business owners, managers and sales representatives. Various
surveys indicate that by the year 2,000--at least 60 percent of
all secretarial work, as we know today will be handled by women
working at home.
For most women, this is the most exciting news of things to
come since the equal rights amendment. Now is the time to get
yourself organized, start your own home-based secretarial service
and nurture it through your start-up stages to total success in
the next couple of years.
Our research indicates little or no risk involved, with most
secretarial services breaking even within 30 days, and reports of
some showing a profit after the first week! your cash investment
can be as little as $10 to $25 if you already have a modern,
electronic typewriter. You can set up at your kitchen table, make
few phone calls, and be in business tomorrow.
If you don't have a modern, office quality electric typewriter
comparable to the IBM Selectric--a portable just won't do,
because it'll break down, wear out, and fall apart after a month
of heavy use..If you're aware of this delicacy of a portable
electric, you can conceivably begin with one, but you'll
definitely have to graduate to a bigger, heavier machine as soon
An IBM Selectric, complete with start-up supplies kit which
includes a dozen ribbons, can be purchased for less than a
thousands dollars. On the contract, this would break down about
to about $175 for down payment and monthly payments of less than
$50 per month over a 2-year period. Naturally, you'd want to
include the standard service contract which costs about $100 per
year, and means that whenever you have a problem or want your
machine serviced, you simply pick up the phone and call the
service department. They'll ask you what kind of problem you're
having, and then send some one to fix it immediately.
Shoestringers can rent an IBM Selectric for about $60 per mont,
plus a small deposit. And those of you who are really on a tight
budget, can contract an equipment leasing firm, explain your
business plan, and work out an arrangement where they buy the
machine of your choice for you, and then lease it back to you
over five or ten year period for much lower payments.
Whatever you do, get the best typewriter your money can buy.
The output of your typewriter will be your finished product, and
the better, "more perfect" your finished product, the more
clients you'll attract and keep. It's also imperative that you
have one of the modern, "ball" typewriters. Only these kinds of
typewriters give each character a clear, even and uniform
impression on your paper. Typewriters of the "arm & hammer" type
quickly become misaligned, producing a careless look on your
As mentioned earlier, you can start almost immediately from
your kitchen table if you've got a typewriter. However, in order
to avoid fatigue and back problems, invest in a typing stand and
secretary's standard typing chair just as soon as you can afford
them. Watch for office equipment sales, especially among the
office equipment leasing firms. You should be able pick up a new,
slightly damaged, or good used typewriter stand or desk for
around $20 to $25. A comparable quality secretary's typing chair
can be purchased for $50 or less.
While you're shopping for things you'll need. be sure to pick
up a chair mat. If you don't, you may suddenly find that the
carpet on the floor of the room where your do your typing, needs
replacing due to the worn spot where the chair is located and
maneuvered in front of the typewriter. You'll also want a work
stand with place marker and a convenient box or storage for
immediate paper supply. If you plan to do a great deal of work
during the evening hours, be sure to invest in an adjustable
"long arm" office work lamp.
When buying paper, visit the various wholesale paper suppliers
in your area or in nearby large city, and buy at least a half
carton--6 reams--at a time. Buying wholesale, and in quantity,
will save you quite a bit of money. The kind to buy is ordinary
20 pound white bond. Open one ream for an immediate supply at
your typewriter, and store the rest in a closet, under your bed,
or on a shelf in your garage or basement.
In the beginning, you'll be the business--typists, salesman,
advertising department, bookkeeper and janitor, so, much will
depend on your overall business acumen. Those areas in which you
lack experience or feel weak in, buy books or tapes and enhance
your knowledge. You don't have to enjoy typing, but you should
have better than average proficiency.
Your best bet is selling your services is to do is all
yourself. Every business in your area should be regarded as a
potential customer, so it's unlikely you'll have to worry about
who to call on. Begin by making a few phone calls to former
bosses or business associates--simply explain that you're
starting a typing service and would appreciate it if they'd give
you a call whenever they have extra work that you can handle for
them. Before you end the conversation, ask them to be sure to
keep you in mind and steer your way any overload typing jobs that
they might hear about.
The next step is "in-person" calls on prospective customers.
This means dressing in an impressively professional manner, and
making sales calls on the business people in your area. For this
task, you should be armed with business cards (brochures also
help..), and an order or schedule book of some sort. All of these
things take time to design and print, so while you're waiting for
delivery, use the time to practice selling via the telephone. At
this stage, your telephone efforts will be more for the purpose
of indoctrinating you into the world of selling than actually
Just be honest about starting a business, and sincere in asking
them to consider trying your services whenever they have a need
you can help them with. Insurance companies, attorneys and
distributors are always needing help with their typing, so start
with these kinds of businesses first.
