Starting a service-based business can be an exciting launch of a new career. There is a wide range of service businesses, including everything from accounting to house cleaning services. However, they all involve selling expertise and doing something for the client. Rather than selling a physical product to your customer, you sell them a particular skill or service you can provide to address their pain point.
Beginning a new business can be exciting and intimidating at the same time, but the good news about service businesses is that they are among the most successful startups, with some of the most profitable falling within the accounting, real estate, and legal services industries.
Many early entrepreneurs appreciate the benefits that come with choosing jobs centered around services. Since your main task comes from doing something for a particular client, you don’t have to worry about as many startup costs. You also don’t need funding to develop and produce specific products to sell to customers. Instead, you can complete many of your tasks right from your home office.
If you’re interested in starting a service business, this ultimate guide includes everything you need to know to build your company from the ground up.
What is a service business?
Service businesses involve identifying key gaps in the needs of target consumers and creating services that will fill those gaps. You want to find an area where customers can use your particular knowledge and expertise and provide them with an intangible service.
The key difference between a product-based business and a service business lies in whether what you offer is tangible. If your offerings revolve around something you do for clients but can’t touch, you run a service-based business.
Entrepreneurs might consider beginning a service business if they have areas of expertise where they can work for their clients. If they have a skill set that allows them to provide a type of service to help clients with a pain point, it’ll be a good fit. Many new entrepreneurs also like to begin service businesses because they need less funding and startup capital to bring in new customers.
An example of a service business is a wedding planner. The service offered to potential customers is that a wedding planner takes anything wedding-related off the plate of the couple so that they can focus their time and effort elsewhere. Services provided range from booking a venue to managing invoicing for all vendors involved with the big day.
How do you start a service business?
Beginning a service business requires dedication and hard work. Professionals must have a quality idea of what they can offer their clients and the types of services to fulfill a pain point. Here are 10 steps that will take you through the process.
1. Make sure there’s a need for your business idea
Before moving forward, your first step needs to be careful research regarding your idea and the need for your services within your market base. In other words, you need to do market research so that you know how many people will likely be interested in your services and what your competition offers, and how you can make yourself stand out.
If you are new to market research, here are some affordable ideas that can give you information about your target market:
- Search social media and set up Google Trends alerts to stay up to date regarding how target consumers discuss your industry. What are they unhappy about with their current available services?
- Speak with clients you’ve worked with — what are they looking for when they search for your particular services?
- Conduct interviews with your target audience. Ask people you know who fall into your target categories and reach out on social media to learn more about people’s needs.
- Research regional and national statistics to learn more about what is going on at a broad level. For example, someone interested in freelance writing might research how many businesses now use outside contractors to help with content development.
- Look at current service providers in your area. How can you differentiate what you want to offer?
2. Test the waters
Once you have a solid plan for your new business, you’ll want to test the waters. You can begin a business without making it your sole source of income. Many entrepreneurs get their start by working on their new business idea part time or as freelancers. You can begin building a client base while still maintaining a traditional job.
If your goal is to work full time for yourself, set goals for your new business regarding income rates and what milestones will indicate it’s time to quit your full-time job. These goals can keep you motivated and moving forward.
As you test the waters, use the resources available to you, such as LinkedIn and social media, to promote your services. Let your network know about your new business.
3. Create a budget and save money
It’s not uncommon for new entrepreneurs to barely break even during their first year running their new business. It can be difficult to maintain enough cash flow to cover expenses, much less turning a profit. It can take a few years to build a client base large enough to bring in a good income.
Therefore, careful bookkeeping will comprise a critical component of this process. Draw a list of expenses you need for your business to operate. Know how much money you spend directly on the business and how much you need to support yourself. Create a budget that helps you minimize expenses during the challenging early years of running the business. Spend what is necessary, saving the rest to help you launch your new business successfully.
You’ll want to be sure you’re thorough in your research when it comes to offering competitive pricing. There’s a fine line when it comes to pricing too low or too high, so take the time to learn more about effective pricing strategies and consider reaching out to financial advisers for additional tips.
4. Strategize with a business plan
Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that a business plan can make the difference between the success or failure of a new business. Creating a business plan will help you organize your thoughts and ideas. You’ll record your market research, target audience, your idea for engaging with the target audience, and how you expect to bring in new customers. You can outline your goals and milestones, as well.
The business plan you create will serve multiple roles. First, it’ll help you outline your next steps so that you have a plan to follow. Setting goals increases people’s success because it provides a clear path and direction. Secondly, these goals and projected paths can help you remain motivated, even when running a business feels challenging. Finally, if you need to secure funding through banks or other financial institutions, they’ll want to see a business plan to evaluate if your organization is a good investment.
5. Figure out startup funding
Even though service businesses generally have fewer startup costs than product-based businesses, expenses are inevitable. For example, you might need business insurance and some basic equipment to do your job well.
