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The ultimate checklist for startup agencies

The ultimate checklist for startup agencies Dimple Thakkar
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Thinking about becoming an entrepreneur? You've come to the right place.


With an abundance of resources on the internet, there's never been a better time to start a business with little to no money!


If you already own a successful company, don't close your internet browser just yet. You can use the information in this article to make any business more efficient, cost-effective, and focused.


The ultimate checklist for startup agencies


Becoming a business: You gotta keep 'em separated


If you want to be perceived as more than an at-home business and don't want clients showing up to your house or calling you at all times of the night, create a separate business address and phone number.


There are a lot of private mailbox services out there -- make sure you choose the right one. Your local UPS store, for example, allows 24-7 access to your mailbox and accepts packages (of all sizes) on your behalf -- a perfect situation for the entrepreneur who travels a lot. Depending on your needs, you definitely want to choose the right PMB to avoid changing your business address multiple times, creating an inconvenience to clients as well as delays in payments if checks are being mailed to you.


For the phone, Google Voice is a great free way to set-up a separate number, with a personalized greeting and call forwarding to your cell phone or land-line. This way, customers don't hear your personal voicemail and won't have to call multiple phone numbers in order to reach you.


Another great option is to hire a virtual receptionist. CallRuby.com offers affordable packages where a real, live receptionist answers your client's calls with a 14-day free trial. Customer service is crucial and a receptionist ensures every call is answered and transferred when and where you like. Best of all, it saves time so you can focus on making money.

Structure and records: Make it less of a pain in the you-know-what


Hiring an attorney can be pricey, but a good accountant can help you figure out how to structure and decide whether you should be a sole proprietorship, an LLC, S-Corp, etc. Additionally, a good accountant will give you advice regarding business taxes so you know how to plan accordingly. As a busy entrepreneur, always ensure taxes can be done in a snap.


Before you have an accountant do the formation paperwork, shop and Google around for services like MyCorporation.com that will incorporate your business or form an LLC for you at a fraction of the cost.


When it comes to business taxes, bookkeeping can be a huge pain, but there is also free and low-cost help for that too!  For instance, the mobile app Lemon allows one to store receipts using a smart phone. All you have to do is take a picture of your receipt and Lemon will digitize key information. It's a great tool to use after a business lunch or dinner so that you can optimize your business write-offs and deductions without the hassle of filing and sorting paper.


Another great tool for bookkeeping is Outright.com. By connecting your business accounts to Outright, you can import your sales and expense transactions automatically. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, Paypal, Amazon, and other major platforms for conducting business. Outright will also help you track your profits and losses along with other important tax-related information.


And for the lethargic entrepreneur, Shoeboxed.com is the ultimate assistant! With this service, you can send all types of documents in a pre-paid envelope to be scanned and filed in a digital format.


Need additional legal-related help? Search LegalRiver; the online business lawyer connection for all types of businesses.


Get online -- even if you can't code or design


Now it's time to claim your business name in social media and get a website domain from a service like GoDaddy.com. If you don't have the design or coding skills to get your social media and website up and running, Wix.com is a great tool for developing stunning websites in minutes!  The company also offers tools to create mobile sites, Facebook pages, and blogs.


Of course, before you can do any of that, you'll need a logo. Save hundreds to thousands of dollars by utilizing sites like 99designs.com for your graphic design needs and more. On this site, you post a detailed project and multiple designers will submit concepts and compete for your project. Don't get stuck with a crappy logo -- get inspired and explore your options.


Additionally, an easy way to reserve your web presence on hundreds of sites can be done using KnowEm? .

If you can design


Don't spend tons of dough on software. GIMP is an amazing open-source program if you want a free version of Photoshop. GIMP is capable of versatile graphics manipulation with a custom interface, photo enhancement capabilities, digital retouching, and hardware support.


Irfanview is also fantastic. It happens to be one of the most popular (and free!) programs for viewing photos, converting file formats, batch processing, and more.


Save time, because time is money


Manage your time wisely with services like TaskRabbit.com, a marketplace to find reliable people right in your neighborhood who can help you get your to-do list done.


A similar service called Fancy Hands also provides low-cost assistants and help for entrepreneurs. They'll help you schedule travel accommodations, dinner reservations, and execute various types of tasks related to research.


But wait, there's more! Fiverr.com is also another helpful marketplace for small services, starting at $5. (Yep, that's right, only 5 bucks!)  Services include graphic design, video, animation, online marketing, writing, translation, advertising, programming, and more.


If you're working with a team and have employees or contractors, manage them easily with ShiftPlanning and take the hassle out of scheduling, time clocks and payroll. There's nothing to download or install with full mobile access and browser support. They're basically available anywhere you have an internet connection.


Increase work productivity


Personally, I'm obsessed with optimizing work productivity. It's essential if your goal is to get more than four hours of sleep per night.


Check out Yammer, a private social network (like Twitter) for your company. Use it to collaborate across departments and geographies to manage deliverables for your clients. Access it from the web, your mobile device, or tablet. Yammer supports various API integration so you can customize the experience to best match your needs. Best of all, it comes with analytics and security so you can monitor and control Yammer.


Throw away your flash drive and get on Dropbox. Take your files and work wherever you are. Dropbox is a free service with premium plans (if needed) that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. This means any file you save into your online Dropbox account or folder on your computer, phone, or tablet will save and sync so you have access to it anytime, without the hassle of transferring files from device to device.


Need a way to remember everything?  Meeting notes?  Ideas?  Things that inspire you?  Get Evernote to help you capture and access your information from anywhere. For example, if you take notes on your mobile phone with Evernote during a meeting, it will automatically be available and accessible on your desktop computer when it's time to get things done or refresh your memory.

Get paid


Before you get paid, an agreement needs to be signed. Pen ink signatures are so 2005. Get EchoSign to accelerate sales with e-signatures, track contracts in real time, and receive an automated solution to store and manage all of your signed agreements.


After your client signs the dotted line, Zoho is fantastic for making invoices online, scheduling automatic recurring invoices, tracking expenses, and accepting payments online and offers the ability to customize everything with a template.


In conclusion


Nowadays, it takes so much to do business. Luckily, there are many tools out there to help you get further faster, especially when you're on a budget.


Make technology your best friend as you move forward and grow -- it will give you the advantage to compete with the big guys.


Here's to your success!


Dimple Thakkar is the CEO and impresario of SYNHERGY marketing.


On Twitter? Follow Dimple at @dimplethakkar.


Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.


"Glowing sunset on a bright red background" and "Checklist symbol" images via Shutterstock.

Dimple Thakkar began her career at a social media agency in New York as the Executive Director of Promotions. While there, she supervised marketing campaigns for top brands, influential Web 2.0 companies, and over 50 chart topping artists which...

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Comments

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Commenter: Clayton Mitchell

2012, November 27

While I do think there is some valuable information in here, I'm a little miffed that you would recommend 99designs as a source for design work. This is a site that is damaging the marketing community - no agency, that will need to bill at a relatively decent hourly rate should be supporting this website. There are decent opportunities to get good work out of that site, yes, but it's allowing companies to go around agencies, which makes it more of a struggle in the industry. Sure, I get that the landscape is changing for agencies, but cheap and inexpensive doesn't mean quality a lot of the time (I've never seen a submission from a designer through that site that includes trademark research). I could go on, but I think the focal point of my statement is clear.