Everything you need to know about opening a service business?
The service sector is booming and there are still plenty of opportunities available. If you’re thinking about opening a service business, here is what you need to know.
What is a service business?
A service business is a business that performs tasks on behalf of its client. The main selling point of all service businesses is that they save their clients time. Many service businesses also perform tasks to a higher standard than their clients could do themselves.
Benefits of running a service business
Here are the main benefits of running a service business.
Minimal upfront costs
A lot of service businesses can be started effectively for free. If you’re capable of providing a service, you probably already have the necessary skills and equipment. You may need to buy some products to use to provide your service (e.g. cleaning products). You will not, however, need to manage inventory the way you do in most other businesses.
Relatively easy to manage cash flow
The fact that you’re not having to manage inventory can make it a lot easier to manage cash flow. That said, you will need to ensure that you have an effective approach to collecting payment. Thankfully, modern technology has made that a lot easier, for example, these days even freelancers and solopreneurs can have Card Readers.
Service businesses earn their money by producing results for their clients. How they go about getting those results is often largely up to them. This means that people running service businesses generally have a lot of scope to organise their work around their lives, rather than vice versa. Even if you’re offering Appointments, you can decide what time slots you make available.
Scheduling that puts time in your hands.
Easy to scale
Many people choose to open service businesses because they are easy to scale up or down. For example, student entrepreneurs might aim to have a baseline level of work they keep all year round. They might, however, scale this down over exam time and scale up during their holidays.
Lots of opportunities to grow extra income streams
You can keep a service business as just this. There are, however, often a lot of opportunities to expand your income streams. For example, you could open an online store to sell products related to the service you provide. Alternatively, you could refer people to other stores that sell these products and earn affiliate commission.
Twenty service business ideas
Here are 20 service business ideas to give you some inspiration.
It may be hard to break into general household cleaning but there are lots of opportunities in niche cleaning services. The key is to look for high-value items that people want to care for properly to preserve them. These include upholstery, car interiors, pools, technology and jewellery.
Many people love being organised but don’t have the time to make it happen. That means there’s a huge market for professional organisers. You can even specialise in a certain area of organisation e.g. organising clothes.
Gardening often benefits from specialist tools that aren’t cost-effective for people to buy. It also takes a certain level of fitness and time, which not everyone has. In fact, many people struggle to find the time to look after houseplants properly.
Peak demand for these tends to be on weekdays around the middle of the day. There is, however, a decent amount of demand at other times. Lots of pet owners have to work non-standard hours and need their pets taken care of while they’re out.
Local collection/delivery service
Take care of the local errands people just don’t have time to do themselves. For example, ecommerce companies arrange the delivery of items. If a buyer wants to return them, however, they need to arrange that themselves. You could manage this for them.
This service option won’t last forever but right now it offers huge opportunities. There are still countless documents, photos, cassettes and videos needing to be digitised.
These tend to be heavily regulated but there’s always massive demand for them.
This has long been a major service industry and that looks unlikely to change any time soon.
The two most popular areas here are repairs and adjusting off-the-peg clothes so that they fit perfectly.
This can mean anything from batch cooking family meals to providing buffets for parties to acting as a private chef. There’s also a lot of demand for bar staff.
Cycle repair/training services
A lot of people are taking up cycling for exercise and/or to lower their carbon footprint. Many of them need training on how to maintain and repair their bike. Quite a few need training on how to cycle safely on roads.
With so many people doing sedentary jobs, there’s a large market for personal trainers. A lot of this demand is for early mornings, lunchtimes, evenings and weekends. There is, however, also quite a bit of work during regular daytime hours. Freelancers can work out when they like.
Business skills coaching/mentoring
You tend to need to have demonstrable experience to get into this market. If you do have it, though, it can be very profitable.
The biggest demand for this is for people based overseas. This means you need a strong internet connection (for videocalling). It also helps to be flexible with your working times.
Event management services
For many people, organising even moderately large events can be overwhelming. As a result, there’s always demand for event managers.
This one needs no explanation. Tradies are always needed!
Technical repair services
In the old days, people used to want computers repaired. Now, they also want tablets, phones and gaming consoles repaired. If you can learn the skills, there’s a ready market for them.
Business administration services
Increasing numbers of businesses are outsourcing their administration to service businesses. If you’re happy to deal with customers, then there are even more opportunities.
