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Category Archives: Business

7 Existed Strange Business

An organization for cuddling

Sometimes you need the comfort of another person. There’s nothing like a good hug or a solid cuddle, but what if you don’t have the option of an embracing partner? This is whereCuddle Party comes in.

According to the company’s website, Cuddle Party is a “playful social event designed for adults to explore communication, boundaries, and affection.” These events are safe spaces where attendees can go to meet and talk to new people as well as to practice consent and asking for what they want, and yes, to just cuddle.

A mystery marketplace

A mystery marketplace Interested in something new but aren’t sure of what you want to get?SomethingStore can help. This retailer gives customers who love surprises the opportunity to purchase a brand new (never-used or refurbished) mystery item, or a “something” for $10.

According to the company’s website, “your ‘something’ may be a cool shiny gadget, rare book, party game, handmade necklace, reverse clock, box of gourmet chocolates, portable table tennis set, and so on.

The leftover sock saver

Doing the laundry is a part of life, no matter how boring it is. It’s risky, though: Somewhere in the journey from the hamper to the dresser, you could lose one of your favorite socks. And then what?

With Throx, you can reduce the chances of handling another lonely leftover sock.

A mobile wedding chapel

Need to get hitched quickly on a budget? The Wedding Wagon may be able to help. This unique mobile company founded in Las Vegas provides a full wedding ceremony out of the back of a van for just $129.

You choose when and where you want to get married — by the colorful fountains of the Bellagio, for example — and the wedding wagon will meet you there with a minister, a witness and a fully decked-out mobile chapel.

A dog-sledding business

Adventurists in New Hampshire can feel like they’re running the Iditarod thanks to a local company. The Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kenneloffers a variety of dog-sledding trips, ranging from a quick, 20-minute ride to an overnight voyage through the White Mountains. The kennel has more than 100 sled dogs, including Alaskan Huskies, Siberians and Malamutes.

A furniture business for slobs

Have an incontinent cat or a spit-up-prone baby? You might be interested to know that there’s a company devoted entirely to helping people like you.

Slobproof, a Maryland-based furniture and design company, builds custom chairs, sofas and ottomans with specially engineered fabric that withstands spills and other messes without staining.

A used cardboard box marketplace

Whether you’re moving and need containers for transporting your items or you spend too much time online shopping and don’t know what to do with all the cardboard boxes, BoxCycle can help.

Founded in 2008, BoxCycle streamlines the processes of obtaining and getting rid of cardboard boxes. Instead of throwing out used boxes, businesses or individuals with an abundance of boxes can go online to BoxCycle.com and post how many boxes they have, and what sizes.

7 Handmade Business Ideas

3D printed figures and art

With the advent of cheap, quality 3D printers, so to has a class of 3D artisans arisen. Whether it’s cartoon or video game characters or decorative works of art, 3D printers represent a new medium that allow artists to try new things and that shoppers will love.

Knitting and crocheting

Handmade scarves, hats and blankets are big sellers in the online marketplace. Wholesale yarn is relatively inexpensive, and depending on how quickly you can knit, you’ll be able to build up your inventory and spend more time marketing your store. Once you’ve mastered the basics of this art, you can move on to designing your own unique, colorful patterns.

Baked goods

If you frequently find yourself whipping up a batch of cookies to stave off boredom, why not get paid for it by opening a bakery? Find desserts that you can replicate perfectly every time, and accept orders online to deliver or ship to local areas. This is a great business to run in your spare time, as you can fill orders during evenings and weekends.

Lamps

With do-it-yourself lamp kits available online and in most major home improvement stores, you can make a lamp out of anything from mason jars to wine bottles. A little bit of spray paint or plastic beads are all you need to make colorful, customized lights.

Bags

Handmade bags can be made out of a variety of materials. Using recycled fabrics and other materials from around your home, create bags and purses in different sizes, styles and colors to appeal to a wide customer base.

Jams and preserves

There are few foods that are easier to hand-make and package in large quantities than jam. With access to a steady supply of high-quality fruits and mason jars, you can go into the jam-making business in no time. First, build a repertoire of tried-and-true jam recipes. Then create branded labels and sell your goods online or at local fairs, farmers markets and events.

