The Entrepreneur Highway Part 5

Give your small online business a large corporate image.

In an age of instant visual indulgence and almost unlimited choices for online buyers, standing out from the crowd often implies doing it bigger and better than the other guys.

Yet being a small business with a small budget doesn’t necessarily mean you’re already out of the game before you’ve even started.

New businesses looking to establish themselves need to create a memorable image that transfers well whether to printed materials or uploaded to internet web pages. Logo, letterhead, business card, fax form, invoice, statement, promotional stuffers, flyers, thank you card, website. The list goes on and on.

Sub-contracting these jobs out to other companies could quickly have you running through this year’s budget and possibly next year’s too.

Entrepreneurs with limited resources quickly learn that spending adeptly and doing many of the jobs themselves will stretch funds to allow for purchases in other areas such as extra merchandise or better quality stock.

Presenting your business as though you were a million dollar company will make online buyers feel confident about purchasing your products. You could have the greatest little widgets in the world, but if all buyers’ see is spelling mistakes, poor quality photos, or slow shipping and shoddy packaging, those potential buyers and customers won’t be coming back.

Invest a little time and effort in creating an overall image that you can take pride in. Researching your favorite office supply stores will help you find just the right hardware and software products needed to get the jobs done, and at the right price. The following office basics can make your printed jobs and online web pages look professional and impressive.

The price of good quality printers has come down drastically over the years. Your office should have at least one laser printer and, if possible, a color inkjet printer. And with prices so low for most brands, focus on cost of replacement toner and color ink cartridges as a deciding factor for purchase.

A laser printer is more economical for printing black and white documents, labels, drafts, or printing off the internet. An inexpensive color inkjet is great for printing photos, color letterhead, or creating special labels such as ‘fragile’ and ‘this side up’ for shipping boxes. Simply waterproof with a strip of clear packing tape over the label and you’ve got a cheap unlimited supply of customized color labels.

Another office staple is the scanner. Great for taking hardcopy documents or computer files and transforming them into a PDF file for emailing or saving to a promotional CD. Just remember, the more bells and whistles the higher the cost.

Acquiring a decent digital camera is a must for online sellers. Unlike brick and mortar stores, online buyers are unable to handle items or try on merchandise. The photos and descriptions you provide are all a buyer has to decide whether to purchase or not. So make your beautiful widgets stand out with plenty of great photos.

If you’re in the selling business you’re also in the shipping business. Save time and money by creating online postage labels through the post office or other courier. Investing in a letter/small package scale and, for larger parcels, a portable heavy-duty shipping scale provides instant accurate weights. Most office supply stores carry several quality models at reasonable prices.

Create sharp looking documents, stunning web pages, and oversee emails using a suite of software programs that include word processing, spreadsheet application, and an email/information manager. Also, a user-friendly HTML editor program with WYSIWYG is easy to learn and can take documents created in a word program and convert them into HTML code that’s ready for uploading to your website or page.

And finally, to keep track of all your business finances you’ll need a good bookkeeping/accounting program. One that will allow you to customize invoices and statements, send invoices by email, accept account downloads from your banking institutions or other merchant support companies such as PayPal.

To be in business means spending money on necessary tools that will give you excellent results and save you money down the road. With so much diversity at affordable prices, now is the time to make your business image shine like a Fortune 500 company.

I’m an online entrepreneur. How about you?