TDot’s Tips: Your first 3 purchases as a n00b solo

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 14, 2013 in TDot's Tips | Subscribe

OK so the whole “hour a day for the business” thing has worked out better for the business than the blawg :beatup:

But there are now two (2!) entries posted within the past 30 days, so in a way the activity here has actually increased +100% :P

My still-sorta-hiatus has been the byproduct of the solo practice, which has somewhat-bizarrely produced more (paying!) work than I thought I’d have at this point.1

And that whole “Hey! T. hasn’t been evicted yet!” has in turn prompted some former classmates and law:/dev/null readers to ask for any insights I may or may not have on how they can get started themselves. Since I’ve been telling them all to follow the same first few steps — after paying your taxes of course — I’m throwing it into another one of these entries.

So are you a new or aspiring n00b solo like me?2 Here are the first 3 things you need to get started:

  1. Your own domain name:3 It’s 2013; the internet stopped being new years ago. There is now -0- excuse for you still using smartsexyesquire@gmail.com as your professional email address.4

    Domain names typically cost less than $1-per-month. GoDaddy in particular always has dozens of coupons you can find with a quick Google search, often letting you buy a domain name for $3 or less. I’ve got dozens of domains registered for my law firm that aren’t even being used yet, just because they’re cheap and I might find a use for them later.

    Finding a hosting provider (a company that gives you some hard drive space on a computer somewhere in the cloud, to which your personalized domain name will point) is cheap too. I’m currently paying $9.95 a month at DreamHost, which hosts all of my domains — including lawdevnull.com — and comes with an email server preconfigured.5

    So for a $11 a month and less than 10 minutes of startup time, you can have a much fancier smartsexyesquire@mylawfirmname.com. Clients expect a custom name over an Gmail / Yahoo / Hotmail email account, so don’t disappoint them. ;)

  2. Dedicated contact information: For clients to hire you, they first have to know you’re a lawyer. And for them to know you’re a lawyer, someone somewhere (probably you) has to tell them how to contact you.

    And the odds are good you don’t want to give them a home address or your mobile phone number, especially when they start referring others to you and those referrals refer other referrals. Before long you’ve got people from all walks of life knowing where you live, even if their legal needs and your practice areas don’t match up.

    Fix that problem before it starts by getting dedicated contact information for your law office. Lots of new attorneys use Google Voice for free and swear by it; I was one of the unlucky ones6 — folks who called my Google Voice number would sporadically get a message that my number was disconnected, which I discovered is a not-uncommon problem — but ported my Google Voice number over to Verizon Wireless and pay ~$20 a month for unlimited minutes using their Home Phone Connect service. Either way, a dedicated phone line is fairly cheap.

    Then you need an address. A Post Office box is fine starting out, and costs as little as $2 a month depending on where you’re located and what size you get. If you feel the need to get a physical office that works too, but until you get a stream of clients you’re usually fine meeting folks in a municipal library or a Starbucks or your client’s place of business (many clients love not having to go anywhere). The key point is not giving out your home address.

  3. Business cards: I don’t care what anyone else tells you about those .vcf files, QR codes, or whatever fancy new-fangled foolishness gets advocated as the latest “most awesome thing… ever!” for distributing contact information — nothing will ever beat the sheer versatility of business cards in your pocket.Keep a stack on you at all times, no matter where you are. Walking the dog? Have cards in your pocket. Going through drive-thru to get dinner? Have cards in your pocket. Filling up your car at a gas station? Have cards in your pocket.7

    On any given day you will visually cross paths with dozens of people, even if you don’t realize it. 20-30 people a day at least (unless you lead a very boring life). That translates to thousands of people you don’t know and have never met, somewhere within handshake-distance in any given year.

    500 of these raised-ink cards set me back $30 at T-Rex Cards

    500 of these two-color raised-ink cards set me back $30 at T-Rex Cards

    Now those folks might not even need a lawyer themselves; many of my cards get handed out to folks who just want to connect to talk about my alma mater or sports or my law school. But if just 1 of those thousands of people becomes a paying client, or sends a paying client your way, you’ve paid for your cards for the entire year.

    And they’re inexpensive too: you can get fancy raised-ink cards like mine from T-Rex Cards for as little as $10, or also-fancy full-color cards from Moo for a bit more.

Get these three things knocked out, and you’ll have everything you need to effectively market your nascent law practice :D

That’s it for this entry y’all — enjoy the rest of the week! :)

—===—

Past TDot’s Tips entries:

  1. Don’t confuse “paying” with lucrative of course — I’m still broke, I’m just not getting evicted or going deeper into debt at the moment :beatup: []
  2. And yes I realize it’s no longer hip to use “n00b” but (1) I don’t care and (2) I don’t care ;) []
  3. You’ll notice I didn’t say “your own website” — since the TGD Law site still hasn’t been substantively updated since I opened the firm back in October, I’m not entirely sold that having a fancy website is necessary to do well. Time will tell I guess. []
  4. Amazingly, I’ve actually been handed a business card (from a real lawyer!) listing “smartsexyesquire@somerandomdomainthatwasntgmail.com” as their email address. And folks think *I* have a big ego… []
  5. I’ve also started offering other attorneys a hosting plan through my law firm in case they’re intimidated by the geek-speak, using DreamHost on the backend. []
  6. Sound familiar? See here or here or here. :mad: []
  7. True story: I got randomly asked by another refueling motorist if I was an attorney just last week :crack: He saw the back of my car (which, admittedly, is bedecked with both NC State and NCCU Law stickers and a corresponding license plate cover) and wanted to know what area of law I practiced, because he advised entrepreneurs on how to start their businesses and they often needed an attorney. It was crazy. []

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1 Comment

Jeffery Painter
Jan 17, 2013 at 10:57 AM

If you do go with a GoogleVoice account, I just setup an ObiTalk device at my house. It is awesome! You can make US calls with a regular handset phone for free in conjunction with your GoogleVoice account (and the outgoing calls will then show up with the google voice number on the recipients caller id).

I paid about $40 for the ObiTalk100 device – even if Google decides to start charging for phone calls, it will still more than likely be significantly cheaper than getting phone service somewhere else.

So far, no dropped calls and I love it! Going on 4 weeks with it at this point. I got rid of my old phone service and just use this and my cell phone now.


 

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