As you move forward with this venture you will eventually arrive at this point where you really need to sit down and consider the possible costs you are going to incur before you’ve even started. The beauty of being an Administrative Consultant is that the start up costs are relatively low in comparison to other business. Your basic equipment would be your computer and an excellent internet connection but there is more to the business than meets the eye so we can look at a few points to mull over.
In part three of this series entitled Legalities (just in case you missed that article!), we discussed whether being a sole proprietor or setting up a limited company is the right choice for you. Obviously the costs will depend on what you finally choose. We also discussed the importance of having a reputable accountant and tax advisor on board to ensure you file your tax returns correctly but also so that you budget for these taxes because at the end of the day they are costs. It is of vital importance you contact a professional to go over your local laws with regards the amount of tax you are liable to pay as well as what expenses are deductible in your country.
Legalities aside, there are other start up costs that are the same for any Administrative Consultant like your office costs:
- Computer: Your computer is the foundation of your AC business. How else are you going to complete projects and be contactable to your clients? You don’t necessarily have to buy a state of the art computer but don’t get cheap as it will probably turn out to be far more costly to keep repairing an old computer, not to mention the risk of losing all your hard work.
- Software: It may be necessary to invest in specific software depending on the type of work you do as an Administrative Consultant. For example, if you are a medical transcriber, you will have to purchase transcriber software, a foot pedal etc.
- Internet Connection: A reliable internet connection is key so look into ADSL Broadband. It provides a faster internet speed about ten times faster than the standard dial-up connection. ADSL stands for “Abbreviation of Asymmetric Digital Subscriber” which really means, broadband through a telephone line but unlike dial-up, ADSL works simultaneously with voice calls allowing you to do both at the same time. Compare providers in your area to find the best connection at the best rate.
- Phone: Another necessity, especially if you work predominantly with local clients. Skype is also a great tool for any business as it works over the internet and is totally free if your client has an account too. If not, you always have the option of low-cost phone calls using the same software. Skype also allows instant messaging so all in all it is a fantastic asset to your business (and brilliant for cutting costs).
- Printer: Where would your office be without a printer? They are lots of models but you would be best off buying an all-in-one printer, scanner, photocopier and fax as it will be more cost-effective and it will take up less space in your home office.
- Office Furniture: Again, you have the possibility of saving some pennies here as you may opt for second hand furniture if your budget doesn’t permit you to buy brand new equipment. Your basics would include a desk, a filing cabinet and a decent chair (remember to take care of your back!). The ideal spot to place your furniture would be in a separate room to the rest of the house where you can work freely and in peace and quiet.
- External Hard drive: Even though we don’t like to think about it, with computers, files, software, internet etc, we run the risk of losing the information saved on our computers so it is a good idea to invest in an external hard drive where you can backup your work. Better to be safe than sorry!
- Website: Fortunately, setting up your own website with personalized email addresses is not anywhere near as complicated as it was a few years ago. There are many web hosts out there with simple solutions for your website needs. You can set up your own website using ready-to-use templates easily found on the internet. There are lots of providers to choose from, each one offering competitive rates, a range of templates and other services so it is just a matter of finding the right one for you. Others still prefer to contract a web-designer to be able to have the website of their dreams according to their own ideas. The only drawback here other than cost is that you may have to rely on your designer for any changes you may wish to make to your site so make sure he is dependable.
- Marketing/Advertising: This may be done entirely online for a low cost or you may need to spend a bit more on flyers, business cards, brochures, stationary, letterheads etc.
- Banks: Again, you must carry out some research to determine the best type of business account. Talk to your bank manager to try to negotiate fees and on-going charges.
There are other costs that may or may not apply such as:
- Insurance: This may vary depending on the type of work you carry out as well as your country. In some places civil liability insurance is a must whereas in others it may not be necessary. Civil liability will cover you when you advise your client, if you damage your client’s property or if a client has an accident on your premises.
- Forms: You may wish to purchase templates you can adapt to your own needs. This can include for example, collaboration contracts between you and a client to determine the terms of service.
- AC Membership/ Training: There are courses available for those who wish to become certified Administrative Consultants for that extra credibility.
- Literature: I’m sure whilst carrying out your research you’ve come across numerous e-Books for sale. Many really are informative and will guide you in becoming a Virtual Assistant. Some are available for free but sometimes the author will charge a fee to purchase the book but they are worth looking into.
At the end of the day, you need to calculate you set up costs as well as your ongoing costs to determine how much your business needs to make for you to live comfortably and how much you should charge for your services as we discussed in Part Seven of this series, Market Strategy.
Well, that just about does it and with that we’ve come to the end of my first series of articles on how to become an Administrative Consultant. I really hope these articles have helped those who have been trying to get set up or even inspired others to give it a go. I also appreciate all of your comments so keep those coming too.