Bath and cleaning products

Hair products, lotions, soaps and cleansers can all be made using natural ingredients you already have in your pantry. Sure, anyone can find a recipe for a sugar scrub or vinegar-based cleaning solution and do it themselves, but if you package and sell them in sets, your customers can have those all-natural products at their fingertips without having to use their own time and resources.

5 Trends Fueling Big Growth for Small Business

Propelled by access to new technology, a changing workforce and easier opportunities to reach a larger audience, small business growth is expected to skyrocket in the coming years, new research finds.

According to a study from Intuit andEmergent Research, the number of small businesses are projected to increase to 42 million by 2026, up from this year’s 30 million. The 3.3 percent annual growth rate over the next decade is significantly higher than the 2 percent average growth between 2004 and 2014, the most recent data available.

While the number of small businesses will grow over the next decade, their size is actually getting smaller. The research found that the average size of small businesses dropped by 20 percent between 2001 and 2014. Specifically, in 2001, the average small business started with 6.5 employees. In 2014, the number shrank to just four employees.

“The next few years will see an acceleration in the number of small and micro businesses, thanks in large part to new technologies that reduce the costs and risks of operating a small business and open up access to customers around the world,” Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, said in a statement. “While running a business is always going to be tough work, economic and technological changes are making it easier and cheaper to start and operate a successful small business.”

The study’s authors highlight five key reasons that will not only fuel the growth of small businesses, but will allow them to compete with big businesses like never before.

  1. Top-notch technology: Small businesses now have the ability to build sophisticated business and technology infrastructures that previously were only available to large companies. Cloud computing and manufacturing and distributing capabilities are now available with a cost structure that allows small businesses to scale up and down and only pay for what they use.
  2. Deeper insight:  Access to insightful data is giving small businesses the capability of gaining deeper customer and business insights. Access to machine learning has taken away much of the complexity of data analysis, which allows small businesses to make faster and better decisions.
  3. The on-demand workforce: By the year 2020, freelance workers are projected to represent 43 percent of the workforce. This gives small businesses access to the right people at the right time in a flexible way, without the responsibility of hiring traditional employees.
  4. Online marketplaces: Online outlets are giving small businesses the ability to not only sell more niche products and services, but also to extend their reach to millions of customers that they previously never had access to.
  5. Affordable advertising: Online advertising has made it cost-effective to connect with customers worldwide. For a fairly low cost, small businesses can deliver their targeted messages, whether it be a sponsored photo or in-stream video ad, to a whole new audience.

“This next decade will be the decade of the small business,” said Karen Peacock, senior vice president of small business at Intuit. “Industry-shifting trends like lower-cost, scalable infrastructure to start and grow your business, the ability to build a team with amazing on-demand talent, and data that helps you fuel your business and delight your customers are game changers.”

5 Business Fads That Are on Their Way Out

Remember when there was a frozen yogurt chain in almost every town? Today, many of these once-popular establishments are out of business; like fashion, business is subject to the ebb and flow of consumer hype, and such fads tend not to last very long.

“Don’t assume your fad is going to have revenue beyond a pretty short time,” Mary Gale, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Babson College in Massachusetts, told the Asbury Park Press. “Plan for the demise of that business, and don’t fool yourself about when it’s going to be.”

Owning of a fad business could diminish your entrepreneurial spirit, but there are ways of bouncing back. Here are the business trends that entrepreneurs think will die off in the coming years, and how they can be adapted to fit the changing market.

Subscription services are all the rage right now, but Jeff Neal, creator of a mud-run series turned project manager and estimator, said box subscriptions — a business where a company sends subscribers a curated box of items every month — will taper off because they are more interesting than practical. Over time, he said, you will end up with way more of a certain product — like coffee, wine or cleaning products — than one person could possibly need or use.

If you run a box-subscription company, you might want to consider finding a “common denominator” with another type of business and adapting, said Neal. For example, you could branch out into retail sales: Subscription services like Julep (cosmetics) and Blue Apron (meal ingredients) allow subscribers to skip their monthly deliveries and instead purchase related products individually from the service’s websites.

The trend of e-commerce “daily deal” websites hit complete market saturation in 2014, said Mike Catania, co-founder and CTO of savings communityPromotion Code. However, with so many ties to small business communities, daily deals sites could easily morph into location-based apps that curate retail deals nearby, he said.

“Entrepreneurs in the field could also diversify by moving into the popular rebates arena, as they likely have significant amounts of purchase data from their existing daily deal customers,” Catania added.

