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Entrepreneurship

How to Start A Law Firm Without Going Completely Broke And Crazy

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As you can probably imagine, starting a business isn’t cheap and could cost you a lot of money from day one. This could make starting a business a headache and a risky financial pursuit if you’re not careful. However, the initial time, money, and investment that goes into your new startup will vary heavily based on what industry you are going into, and if you utilize the power and tools accessible on the internet today.

For example, if you’re figuring out how to start a law firm, you need to make a plan that won’t leave you stressed out and broke. The traditional method is to open a nice and fancy office location, hire staff and bring them inhouse, have a ton of paper work/legal documents, and also pay for the transportation of documents and signatures to and from local clients.

Again, this is the ‘old way’ of thinking about how to start a business. Thanks to automation, technology and being able to work from anywhere, that is no longer the case.

Here are four things to keep in mind when you’re starting a law firm from scratch.

1. Find Your Focus

In order to succeed at building a law firm, you need to start with a strong focus on what kinds of services you’ll be providing. If you don’t have a focus for your solo practice, you’re going to struggle with building a reliable clientele. You might know a broad range of information about being a lawyer, but you need to carve out your niche.

Start your solo practice by seeing what’s missing in your local region. If there’s a shortage of estate lawyers, you could become the premier estate lawyer in your area. If there’s too much competition, you’ll struggle to find the clients that you need to get started.

Go with what you know. If you’ve previously worked at a practice, start by providing services that you’ve provided for other people before. If possible, ask for referrals, recommendations, or LinkedIn endorsements so that people can see what you’ve done and where you’ve been.

At the same time, you want your website and blog to represent the different types of services your law firm offers. Check out this site for some ideas on what you could be focusing on, and how they highlight these easy-to-find services right at the top of their site.

2. Team Up With Smart People

It’s essential that you work with smart people who have experience in the legal field. When you’re about to start your own law firm, you could be splitting things with other lawyers.

Just because you’re starting a solo practice doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about expenses and resources.

You need to start a practice where you can have everything that your clients need from you. You’ll need a base of operations where you can meet with clients, have private conversations, and where they can find you when they need something.

Talk to other legal professionals and see if they want to become partners on a law firm. If that’s not the path for either of you, you could still work together to save money on costs.

Sharing an office is a common situation for medical and legal professionals. The cost of real estate is often one of the biggest expenses for a new law practice. When you split with someone else, you can have everything you need at half of the price.

If you hire any staff at all, make sure they’re smart and savvy. Ensure that they’re dedicated to helping you build the practice that will serve your clients as best as possible.

In addition to hiring staff and focusing your efforts on building a team of powerful people around you, it’s also important to make sure your business is using the latest advancements in software automation and online communications. This ThinkSmart resource is a great reference guide on what law firms should be looking at when conducting business, and also how many of the agencies in the world are still running with ‘old world’ methods and thought processes.

3. Decide On What Expenses You Need

Starting your legal practice can cost a lot of money and you could quickly go into the red if you’re not careful. You need to make sure you start off with enough money to build your clientele while managing your expenses as you go. As mentioned earlier, ‘old world’ business mentalities can quickly have your business losing a lot of money from day, just from frivolous spending on things you ‘think’ you need, but really don’t.

Decide whether you need an office at all, to begin with. If you’ve only got a few clients, you could meet at their offices when you first get started. Until you’re able to comfortably afford the office you need for your practice, put it off as long as possible. For myself, I could work from anywhere… but I want to make sure my home office isn’t only somewhere that I enjoy being, but also a professional and fun atmosphere in the process.

You’ll need staff to give the appearance of a professional law firm. However, if you don’t have an office, you might have a tough time figuring out where to put staff. Running a firm out of your home is possible but less than professional. But again… if your law firm is more internet-based and has clients around the world, there might not be a need for a big expensive office.

You can have a virtual office weight the help of some modern service providers. With the help of an answering service, you could be having messages taken and calls redirected to your personal phone.

