27 essential tools to kick-start your business (Part 3)

Tool #15: Decent pen and clipboard

A good quality pen will help cement your already professional image. When in the business market you will often be dealing with managers and presidents of companies.

Using cheap pens will not present a consistent image to these people. They may subconsciously think you are not the highly experienced, highly paid and highly valued consultant you are (or want to be). Don’t let them know you are just starting out! It might not make any difference but you always want to stack the odds in your favor.

Initially, you are likely to be asked questions when training that you will need to come back to. Use a clipboard to support your paper, as there may not be a table to hand. You may be sitting the other side of the desk from a manager who is giving you a list of things he wants sorting out at the company. If you have to perch a bit of paper on the end of his desk, or even worse your wrist, it will come across as sloppy and disorganised.

Clipboards are inexpensive and you should get one.

Tool #16: Diary

Without a diary, how are you going to organise all those appointments? I prefer those that show one week on two pages. They allow me to see at a glance when I am free for this week or the following. Keep them plain, understated and simple.

You can use a paper diary or electronic. It doesn’t really matter. Just use something that suits you.

Tool #17: WordPress and hosting setup

Get yourself a WordPress test site, where you can experiment with creating new sites or even designing client sites. Once you create the site on your own hosting site – such as bluehost.com – then you can move the whole shebang to your clients domain using a free tool such as www.xcloner.com or backupbuddy.

Tool #18: Anki

Wow! What an amazing product! I came across this bit of software by accident but it blew my mind. In a nutshell, Anki helps you memorise things.

When we learn new material, there is a forgetting curve. If you don’t review that material, you are likely to forget it unless you come back to it for revision. What Anki does is test you at optimised periodic intervals until it is in your long-term memory. It does this using the least amount of time possible. In other words, it is highly efficient.

In my first month in using this program I learnt 306 different items, including some programming language. Their website is at www.ankisrs.net. It could give you a fast start when learning such things as programming languages, Word, Excel and so on.

Tool #19: Company info sheet

When you receive an enquiry from a business, its quite handy to send some literature that tells them what you do and additional information about your company. Include your company name, address, phone numbers, email and website address. Use pdf format as everybody can read that and it also retains the look and feel as originally designed.

List all the services you offer (e.g. training on Word, Excel, Access, Windows, technical support, website design), where you are located and how you offer these services (e.g. onsite training only, group or one-on-one training). Include a list of clients you have helped once you’ve been in business for a few months (get their permission for this first).

Add some testimonials from satisfied clients. If you don’t already know, a testimonial is a letter of recommendation. It can be as short as one sentence or as long as a whole page. Always ask your clients this: “Would you object to providing me with a brief testimonial? It really helps us because it reassures potential customers that we know what we are doing.” It is quite difficult for them to say, “No, I object.” You can help them out by saying “I’ll even write it for you to save you time if you want. Then, if you agree with what is written, just sign it.”

Tool #20: Discussion forums

I cannot think of anything that has helped me more than discussion forums. They are an unbelievable resource, where you can tap into the collective intelligence of thousands of people with the answers to your problems! On countless occasions, posting a question on a discussion forum has got me out of a hole at a clients, helped me progress with programming something beyond my capabilities or helped me solve a tricky problem that bogged me down for hours on end.

Build up a list of your favorite discussion forums and store them in Evernote. You then have them handy for when the need arises.

Tool #21: In-Out trays

Don’t ask me how it happens but I get a ton of paperwork. I get industry papers sent to me by the dozen, bank statements, client payments, tax forms, the lot. So, create a system that works for you to stay organised.

In my office, I have In-Out trays for handling routine correspondence. The in-tray is for all my new post to look at. The out-tray is for stuff to file at the end of the day and letters to post. You may prefer to file as soon as you have actioned a bit of paperwork as this reduces the clutter.

The system I use for filing is as follows: when you have actioned something and it needs filing, using a pencil write “F” at the top right hand corner and circle it. This signifies it is ready to be filed (by you or your admin staff).

You may also want to write under what category in your filing cabinet it is to go. This is particularly useful when you have part-time (or full-time) admin staff. So many times in the past have I had correspondence filed in the inappropriate place that I nearly always specify where it is to go now.

27 essential tools to kick-start your business (Part 4)