The emerging information about the dangers of UV tanning has decreased the demand for traditional tanning beds. However, it is possible to stick with the tanning business and remain profitable, said Eric Anderson, CEO of Unlimited Tan. Switching the focus to spray tanning can increase business and even bring in a whole new clientele that would normally not visit a tanning salon.

“Adding a spray booth or custom spray tanning is a must to adapt to the changing needs of your customer base,” Anderson said. He added that creative marketing and partnerships will keep customers engaged.

Although the teeth-whitening market has been alive and well since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Romans, today’s health-conscious consumers are wary of modern methods like bleaching and laser treatments. Max Robinson, owner of Teeth Whitening Belfast, said he does far less traditional laser teeth whitening than he used to do, because most of his customers are now looking for natural treatments. As a result, he has had to diversify his business, he said.

“We use a lot of coconut oil, charcoal and baking soda, and provide different [whitening] treatments,” Robinson said.

Pokémon Go was without a question the most popular new app this summer. But how many people do you know who still play the game regularly? AJ Saleem, academy director of Suprex Learning Houston, said he expects gaming apps capitalizing on nostalgia to die off in the coming year, if not sooner, because the games eventually lose their popularity (again).

“There are definitely ways to prolong its popularity, such as adding new additions and updating, but eventually the game will die out,” said Saleem. “Those popular games aren’t meant to last forever.”

6 Businesses to Mend Your Broken Heart

These businesses understand how you’re feeling and are here to help you get back on the up-and-up. Here are six breakup inspired businesses to help you learn to love again.

Breakups are a special class of unkind. It disrupts your life and often can derail your every day. Mend aims to help the recently single with a heartbreak cleanse.

According to the site, they believe that you can not only mend, but thrive, after a breakup. “We believe an end, in whatever form it takes, is just the beginning of rebuilding the life and love you want.”

Mend comes with a blog with advice on how to move on, a newsletter, an app that acts as your “personal trainer” for heartbreak. The site offers a heartbreak assessment to better understand your level of heartbreak and the type of healing you need.

Breakups are rough. Someone is hurting from the events that transpired and often, items tied to the relationship are mementos of pain. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, the Museum of Broken Relationships may be a great place to visit to commiserate with the jilted.

According to the museum’s website, the exhibits reflect the full range of human emotions.  Some are sad; but many are amusing and hopeful and remind us that people change, grow and recover. Love relationships may end; relationships with family members, business partners, cities, religions and even with our former selves may end. But we learn and move on.

Though the museum’s location is on the west coast, anyone can donate an object anonymously. The dislocation of a broken relationship may be isolating, but the experience is universal.  No one is alone in this, the site says.

The end of a relationship can be infuriating and sometimes, unfair. If you don’t have a healthy outlet to channel that anger, consider visiting the Anger Room in Dallas, Texas, could be a good alternative for you – especially if thinking about your ex makes you want to break things.

Sign up to reserve a room and choose a package that meets your stress level. Options include “I need a break,” which lasts for five minutes, “Lash Out,” at 15 minutes, and “Demolition” mode, lasting 25 minutes. Head over 10 minutes early to get suited up in protective gear and goggles, and prepare to break things.

If you want to help others experience such smashing satisfaction, Anger Room accepts donations of items like old computers, mirrors, tables, chairs, vases and more.

When you’ve finally passed the breakup rage stage, it’s time to start ridding yourself of everything ex-related. It’s bad enough that you’re newly single and not so happy about it, but social media makes getting over it that much more painful.

Every time you sign online, you’re forced to look at Facebook posts and all the photos you’re tagged in together.

Luckily, there’s an app for that. Killswitch gives you the power to set and identify your target (your ex) and what kinds of posts you want to hide, like photos and status updates, then the app goes through your account to hide everything.

Killswitch also saves all of those old photos in a hidden album on your Facebook page. So if you and your old flame rekindle your relationship (or you just want to laugh at them later when you’re finally over it), they’re not gone for good.

The app is available free in the App Store and in the Google Play store. The company also donates a portion of its proceeds to the American Heart Association “so broken hearts can help broken hearts.”

Never Liked It Anyway is the website you can turn to when you realize you really never did like that necklace those poorly-chosen gifts from your ex.

With Never Liked It Anyway, you can sell all the gifts your old partner gave you and buy new items to treat yourself.

