For professionals who prefer to work from home and who wish to work alone, there’s not better choice than a virtual company (VC). What’s the difference between a typical sole proprietorship (SP) and a virtual one? Plenty. For starters, a traditional SP is often run by a hands-on person who avoids delegating any tasks, does lots of in-person selling, and deals in mainstream, physical products. Another key difference: sole proprietors often rent brick-and-mortar office space and do little or no e-commerce business. The one-person chiropractor’s office in a downtown neighborhood is an SP but not a virtual company.
Here’s how to start your own virtual company in less than a week. All you need is a desk, a very comfortable chair, and a computer with an internet connection. Your entire corporate presence will be online, you’ll outsource nearly every essential task except for your core strength, you will have no office and can work from anywhere there’s an electrical outlet for your laptop, and if you sell physical products, you’ll need a place to store them.
Pick a Product
What are some of the best niches for VCs? Of course, digital products and intellectual property creations work best. Things like website services, consulting, e-books, and software are ideal, but crafts, traditional business services, art, crafts, hand-made jewelry, and re-branded goods will do. The core concept here is to keep inventory management as simple as possible.
Outsource as Many Functions as Possible
If you write how-to e-books on investment topics, for example, you can outsource the research, first-draft writing, platform for sales, marketing, e-mail list creation, book-cover creation, secure storage, distribution, and other tasks. In this case, some online publishing companies will do most of those chores in exchange for a cut of the profits. If you’re comfortable with that arrangement, all you need to do is find a couple of competent writer/researchers and pay them to generate content that you can craft into a final product.
What can you outsource? In addition to the examples listed above, it’s simple to find tax, legal, accounting, IT, and marketing help by searching online job listings where prospective workers place free ads. Test a few people before settling on one for each function. To keep costs to a minimum, consider using freelancers who are hungry for experience but who have solid skills.
Pay Attention to Shipping and Delivery
You’ll want to outsource shipping of physical goods and delivery of e-products, but be careful how you go about it. This is one area where you do not want to use freelance help. Stick with trusted organizations like the U.S. Postal Service, a major private delivery carrier, or a local company you already know and trust. For non-physical things like e-books and apps you’ve designed, use a respected company that has experience securely delivering such goods. Unless you are an IT pro, don’t do the deliveries yourself via email. A company that specializes in conveying e-goods knows how to encrypt information in such a way that hackers won’t be able to copy your unique creations. There’s no sense in creating an excellent e-book or spending days building an app if you’re not willing to deliver it securely.
Use a Transcription Service
Outsource transcription tasks to a professional service. There are huge advantages to this approach. For example, if you have hours of MP3 format audio that you want to use in printed online ads or as promos on your social media sites, you can visit here for an expert transcription service that can convert massive amounts of data rapidly. Not only will you save precious time and eliminate the expense of hiring someone to physically transcribe the material, a service can put your fresh text into any of 119 languages. After that, you can export the files to the destination of your choice.
Get Legal Advice
What if you find yourself as the target of a copyright lawsuit? Do you know how to respond? Or, what if one of our customers says that a product you sold, like a hand-made necklace or bracelet, caused their skin to break out and become infected? Should you contact the customer and discuss the situation? Those are just two of the many legal situations virtual entrepreneurs can fall into. It’s easy to say to outsource your legal function, but that’s not enough. To protect yourself against serious financial harm that a single lawsuit can bring, find a local attorney who has experience with business liability. Pay for a half-hour or one-hour session, depending on your needs.
A short conversation with a lawyer who knows the lay of the land can save you thousands of dollars and perhaps your entire livelihood should you get sued by a client. Many attorneys will show you what kind of liability insurance to buy, how to avoid lawsuits in the first place, and more. If you can afford it, consider prepaid legal services. For a reasonable monthly fee, you’ll have an attorney ready to defend you on a moment’s notice, and the fees will be considerably lower than without the prepaid agreement. No one wants to think about the chance of being sued, but it happens more often than you think, even to careful business professionals who do no wrong.
Find Your First Customer
Making that first sale can be a nerve-wracking adventure. It’s common for small business owners to fail at this very point. They do all the legwork of building the infrastructure, planning, outsourcing dozens of chores, and then when it comes time to begin in earnest, they freeze up. One way to get through the first week or two as a solo owner of a virtual business is to make at least a dozen prospecting phone calls per day, send the same number (or more) of emails to prospects you find online or from your research phase. Don’t let a day go by without adding at least two addresses to your email list and five names to your networking list. After a couple of hectic weeks of one or two sales, the hardest part will be behind you and you’ll be ready to prosper.