The Need For Good Secretarial And Office Services (a beginners guide)

For those who can turn out neat and accurate typing within set deadlines, a regular and often very high income awaits them.  This might not be a business with any place in the ‘get rich quick’ category, but certainly it will provide extra cash for family commitments, and for offsetting the burdens of unpredictable, but generally rising interest and inflation rates.

Running a freelance typing or word processing service can also be an ideal business opportunity for those who much of necessity spend most of their time within the home.  We find this business extremely popular with mothers, the disabled, even ‘failed’ or discouraged’ writers, who nevertheless have equipped themselves with the typing skills their preferred profession would have benefited from.

A business such as this takes time to build up in terms of clientele, and your own reputation for good, efficient work, as well as ability to meet customers’ deadlines.  You might in the very early days consider the whole thing anything but worthwhile; perhaps you are spending more on advertising than you are recouping in custom.  Keep at it though, for all businesses relying so heavily on advertising need time for what’s on offer to filter through to the ultimate customer, often from the shop floor of a large corporation to the upper echelons of its management structure.

Regular advertising leads to a faith in your ability to produce the goods.

You are, as yet, a faceless quantity, and one that can vanish as easily as it appeared if your work is unsatisfactory.  But someone whose service has been advertised for some time gains a position of trust in the minds of those they are seeking to attract.  One hit wonders and those who can’t stand the pace, are unlikely to meet often tight deadlines most businesses work to.  Gain their trust an you will find yourself the recipient of regular custom.  Repeat custom and word of mouth advertising from satisfied customers, could find your business growing to full-time status, perhaps find you needing to sub-contract work out to other efficient sources, or perhaps looking to employ adequate emergency staff yourself.

WHAT EQUIPMENT WILL I NEED?

Naturally, you wouldn’t start a venture such as this without the physical ability to produce good type.  You need not be a highly qualified typist to offer such a service; you might not need any qualifications at all; some of the best typists are self-taught.

I have known some keyboard operators who, falling into the latter category, could batter the highly qualified ones into submission when their accuracy, presentation, speed and professional abilities are put to the test.  Don’t offer what you can’t deliver though.  If you are accurate but your speed requires improvement, don’t offer to deliver a huge report at breakneck speed, when you know full well your speed will need to be boosted to such a degree that your accuracy will suffer.  Wait until you can produce work at the speed such work necessitates before you make rash promises.  At the very best you’ll be paid, but you’ll almost certainly lose the customer concerned and suffer adverse word of mouth publicity at his next meeting with counterpart in the business world.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

As to the gadgetry you will need, there are many types of typewriter and work processor on the market, ranging from the humble manual, to the electric version, and on to the most wonderful of all inventions – to my mind at least – the work processor.  Which you choose to operate with will depend largely upon finances available, and will no doubt be influenced by what equipment you have so far been accustomed to.  Each as its advantages, though for the manual typewriter I am somewhat at a loss to find more than its need for a cheap energy supply from tired typists’ fingers.  Energy of the electrical variety leads to a better, more even type and required far less effort on the part of the user.  ‘Sorry’ to advocates of the manual, but today, unless you prove to the contrary, I think it fair to say that the manual typewriter has long since outlived its usefulness.

An electric typewriter will not set you back a great deal, and purchasing one is something you should seriously consider if your work is to be of  consistently high standard.  Equipment necessary to the running of a business can be set against Income Tax liabilities, so contact Inland Revenue office for advice.

But, if you really want to create a stir in your new business venture, you can forget the word ‘typing’ and substitute in its place the highly respectable concept ‘word processing’.  Little more than a computerised typewriter, the word processor renders typist correction fluid a thing of the past, and dirty carbon residue need never again soil your hands or the precious newly-typed documents they come into contact with.

At first, the thought of using a word processor can be frightening but within weeks he or she will be using it like an expert.

No photocopiers and carbon papers are necessary, since the machine’s memory will store work for as long as the operator wishes, thereby allowing he or she to churn out copies of past work at the mere touch of a button or two.  Work can also be produced virtually error free; any errors that do remain are due usually to lack of observation, since errors can be rectified before the document is ever produced on paper.

Typing appears on the screen and errors can be corrected immediately.

The software allows your spelling to be checked by the machine, thereby allowing one of the great problems of any an otherwise accurate typist, or now word processor operator.

