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Business Basics: How to look like an established business

When you have a small business there are a number of things that you can do to make yourself look more heavyweight. Depending on what you are looking to achieve (and how much you want to spend…) you can apply these ideas to almost any business.

Get a professional email

This one is one of the biggest mistakes that I see from women business owners.  Seriously – the guys never do this, but in a room full of women who are running their own business approximately 25% will be using a personal email account.

So I’m not going to hold back here, if you are running your business with a hotmail, gmail, btinternet or any other generic email account then change it.  Only use your professional email account for your business.  Once you have a domain name (and you can buy them at £5.95 from UKreg or Reg123), you can either set up your email through their control panel or have it forward onto your hotmail/gmail account and all of a sudden it legitimises your business.

Get a virtual mailing address

This one does cost a little bit, but I think it’s worth it.  Companies Made Simple (the company that I use) do a virtual address for £15 per month.  For that you get to use their swish central London address as your office address and they will forward your mail to your house for £1 a time.  There are a lot more out there and you may want to use one closer to home.  I have found that virtual offices in other places tend to cost around £30 per month.  The other benefit is you don’t have to put your home address on your website!

Get a membership for your meetings

There are a lot of great memberships out there that may be suitable.  The Institute of Directors, business clubs, but for my money, Regus offers great value at £23 per month (it was £200 per annum until end of Jan).   For that you can use a Regus office all over the UK and some of them don’t have a hubworking area, so you are able to get a virtual private office.

Get VAT registered

There are pluses and minuses to this one.  You can be VAT registered at any point, not just when you reach the income threshold.  The advantages to this is that people think your business is turning over £70k per year.  Also, you get to claim all the VAT back on the purchases you make.  The disadvantages are that it becomes another finance thing that you have to watch.  Also, if you have a low cost service, it can make it that much more expensive to people who aren’t paying VAT.

Register your company

This isn’t an absolute, but many large corporations will expect you to be a registered company rather than a sole trader.   I would consider this one even more carefully as you really are creating a whole new level of administration and cost in doing this.  But to work with the big boys, it is probably worth it.

Invest in your branding

There is little worse than a home-made brand.  And people notice.  There are enough extremely low cost options out there (just do a search for cheap logo design in Google, prices seem to be in the region of £29) that if money is an issue, you can still get a reasonable design and then you can change it once you have a bit more income.

Get a decent business card

Many printing services offer business card design as part of their print offering.  Moo.com do great looking cards that you can personalise the back and the front – and they look great.  It is a false economy to go for a free Vistaprint card, because people will think you are not serious.  The quality of the cards is very poor and they look terrible.  First impressions count, so make sure yours is a good one!

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About the Author: Julie Hall is the founder of Women Unlimited, a website all about business for women and Springmedia, a boutique design agency based in south west London.  Springmedia specialises in logos, email marketing, blogs and websites for professional services companies.

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About Julie Hall

Hi, I'm Julie Hall, the founder of Women Unlimited. Which is my 4th business. I've had a business as a headhunter, a consultant, a new media agency and now finally Women Unlimited. I've learned lots of lessons - many of which could have been avoided. I hope you find the articles and stories on this website useful, and feel free to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.

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3 comments

  1. Great points. I also found this blog easy to read because of good subheadings.
    One point I would like add is importance of a professional website. I fail to understand why people want to DIY this. It is a key marketing tool and yet start ups are not placing a high importance to this aspect – madness!

  2. Great blog Julie. Thanks so much for recommending us in the virtual office section, it really is appreciated. As well as virtual office services we also provide company formation packages. Keep up the great work!

  3. Great article, thanks.

    I would always recommend registering a new company, it adds an extra element of professionalism to your business and lets any client know that you are serious about your business.

    Yes it may incur a bit of extra cost, but if it gives you an edge over your competitors then surely it’s worth it isn’t it?

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