Start Your Own Home-Based Secretarial Service
A new approach to serving one of the oldest
and most basic needs of even the smallest business community,
a home-based secretarial service can satisfy the entrepreneurial
needs of even the most ambitious woman!
This is a kind of service business with a virtually unlimited
profit potential. Third year profits for businesses of this
type, in metropolitan areas as small as 70,000 persons are
reported at $100,000 and more. It's a new idea for a traditional
job that's growing in popularity and acceptance.
As for the future, there+s no end in sight to the many and
varied kinds of work a secretary working at home can do for
business owners, managers and sales representatives. Various
surveys indicate that by the year 2,000 - at least 60 percent
of all the secretarial work, as we know it today, will be
handled by women working at home.
For most women, this is the most exciting news of things
to come since the equal rights amendment. Now is the time
to get yourself organized, start your own home-based secretarial
service and nurture it through your start-up stages to total
success in the next couple of years.
Our research indicates little or no risk involved, with
most secretarial services breaking even within 30 days, and
reports of some showing a profit after the first week! Your
cash investment can be as little as $10 to $25 if you already
have a modern, electronic typewriter. You can set up at your
kitchen table, make a few phone calls, and be in business
If you don't have a modern, office quality electric typewriter
comparable to the IBM Selectric - a portable just won't do,
because it'll break down, wear out, and fall apart after a
month of heavy duty use... If you're aware of this delicacy
of a portable electric, you can conceivably begin with one,
but you'll definitely have to graduate to a bigger, heavier
machine as soon as possible...
An IBM Selectric, complete with start-up supplies kit which
includes a dozen ribbons, can be purchased for less than a
thousand dollars. On contract, this would break down to about
$175 for down payment and monthly payments of less than $50
per month over a 2-year period. Naturally, you'd want to include
the standard service contract which costs about $100 per year,
and means that whenever you have a problem or want your machine
serviced, you simply pick up the phone and call the service
department. They'll ask you what kind of problem you're having,
and then send some one out to rectify it immediately.
Shoestringers can rent an IBM Selectric for about $60 per
month, plus a small deposit. And those of you who are really
on a tight budget, can contract an equipment leasing firm,
explain your business plan, and work out an arrangement where
they buy the machine of your choice for you, and then lease
it back to you over a five or ten year period for much lower
Whatever you do, get the best typewriter your money can
buy. The output of your typewriter will be your finished product,
and the better, "more perfect" your finished product,
the more clients you'll attract and keep. It's also imperative
that you have one of the modern, "ball" typewriters.
Only these kinds of typewriters give each character a clear,
even and uniform impression on your paper. Typewriters of
the "arm & hammer" type quickly become misaligned,
producing a careless look on your finished product.
As mentioned earlier, you can start almost immediately from
your kitchen table if you've got the typewriter. However,
in order to avoid fatigue and back problems, invest in a typing
stand and secretary's standard typing chair just as soon as
you can afford them. Watch for office equipment sales, especially
among the office equipment leasing firms. You should be able
to pick up a new, slightly damaged, or good used typewriter
stand or desk for around $20 to $25. A comparable quality
secretary's typing chair can be purchased for $50 or less.
While you're shopping for things you'll need, be sure to
pick up a chair mat. If you don't, you may suddenly find that
the carpet on the floor of the room where you do your typing,
needs replacing due to the worn spot where the chair is located
and maneuvered in front of the typewriter. You'll also want
a work stand with place marker and a convenient box or storage
shelf for your immediate paper supply. If you plan to do a
great deal of work during the evening hours, be sure to invest
in an ad just able "long arm" office work lamp.
When buying paper, visit the various wholesale paper suppliers
in your area or in any nearby large city, and buy at least
a half carton - 6 reams - at a time. Buying wholesale, and
in quantity, will save you quite a bit of money. The kind
to buy is ordinary 20 pound white bond. Open one ream for
an immediate supply at your typewriter, and store the rest
in a closet, under your bed, or on a shelf in your garage
In the beginning, you'll be the business - typist, salesman,
advertising department, bookkeeper and janitor - so, much
will depend upon your overall business acumen. Those areas
in which you lack experience or feel weak in, buy books or
tapes and enhance your knowledge. You don't have to enjoy
typing, but you should have better than average proficiency.
Your best bet in selling your services is to do it all yourself.
Every business in your area should be regarded as a potential
customer, so it's unlikely you'll have to worry about who
to call on. Begin by making a few phone calls to former bosses
or business associates - simply explain that you're starting
a typing service and would appreciate it if they'd give you
a call whenever they have extra work that you can handle for
them. Before you end the conversation, ask them to be sure
to keep you in mind and steer your way any overload typing
jobs that they might hear about.
