With today’s technology and the ability to work remotely (a skill that’s been put to the test during COVID-19), you can start many types of services businesses on a limited budget. As long as you’re in a business that doesn’t require much equipment outside of a phone and computer with internet access, even R5,000 or R10,000 can go a long way.
Types of service businesses you can start on a small budget
If you’re looking to start a business within niche areas like creative, professional and trade services, these tips can work well for you. Other service businesses like videography, pet boarding and pool cleaning have higher startup fees due to necessary equipment.
How to start a service business on the cheap
In many cases, this is all you need to get your service business off the ground.
- A business plan.
- A computer and internet connection.
- A domain name and a website.
- A functional workspace.
1. A business plan
Even if you’re planning a side hustle, it’s a good idea to come up with a business plan. This is your roadmap to guide decision-making for both short-term and future profitability.
2. A computer
If you’re reading this on your laptop, you can skip this step.
If you don’t have a computer, let’s talk about what you need. First of all, consider buying a laptop, because when you’re figuring out how to start a service business, there’s no telling where you’ll end up working on a day-to-day basis so you’ll want the option of working remotely. No matter what service business you’re getting into, you need a computer that offers internet access and a full, fast keyboard.
Pro tip: If you’re going into graphic design, videography or web design, you’ll probably need a slightly more powerful computer—a cheap one probably won’t do it for you. Speak to someone at a local computer dealer for advice and set aside enough budget.
3. A domain name and a website
A website is a must, and the first step is buying a domain name for your business. You can get a .com or .co.za domain name for less than R100.00 from GoDaddy. You might have better luck getting a short domain that really represents the service you’re offering if you consider one of the new domain extensions — there are hundreds to choose from, including .consulting, .design and .services.
If you’re looking for a fast and easy do-it-yourself website building option, check out x Godaddy’s Websites + Marketing. You can choose a template that fits your business, like professional services and art & design. Even better? You canstart for free .
Websites + Marketing also comes with built-in marketing tools like SEO, email marketing email marketing, Google My Business integrations and social media — so you can get a headstart on growing your new service business after you get your website live.
As you’re building your site, make sure to include plenty of information about what you do and how you do it. Once it’s live, start blogging on a regular basis to help establish your expertise as well as boost your search engine rankings.
Pro tip: It’s a good idea to create an email address with your domain name so you look more professional.
4. A functional workspace
If you have home internet and a quiet place to sit, you’re all set. Your WiFi is already an expense you likely have, so it doesn’t count toward our budget. If you think you’ll need to work without WiFi for a period of time, use either Google Drive offline or install OpenOffice on your laptop. This will let you work without internet access, and when you get back online, you can sync all of your documents, check your emails and be on your way.
Tips for increased productivity at reduced costs
Here’s how to start a service business and cut even more cash from your budget.
Research productivity software
Google Drive is free, and you’ll be able to create Word documents, spreadsheets, slide decks and more. OpenOffice is an open-source competitor to Microsoft’s suite. Microsoft Office does require some investment, but has a variety of useful products, so this is something to consider when your business gets off the ground. If you have a Mac, you can get their office productivity suite — Pages, Numbers and Keynote — for free.
Create a letterhead
Create a simple icon or logo and paste it into the headers of all word documents you send to clients. (Tip: Google Doc lets you export files as either word documents or PDFs.) And there you have it — letterhead!
Get an online bookkeeping service
A service like Xero or Sage Business Cloud can help you keep track of your finances and send invoices on the cheap.
Pro tip: Don’t make invoices on a word processor or spreadsheet. It looks amateurish.
Use the full Google Suite
Schedule meetings with Google Calendar, store photos on Google Photos and post your videos on YouTube. They’re all free, part of the Google family, and if you have Gmail, you have access to all of them already.
No more fax machines!
Work only with PDFs. Use Adobe Acrobat Reader to read them and the free version of DocuSign to sign them.
Editor’s note: If you’re thinking about starting a service business in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are likely additional resources available to help you save money. Join our #OpenWeStand community to get advice from other business owners.