If you have money to hire a virtual assistant, you could have someone managing your schedule and answering client calls while you meet with current clients. Many answering services will give you 24/7 service, which will allow you to be getting new clients even when you’re away from your desk.

4. Segregate Time

Being able to separate your time while building your practice is essential to building your law firm. You’ll need to have time that you devote to marketing, time for clients, and time to take care of administrative tasks. If you don’t segment your time, you could end up spending twice as much time being half as productive.

Devote time every week to improving your marketing efforts. An hour a day to craft a blog post could go a long way. Even just a few posts a week can help to build your presence online. When you’re visible online, you’ll appear in search results based in your area as people look for legal services like what you provide.

Your clients need to be massaged at all times. While you might think that your clients will check in with you when they need you, it’s up to you to manage your relationship with them. Check in with your best clients even when you don’t think they need you because you never know what’s come up with them.

Separate time to take care of important administrative tasks every single week. This could be billing your clients, paying off your invoices, or making sure that all your bills and employees are paid. Whatever it is, you need to make time for handling this boring but essential work.

There’s No Single Answer in How To Start a Law Firm

When you’re trying to figure out how to start a law firm, you’re going to have to make some difficult decisions. It will cost you a lot of money and take considerable time to build a strong firm. With a few clients who bring in reliable business, you could build a firm that lasts for decades to come.

As stressed throughout the article, managing your startup costs is going to be one of the most important components of a successful business. Take advantage of the tools and automation that the internet has to offer, and also check out my guide for the best credit cards to apply for when you’re starting your own business. Many of these cards are very business and entrepreneur-friendly, and can help with funding your business in it’s early growth stages.

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Entrepreneurship

What Every SMBs Need to Know About Debt and Growing their Business

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Starting a business in the world might seem easy, thanks to the power of the internet, automation, and lowered costs — but that isn’t to say it’s easy to find success and profitability with that same business. With more businesses starting daily, this leads to a larger increase in competition, and a great number of SMBs who aren’t potentially ready for the fierce competition, compiling costs, and debt that might be right around the corner.

While most aspiring small business owners would love to launch a passion venture and not worry about how to pay for it, this is not the reality. According to the Small Business Administration, there are 27.9 million small businesses in the United States compared to 18,500 firms with over 500 employees. Those small businesses took out a combined $600 billion in business loans in 2015, and another $593 million from alternative means like finance companies and peer-to-peer lending platforms.

At the same time, it’s also important to take a look at the number of startups and closures, and survival rates for businesses in the world today.

But despite the various loan options that exist, securing enough of the right debt is challenging. Yet, as the old adage says, ‘you need to spend money to make money,’ and without borrowing, it’s difficult for any business to grow their operation.

To ensure your business borrows for long-term success without jeopardizing long-term cash flow, here are six things to know about debt.

Good Debt vs. Bad Debt

Generally speaking, good debt refers to debt that can yield long-term income or growth in value whereas bad debt will not. For consumers, good debt might be a mortgage where bad debt would be a revolving credit card balance. In the business landscape, it’s a little more nuanced and dependent on the specific company. You can learn more about the differences between these two here.

An example of good debt might be a company taking on debt to invest in certain employee programs, as the implementation of the program could lead to improved morale and better retention. It could also be debt used to do research and development for a new product since a new product line would generate more future income. A bad-debt scenario could be the result of a business taking out a loan for a larger business space that they don’t end up filling or using adequately. Or a double whammy: paying for nice office space in a prime location when clients never see the office.

These situations can go on and on, and really hinge on the execution that does or does not take place after a loan is taken.

Healthy Debt-to-Income Ratios

Every business—even two competitors—have differences that affect what a healthy debt-to-income (DIY) ratio should be. Businesses might need different levels of debt depending on a multitude of factors.

So, while not a hard-and-fast guideline, generally speaking, businesses with DTIs under 1 have more stable debt levels while a ratio above 1 indicates that a company is more reliant on their debt. Calculate your business’ DTI at any time by taking your monthly recurring debt payments and dividing it by your monthly gross income.