The best part? Each item displays the original cost of the item and the new “break up price” so you can see what kind of deal you’re getting. You may not be able to put a price on love, but with Never Liked It Anyway you can put a price on getting over it.

I Do Now I Don’t is the more serious version of Never Liked It Anyway. Instead of selling your old unwanted gifts, I Do Now I Don’t is there for you when your wedding gets called off or you get divorced and you need to sell your engagement ring, wedding band and other expensive pieces of jewelry.

The business operates on the concept that jewelers often markup diamonds by 200 to 300 percent, and when you try to sell your pieces back they offer you much less than what you paid. Another alternative, pawn shops, will probably offer you only 10 percent of what your items are worth, according to the I Do Now I Don’t website.

7 Places to Find Businesses For Sale Online

Want to be an entrepreneur? You don’t necessarily have to start and build your own brand-new business; sometimes the best move is to buy and grow an already-established company.

Aspiring owners who don’t know where to start should consider looking into websites, which direct you to the best businesses and properties for sale. From there, you can decide which best fits your entrepreneurial goals and budget.

Here are seven companies to find a business to take over:

BizBuySell.com boasts that it is “the Internet’s largest business for sale marketplace” and offers users options to buy a business, buy a franchise, sell a business, get help with financing and more. Users can search for businesses by category, state and country, and even set a minimum and maximum price. You can also search franchises by type, state, and amount of capital you have available to invest. Or, you can search for a business broker near you.

Search on BizQuest.com for your desired businesses, franchises or business brokers by location and business type or industry. And perks for sellers are good, too: BizQuest.com allows you to post ads in just five minutes. The ads are then shared on the company’s partner websites, like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. BizQuest.com also gives you the option to browse listings in top cities as well as the most popular franchises and industries.

BusinessBroker.net has more than 30,000 business-for-sale listings just waiting for you to sift through. As with the other websites, you can search for businesses and franchises, find brokers and see listings by industry and location. BusinessBroker.net also has a finance and loan center that offers professional help to guide you in your business purchasing decisions.

MergerNetwork.com has more than 15,000 active business-for-sale listings around the world. It allows sellers to post ads for their business for free and connect with over 14,000 entrepreneurs, investment bankers and business brokers.

This website currently has more than 62,000 business listings in the United States and around the world, including available franchises. Users can search by business sector and location to find the perfect business for them.BusinessesForSale.com also has features like email alerts and a services directory for those who need accountants, brokers, lawyers and more.

With more than 800,000 listings available, it’s easy to understand whyLoopNet.com is a reliable resource for discovering businesses for sale in your region. If you’re already a business owner or an entrepreneur with a busy schedule, LoopNet is available in app form (on Google Play and in the App Store) to peruse listings on your schedule, from wherever.

Additionally, the site is partners with commercial real estate firms like Century21, Chusman & Wakefield, CBRE, Sperry Van Ness, and Re/Max Commercial.

On the other end of it? If you’re looking to sell your current business, LoopNet provides the opportunity to list your business.

BusinessMart.com, like many of the other websites, has both businesses and franchises available as well as resources and services to help you get funding. It also allows you to search by location and business category, or search franchises by your available capital.

7 Great Small Business Ideas

Online retailer

You don’t have to be a big-box retailer to start an online store. Whether you sell directly to consumers or use a drop-shipping service, all you need is a website and the right e-commerce software to get started. You can sell your own products or items from niche suppliers.

Event planner

Do you love throwing parties and organizing meetings? Start an event-planning business and turn your passion into a profitable venture. As an event planner, you can help individuals and corporations plan their need to be resourceful and have a keen eye for detail. You will also need the patience to deal with clients’ demands and the ability to stay calm during stressful situations and unforeseen disasters.

Yard work

Got rake, will travel? Most landscapers will cut grass, but they don’t necessarily do the stuff that most homeowners don’t have time to do themselves, such as weeding, planting, leaf raking, snow shoveling, hanging or removing holiday decorations. With little more than some work gloves and a ladder, you could be in business in no time.

omputer maintenance

Got a tech background? With the proliferation of tablets, smartphones and laptops for every member of the family, there are lots of opportunities to provide private computer services such as anti-virus software installation, desktop cleanups, software downloads and printer hookups.

