Turn Your Hobby Into a Business With These 5 Steps

You are probably thinking that an economic downturn is not the best time to be thinking about turning your hobby into a profitable business. Think again. This can be one of the smartest moves you can make – if you take the time to plan ahead and give yourself the best chance possible of success.

Here are 5 tips that you can follow to turn your dream into a plan of action.

1. Write a business plan

This is a requirement for any business that will be seeking funding from other people but there is an even better reason for writing a detailed and comprehensive business plan. When you are forced to write your ideas for others to read it tends to focus your thinking, make you seek better proofs for your assumptions, and sharpen your description of the actions that you will be taking. You can find some good business plan models online but the basic requirements are that your business plan should define your business, the products and services that you’ll be offering, how you will distinguish yourself from your competition, and your proposed operating procedures.

2. Consider a corporation or an LLC

If you do not have the time or the inclination to research the best form of business organization for your company then get the advice that you need from an accountant that specializes in business tax returns. Corporations and LLC’s help to protect your personal assets from your business debts and liabilities but there are certain tax advantages to formal business organizations that are simply not available to sole proprietorships. The Inc. or LLC after your business name also adds credibility and cache with customers and business partners.

3. Get the business licenses, permits, and tax identification numbers that you’ll need

Every business other than a sole proprietorship requires a federal tax identification number and every business that hires employees will require one also. Depending on the nature of your business activities and state and local requirements your business may need a particular license or any variety of permits. Do your own research on this or consult with a local attorney who is familiar with other businesses like yours.

4. Open a business checking account

Even if you decide to operate as a sole proprietorship you will still want to open a separate checking account for the business. It’s always a bad idea to mix personal and business income and expenses. For one thing, commingling accounts makes it a nightmare to separate them back out at tax time, and two, you will lose the ability to manage your business finances because you’ll quickly lose track of its actual income and expenses.

5. Create your brand and start promoting

If you do all your business locally then get business cards and a letterhead that will distinguish your business. Develop your business persona and promote it throughout the community. People do business with people that they trust and they like. If your business will be online or with remote customers the same rules apply. Deliver what you promised, and make everybody feel that they are getting their money’s worth from you and more.

Small Business SEO Checklist

In 2005 there were 11.5 billion web pages that could be publicly index able by the web. There is an over abundance of information and your browser gives you access to all this information, and to the say the least there is going to be a multitude of so-called experts on any subject and SEO is no different.

There are some SEO best practices that stand the test of time, and regardless of the ongoing debate there are some basics that you need to check off before you start going any further with higher level SEO strategies. You may hear terms like, personalized search, or link building, but before you start getting lost down the rabbit hole please have these items checked off on your list and have these best practices on your tool belt.

Everything Starts with the Key Word

You could know everything there is about SEO, you could have a greatest web designers in the world and have an entire multi-million dollar infrastructure built around your business but in the SEO world if you don’t have the key words that you want associated with your business and eventually ranking for your website it’s similar to having a Ferrari without ever filling the tank with gas and taking it out of the garage to take it for a spin.

You are going to need key words, and you are going to have to find good ones. Good key words, in the SEO world, can be described as key words that are searched for allot but don’t have allot of competition. Eg., the keyword “real estate” is searched for quite a bit but is it realistic to go after such a key word that is very competitive? No.

So do some due diligence and use some free tools on the web to find the keywords that you think will be a good fit. As a general rule of thumb the more niche the better. Yeah, “Red Widgets” may be a great key word with good search volume, but “Red Widgets San Diego” would be allot easier to rank and it is geographically specific to your area so there is a higher chance you will close the deal if it’s a local customer versus somebody who’s calling your from Whistler, BC.

Search Engine Spiders Eat Text

This may seem like Chinese to you but this phrase will make sense if you know how a search engine works. The only way a search engine is going to find your site is with their search engine spider which crawls the web and sends back all the text it’s crawled and it caches it on their servers.

To make sure that your site is cached for the right key word you must tag your HTML appropriately with the level of importance as follows.

  1. Title
  2. h1
  3. h2
  4. first key words of your paragraph
  5. meta description
  6. meta keywords
  7. alt tags for images
  8. actual text on web page

New Content

One very important aspect of a web site that search engines weigh in heavily with their rankings is the updating of content and the indexing of new content. That’s why it’s always recommended that you have a blog on your website that is updated daily with new posts.

