptop is more than two or three years old.
It’s also super critical that you make sure your web host is both reliable and highly secure. You’ll need to switch if your current provider doesn’t offer what you need. Shop around and compare prices based on the amount of storage space you need, how many email addresses you want and other key options. If you haven’t already, we put together a number of tips on how to pick the best web host–so be sure to check that out.
Another thing of importance is the domain name of your site, picking a good domain name is important for a number of reasons — you want it to be memorable, you want it sound good when you say it out loud, you want it to be as short as possible, and you want to utilize keywords related to your business (if possible).
Make a professional website
If you can’t design a site yourself, hire someone who can, and don’t skimp on the cost. Remember, your site, as a virtual business owner, is the very first thing your customers will see. First impressions mean a lot in business, so make this one count. Remember that this is the real world of money and profit and economic exchange. It’s not a blog or social media site. Take the time to create a top-notch website that meets your needs. Update it every six months or so as those needs change.
Additionally, I’d recommend using popular website building platforms such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace to build your site. Not only are they easy to use, they all have large communities behind them with people who have developed themes and plugins that you can use to extend functionality. Plus, because of the large developer communities, it can make finding someone to hire to build and design your site even easier.
Know your target market
You’ll need the analytical tools to stay on top of customer data. In addition to AWS log management, any third-party log management apps and other forms of data collecting, keep a spreadsheet of not only who your current customers are but when they came on board. That way, you will always be able to use simple spreadsheet graphics to eyeball how your customer base is changing in terms of age, location and other characteristics. You might start out with a well-defined target market, but as your virtual firm grows and adapts to the economy, you need to stay abreast of how that target moves as time progresses.
Promote. Promote. Promote
Use everything you already know about social media, personal networks and free online advertising to get the word out about your new company. You will also want to budget a specific amount of money for paid advertising. Don’t spend it all at once. Consider reading our recent article on PPC advertising — which is a great way to advertise to potential customers as it’s very targeted.
Spread your marketing funds out and consider spending a fixed amount at the beginning of each quarter. This kind of strategy will allow you to assess and adapt your marketing plan based on what works and what does not.