Virtual assistant

If you’ve got a background in administrative work but want to work for yourself, this might be a perfect opportunity for you. Virtual assistants work remotely and do all the things a business owner or manager doesn’t have time to do, such as open and answer emails, follow up with customers, invoice customers or pay bills. All of these tasks and more can all be done from your own home computer via the cloud.

Bookkeeper

Very few businesses can live without a bookkeeper. But that doesn’t mean they have to have one on staff. If you’ve got a background in finance, you can offer affordable bookkeeping services as an independent contractor. You may have to log a few in-office hours during tax season, but in most cases, the work can be done remotely.

Translator

As America becomes increasingly multilingual, everyone from doctors to insurance companies find themselves in need of foreign language speakers to help interact with their customers and translate their website copy and promotional materials. If you can speak a foreign language, are organized, and can come up with a good marketing plan, you may find you have more work than you can handle.

7 Great Online Business Ideas

 When you dream of opening your own business, you might envision four white walls and a mess of boxes to unpack in a commercial space. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With today’s technology, you can start and run a business online, often with little to no cost.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll be able to build a client roster and get your online-based business started. Here are 7 great ideas you can run with.

Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? The owners of a lot of smaller companies don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Educate those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites into a more SEO-friendly property. Use your skills to show business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.

If you possess a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. To show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients, you can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn.

There’s an audience for everything, whether it’s making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don’t need to own a lot of inventory.

Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of social media to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

There’s nothing more off-putting than a poorly designed website, and often, it kills credibility. If you know HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. Put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when you’re applying for a job. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Find work by helping others to get hired with the aid of stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.

Do you have impeccable organizational skills? What about cleaning skills? Can you quickly and efficiently carry out these tasks? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming an online personal assistant or task manager. Companies like TaskRabbit or Zirtual allow you to sign up for tasks you want to complete — including data research, virtual assistant or running errands — and begin building clientele.

Tips to Launch Your Own Clothing Line

 Have you ever dreamed of being a fashion designer? Maybe you could never find clothes you liked so you made your own, or maybe you fell in love with your home-ec class in middle school. However this path started for you, it has the potential to end in a successful fashion brand.

You might not be showing your line at New York Fashion Week, but you can still create and launch your own line. The founders of independent clothing lines shared their secrets to success.

Matthew Johnson, owner and designer at Seventhfury Studios andSeventh.Ink Shirts and Apparel, founded Seventh.Ink in 2007 as a way to showcase his artwork on clothing. Before he began producing and selling his shirts, hoodies and accessories, which includes patches, pins, and art, he took the time to learn everything he could about the fashion industry.

“It really does pay to do your research,” Johnson told Business News Daily. “Read articles and interviews from your favorite brands, talk to those brands and check out websites like How to Start a Clothing Company (HTSACC) to get as much insight as you can.”

In an article for Entrepreneur, contributor Toby Nwazor said that knowing where to produce the clothing line is an extremely important decision because the clothing line’s initial quality will be what the business’ reputation is based on, for better or for worse.

The fashion market has always been a crowded one, so to stand out, you need something truly unique. Albam Clothing, a U.K.-based menswear brand started in 2006, started with co-founder Alastair Rae and his business partner designing with eight original styles, which would become Albam’s line of high-quality men’s fashion.

“The idea was borne out of a joint frustration that we had over the price and quality of men’s clothing available at the time,” Rae said.

Albam’s success stems from its founders’ dedication to producing something different than what was out there on the market. Similarly, Johnson stressed the importance of bringing something fresh to the table.

“If you squeeze out the same thing that everyone else is making, people are going to go with the existing brand instead of you,” he said.

To build up your initial inventory, you’ll need the money to produce it. HTSACC defines an “indie” clothing line as one that wants to produce high-quality products and plans to expand in the future once the brand grows. The site estimates that indie brands need a minimum of $500 to get going. If you want in-house production, it could take as much as $10,000 in startup costs. Five hundred dollars to $2500 is usually where most indie brands land.

“I ended up doing preorder designs once I got the hang of the business,” Johnson said.  “I was able to get an idea of what was selling and have the funds up front to pay for production.”

Nwazor wrote that to ensure a profit, the entrepreneur must establish wholesale and retail rates higher than the expenses. A target for these rates would be to earn a profit margin 30 to 50 percent higher than associated expenses, he said.