If it looks like your site is being outfitted with fresh content on a daily basis that offers more information on your service, brand or product to searchers so Google, or Yahoo! will consider that when ranking their search results for certain keywords.

Submit Your Sitemap

It’s important to have content on your website that is useful to the visitors to your site, but it’s also important for the content to be easily to navigate through. So build a sitemap, make it easy, readable and submit it to Google Webmasters.

Get in the Habit of Linking

Links are basically the scaffolding of the world wide web, they hold all the information together organically with out having a central nervous system, or data center. The web just IS, it’s a force of nature, and an ever expanding organism and the more links your have linking to your website the more scaffolding you have holding up your site, the more relevant you become for certain subjects.

How to Grow Your Lawn Care Business During Cold Months, Beyond Adding the Obvious Services

It’s cold in many areas of the country. Temperatures are steadily falling in many states, but that does not mean your business profits have to go down as a lawn maintenance company. One of the most effective ways to grow your lawn care business during the fall and winter months is to add new services.

Goal: Healthy Bottom Line

During the winter months, many lawn maintenance companies market the obvious services such as blowing leaves, mulching, aerating, pruning, and similar services. These are needed services that most lawn care companies tout and bank on to assist in a healthier bottom line.

Grow Your Lawn Maintenance Business by Working with Foreclosures

But to exponentially grow your lawn maintenance business during slower months, you can capitalize off a needed service that has cropped up as a result of the astronomical number of foreclosures on the market: foreclosure cleanup. Foreclosure cleanup businesses generally handle a plethora of services which can include the following: debris removal, interior and exterior cleaning, lawn mowing, trimming, tree removal, roof repair, gutter cleaning, pressure washing, window boarding, door boarding, lock changing, inspections, carpet cleaning, laying and carpet removal, painting, minor repairs, and the like.

Work On HUD Homes

In many scenarios, the homes needing foreclosure cleanup services are HUD homes and often the work is given to smaller companies by foreclosure realtors or larger property preservation companies working as an extension of HUD’s M&M Contractors (“Management and Marketing” Contractors).

Choose Services that Work with Your Business

Though foreclosure cleaning businesses can offer a plethora of services, as a lawn maintenance business, you can choose to add foreclosure cleanup services that fall in line with the services you already offer in your business. For example, you can offer lawn and exterior debris removal such as the removal of limbs, fallen trees and piled up junk such as bicycles, swing sets, grills, etc., from homes that have been abandoned or are in the foreclosure or pre-foreclosure state.

Put Truck and Trailer to Work

As a lawn maintenance company, you likely already have a truck and/or a trailer you can use to pick up exterior debris and haul to the junk yard. You probably already have a saw, large bags, needed gloves and face masks and a small crew. Use them to get a foot in the foreclosure cleanup industry in your area.

You can also choose to offer drive way and exterior pressure washing. If you don’t have a pressure washer, you can easily rent one at The Home Depot or a similar rental outlet. Throw it on your truck and offer this service as part of your foreclosure cleanup cache of services during the cold months so you can profit during what is traditionally a slow time for lawn care businesses.

If you are equipped, you can also offer snow removal (consider partnering with a like company) and interior trash-outs. Remember, you likely already have a truck and you are familiar with the real estate contracting industry as a lawn maintenance company; so why not buy some cleaning supplies, hire qualified interior cleaners and put some miles on that truck in the winter months by offering foreclosure cleanup services.

Using Equipment You Already Have On-hand

The trick in adding basic foreclosure cleanup services to your lawn care business is to keep in mind the equipment you already have on hand. Take inventory of the tools, equipment and supplies you already have, research the foreclosure cleanup industry, and get creative on how you can maximum equipment inventory in your area in the fall and winter months.

Check Your Business Insurance and Licensing

You will want to contact your insurance agent to make sure your existing coverage is ample to cover the new foreclosure cleanup services you want to add to your lawn maintenance business. Also, give a quick call to your governing business license office (i.e., in some areas, the County Clerk) to make sure your current business license is ample to offer foreclosure cleanup services.

Get a Quick Start

To get started quickly, pick up some new car magnets from your local print shop or online printer (less than $30 bucks in most cases!), order some new business cards (you can find free business cards online), find a list of Realtors in your area (go to your multiple listing service) and start contacting them announcing the new aspect you’ve added to your lawn maintenance company’s cache of business services.

Good luck with your lawn maintenance business as you venture into the world of foreclosure cleanup!