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Starting a professional practice on a shoestring budget

Before venturing off and becoming my own boss a common recurring theme in my mind was “how do I do this?” Having very limited funds in starting my own legal practice I had to go about figuring out how to set up my practice on a shoe string budget and still present a professional appearance for my clients. Here are the lessons I learned:

1. Share Space

Even though I could not wait to have an office that I could call my own, it just wasn’t practical early on. I ended up settling on a local office sharing outfit called Plaza Executive Suites which is loosely similar to the more well know Regus. In hindsight I also could have looked harder into sharing an office with another likeminded professional that was willing to sublet on a month to month basis. At the end of the day I found that not having an exclusive office of my own was not that big of a turnoff for my clients. Their main focus was the product and the value to them of the product I was selling.

2. The Cloud

When I first started my practice I shared 4 different offices throughout the valley. I took “beggars can’t be choosers” to heart and hustled for every client I could get. Having all of my files accessible on the cloud was critical. There are many cloud based services out there. Some of the most notable are Google Drive and Dropbox. I started with Dropbox, have experimented with Google Drive and am hands down a strong proponent of Dropbox.

3. Answering Service

Paying a secretary or receptionist to man the phones was simply not in my budget. Heck, I didn’t even have a full time office for myself much less the budget to pay a full time employ and find a place to put him/her. Although there are many options out there I ended settling on a company back East called MyReceptionist. They have packages that charge based on the monthly minutes used and as I grew I upgraded. Even now where I could easily afford a receptionist I have stuck with them because they are open 24/7 rain or shine and do a great job of transferring calls and taking messages.

4. Virtual Phone System

Having a dedicated hard line was certainly not in my budget early on and the cost would have been astronomical given the many offices I was sharing. So I turned to a virtual phone system called Ringcentral. I record the messages I want my clients to hear when they call in and then coordinate how the call gets routed. Early on I would have the call ring to my cell a few times and then transfer to the virtual receptionist to avoid new client calls from going into voicemail. I still use that system today because of the flexibility it provides.

5. Have a professional website

When I first started my practice I knew virtually nothing about building websites. But on a shoe string budget I had no choice but to learn. Since then my law practice website, alexsanchezlaw.com, has been through at least a dozen transformations. As my web design skills have improved I have continuously updated that site. This is how DOTLABDESIGN was born. Now I specialize in building professional websites for small to medium site businesses at very affordable rates.

What ideas can you share that helped your business get off the ground when you were operating on a shoe string budget? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

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