From the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Q: I've been a secretary for 20-plus years and have been toying with the idea of starting a secretarial service. Now with the downturn in the economy, I really want to do it. I feel that everyone has a computer, and I don't want to be viewed as a typist. What do I specialize in, and how do I find customers?

Name withheld

A: Secretarial services specialize in many ways, such as by the service they provide (data management, desktop publishing, medical transcription, legal transcription, Web-related work, editing, proofreading and billing). Also decide what industry you'd like to serve. Next, how will you position your company--as a secretarial service, a word-processing or typing service, or as an office- or business-support service?

Once you establish your vision, the next step is finding customers. Try the following:

> Participate in one or more networking or referral organizations.
> Get listed in the Yellow Pages under multiple categories.
> Contact other office-support services about overload or work in which you specialize and they do not.
> Advertise locally, such as in a college newspaper, a chamber of commerce bulletin and in publications published by organizations of which you are a member.
> Build a Web site so you can post copies of testimonial letters and list your services.
> Cultivate relationships with local merchants who are in a position to refer clients, such as local office-supply stores and printers.


Paul and Sarah Edwards are the co-authors of 15 books, including The Entrepreneurial Parent. Send them your start-up business questions at www.workingfromhome.com or in care of Entrepreneur.