Professional business services
If you have a specific, knowledge-based skill, you can almost certainly turn it into a service business. Companies need everything from writers and videographers to accountants and lawyers.
As with business mentoring, you tend to need to have relevant experience to get into this area. If you do have this experience, though, offering consulting services can be very rewarding both personally and financially.
How to start a service business
Starting a service business is generally a lot easier than starting other sorts of businesses. It does, however, still pay off to use an effective strategy. With that in mind, here is a seven-step plan for starting a service business.
Think about the skills you have
The easiest route to opening a service business is to leverage the skills you already have. You don’t have to commit to that particular service business for the long term. For example, you could open a cleaning business while you’re studying to be a lawyer.
Define a unique selling point (USP)
Very few businesses are totally unique. Even if they start that way, their business model can often be copied. All businesses, however, need to find a way to differentiate themselves from the rest of the market.
With knowledge-based businesses, this is often achieved through credentials and/or experience. With more practical businesses, it’s often achieved through specialisation. This generally means focussing on a particular local area or a very specific sub-niche of your main service area.
For example, if you know that there are a lot of general cleaning firms operating in an area, look at more specialist areas of cleaning. This might be pool cleaning, car valeting, upholstery cleaning, carpet cleaning or tech cleaning.
Decide on a name and branding
As soon as you have a name for your service business, buy the associated domain and social media handles. Think also about whether you want any other branding, for example, logos. If you do, either design these yourself or hire someone to design them for you.
Once you know what your branding is going to be, set up a website and establish a presence on social media. Get the marketing ball rolling as soon as you can. Remember, people can only buy from you if they know you exist.
Use your preferred social media platforms to encourage people to visit your website. Then demonstrate your skills, for example, include your credentials, experience, portfolio and case studies. Create articles, or a blog with content that showcases your expertise and why it matters.
Research the law and industry standards
All businesses will need to register for tax. Decide whether you wish to do so as a sole trader or a company. This decision is important but it is not set in stone. For example, you may wish to start out as a freelancer while you establish your service business, then become a company if you decide to push for growth.
Bricks and mortar businesses will be encouraged to register with some kind of supervisory authority. Some businesses will need to go through additional checks. For example, registering as a childcare business may require you to undergo criminal records checks. Even if they don’t, having proof of these can be reassuring for parents. Many businesses will need some form of insurance.
Running a business from home
In general, you can run a service business from home without explicit local council approval. The exception would be if your service business created issues for your neighbours. Inform your landlord or mortgage lender and insurer, and also consider any additional safety implications.
Knowing industry standards
Last but definitely not least, inform yourself about industry standards and how you can meet and exceed them. For example, if you plan to work with children there is a strong chance you will be required to be qualified in first aid. Even if you’re not, it can be a major selling point for parents. Likewise, knowing pet first aid is a great selling point for pet sitters.
Set up the infrastructure your business needs
By this point, you should have a domain name and even a website. This means you can set up email addresses linked to your domain. Using a custom email address can reduce the likelihood of your emails being flagged as spam. You can also look at integrating tools such as Appointments.
It can be reassuring to offer customers a phone number to contact you on too. If you’re going to do this, it’s best to have a dedicated number for your business. You can get a new phone number by buying a new mobile or signing up for a VoIP number. Either way, you can have the number forwarded to your regular mobile to save you from carrying another handset. Make sure to hide your number when you make outgoing calls.
If you’re working in the real world you might also need a [physical payment Terminal or Reader. Very few customers use cash these days, and non-cash payments are generally easier for businesses too. Apart from anything else, they’re safer and more hygienic.
Buy any supplies you need
If you need consumables for your new service business, then it’s worth investing in an effective supply process. In particular, you need to know where you can get what you need, how far in advance you have to order,and what it will cost. Make sure you’re well stocked up before you start taking customers!
Determine your pricing structure and availability
You’re now almost ready to go. Define how much you’re going to charge for your services and how much time you can devote to your new business.
Open for business
Consider running a special offer to build on the marketing you’ve done so far!
Commit to improving
All the preparation you’ve done should help you to hit the ground running when you open for business. You should, however, expect to have to make adjustments once you start operating for real. It’s probably not going to be quite what you expected and that’s totally normal.
Once your business has found its feet, it’s time to think about ways to make it even better. With Square, you have access to a huge range of in-built tools and services plus over 4000 partner integrations. Many of these are free and more are being added all the time. That means whatever you need to improve your business, Square can help you.