For your business cards, consider a freelance artist to design
a logo for you. Check, and/or pass the word among the students in
the art or design classes at nearby college, art or advertising
school. Hiring a regular commercial artist will cost quite a bit
more, and generally won't satisfy your needs any better than the
work of a hungry beginner.
Be sure to browse through any Clip Art books that may be
available--at most print shops, newspaper offices, advertising
agencies, libraries and book stores. The point being, to come up
with an idea that makes your business card stand out; that can be
used on all printed materials, and makes you--your
company--unique or different from all others.
I might suggest something along the lines of a secretary with
pad in hand taking dictation; or perhaps a secretary wearing a
dictaphone headset seated in front of a typewriter. You might
want something distinctive for the first letter of the company,
or perhaps a scroll or flag as a background for your company
At any rate, once you've got your logo or company design, the
next step is your local print shop. Ask them to have the
lettering you want to use, typeset in the style you like
best--show them your layout and order a least a thousand business
cards printed up.
For your layout, go with something basic. Expert typing
services, in the top left hand corner..Dictation by phone, in the
top right hand corner..Your company logo or design centered on
the card with something like, complete secretarial services,
under it...Your name in the lower left hand corner, and your
telephone number in the lower right hand corner.
Everybody that you call on in person, be sure to give one of
your business cards. And now, you're ready to start making those
in-person business sales calls.
Your best method of making sales calls would be with a business
telephone directory and a big supply of loose leaf notebook
paper. Go through the business directory and write down the
company names, addresses and telephone number. Group all of those
within one office building together, and those on the same street
in the same block. Be sure to leave a couple of spaces between
the listing of each company. And of course, start a new page for
those in different building or block. Now, simply start with the
first business in the block, or on the lowest floor in a building
and number them in consecutive order. This will enable you to
call on each business in order as you proceed along a street,
down the block, or through a building.
You'll be selling your capabilities--your talents--and charging
for your time--the time it takes you to get set up and complete
the assignment they give you. You should be organized to take
work with you on the spot, and have it back at a promised time;
arrange to pick up any work they have, and deliver it back to
them when it's completed; and handle the dictation or special
work assignments by phone. You should also emphasize your
abilities to handle everything by phone, particularly when they
have a rush job.
Establish your fees according to how long it takes you to
handle their work, plus your cost of supplies--work
space--equipment and paper--then fold in a $5 profit. In other
words, for half hour job that you pick up on a regular sales or
delivery call, you should charge $10...
Another angle to include would be copies. Establish a working
relationship with a local printer, preferably one who has a copy
machine comparable to a big Kodak 150 Extraprint. When your
clients need a sales letter or whatever plus so many copies, you
can do it all for them.
Only make copies on the very best of dry paper copying
machines, and only for 50 copies or less. More than 50 copies,
it'll be less expensive and you'll come out with a better
finished product by having them printed on a printing press. When
your furnish copies, always fold in your copying or printing
costs, plus a least a dollar or more for every 50 copies you
By starting with former employers and/or business associates,
many businesses are able to line up 40 hours of work without even
making sales call. If you're lucky enough to do this, go with it,
Start lining up your friends to do the work for you--girls who
work all day at a regular job, but need more money, and
housewives with time on their hands. You tell them what kind of
equipment is needed, and the quality of work you demand. You
arrange to pay them so much per hour for each job they handle for
you--judging from the time you figure the job would take if you
were doing it, or on a percentage basis. I feel the best
arrangements is on a hourly basis according to a specified amount
of time each job normally takes.
Whenever, and as soon as you've got a supply of "workers" lined
up, you turn your current assignments over to them, and get back
to lining up more business. If you're doing well selling by
phone, and your area seems to respond especially well to selling
by phone, then you should immediately hire commission sales
people. Train them according to your own best methods and put
them to work assisting you. Your sales people can work out of
their own homes, using their telephones, provided you've got your
area's business community organized in a loose leaf notebook
style. All you do is give them so many pages from your notebook,
from which they make sales calls each week.
Even so, you should still make those in-person sales calls..If
for some reason you get bogged down, and can't or don't want to,
then hire commission sales people to do it for you..Generally,
women selling this type of service bring back the most sales. And
for all your commission sales people, the going rate should be 30
percent of the total amount of sale. Point to remember: Sooner or
later, you're going to have to hire a full-time telephone sales
person, plus another full time person to make in-person sales for
you--Eventually, you want workers to handle all the work for you,
and sales people to do all the selling for you--So the sooner you
can line up people for these jobs, the faster, your business is
going to prosper.
