If you’re one of those in-the-know, mobile creatives that have just discovered the unique, residual commission-generating opportunities associated with referring business to specialty banks, factors and other alternative commercial finance providers, your probably now wondering just how difficult and costly it will be to get some training and to get involved. Well relax! While a total understanding of this unique industry can be a little complex and daunting (and especially so from the factor/lender side), learning how to begin earning our industry’s near-legendary residual commission income by becoming an industry intermediary really could not be much easier. And, without question, the brokering side of the industry offers entrepreneurial self-starters the perfect “template” for a low cost home-based business.
As you will find out by exploring this blog, virtually anyone can participate in the industry with just a minimal amount of training and/or online research. And, though you may not be able to kiss your $10 an hour day job good bye right away, it is actually relatively easy to launch a home-based business as a freelance broker simply by arming yourself with some basic industry knowledge and by…
- having some corner of your house for a small office
- having a laptop or desktop computer with printer (of recent vintage)
- subscribing to an email service
- create business identity
- creating some business cards
- building a small website
- having a business email address
- developing some networking and social media opportunities
Gaining Some Industry Knowledge
To be certain, you do not need to have years of experience in factoring to enter the industry as a freelance consultant. You do, however, need to have a sound understanding of the basics of this powerful source of small business financing. Many new to the industry actually land their first deals simply by being in the right place, at the right time, and armed with some very basic factoring knowledge. And, one of the most affordable and easiest methods of obtaining such knowledge is by simply joining the IACFB (International Association of Commercial Finance Brokers) and opting for their “Essentials Membership” with an add-on of the IACFB’s Factoring 101 Brokers Training Guide. This 5-star rated, 200 page training guide ($39.95) along with IACFB’s Essentials Membership Package ($39.95) provides you with all the basic entry level knowledge required to enter the industry for under $80. The Guide / Membership Package also provides access to the IACFB’s Learning Lab which is chock full of startup tips as well as providing access to the IACFB’s Directory of American Factors and Lenders with over 500 broker-friendly sources of factoring and alternative commercial finance. With the Essentials Membership Package, you will even receive a complimentary consultation with a member of IACFB’s business development staff to point you in all the right directions for a successful startup. You can find out more about this membership package at IACFB’s public website at www.iacfb.org/membership.htm
Your Home Office
For most new freelancers just starting out, the most common choice for initial operation is a home office. This is simply because it is both convenient and will almost always come with few “visible” costs. With a home office, you will certainly save on rent, utilities, time spent commuting, and probably some furnishings. This is all good when start up capital is at a minimum. A home office does, however, come with its own set of problems. As an independent freelancer, YOU MUST BE PRODUCTIVE and home offices are famous for providing distractions which can significantly impact your performance and overall industry success. Such negative attributes of a home office can be looked at as the “invisible costs” of working from home. And, such costs can be significant. So if you have decided to work from home, they must be overcome.
Home Office Productivity Killers
After selecting a location and laying out your home office, try to avoid the following pitfalls and productivity killers when working from home.
- Distractions: Avoid distractions such as the need to do a load of laundry or vacuum a floor. Install a highly visible wall clock in your office and avoid the rest of the house during your set hours of operation.
- Poor Dress: Shower and dress for work every day even though you are sitting behind the desk at home. This does not mean you have to put on a suit and tie. But, don’t attempt to work in your pajamas either.
- Boredom: If you find yourself getting bored or losing interest in work, take a break. Head to a coffee shop for “intermission”. As you will learn as you launch your business and begin marketing, you should always try to schedule a networking opportunity around lunch. This will also provide you with some breathing space.
- The Dungeon Effect: Locating a home office in a room without a window is a sure way of killing productivity. Natural daylight is a productivity enhancer and the best type of lighting for your office. If you have a window with a view, it will provide you with a way to take an occasional “brain break”. You will need additional task lighting, of course, for cloudy days and after hours work. Stick with “natural daylight” shades of light and avoid harsh types of lighting that produce an uncomfortable glare.
- Television: Background televisions (preferably for news only) can offer small benefits by providing you with mini-breaks, but limit listening to “news only” type programming. Catch up on world events during office hours. You should try to take mini-breaks at least every hour.
Computers, Printers, and Software
You will need a computer and printer to get started and it should be a laptop or desktop. Having both is an added bonus as you will be able to take the laptop along to certain networking events while enjoying the big screen capabilities of a desktop for research and list building. For a printer, any modern 4-1 machine is excellent but start with whatever you have. You will likely also need Microsoft Word or something similar for composing cover letters, classified ads, and marketing aids. Microsoft Publisher is an excellent choice if you have it.
Email Marketing Service
You will need an email marketing service early on and if costs are a consideration, many services such as MailChimp offer certain levels of free service which is enough to get you operational with zero cost.
One of the first hurdles you will need to tackle is choosing a good name for your new consulting business and there are several important business name characteristics to consider including:
- PROFESSIONALISM: You are not about to open up a neighborhood lemonade stand but rather a very prestigious financial business as a highly compensated freelance consultant. When choosing a name for your consultancy, think very professional, not gimmicky.
- NAME LENGTH: You will be using your business name on business cards, letterhead, advertisements, and your website. In many cases, exceptionally long business names can cause unforeseen marketing problems such as when you are placing column width classified ads.
- DOMAIN AVAILABILITY: If you haven’t already done so, you will very shortly be purchasing a website domain (your address on the internet) and here, shorter is always better. When exploring business names, you should immediately check to see if a domain is available that either matches your business name or one that represents a shortened version of it. It should also be available with the TLD extension of .com You want to avoid extensions such as .net, .biz, .us, etc. NOTE: IACFB’s “Essentials Membership” includes a FREE domain and consultation with a member of IACFB’s staff. Use it!
- CHECK FOR TRADEMARKS: Make certain your name does not infringe on a registered trademark. This is easily done at the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. http://tmsearch.uspto.gov
You will find you need about 500 business cards to start out. Design is very important here. A well designed business card is a very powerful networking tool. When someone receives your business card it should be designed in such a way so the receiver will ask questions about your business and what you do. A good business card is a great conversation opener.
Domain, Business Email, and Website
As everyone knows, in today’s business world you are not “really in business until you have a website and that is true for all types of consultants. You do not need a website from day one but you should certainly have plans to build or acquire one within your first 60 days of operation and the sooner the better. For your website to function, you will obviously also need a domain. Try to choose a domain which is identical to your business name or some shortened and abbreviated version of it. When it comes to domains, shorter is always better. Additionally, always choose “.com as the TLD or ending for your domain.
Domain-related business email addresses are powerful marketing tools and these can be created for you by your domain host. IACFB recommends that you have three (3) business email boxes. One for…
- forms and application submissions (info@)
- marketing (your first name@)
- for research (subscriptions@)
Your subscriptions@ email box is used to subscribe to the newsletters of factors and other lenders. As you train and learn the industry, you will subscribe to many newsletters and segmenting these valuable items will also keep them from over powering your regular business email boxes.
Time for Networking
To succeed in the industry, you will need to carve out some time on nearly a daily basis for networking. A great deal of this can be related to your social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter but once you are comfortable with your level of product knowledge, you should attempt to engage in face-to-face networking at every possible opportunity. Face-to-face networking is the powerhouse of business development and those that become experts at it will realize that developing above average networking skills can alone, be the key to success as a freelance factoring broker.