The framework of your business basically defines the overall operation of your business. Decisions you make here can be translated in to your policies and procedures.
Your framework may include information on:
Packaging Your Products/Services
How are you going to package your services? Will you charge an hourly rate (hours are billed at a standard hourly rate), offer a pre-paid package (a block or set number of hours are purchased at a discounted rate), or both?
What will you charge? You will need to consider business expenses, living expenses, and profits, and skill set, in order to decide on a rate that not only supports your lifestyle and financial goals, but also one you feel you can confidently sell your services at based on your qualifications.
How will you track your time? Time tracking can be done manually (using spreadsheets for example), or with various software programs and accounting packages. You must track your hours accurately, keep detailed notes, and create reports that will be used for billing.
How often will you invoice? Invoicing monthly or even bi-monthly is probably often enough. Anything more often creates a lot more work for you, taking your time away from actually making money.
When will payments be due? Invoices should state when payments are due, (on receipt for example), and then it is up to you to decide on a grace period. Depending on billing cycle and grace period, payments should be expected to arrive a few days after billing.
How will you collect your payments? As an online business it makes sense to use electronic payment systems to receive your money. Cheques and money orders may be accepted under your own discretion, but you should always avoid cash since it is not really secure.
How will you keep track of your financial transactions? It is best to research what is required based on your business needs and local tax requirements, and consult with an accountant when in doubt.
Email & Telephone Protocols
How will you communicate with your clients? Email and/or by telephone will most likely be the primary ways you will communicate with your clients.
Refrain from free email accounts such as yahoo or hotmail, and set up proper email addresses containing your domain name, which better demonstrate to your clients that you are a legitimate business. Be professional in your greetings and messages, choose fonts that are crisp and clear, and stay away from wild colours and fancy backgrounds. Attach a signature that will provide the reader with valuable details on who you are and how to contact you.
Establish a standard turnaround time for replying to email messages that will work for you and let your clients know they can expect a response to their email (and not necessarily completed work or resolution to their problem) within that time frame. Reply as promised.
You will need an actual telephone number where you can be reached with little risk of service interruptions, and clear reception. Call display is a nice added feature. Voice mail or an answering machine is a must.
Decide how you will handle your calls. Consider answering scheduled telephone calls only and let all others go to voice mail. And/or dedicate a certain time frame within the day or week to answer calls on a first come first served basis. Set a standard turnaround time for replying to telephone messages and let your clients know they can expect a response (and not necessarily completed work or resolution to their problem) within that time frame. Reply as promised.