All of these benefits of the word processor can lead to a doubling or even trebling o your output.  Never again need you start afresh on a document that fails to come up to standard.  The machine will adjust layouts for you, alter typefaces, remove errors, change spacing, etc., etc.  Remember too, you are effectively able to offer the customer something of a back-up filing system, merely because his or her work will remain on disk, if necessary and convenient to both parties.

Advertising your service as one of ‘word processing’ instead of ‘typing’ can also create a more professional image, thereby leading to greater customer interest.

HOW DO I ADVERTISE MY NEW BUSINESS?

There are several ways to bring yourself and your business to the attention of potential customers, but remember that you are offering something of an artistic service, and your first communication with prospective customer must be one of total professionalism.  A tatty business card in the local fish and chip shop window will lead the reader to wonder if your typing will be prone to a similarly ill-thought out standard.

Take your business cards with you everywhere.  Nothing looks worse than a hastily scribbled telephone number on a tatty piece of scrap paper when a potential customer’s interest is aroused.  That would likely be the last you’ll see of him or her, since subconsciously that person will convince him or herself that your work is likely to be of a similarly unprofessional standard.

Business cards are not limited to personal delivery.  They can be left in any suitable place where those requiring your services are likely to congregate.  I recently saw a batch of cards for a word processing service, neatly displayed on the counter of a local photographic centre.

I have also seen them built into the covers of home videos.  Well, not only the kids need the relaxation offered by the box – the TV that is!

I personally thought this method of advertising little short of ingenious.

Your card can be pinned in many places where custom might be attracted:
business clubs, job centres (for curriculum vitae and job application forms), in youth clubs and on college notice boards (students need their theses typing to a professional standard), etc.

You can also have postcards printed to advertise your business, and A5 handbills are invaluable for popping through the letterboxes of businesses old and new.  Deliver them before the summer holidays begin and you might find yourself inundated with work that would normally have gone to agency temps when staff shortages necessitate an additional pair of hands.  You might even address a letter to company managing directors informing them of your services at holiday times and at other times when staff shortages are likely to exist.

Such an approach sows initiative – something usually much admired in today’s fast moving business world.

You can if your capabilities and other commitments allow, offer an emergency service, with collection and subsequent delivery of documentation. But never put another client’s work to one side for the purpose of attracting higher fees, unless you are already ahead of any predetermined deadlines for that other customer.  In gaining the gratitude of one, you may well lose the respect and repeat custom of another.

Your postcard advertisements can be placed in suitable shop windows, perhaps in larger stores and post offices which we all need to use at some time or another.  Don’t disregard the little corner shops either.

You are unlikely to get big business deals from them, but you might attract students, small business people, club secretaries, and so on.

Since such n advertisement is usually extremely cheap you should consider it a worthwhile investment however little custom it generates, unless of course that ‘little’ fails to rise above zero for any length of time.

Don’t be tempted to type these postcard advertisements just to save a little cash.  Remember the ‘first impressions’ rule and have them properly printed.  You’ll save time to concentrate on the business your professionally prepared advertisements generate.  Again, with the printed variety, you can have an attention-gabbing but subtle design incorporated, that will inform the public of what service you offer, long before they have read the text hidden amongst many other advertisements displayed in the window.

WHO ELSE NEEDS SECRETARIAL SERVICES?

You will, as your business grows, find yourself serving businesses large and small.  Some will want a one-off service, and you might never see that customer again.  Others might need a regular service for a very small workload on each occasion.  At the other end of the scale you might be offered one enormous job by a business whose secretary has taken extended sickness leave.  That same business might be so impressed with your work that its management later decides to sub-contract to you the entire workload of another employee who subsequently leaves the workforce.

Never underestimate the importance of the smallest jobs you are offered.

Those small bread and butter pieces might not even seem worth the time and effort involved, but a satisfied customer of whatever standing is an added avenue for your much needed ongoing advertising campaign.

Local Newspapers

Local newspapers and freesheets are excellent places in which to advertise your services.  The same people who place their advertisements in these publications are in all probability the same people who will need your services at some future time.  Temporary secretarial agencies are expensive propositions; once the middle man is cut out, your business becomes a much more inviting financial proposition to businesses large and small, almost all suffering under the weight of high running cost.

Advertise in the classified section until you are able to withstand the higher charges of display advertising.

Business Enterprise and Self-Help Groups

Many such groups exist, some under government auspices; others created by men and women for the promotion of their own business interests.