The next step is "in-person" calls on prospective
customers. This means dressing in an impressively professional
manner, and making sales calls on the business people in your
area. For this task, you should be armed with business cards
(brochures also help...), and an order or schedule book of
some sort. All of these things take time to design and print,
so while you're waiting for delivery, use the time to practice
selling via the telephone. At this stage, your telephone efforts
will be more for the purpose of indoctrinating you into the
world of selling than actually making sales.
Just be honest about starting a business, and sincere in
asking them to consider trying your services whenever they
have a need you can help them with. Insurance companies, attorneys
and distributors are always needing help with their typing,
so start with these kinds of businesses first.
For your business cards, consider a free-lance artist to
design a logo for you. Check, and/or pass the word among the
students in the art or design classes at any nearby college,
art or advertising school. Hiring a regular commercial artist
will cost you quite a bit more, and generally won't satisfy
your needs any better than the work of a hungry beginner.
Be sure to browse through any Klip Art books that may be
available - at most print shops, newspaper offices, advertising
agencies, libraries and book stores. The point being, to come
up with an idea that makes your business card stand out; that
can be used on all your printed materials, and makes you -
your company - unique or different from all the others.
I might suggest something along the lines of a secretary
with pad in hand taking dictation; or perhaps a secretary
wearing a dictaphone headset seated in front of a typewriter.
You might want something distinctive for the first letter
of your company name, or perhaps a scroll or flag as a background
for your company name.
At any rate, once you've got your logo or company design,
the next step is your local print shop. Ask them to have the
lettering you want to use, typeset in the style you like best
- show them your layout and order at least a thousand business
cards printed up.
For your layout, go with something basic. Expert typing
services, in the top left hand corner... Dictation by phone,
in the top right hand corner... Your company logo or design
centered on the card with something like, complete secretarial
services, under it... Your name in the lower left hand corner,
and your telephone number in the lower right hand corner...
Everybody that you call on in person, be sure to give them
one of your business cards. And now, you're ready to start
making those in-person business sales calls.
Your best method of making sales calls would be with a business
telephone directory and a big supply of loose leaf notebook
paper. Go through the business directory and write down the
company names, addresses and telephone number. Group all of
those within one office building together, and those on the
same street in the same block. Be sure to leave a couple of
spaces between the listing of each company. And of course,
start a new page for those in a different building or block.
Now, simply start with the first business in the block, or
on the lowest floor in a building and number them in consecutive
order. This will enable you to call on each business in order
as you proceed along a street, down the block, or through
You'll be selling your capabilities - your talents - and
charging for your time - the time it takes you to get set
up and complete the assignment they give you. You should be
organized to take work with you on the spot, and have it back
at a promised time; arrange to pick up any work they have,
and deliver it back to them when it+s completed; and handle
dictation or special work assignments by phone. You should
also emphasize your abilities to handle everything by phone,
particularly w hen they have a rush job.
Establish your fees according to how long it takes you to
handle their work, plus your cost of supplies - work space,
equipment and paper - then fold in a $5 profit. In other words,
for a half hour job that you pick up on a regular sales or
delivery call you should charge $10...
Another angle to include would be copies. Establish a working
relationship with a local printer, preferably one who has
a copy machine comparable to a big Kodak 150 Extaprint. When
your clients need a sales letter or whatever plus so many
copies, you can do it all for them.
Only make copies on the very best of dry paper copying machines,
and only for 50 copies or less. More than 50 copies, it'll
be less expensive and you'll come out with a better looking
finished product by having them printed on a printing press.
When you furnish copies, always fold in your copying or printing
costs plus at least a dollar or more for every 50 copies you
By starting with former employers and/or business associates,
many businesses are able to line up 40 hours of work without
even making sales call. If you're lucky enough to do this,
go with it, but -
Start lining up your friends to do the work for you - girls
who work all day at a regular job, but need more money; and
housewives with time on their hands. You tell them what kind
of equipment is needed, and the quality of work you demand.
You can arrange to pay them so much per hour for each job
they handle for you - judging from the time you figure the
job would take if you were doing it; or on a percentage basis.
I feel the best arrangement is on an hourly basis according
to a specified amount of time each job normally takes.
Whenever, and as soon as you've got a supply of "workers"
lined up, you turn all your current assignments over to them,
and get back to lining up more business. If you're doing well
selling by phone, and your area seems to respond especially
well to selling by phone, then you should immediately hire
commission sales people. Train them according to your own
best methods and put them to work assisting you. Your salespeople
can work out of their own homes, using their own telephones,
provided you've got your area's business community organized
in a loose leaf notebook style. All you do is give them so
many pages from your notebook, from which they make sales
calls each week.
Even so, you should still make those in-person sales calls...
If for some reason you get bogged down, and can't or don't
want to, then hire commission sales people to do it for you...
Generally, women selling this type of service bring back the
most sales... And for all your commission sales people, the
going rate should be 30 percent of the total amount of the
sale... Point to remember: Sooner or later, you're going to
want to hire a full-time telephone sales person, plus another
full time person to make in-person sales calls for you - Eventually,
you want workers to handle all the work for you, and sales
people to do the selling for you - So the sooner you can line
up people for these jobs, the faster your business is going
Later on, you'll want a sales manager to direct your sales
people and keep them on track, so try to find a "future
sales man ager" when you begin looking for salespeople.