You Have More Leeway with Creditors Than You Think

Many business owners and individual debtors never try to improve on their existing terms or ask their creditors for any kind of compromise, even if it means falling behind on loan payments. But at the end of the day, banks want to see you succeed, if for no other reason than it means they’re getting their money back. If you’re proactive about needing aspects of your loan modified before you encounter difficulty paying it, you’ll stand a much better chance of striking an agreement.

It’s important to remember that creditor negotiations are a case-by-case basis. Whether you’re trying to lower your interest rate, get a one-time payment grace period, or extend the repayment cycle, communicate how changing the loan will impact your business positively.

You Can Consolidate Your Debts

Even if you’re keeping pace with your loans, juggling too many of them can be taxing, not to mention increase the chances you miss a payment date or don’t have the cash flow you need at a certain time of month. Debt consolidation loans condense your monthly payments, due dates, and potentially, can net you a lower overall interest rate.

To learn more about this, also see my article on line of credit vs taking out loans.

Small business owners can attempt debt consolidation by taking out a private loan (though, a high credit score will be needed for favorable interest rates), opening a balance transfer card with interest-friendly (possibly free) introductory period, or seeking assistance through companies like Andrew Housser’s Consolidation Plus, part of the Freedom Financial Network.

Layoffs Are Always a Consequence

Small businesses are like tight-knit families. Limited bandwidth and resources mean that employees develop a sense of pride and camaraderie in working together (at least, when a business does well). And unlike a large company where turnover is rampant, employees tend to work for small businesses much longer.

Of the 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016, organizations with fewer than 100 workers accounted for over 98 percent of the workforce. When small businesses take on debt to scale the operation, they need to understand that they’ll need to cut costs if the investment doesn’t pay off. Layoffs are a realistic consequence. And when a SMB starts laying people off, company morale will take a dive and could lead to lost productivity and even further turnover.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016.

  • Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses.
  • Firms with fewer than 100 workers accounted for 98.2 percent.
  • Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.0 percent.

This also isn’t just limited to small and medium sized businesses. Statista just recently had a report on big name companies like Tesla, eBay, Paypal, and more — all of which are leaving their employees hanging on whether or not they might have a long term relationship with the company.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Is a Last Resort

The thought of your hopes and dreams culminating in a bankruptcy court proceeding is certainly disheartening. However, chapter 11 becomes a viable strategy for business owners whose personal possessions are entwined in their business as it aims to restructure business debts to make repayments more manageable going forward without it sinking their business.

Just because taking debt is a necessary evil the majority of small businesses must face doesn’t mean it should be done so lightly. Leave no stone unturned in your search for a small business loan and consider these things above as you do so.

The Best Ways to Approach Debt Loss and Management for Your Company

No matter what position you might find your business in today, it’s important to realize that the first step in cleaning up an potential messes, is to ask for help.

This can be from people within your company, outside advisors, and of course — financial and legal institutions.

To learn more about managing company funds and debt, be sure to check out my other resource guide on paying off company debt.

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Entrepreneurship

5 Effective Methods to Goal Setting for Business Growth and Success

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Have you made resolutions to get your business to the next level?

Are your goals SMART enough?

Are they inspiring your employees to take action?

Goals are the observable results of achievement. Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to achieve, identifying the required resources, and developing an action plan.

If you have yet to set your business goals, consider the benefits of goal setting below.

Five Top Benefits of Goal Setting

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of goals setting to your business. Goals are important in providing direction and focus to grow of your business.

This is especially true for anyone who might be working from home or stuck in a cubicle all day. When you are working on your own and not told exactly what to do, you need to be setting your own goals and the determination to get things done.

Whether it’s writing down such goals on a piece of paper and then checking them off, or using a mobile or online application, it’s all about getting your actions into motion to simply get more done.

Other benefits and methods to accomplishing this include:

1. Inspire and Sustain Progress

The importance of goals setting lies in the ability of goals to inspire and sustain focus. When your business sets SMART goals, your employees know what to do and they can gauge their performance.