Later on, you'll want a sales manager to direct your sales
people and keep them on track, so try to find a "future sales
manager" when you begin looking for sales people.
Your basic advertising should be a regular quarter page ad in
the yellow pages of both your home service telephone directory
and the business yellow pages. You'll find that 50 percent of
your first time clients will come to you because they have an
immediate need and saw your ad in the yellow pages, so don't
skimp on either the size or the "eye-catching" graphics of this
A regular one column by 3-inch ad in the Sunday edition of your
area's largest newspaper would also be a good idea. Any
advertising you do via radio or television will be quite
expensive with generally very poor results, so don't even give
serious consideration to that type of advertising.
By far, your largest advertising outlays will be direct mail
efforts. You should have a regular mailing piece that you send
out to your entire business community at least once a month. This
is handled by sending out 200 to 500 letters per day. For this,
you should obtain a third class postage permit or else these
postage costs will drive you out of business.
Your mailing piece should consist of a colorful brochure that
describes your business. It should explain the many different
kinds of assignments you can handle--a notation that no job is
too small or too large--and a statement of your guarantee. Do not
quote prices in your brochure--simply ask the recipient to call
for a quotation or price estimate.
It's also a good idea to list background and experience of the
business owner, plus several business testimonials or/
compliments. You could also include a couple of pictures showing
your workers busy and actually handling secretarial assignments.
The most important part of your brochure will be your closing
statement--an invitation, indeed--a demand that the recipient
call you for further information.
All this can very easily be put together in a Z-folded, 2-sided
self mailer. Again, look for a freelance copywriter and artist to
help you put it together. Once you've got your "dummy" pretty
well set the way you want it, make copies of it, and either take
or send it to several direct mail advertising agencies. Ask them
for their suggestions of how they would improve it, and for a bid
on the cost if you were to retain them to handle it for you.
Listen to their ideas and incorporate them where-and if- you
think they would make your brochure better. And, if one of them
does come in with a cost estimate that's lower than your
independent, "do-it-yourself" costs, then think seriously about
assigning the job to them.
This is definitely the most important piece of work that will
ever come out of your office, so be sure it's the best, and
positively indicative of your business. This will be the business
image you project, so make sure it reflects the quality, style
and credibility of your business--your thinking, and your
Your brochure should be on 60 pound coated paper, in at least
two colors and by a professional printer. The end result is the
Z-folded brochure--Z-folded by the printer--with your third class
mailing permit showing on the cover side. This cover side should
be flamboyant and eye-catching. You want your mailing piece to
stand out in a pile of 50 or 60 pieces of other mail received by
When you're ready to mail, simply take a couple of cartons of
your brochures to an addressing shop, have them run your
brochures through their addressing machine, loaded with your
mailing list, bundle them and drop them off at the post office
This takes us back to the planning on how to compile your
mailing list. I suggest that you begin with Cheshire Cards by
Xerox. You type the name of your addressee on the cards, maintain
these cards in the order of your choice, take your boxes of cards
to the addressing shop whenever you have a mailing, and there's
no further work on your part. The addressing shop loads their
machine with your cards, prints the address on your cards
directly onto your brochures, and gives the cards back to you
when the mailing is completed. A mailing of 100,000 brochures,
via this method--generally could be completed and on its way in
one 8-hour day.
In essence, you'll want to solicit business with a regular
routine of telephone selling, in-person sales calls at the
prospective client's place of business, media advertising and
direct mail efforts. All of these efforts are important and
necessary to the total success of your business--don't try to cut
corners or spare the time or expense needed to make sure you're
operating at full potential in these areas! In addition to these
specific areas, it would be wise for you to attend chamber of
commerce meetings, and join several of your area civic
clubs--you'll meet a great number of business leaders at these
meetings and through their association, you'll gain a great deal
of business--and even help in many of your needs.
Once you're organized and rolling, you can easily expand your
market nationwide with the installation of a toll free telephone
and advertising in business publications. Perhaps you can add to
your primary business with a "mailing shop" of your own--the
rental of mailing lists--specialized temporary help
services--telephone answering services--and even survey work..
The "bottom line" thing to remember in order to achieve total
success, is planning. Plan your initial operation through from
start to finish before you even think about soliciting your first
customer. Get your operational plan down on paper--itemize your
needs, estimate your costs, line up your operating capital, and
set forth milestones for growth.
Set profit figures you want to be realizing 3-months...
6-months... 1 year... 2-years... and 3-years from your
business start-up date. Learn all you can about the "support
systems" involved in operating a profitable business--planning,
advertising, selling, bookkeeping, and banking--and continue to
up-date your knowledge with a program of continuous learning. Do
your homework properly, an there's just no way you can fail with
a Home-Based Secretarial Service.