Making your own clothes by hand is fine when you only have a few customers, but as your brand grows, you may need to outsource in order to scale your operation. Johnson enlisted the help of a screen-printing friend to produce the clothing for his Florida-based company. Rae, on the other hand, was developing new fabrics for Albam clothes and wanted to find local manufacturers right off the bat.

“A big challenge for us was convincing factories that we were serious about manufacturing in the U.K.,” Rae said. “They were not used to new businesses approaching them.”

To prepare for manufacturing, Nwazor suggested securing capital through investments from others, typically loans, or from the entrepreneur’s personal money. The initial investment will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending upon inventory and quality.

Knowing how to market is critical for success. Having a good website for you brand makes it easier for customers to shop for your products, but advertising is what drives them to the site. Johnson quickly learned that paid advertising just wasn’t worth it.

“I realized that word of mouth was the best way to spread the news about my brand without dropping a lot of money,” he said.

Nwazor agrees that a great online presence is important.

“You have a lot to lose if you don’t move your business online, because the online commerce market is more important than brick-and-mortar location,” he wrote.

“Listen to your customers’ feedback,” Rae advised. “Don’t be afraid to remake old styles that customers are asking for, or kill a best-seller if it feels like the right thing to do.”

Johnson also recommended getting customer input before making major changes, and if you do modify your brand, do it slowly.

“A sudden switch is not only going to make customers question [your brand], but it’ll likely cause sales to plummet because people have a tough time with major changes when they have a good thing going,” Johnson said.

Like any startup, clothing lines take a lot of hard work and dedication. You will meet some challenges along the way, but if you believe in yourself and your brand, you’ll succeed.

“Owning a clothing line isn’t an easy or glamorous endeavor,” Johnson said. “It’s tough work that pays off successfully if you give it your all and enjoy what you do.”

4 Tips to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

 Businesses of all sizes need administrative help, but having a full-time employee on site can be cost-prohibitive. Enter virtual assistants (VAs), administrative professionals who offer a wide variety of services remotely, operating as their own small businesses.

Through technology like cloud collaboration software, videoconferences, project management apps and instant messaging, entrepreneurs who want to start a virtual assistant firm have all the tools they need to successfully work with business clients.

“The reasons for utilizing a VA firm have become more needs-driven, customized and service-oriented,” said Michelle Anastasio-Festi, CEO and founder of CT Virtual Assistance. “It’s gone beyond reducing expenses or needing more time, (and businesses are now) focusing on the bigger picture of how hiring a VA can help them achieve their business goals faster, or promote their brand or service.”

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If you’re interested in taking advantage of this lucrative business opportunity and becoming a VA, here’s some expert advice for how to make it work.

Operating as a VA on your own can feel like you are all by yourself, but in fact, there are professional groups, online forums and books to support you in your business dream. By reading and researching what services a VA can perform, you can narrow down your own offerings. And by networking with other VAs, you can benefit from subcontracting work or advice from more established VAs.

“Most VAs are more than happy to help out someone who is new to the field. And even if they don’t have any subcontracting work, they may be able to refer you to someone who does,” said Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, MBTI Certified, with All Things Admin.

There’s a lot more to being a VA than helping with the tasks your client needs you to do. Having office experience will help you in your day-to-day duties, but as an independent business, you need to learn the ropes of how to run it.

“Working virtually means you must exercise great discipline,” said Tim Petree, senior vice president of BST Concierge. “You’re your own boss, (but) those corporate rules that once seemed to be a drag can save you from financial ruin when you’re the CEO or sole proprietor. If anything, you must now be conversant in all areas of business administration — sales, marketing, IT, customer service, project management, receivables, payables and compliance.”

As with any type of virtual work, not being in the office for face-to-face interactions with your clients can present some difficulties if your or their communications are unclear. VAs perform many of the important day-to-day tasks that keep a business running, so knowing what’s required of you as a service provider is key to customer satisfaction.

As a VA and as a business owner, you’ll need to be able to deliver exactly what each client needs. It’s a good idea to determine the best structure for your service packages and pricing based on what your clients are looking for.

“A VA provides business owners with the opportunity to get exactly what they need, when they need it, like ordering from a menu,” Anastasio-Festi said. “Because most VAs offer a wide range of services to various industries, it becomes confusing as to who needs what most. [Our firm] is moving away from hourly retainers and more towards customizing individual monthly packages that are tailored to each client’s needs.”