The ranks of the self employed probably will continue to rise as a result of the weakening economy and continued layoffs from large companies.
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For those knocked off the corporate ladder who choose to make a go of it on their own, congrats and welcome to the wild world of entrepreneurship.
Being your own boss has its ups and downs, but the good news is there are several cost-effective tools that exist that will help add a level of professionalism to your new venture.
Taking advantage of the following services can help polish your business image and attract better, higher paying clients.
LLC Legal Structure
A limited liability company is not difficult to establish and will, for the most part, protect you personally, from the debts and actions of the LLC. Establishing an LLC adds a level of legitimacy to your business. In fact, many companies who might contract with you may not do so if you have not formed your venture as a proper legal structure.
You can form an LLC via an online incorporation service or by talking to a local lawyer. If you go the lawyer route, be sure, when picking a lawyer, to choose an attorney that has extensive experience working with small business owners like you.
Conference Call Services
Real time collaboration is extremely important. Whenever there is a need to communicate between three or more parties. FreeConferenceCall.com offers free private conference lines and is a great alternative to fumbling around with three way calls. Clients will appreciate that you've discovered a way to facilitate conference calls that doesn't increase your overhead.
Although you have a lovely home it is no place to hold a business meeting. Neither is the local coffee shop for that matter, no matter how good their muffins are.
Holding meetings in communal office space is more comfortable for those involved while also limiting distractions. Most cities have co-working spaces like Independents Hall in Philadelphia or the Rockefeller Group in New York.
With minimal costs and daily, weekly or monthly rates available these can be a great option for those looking for more routine in their work day.
Online Invoicing and Time Tracking Service
The most essential function for any business is getting paid. It is foolish to think that clients and customers will voluntarily send payments in full, let alone on time.
Services like FreshBooks offer an affordable online invoicing and time tracking service.
With an online invoicing tool in hand, you can cut payment time by an average of 14 days, according to FreshBooks. It also helps you to look more professional by branding company invoices. By getting your accounting online, you can also put an end to spending endless hours drafting invoices and searching for old invoices or billable receipts in that old shoebox.
Domain Name and Website
After making the decision to create your own business, a top priority should be your website. To do that, you need to first buy a domain name (e.g. mybusiness.com), which costs approximately $6 to $10, depending on where you buy your domains from.
Most domain vendors can also set you up with a simple, template website. A static site that requires little to no updates will be enough to get you started. This page will act as your store front and can spell out for potential customers what exactly it is that you are offering.
Domain vendors also can set you up with email. If you are operating with a Yahoo, gmail or MSN Hotmail account, it makes it seem like you are not a viable and thriving business. Hence, be sure to get a professional email address using your new domain.
Other Good Tools for Independent Contractors and Small Business Owners
This site is dedicated to helping the self-employed, the entrepreneurs and the small business owners of the world perform at a higher level. Spend some time browsing through our site and you will find literally thousands of great entrepreneurial resources. Enjoy!