You will find entire buildings devoted to small workshops and retail outlets, the businessmen themselves often working under Enterprise Allowance Schemes.  Other buildings are sub-divided into units, by groups of private individuals for their own use, or else for sub-letting to other usually smaller concerns.  Craft shops flourish in such environments, as do antique shops, printing establishments and book shops.  Almost all such entrepreneurs at some time will have need of a typing facility, and you should therefore advertise your business by distributing individual handbills, or having a postcard advertisement placed on any communal notice board you might find.

Always be on the lookout for new business groups, and make sure you are the first typing agency to get that all-important foot in the door.

Job Centres and Colleges

Wherever students congregate, whether for educational or social needs, you have a large and ready made market for your skills.  Students, not all of whose lessons include typing, require their theses to be presented in a manner that will create a good impression for the assessment body responsible for grading the work concerned.

In colleges and job centres you will also find one of your largest and most regular sources of business, namely in the constant demand for newcomers to the jobs market to have their curriculum vitae (CV)
and application forms neatly prepared, if they are to stand much chance of entering the highly competitive world of work.

Obtain permission from college officials to have your advertisement placed on suitable notice boards, and register the services you provide with the appropriate personnel.

Many schools, colleges and universities, have student magazines which again would provide an invaluable advertising opportunity.

Specialist Publications

Many specialist publications cater for people whose businesses are largely dependent on mail order.  Book dealers, stamp dealers, ephemera specialists, dealers in a wide range of products, have regular lists of offers prepared, often monthly, or distribution to customers old and new.  Their entrepreneurial talents do not always extend to the typing of such documents they require, which must look as professional as the service they offer.  They must therefore discover some means of having the sales list prepared on their behalf.

Advertise your services in book trade publications, stamp dealer and collector magazines, ‘Exchange and Mart’, ‘The Trader’, and many other similar publications.  Browse round the larger newsagents to familiarise yourself with likely advertising outlets.

Writers, of which there are thousands in this country alone, often need someone to transform their notes into professionally typed manuscripts suitable for the eyes of busy editors and publishing executives.

Many writers will have acquired the necessary typing skills but a great many more will not, perhaps have no interest in doing so, particularly if their work is in demand from  very high paying market.
Again, advertise your business in the many specialist publications for writers and via the chairpersons of local writers’ groups.

Your library should be able to assist you with details of local groups.

A glance at ‘The Writers and Artists Yearbook’ will provide you with details of some of the many publications writers obtain, usually on a subscription basis.

Anywhere Potential Customers Congregate

Here lies perhaps the largest marketing opportunity of all.  Most people however busy, find recreation and leisure facilities an essential part of their lives.  Whether it is the local pub, or the sports centre of small villages or massive city centres, an ideal opportunity presents itself for you to reach hundreds of potential customers.  Ask if you can have your card or advertisement displayed prominently on notice boards, or even on counter – in better establishments of course – you don’t want to soil your business reputation by having a pile of your cards end up as missiles in the regular Saturday brawls some watering holes are renowned for.

You might even offer to type certain items free of charge, in exchange for publicity for your business.  College magazines, club newsletters and church bulletins, all lend themselves well to such a prospect, if their readership is sufficient to compensate for the loss of profits you will incur whilst doing this unpaid work.  If the readership is small, forget it, unless of course the item being typed is of minimal proportions too, in which case you might include such a public spirited gesture in your overall business strategy.  Ensure that your advertisement or acknowledgement will adequately describe the services you provide.

New and Expanding Businesses

As soon as you are aware of a new business coming to your area, or one that is opening additional premises, have your advertisement delivered through its door.  You might discover many people who otherwise would seek full-time or part-time staff to cater for their needs, but who would infinitely prefer to relinquish the responsibilities of employer status in favour of a freelance service which will involve payment only in respect of work done and doesn’t include hours spent awaiting work.

Restaurants, Hairdressers, Taxi Firms, and al Businesses issuing price lists, etc.

Many businesses have need or revised price lists and information bulletins, either for the windows of their business premises or else for delivery to potential clients.  Remember to include these in your advertising plans.

And Also

Many typing and secretarial agencies offer various spin-off services to extremely good effect.  Hairdressers for instance, might jump at the chance of having their documents delivered to homes in the locality.

Whether you personally do the job of delivery is entirely for you to decide, but it takes the burden from them, and might tie the balance in your favour when deciding where the initial job of preparing the handbills should be offered.

Many businesses would no doubt appreciate a secretarial service that offer to collect work to be undertaken and usually deliver the final product.  A same day typing service might gain you the edge on other typing agencies.

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