Finding Who You Need: Advisors, Accountants and More.
When you run a home business, there are all sorts of professionals whose services you need. They are often indispensable, saving you two or three times what they cost. But what do you need, and how do you know who to choose?
The best people to hire are people who you've heard about by word of mouth. Failing that, you should spend as much time as you can afford comparing people and services before you make up your mind. Don't worry, it's not all wasted time: the way you go about comparing others' services this might give you a few insights into how to improve your own marketing.
I find that the best way to do it is to narrow the people you're considering down to a shortlist, and then do as much research about them as you possibly can. Seek out their clients and their premises, find out how long they've been in business for and who the business is owned by -- make sure there's nothing you're uncomfortable with.
Whenever you're dealing with the law, you really shouldn't try to go it alone -- and when you're running a home business, you'll be hitting up against the law quite often. It's important to build a good working relationship with a lawyer in your area, so that you have them available both for day-to-day things and for emergencies.
Sooner or later, you'll probably need a lawyer to help you with licenses, permits, regulations, contacts, or employment. You need to get one straight away if someone violates your trademark, copyright or patent, or someone threatens to take legal action against you for some reason.
Accountants are mostly useful for saving on tax, but you will find that tax is a big business expense, at least if you do it wrongly. Accountants know the tax laws inside out, and will be able to point out all the savings you might be entitled to without even realising it, as well as the best ways to do things like taking money out of the business without paying a ton of tax.
It is best to try to find an accountant who will keep in contact with you occasionally, reminding you of tax deadlines and telling you if anything changes in the law. They should also be able to advise you on bookkeeping methods, and suggest computer software that could be helpful for this.
You may wish to contact a business advisor if there's anything you're still unsure about when it comes to running your business -- they can be affordable yet very helpful. They are also very useful people to be able to contact in a crisis.
If you're trying to manage a lot of debt, you might want to get a financial advisor. They can help you structure your business so that it pays debt off quickly while still leaving you enough to live on, as well as suggesting ways to get debt repayments down. Quite apart from the practical elements of this, it can be a big relief to know that there's a plan and your debts are being dealt with.
If you don't want to handle advertising yourself, then advertising agencies can be a good alternative. They'll produce a slick, professional ad, and place it in ways that they know produce results. Look for one that specialises in home businesses, and will allow you to try out a relatively small advertising budget with them to begin with to see what kind of results they could get for you. You could be pleasantly surprised.
Make sure, though, that any company you choose isn't so big that you'll get lost amongst all their clients, and that they understand your business and your industry. Since most ads for home businesses should be local, it's worth sticking to your own town when you're trying to find someone.
Keeping a web designer as a semi-regular contact is important if you're going to have a website and don't know too much about them yourself -- they could be needed occasionally add new sections you might think of, or fix the thing if it all goes wrong.