A professional front door for your home business
December 2008 (www.enterprisenation.com)
Presenting to prospects a reception that says 'we are in business, here to serve and quality is our aim.' There are a number of ways to extend such a welcome.
You might want to hide your address; maybe it sounds too domestic or you just don't want people turning up on your doorstep! You can do this with a P.O. Box number that's easily set up with Royal Mail. Or, rent a mailbox at Mail Boxes Etc., which gives a more tailored and personal service than a P.O. Box. You get a nice sounding address - and a place to meet other home business owners.
It's cheap and sometimes free to get an 0845 local rate number or an 0870 national rate number for your home business. It will hide where you're based and divert calls to wherever you specify. Bear in mind, though, that having such a number - especially with national rates - might put customers off ringing you.
If you use a landline number it's best to have a separate line for home and for business. It will stop your business calls from being answered by the kids and give you a chance to escape work calls when you want to. You don't need to invest in an actual second line as VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is an option. This uses a broadband internet connection to make and receive calls. The VoIP service I use and recommend is Skype.
To have someone take calls when you can't, consider a call-handling service like Moneypenny. They answer calls with your company name, text on urgent messages and email the others, giving you a big business feel and giving customers a professional welcome that inspires confidence.
On the web
This could be the topic of a full feature in itself! Your website is sometimes the first thing potential customers see - and they'll make a judgement in seconds! Create a well-designed site by hiring a professional designer or build your own and include the basic pages:
About us/ News/ Products or services/ FAQs/ Contact us
If you're not ready to invest in a bells and whistles website, set up a blog to show off your products and services. This can be done for free via blogger.com or wordpress.com
Meeting clients outside the home office offers another opportunity to show how professional you are. Find a venue that chimes with your brand and that will create the right impression. Anyone who visits my site will know I'm a member and huge fan of private member's club, One Alfred Place. It provides me with a professional base in the city and a space in which clients feel comfortable about doing business. Investing in these services will make you look professional and well and truly open for business.
By Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation (http://www.enterprisenation.com) and author of 'Spare Room Start Up - how to start a business from home'