Your basic advertising should be a regular quarter page
ad in the yellow pages of both your home service telephone
directory and the business yellow pages. You'll find that
50 percent of your first time clients will come to you because
they have an immediate need and saw you at in the yellow pages,
so don't skimp on either the size or the "eye-catching"
graphics of this ad.
A regular one column by 3-inch ad in the Sunday edition
of your area's largest newspaper would also be a good idea.
Any advertising you do via radio or television will be quite
expensive with generally very poor results, so don't even
give serious consideration to that type of advertising.
By far, your largest advertising outlays will be for direct
mail efforts. You should have a regular mailing piece that
you send out to your entire business community at least once
a month. This is handled by sending out 200 to 500 letters
per day. For this, you should obtain a third class postage
permit or else these postage costs will drive you out of business.
Your mailing piece should consist of a colorful brochure
that describes your business. It should explain the many different
kinds of assignments you can handle - a notation that no job
is too small or too large - and a statement of your guarantee.
Do not quote prices in your brochure - simply ask the recipient
to call for a quotation or price estimate.
It's also a good idea to list the background and experience
of the business owner, plus several business testimonials
and/or compliments. You could also include a couple of pictures
showing your workers busy and actually handling secretarial
assignments. The most important part of your brochure will
be your closing statement - an invitation, indeed - a demand
that the recipient call you for further information.
All of this can very easily be put together in a Z-folded,
2-sided self-mailer. Again, look for a free-lance copywriter
and artist to help you put it together. Once you've got your
"dummy" pretty well set the way you want it, make
copies of it, and either take it or send it to several direct
mail advertising agencies. Ask them for their suggestions
of how they would improve it, and for a bid on the cost if
you were to retain them to handle it for you. Listen to their
ideas and incorporate them where - and if you think they would
make your brochure better. And, if one of them does come in
with a cost estimate that's lower than your independent, "do-it-yourself"
costs, then think seriously about assigning the job to them.
This is definitely the most important piece of work that
will ever come out of your office, so be sure it's the very
best, and positively indicative of your business. This will
be the business image you project, so make sure it reflects
the quality, style and credibility of your business - your
thinking, and your success.
Your brochure should be on 60-pound coated paper, in at
least two colors and by a professional printer. The end result
is the Z-folded brochure - Z-folded by the printer - with
your third class mailing permit indicia showing on the cover
side. This cover side should be flamboyant and eye-catching.
You want your mailing piece to stand out in the pile of 50
or 60 pieces of other mail received by the recipient.
When you're ready to mail, simply take a couple of cartons
of your brochures to an addressing shop, have them run your
brochures through their addressing machine, loaded with your
mailing list, bundle them and drop them off at the post office
for you. This takes us back to the planning on how to compile
your mailing list. I suggest that you begin with Cheshire
Cards by Xerox. You type the name of your addressee on the
cards, maintain these cards in the order of your choice, take
your boxes of cards to the addressing shop whenever you have
a mailing, and there+s no further work on your part. The addressing
shop loads their machine with your cards, prints the address
on your cards directly onto your brochures, and gives the
cards back to you when the mailing is completed. A mailing
of 100,000 brochures, via this method - generally could be
completed and on its way in one 8-hour day.
In essence, you'll want to solicit business with a regular
routine of telephone selling, in-person sales calls at the
prospective client's place of business, media advertising
and direct mail efforts. All of these efforts are important
and necessary to the total success of your business - don't
try to cut corners or spare the time or expense needed to
make sure you're operating at full potential in these areas!
In addition to these specific areas, it would be wise for
you to attend chamber of commerce meetings, and join several
of your area civic clubs - you'll meet a great number of business
leaders at these meetings and through their association, you
will gain a great deal of new business - and even help in
many of your needs.
Once you're organized and rolling, you can easily expand
your market nationwide with the installation of a toll free
telephone and advertising in business publications. Perhaps
you can add to your primary business with a "mailing
shop" of your own - the rental of mailing lists - specialized
temporary help services - telephone answering services - and
even survey work...
The "bottom line" thing to remember in order to
achieve total success, is planning. Plan your initial operation
through from start to finish before you even think about soliciting
your first customer. Get your operational plan down on paper
- itemize your needs, estimate your costs, line up your operating
capital, and set forth milestones for growth.
Set profit figures you want to be realizing 3 months...
6 months... l year... 2 years... and 3 years from your business
start-up date. Learn all you can about the "support systems"
involved in operating a profitable business - planning, a
dvertising, selling, bookkeeping, and banking - and continue
to update your knowledge with a pro gram of continuous learning.
Do your homework properly, and there's just no way you can
fail with a Home-Based Secretarial Service.