As they achieve the smaller steps, they grow in confidence to work towards achieving bigger results. This results in the constant growth of your business. Your employees will grow in their skills and get motivated to keep improving as they see results.

2. Using Video to Increase Productivity

With so many different productivity tools and applications on the market today, it’s important to know where your strengths lie when trying to increase productivity or motivating others.

Through the use of an online creation tool like mysimpleshow, the ability is there to create interactive and engaging whiteboard animation videos to better portray your message.

You can see a clear example of this in the video example below.

At the same time, there are many personal benefits for creating your own whiteboard video to accomplish more and hit your goals.

As mentioned on the simpleshow website, creating such animation and explainer videos aren’t just for marketing and teaching others, they are also great for inspiration, mind-mapping, and hitting your own goals as well. In addition to goal setting, they’ve also seen massive engagement improvement with school students and professionals when delivering information in an audio and visual platform.

Their site went on to say, “Our illustration-style simpleshow explainer videos are most effective if you”:

  • need to tackle complex tasks
  • want to explain difficult topics in a simple and digestible way
  • have to explain almost inexplicable information

Before taking on your next big project, be sure to consider your options with laying everything out in video form, and them working your way through it and sharing it with team members along the way.

3. Increase Productivity and Profitability

When setting goals for your business, you’re aiming at getting more work done and increasing your earnings. Setting goals defines what exactly you want to achieve, and how you’ll get there.

The process also includes identifying the needed resources, skills, and competencies. With this knowledge, you can train your employees or hire skills, which keep your business on track for consistent growth.

Setting goals also improves the decision-making abilities of the organization. The information you collect during the goal-setting process helps you identify where the business is at and chart out a path for the future. Informed decisions will eventually result in business growth.

4. Measure Progress

Your business can’t ignore the importance of goals in measuring progress. Good goals are measurable both in the time it takes to achieve them and the results achieved.

Monitoring is a crucial part of goals setting through which your business measures how far it is at achieving its goals.

Here, the business identifies areas for improvement as well as weaknesses. This way, your business can adjust accordingly to fit into the changing economic times, and you can set bigger goals if you have achieved the previous ones.

This same task can also be accomplished by using the Seinfeld Strategy as well.

To measure progress in your achievement of goals, you need to build a monitoring system such as recording the progress of a task.

5. Collaboration Among Employees

Your employees will work together more when they have a common goal. They can share resources, expertise, and insights. Eventually, your business grows from the harmonious working of the employees.

Goal setting should be a regular practice for your business. You can learn more about how goal setting can improve your business’ performance on this blog.

Six tips that were laid out in this article for improving productivity and collaboration with other employees are:

  1. Stretch your outlook.
  2. Know the key steps of the goal-setting process.
  3. Create a nimble goal development team.
  4. Gain buy-in.
  5. Communicate, communicate, then communicate some more.
  6. Remember to celebrate achievements.

Grow Your Business In 2019

Goal setting builds the foundation of your business, which employees refer to for inspiration and direction. The above benefits of goal setting should provide you with enough reasons to set goals for your business.

However, the most important task in this whole process is making sure you have a goal in place and are taking action to achieve it.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have. I’d love to hear from you and see how we can start working together.

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Entrepreneurship

Top Business Expenses (and Deductions) Entrepreneurs Need to Know

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The internet has made us all potential entrepreneurs.

And the dream and reality of owning a business is one of the most liberating feelings that you can have. After all, there’s a reason why 27 million people are entrepreneurs.

While there are many benefits to owning your own company, there’s also plenty of crucial information you need to keep in mind. This is especially true when it comes to finances.

Every business is different, and so are the many ways they can save money, write off expenses, and funnel money into different companies or investments. The best way to approach any of these topics of concepts, is to first consult with a financial advisor or attorney. However, there are many resources out there to learn from before you next legal and accounting meeting.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about common types of business expenses (and deductions). Be sure to read through the list below, take a few notes, and also have some questions in mind for the next time you meet with your financial and legal consultant.

