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.

The Bare Minimum Needed to Start Your Foreclosure Cleanup Business

One of the quickest ways to start a foreclosure cleanup business is to 1) decide you want it, 2) do a little planning, 3) and jump right in. If you think about it too long, you’ll scare yourself to death and will get stuck in the thinking phase. But with a business like foreclosure cleanup, the industry is wide open. All the numbers point to a booming enterprise for 2010 and beyond.

Top Economists’ Predictions

With top economists labeling the rise of foreclosures among prime borrowers the “third wave of trouble,” businesses offering foreclosure cleanup services are poised for tremendous growth. In 2010 alone, well over four million homeowners will receive foreclosure notices; over half of those will go through foreclosure.

Further still, $2.5 trillion in risky loans are expected to reset in 2010 and 2011. It’s predicted that many of these loans were given to people who couldn’t afford the payments from the outset, which will make for an even more congested foreclosure market.

Foreclosure cleanup is the perfect opportunity to start a business, and, with a little planning, your doors can be open in a few weeks, ready to capitalize while offering a much-needed service. And, it’s a business that can be started part-time while still working a job.

Planning Your Foreclosure Cleanup Business

Decide to take two weeks to plan your foreclosure cleanup business. Write a business plan (outline format is fine with detailed notes) so you have a direction, a path, for your business as it relates to services, pricing, equipment and marketing.

Figure Out Which Services to Offer

During your two week business planning stage, you will figure out which services you will start out with. Foreclosure cleanup services can run the gamut. You can offer everything from debris removal, cleaning, lawn care, pressure washing, gutter cleaning, interior cleaning, painting, winterization, window and door boarding and replacement, locksmith services, inspections, and more. If you’re not careful, you’ll be all over the place, so you’ll need to be really focused in choosing the services you want to start out with in your new business.

TIP: Keep it simple in the beginning. Start by offering only those services you know you can handle in-house — and only those services for which minimum equipment purchases are needed.

Setting Your Pricing

After you create a services list, do a little research and set up your pricing guidelines. These will change often based on various factors as jobs come in, but have basic pricing guidelines already setup before you open your doors. Call “like” services to see what they are charging for, for example, lawn maintenance, debris removal, gutter cleaning, etc. Set your prices competitively based on what they are charging, the job factors, what you are putting out, and how much you want to clear off the job.

Getting Your Foreclosure Cleanup Business License

Make sure you call your County Clerk’s office to see what kind of licensing you will need and register your business formally. Go to the IRS’ website and sign up for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, so you are right with Uncle Sam’s reporting requirements once the money starts to roll in.

Getting Insurance for Your Business

Next, call around and get insurance quotes. You’ll need basic liability for your business and the proper insurance for your vehicle. It’s easiest to start out as a janitorial/maintenance type service. That’s a category that’s easiest to get insurance under; but note, you can only offer services for which that insurance covers.

Setting Up Your Website

Then, set up a quick website. There are various website templates online for a little of nothing will allow you to setup a quick webpage. Visit template sites where you can setup a website cheaply or for free.

At minimum, you will want to list information about your company, its services and your contact information on your new website.

Ordering Your Business Cards

Next, you will want to order your business cards. Try to have your business cards match the theme and/or colors of your website. This is another good reason to use printing type websites for your web page. You can order cards that will match your website’s theme easily.

Some sites even allow you to order “free” business cards if you keep their company name on the back of your cards. Not a bad tradeoff to cut costs in the start-up phase of your foreclosure cleanup business. You will wind up paying for shipping of the cards, however. (One such site will send you 100 “free” business cards and you will pay only a few dollars in shipping for the cards. Not bad.)

Create Your Marketing Material

Order some matching postcards online for your foreclosure cleanup business, and create some fliers on your computer that you can print out. Then, take them to a copy shop and duplicate — and start papering your surrounding community.

Pull Together Your Call List

Next, you will want to pull together a call list of realtors in your areas (foreclosure realtors!) as well as a list of REO assets managers at banks, a list of larger property preservation companies, and a list of landlords and real estate investors. Then you’ll want to jump right in calling them and seeing how you can service them with your new business.

Come up with a special promotion to peek especially the realtors’ interests. Also, offer them a discount if they belong to, say, NAR (National Association of Realtors). Many realtors will be coming out-of-pocket for foreclosure cleanup expenditures on their listings and will be waiting to get paid from the banks. They will appreciate a price break from your company.

Create a Phone Script for Your Business

Write a phone script so you will already know what you want to say when you call potential clients.

TIP: Make sure you get your company name and your company’s services in there. If you get a voicemail when calling, be sure to include the best time a potential client can reach you, your phone number, and your website address so they can learn more about your company.

The Basics!

These are just the basics to get your business off the ground quickly. Do a little industry research and get started planning today! As your business grows, you will become more formalized and add more policies and procedures that will ultimately benefit you, your business, and what is a growing cache of foreclosed homes.

Good luck out there on the front lines of the foreclosure cleanup industry!

RAID Cache

As part of my articles regarding RAID I want to focus on a very important RAID controller feature. That would be the memory cache.

The process of transferring data to and from disk storage includes storing the data temporarily in a memory cache located on the RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) controller that is managing the data transfer. In other words, RAID controller cards temporarily cache data from the host system until it is successfully written to the storage media.

Memory cache is comprised of high-speed silicon memory DRAM chips. The access time for writing data to or reading data from DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) is roughly 106, or a million times faster than the typical access time for writing directly to or reading directly from a set of disk drives. In a posted-write operation, as soon as the host computer writes data to the cache, the write operation is completed; and the host is freed up immediately to perform another operation. The host does not have to wait for the write data to be transferred to disk. Therefore, use of cache memory on RAID controllers significantly speeds up write operations and increases overall system performance. Current cache amount varies from 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, 2GB and even 4GB.

Another advantage the cache provides is, in case of a system failure and depending on the size of the buffer, the cache will hold information until the system can get back online which helps prevent or minimize data loss. Of course, the cache might lose charge eventually (within about 30 minutes) so RAID controllers usually come with a battery backup unit (BBU) to hold the charge longer until the system is brought back online and the cached data is extracted.

Without a memory cache the controller has to stop the flow of data until the drive has acknowledged that it is ready to receive. The controller will then receive the data from the operating system and forward it on to the drive that’s being written to. This process is very fast and can hardly be noticed but when dealing with millions and billions of these transactions everyday even nanoseconds can add up to noticeable levels. Memory cache allows the controller to go ahead and receive data from the operating system and place it into the buffer memory if the drive is not ready for it at that time; and as all business majors (and even non-business majors) understand, time is money.

I hope this was informative and will aid you in understanding when the benefits of high level RAID controllers can be utilized to your advantage.