Looking Like a Professional on a Kid-Sized Budget: Get Started for $16!
If you have read all the posts on the Balloon Zoom blog, you will have already learned a couple of the things we're going to talk about today. Anna mentioned business cards in Lessons from the Lemonade War: Advertising, for example, and Noor covered how to get a business telephone number in Get a Kid-Friendly (Free!) Business Phone.
But there is a lot more to cover, and we thought it would be best to put everything in one handy post. So, without further ago, this is our go-to list for setting up your business, whether you have only $16 (yes,that will get you started!), or can afford to pay $175.
We cannot overstate the importance of a having a business card. They are, without a doubt, a young entrepreneur's best friend. Why? Handing an adult your business card changes the conversation. Always. A business card elevates you from "cute kid" to "business owner." It shows that you are serious.
We got our cards from Vistaprint, which is almost always running a sale. If you can wait for a sale, you can often get 250-500 full color business cards (with a blank back side) for as little as $10, plus shipping. (If you search for "business card sale Vistaprint" on the internet, I bet you'll find that there's a sale now.)
The regular price for 100 full-priced business cards, on standard paper, with a blank back side, is $16 plus shipping (shipping varies).
Here's our business card, and a quick rundown on what information we included, and what we left out, and why.
Your business card should have:
The name of your business. Put it somewhere people can see it!
Your slogan. Ours is "Make Your Party Pop!"
Your logo. Don't worry if you cannot draw, and don't have the money to pay a graphic artist to create a logo. Our balloon dog logo was a free offering from the Vistaprint website.
Your first name. For safety reasons, we never include our last name on anything that we hand to people.
Your job title. This is optional. But our tag "Balloon Artists and Party Specialists" lets people know what we do. It's a good way to sum up your business.
Your email address. You can set one up through a free service, like Gmail. Or through your website.
Your website address. This is optional to start, but Balloon Zoom gets a large number of jobs from its website. We pay a yearly fee for our domain name (that is the ".com" address of our business, www.balloonzoom.com), and a yearly fee to Wix.com (the site on which our website is hosted) to keep our site ad free. But you can decide to skip one or both these expenses when you first open for business.
Your business card should not have:
Your last name. Again, you have to think about safety. You do not know where your business cards will end up, and you want to control how and where people can contact you.
An address. Did I mention safety already? Because you're likely to run your business from your home, never put your address on anything that can be seen by the public.
Your home or personal cell phone numbers. Someone who has your home phone number can find your home address. So leave it off. And giving out your personal cell phone is just messy. You don't want to answer every call with something like: "Balloon Zoom. How can we help you?"
Your business phone number. This is optional, of course. Because you have read our blog, you will, after all, have set up a business telephone number. But we decided not to include our business telephone because we prefer communicating via email. As a kid you cannot answer phone calls during the day Every caller who wants to reach you will have to leave you a message while you are at school or at soccer practice, and because you are a professional, you will have to return every message when you get home. It is much easier to handle school, sports, music lessons -- life! -- if you do not have to return phone calls.
BUDGET COST: $16
For 100 full-color cards (regular price), on standard business card paper, with a blank back side. Shipping varies.
SPLURGE COST: $44
For 250 full-color cards (regular price), printed on a thicker cardstock, with a color-backside. Shipping varies.
There are a lot of places to get a free email address. But because we're going to suggest that you get a free Google Voice account in order to get a free business phone number, we're going to suggest getting a business email on Gmail.com.
Because you have to be thirteen to open a Gmail account, you may need your parents to open the account with you.
BUDGET COST: $0
SPLURGE COST: $0
Once you have a gmail.com email address, you can create a free "Google Voice" account and get a Google Voice phone number. Google Voice is a kid entrepreneur's dream solution for acquiring a business phone, and a must-have if you want to increase your online presence with Yelp, Bing and Google+. (I tackle creating a Yelp page in a separate blog post!)
Once you sign up with Google Voice, link your Google Voice phone number to a phone you already have, whether it is a cell phone, or a land line. (Ask your parents first!) Record a voice mail, and set it up so that your real phone never rings. It took us about a half hour to set up our Google Voice number, but Balloon Zoom's phone number (202-750-0228) connects directly to our business voice mail.
On Spring Break and not doing any business? Remember to change your voice mail to let callers know that. (And to change it back when you reopen!)
When you get a phone call, Google Voice will helpfully send an email to your Gmail account. That email will tell you the phone number of the person who called and when the call came in, and give you both a transcript (sometimes not so accurate, but better than nothing), as well as a recording of the message.
You can listen to the messages from your Gmail account, from any computer or smartphone, at any time.
BUDGET COST: $0
SPLURGE COST: $0
WEBSITE AND DOMAIN (.COM) NAME
We don't code. But you don't need to code to create a beautiful website. We created almost everything on our website (powered by Wix.com) by dragging and dropping different elements onto the pages, and we love what we've created.
Wix.com does offer free websites. But its free product is not a perfect fit for a business owner. Wix's free website name will not be a ".com" address, even if you have already paid for a .com address. It will look like this: username.wixsite.com/sitename/page-url. And Wix puts ads on the top and bottom of every free web page. For those reasons, we suggest putting off the creation of a website until you have earned enough money to buy a domain name (in our case, www.balloonzoom.com), and pay for an ad-free site.
Right now, the bottom-level plan on Wix.com, which includes free hosting, everything you need to create a website without coding, and a .com name for a year, is $120 for a year. Plans that allow you to sell items and accept credit cards are more expensive.
(If you really want to sell items online, consider Etsy as a budget option. Hayleigh, of Hayleigh's Cherished Charms, which we featured in a Balloon Zoom Spotlight in 2013, highly recommends it for young entrepreneurs.)
BUDGET COST: $0
For a website with advertisements for Wix.com and a funky website address. Not recommended.
SPLURGE COST: $120
For an advertisement-free website with your own .com address for one year. Worth every penny!
You have to dress the part when you do business. A "uniform" doesn't have to cost money. We already owned the dresses pictured in this, one of our first business shots. (Noor was 5, Leila was 7, and I was 9). Go shopping in your closet for something you like! Just make sure it has no holes, and it conveys the 'look' you're going for.
As our business grew, we invested in t-shirts, which we now wear to every event. These shirts not only make a statement, but make it easy for kids and parents to spot us at events. Once again, we went with Vistaprint, and we have always been happy with the quality of our products. Sales come often. You can sometimes create a shirt on Vistaprint for as little as $5!
BUDGET COST: $0 for something from your closet.
SPLURGE COST: $10 plus shipping/each kids t-shirt (regular price). Adult t-shirts slightly more.
SUMMING IT UP: OUR RECOMMENDATIONS
Bargain Basement Start-up: $16 plus shipping.
Includes an email address, telephone number, business voice mail, a nice outfit from your closet (no holes, please!) and 100 beautiful, full-color business cards.
Budget Start-up: $26 plus shipping.
Everything in the Bargain Basement Start-up, plus a custom company t-shirt with your business name, slogan, logo and services. While you can start with a nice outfit from your closet, is easier to walk into an office, introduce yourself, and hand over a business card if you are wearing a "company t-shirt".
The Splurge Start-up: $175 plus shipping.
Includes everything in the Budget Start-up, plus an advertisement-free website and your own ".com" address for one year. You will have to renew your domain name and your website plan every year.