Expenses

Whether your company has one employee or a whole team at your disposal, your business is going to have ongoing expenses. Here are some you need to keep an eye on that many people forget to consider.

Utilities

Just like when living in a home, it’s impossible to avoid utility expenses when running your business. While all of us are accustomed to paying our utility bills, business owners sometimes focus too much on tangible costs (equipment, rent, etc.).

Gas, electric, and sewage expenses are all staples when it comes to budgeting for business utilities. Additionally, you’ll need to consider your Internet service expenses, including Internet service and server hosting (if necessary).

Advertising/Marketing

You could have a product or service that shakes the foundation of your industry. But, it won’t mean much if nobody knows about your business. Whether it’s through Facebook ads or an extensive multimedia campaign, you’re going to have to allocate money for marketing as an entrepreneur.

Even if you’re a smaller, local business that doesn’t have the need for large-scale advertising, you still may need to employ the services of an SEO specialist to help get your name on the front page of Google.

If you forego including this in your budget, most of your other work will go unrewarded.

Office Supplies

As previously mentioned, entrepreneurs often focus on tangible expenses when conducting their financial planning. But, these often include larger purchases, such as furniture, computers, and company vehicles.

Office supplies, however, are a necessity that can quickly add up to hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars.

Common items that can add to the cost include:

  • Filing cabinets
  • Office chairs
  • Printers/printer ink
  • Staplers
  • Pens/pencils
  • USB thumb drives

Necessary office products can include intangible goods, as well, such as software or monthly fees for necessary applications.

Insurance

To avoid going bankrupt in the event of a catastrophe, it’s imperative as an entrepreneur to have the proper insurance coverage.

In general, liability insurance and property insurance are vital policies to budget for. For example, liability insurance will help protect you financially if someone (an employee or non-employee) experiences bodily harm on your property.

If a fire/natural disaster were to occur or if someone steals property from your business, your insurance coverage will help you cover the costs.

Deductions

Luckily, with expenses come deductions. While they vary depending on the type of company that you run, there are many most entrepreneurs can take advantage of.

For anyone running a business online, purchasing a domain name and web hosting are two examples of common deductions.

Legal Fees

When many people think of the term “legal fees”, they often picture the inside of the courtroom. They may even imagine a consultation with a lawyer.

But, legal fees can stem from many more scenarios, including accounting, bookkeeping, and consultations.

Fortunately, however, you’re able to deduct these expenses as a business owner.

But, the cost must be reasonable for the supplied service. For example, you can’t overpay a friend for their legal services and then expect to write off the entire expense.

Home Office

If you happen to run your business from home, you’ll be able to secure a significant tax deduction. This is calculated by determining what percentage of the property in square footage is used for business.

There is a catch, however: this space must be used exclusively for business.

In other words, if you have a desk in your bedroom that you use for your company, you won’t be able to claim this space as your home office.

Furthermore, there needs to be a legitimate reason to have this designated space other than as an area for productivity. Thus, if you’re not meeting with clients or conducting administrative tasks, you may not be able to get the deduction you want.

Travel

For business-related trips that require an overnight stay, you’ll be able to deduct various expenses when filing your taxes.

These can include:

  • Housing
  • Airfare
  • Meals
  • Auto expenses
  • Luggage and shipping

This is especially useful when traveling over long distances or for an extended period of time. When it comes to international travel, though, there are different rules to keep in mind.

Entertainment + Meals

This is perhaps one of the most popular deductions that entrepreneurs file for. But, this doesn’t mean that every meal or outing can result in a tax deduction.

The expenses must be necessary and business-related, and there must be a chance of an actual payoff. In other words, going to a casual lunch with friends is not a deductible expense.

Going to a bar for food and drinks with a client, however, often is. You can also deduct meals/entertainment that you provide for clients or employees on your own property.

Understanding Types of Business Expenses Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about the different types of business expenses in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making sure that you can scale your business as fast as possible.

Want to learn more about how to run your business efficiently? Make sure to check out this article.

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