Although the pandemic is (mostly) behind us, its impacts on the world of work remain. The rise of the hybrid model, the growing popularity of virtual versus in-person meetings and, of course, the big quit have all changed employee and employer expectations.
This has prompted more Australians to go out on their own. ABS data revealed an increase of 12,160 in the number of businesses in the December 2021 quarter alone.
Although business ownership can bring many benefits – such as being able to choose who you want to work with and when – there are several factors to consider when starting and operating a business in this space, to ensure continued growth and success, both professionally and personally.
Do not circumvent the business plan
Even though accountants and bookkeepers are known to be quite methodical and process-oriented, in my 20+ years in the industry, I’ve found that we don’t tend to make business plans. ‘business. However, it’s an essential step to complete before launch (although you can always create one if you’re already using it), and it should contain some key components.
I’ll run through them below – and know that the business plan doesn’t need to be set in stone. You can update it as your business and the world around us evolves.
Identify – and understand – your niche
Consider your ideal customer: will you focus on a particular industry, type or size of business, or will you serve everyone? Our market can be crowded, so I recommend focusing on a specific niche, developing personas for those you want to work with, and taking the time to understand their wants, needs, and challenges when it comes to navigating the digits, as this will inform everyone else.
Create a Mutually Beneficial Model
When designing your business model, try to find the balance between starting and running a profitable business that brings you joy and reflects what your characters are looking for.
It’s about how you operate. For example, will you be primarily home-based, will you be renting offices, or will you be working completely remotely? If you’re considering hiring staff, think about what they might be looking for here too. According to Take the pulse of the nation in order to the University of Melbourne‘s – Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 89% of Australians would like to continue working under a hybrid model.
From a supply perspective, consider whether you will provide a full range of accounting and bookkeeping services or whether you choose to specialize in the ones you like the most, and which you have also found your prospects had a real need.
The price also plays a big role here. If you’re looking to support SMEs, for example, they’ll have less to invest than larger private companies, so you’ll need to ensure fees are affordable and consider building tiered packages to meet their varied needs.
Develop a coherent marketing strategy
Once you’ve confirmed who you’ll serve and how, design a complementary marketing strategy, as this will help ensure your business resonates with the right people.
It needs to consider your branding, message, and tone of voice, and it’s worth enlisting expert help here so you’re equipped with the tools to succeed. Although the initial investment can be a little daunting, if you find the right partner who understands your values, it will be a one-time or infrequent expense (every few years if you feel the need to refresh your image of brand, for example).
Consistency is key when it comes to building brand awareness, so try to roll it out across all platforms like your website, social media channels, and online business profiles evenly. This will help you create a USP for the business and attract the right customers.
Building brand awareness on a budget
Ongoing marketing of your business doesn’t have to be expensive either. Some tactics I’ve found effective include asking happy customers to leave a review on the company’s Google Business Profile. It’s completely free to create and manage your own profile, and can dramatically improve your website’s search ranking.
The same goes for social networks. There are no fees associated with creating business accounts on these platforms or posting content on these platforms. The most important thing here would be to post regularly – even if that means once a week or a month. If you research the hashtags your customers and prospects follow or interact with, and add value to your content, you’ll find that you start to reach them organically, and even receive new leads that way.
Another good one is email marketing. Platforms like Mailchimp offer a free plan option (and can be integrated into your website so visitors can easily subscribe) and help keep your business top of mind. This channel can be used to share interesting and relevant information, and potentially even discounts, freebies or special offers during quiet times, or around key events throughout the year that matter to your customers (like EOFY, BAS and the holiday season).
Tech Tools to Consider for Remote and Online Businesses
With my business, I opted for a remote model, partly because I launched during the height of the pandemic in 2020 but also because that’s what I found my target audience was looking for.
A remote model can also be a cost-effective way to launch your business, as there’s no need to rent office space, and you can work with people no matter where they are in the country. This means technology will be your best friend and investing in the right tools is wise.
We all know the value of accounting and bookkeeping software when it comes to staying in control of finances, invoicing, and STP, so I won’t dwell on that.
However, other tools to consider are project management tools – providers include Karbon, ClickUp and Monday – to help you stay on top of tasks (and those of your team), as well as track time and billed accordingly. Some of them also offer reminder features, so you can automate emails asking customers to send in their monthly bank statements, sign key documents and more, so you don’t have to. need to hunt them.
Creating proposals, questionnaires and contracts can be very time consuming, especially when you are alone or have a small team. This is where platforms like Dubsado and PandaDoc can add value, as they have templating features that allow you to produce branded documents that can be personalized for each client.
Having personally tried and failed to launch two businesses in the past, with MicroChilli, I learned from those experiences to build a successful operation the third time around. Hope these tips and tricks help you achieve your goals in both business and life in the first place!
Sharon Crombie is CEO and Founder of MicroChilean accounting and consulting firm.