April 10, 2003
Make Your Small Business Look Big
friendly culture, the improvements in communications, and the abundance of Internet
resources have all combined to make it possible even for a garage-based one-man-show to
look as professional as the largest corporation. You should take advantage of all
available options to develop a professional image for your business.
Even if you are a sole proprietor you can operate under a trade name that relates to your
business. You do this by registering a Fictitious Name. This is a relatively simple and
straightforward procedure that can be done on-line in a few minutes. The registration of
fictitious names is administered by the Department of State or by the County (depends on
the state; call your county clerk or your state government to find out what applies in
your case). For example, a Fictitious Name will allow a person named John Smith to operate
under a name such as Sunshine Landscaping, without the hassle of incorporating, adding
credibility and marketability to his business.
Once you have your business trade name, make it a point to get a logo. A logo is the
graphical representation of your business; it separates you from your competitors and
creates brand awareness. You dont need to pay hundreds of dollars to a professional
designer. You can visit your local community college and ask a graphic arts student to
give it a shot. Also, you can find on-line companies that can make a logo for as little as
$25 (e.g. www.gotlogos.com). Or, if youre good with a computer, you can download
some free click art, open the Paint utility in your Windows program, throw in some text
and color, and you can create the logo yourself.
Then, it is time to register your own domain name, such as
sunshinelandscaping.com. The cost of registering a domain name has gone down
significantly, to even less than $15 / year. At those rates, anybody can afford it. For
more information and tips on domain names, go to http://www.accordmarketing.com/tid/archive/033003.html
Next, you must put up your own website. It doesn't need to be a big production. A three
page website, with a main page, a page describing your services, and a contact page is
enough. There are many free web hosting services that offer Page Building utilities that
can literally allow you to create a website in minutes. They offer all sorts of free
templates and web building tools to get you up and running in no time.
If you want more flexibility in designing your website, get Microsoft FrontPage (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/ ).
This is a simple yet powerful program to create professional looking websites in a snap,
with the advantage that its interface is intuitive to anybody who uses other Microsoft
programs like Word or Excel (and who doesnt nowadays?). Once your website is done,
you need to find a host. You can find reliable hosts for little more than $5.00 / month.
Geocities (http://www.geocities.com ) has a
beginners package that for $4.95 / month will give you enough space for a medium size
website with no advertising.
Next, youll have to print business cards. There is a great on-line service that
provides you with first quality, full color business cards for free (check it out at http://www.qksrv.net/click-634431-4992835
). They have a user friendly interface that allows you to create your own business card in
seconds, choosing from a wide variety of attractive templates. If you want more
customization, like modifying the layout or uploading your logo, you can do so for a small
Finally, by all means, dont forget to create a signature file for your e-mail
messages. If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, you can do it by going to Tools Options
Signatures. Your signature file should have your name, the name of your company, a link to
your website and a catchy tagline or slogan. Since most people read their mail every day,
this is an excellent opportunity to market your business for free with every message your
Finally, a word of advice. All this will mean nothing if you dont take care of your
customers. Never promise more than you can deliver, always keep your word, and follow
through with your customers until they are completely satisfied.
You can freely reprint this article. Just include the following resource box at
Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest ( http://www.theinternetdigest.net ) a
newsletter and website that gives you advice on Internet marketing, web design and small
business, one free tip at a time.
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