Fortunately, there are several places to look for funding, including:
- Traditional banks for securing loans
- Angel investors, crowdfunding, and other means of raising money
- Using some of your savings to get the business off the ground
- Various loans and grants available to people with unique circumstances
Determine the types of funding that will best fit your organization’s goals and size. Incorporate your use of funding in the business plan, including the plan to repay the loan.
6. Obtain the proper permits, licenses, and certifications
As you begin to set up your service business, you’ll need to verify that you have the right permits, licenses, or certifications that allow you to operate in your area. For example, a hairstylist looking to open a salon will likely need at least a state cosmetology/beauticians license, salon retailer seller permit, salon business operation license, and an employer identification number (EIN). To learn more about the permits and licenses you might need to operate your business, visit the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
7. Insure your small business
Small business insurance will also play an important role in the success of your organization. Insurance protects your business if something goes wrong or a client becomes unhappy with your service, regardless of whether you did anything wrong.
New entrepreneurs should familiarize themselves with the main types of small business insurance so that they can select the ones most applicable to them. These include:
- General liability insurance: This insurance protects you and your business from claims related to injury, damage, and some libel or slander. For example, if you are a hairdresser with clients visiting your beauty shop and someone trips, you want general liability insurance to protect you.
- Commercial property insurance: This type of insurance protects your property. For example, if something damages the building where you store your tools or have your office, you can replace what was lost.
- Business income insurance: If your business faces some disaster that forces you to shut down, such as if a fire destroys your accounting office, business income insurance will protect you from lost revenue.
- Workers compensation insurance: If you hire people for your small business, you may need workers compensation insurance. This insurance offers your employees benefits if they get hurt or sick while on the job.
- Professional liability insurance: This type of insurance protects you if something goes wrong in the performance of your service. It’s also known as errors and omissions insurance, and it will protect you if results don’t materialize as your client expected and they decide to sue. For example, if you create an ad marketing campaign, and they don’t see any increases in traffic and decide to blame you, this coverage helps protect you.
8. Market your services
Now that you’re established your business, the time has come to promote your services and draw potential clients to your organization. Depending on your budget, many entrepreneurs in service businesses find it easiest to begin with their own network. Let your connections know about your new business.
Some ideas to get the word out include:
- Creating a website that includes your business name and any specific details about your services
- Considering some traditional marketing methods, like business cards or the Yellow Pages
- Establishing local listings on new marketing channels, like Yelp and Google, and relevant social media platforms
- Cultivating reviews and referrals from past satisfied customers when possible
As you begin to build your business and generate enough revenue to increase your marketing budget, consider taking out some ads or running pay-per-click campaigns online to improve your search engine ranking results.
9. Seek help from others
Building a new business can be challenging. It requires dedication, hard work, and many late nights as you work to get the business off the ground. Reaching out to others who’ve been in the same situation can be an excellent way to build a community and find support. Seeking help from others doesn’t have to mean working with a business partner or even having employees — it can mean forging connections with others who might have ideas, advice, or even just a sympathetic ear to lend support as you put in the work to make your business a success.
You can find advice and support from others in a variety of places, including:
10. Go for it
Starting a new business can be challenging, but pushing through the difficult times and reaching for your dreams is intensely rewarding. Now that you have gone through the steps to establish your small service business, the time has come to jump in and see what you can accomplish. Begin following your business plan, market your services, and use your expertise to solve your clients’ problems.
Start your service business today
Beginning a business requires entrepreneurship with a strong work ethic and dedication. It requires hard work and many hours, but with the right business model and determination, you can make it work. The steps above can guide you as you begin your business and take the first steps toward success.
If you’re interested in building your service business, let ZenBusiness help you with the paperwork. Our website can help you uncover information about running a sole proprietorship, what you need to know to start freelancing, time management, and more.
Starting a Service Business FAQs
How can I start a services business with no money?
Beginning your own business without funds can be challenging but not impossible. Service businesses generally require fewer upfront costs than product-based businesses, which expands your opportunities.
To succeed without startup funds, consider the following:
- Look for business areas where you have the expertise and appropriate credentials and wouldn’t need a large equipment investment to get started.
- Promote your business using free methods, such as word of mouth and social media networks.
- Create a budget for your business so that when you bring in revenue, you spend it on what your business needs to grow.
What is a good service business to start?
The best type of business that you can start is one that relates to your area of expertise. As a small business owner, you want to provide services for your clients to help them solve a particular pain point. The best way to do that is to have expertise and experience in a particular area so that you can do the job well.
To give yourself the best chances for a successful business, create a strong business plan that will guide your promotional efforts and position your business. A plan will help you determine where your business fits in the industry, how you’ll differentiate yourself from the competition, and how you can find the path toward success.
What is an example of a service business?
Service businesses provide customers with an intangible purchase that helps them solve their pain points. These business owners call on their expertise and experience to do something for their clients rather than provide them with a tangible product. Some service business ideas include:
- Professional services, such as accounting or legal services
- Personal care services, such as personal trainers or hairdressers
- Creative services, such as photography or freelance content marketing services