Start your own service business by following this advice:

1. Ensure That People Will Pay for Your Service

This sounds simple, but it is critical to your success. There must be a need for what you do in your community. Do plenty of market research, understand and learn from your competitors, and learn as much as you can about the people—your future clients—in your town or community you plan on marketing to.

2. Start Slow

It may not be the best idea to quit your job and jump into your new endeavor head-first. If possible, consider first offering your services on the side while you still work a full- or part-time gig. This allows you to evaluate your market and get a feel for what it takes to run the business. Plus, you can slowly build your clientele until you are generating enough business to make your new venture a full-time job.

3. Be Realistic About Your Earnings

An experienced CPA in a high-income area could easily earn six figures in the first year. A dog groomer, not so much. Upon starting up, you might barely break even. Early on, you might even spend more money than you take in. Before doing anything, create a budget and ensure that you have enough savings to support the business and yourself until you start turning a profit.

4. Draft a Business Plan

Whether you decide to start slow or go at it full-steam, spend some time writing a complete business plan. Doing so will give you a realistic assessment of how much money you will need to start the business and how much money you can expect to generate in the first few years. But be aware that once the business has started, your business plan will need to be updated and changed to fit reality. You may find that the money you actually make is only half of your projections. As such, make sure your plan addresses these possibilities.

5. Put Your Finances in Order

Once you know how much you need to start the business, figure out how you are going to obtain the funding. Can you turn to your savings? A family member? Or will you need to get a loan from a bank or an investor?

6. Learn Your Legal Requirements

Check with your local government to obtain the proper permits and licensing for your area. In addition, apply for any certifications and licenses required for your industry, field and locale.

7. Get Insurance

It’s worth the cost to protect yourself and your business. Many providers offer insurance to small business owners, so shop around and find one that you can afford.

8. Educate Yourself

Part of this will be done in your business plan, but it is up to you to take your time and go further. Many people put pressure on themselves to start a business as soon as possible, as if success was determined by speed to market. In reality, the people that often succeed take their time and really learn about their industry, business and market. Find out where, how and why your type of business is successful, and find out where it doesn’t work. Is it a business that will need to scale in order to turn a profit, and if so, do you have a plan to do so? Ask as many hard questions as you possibly can, and then go out and get the answers.

9. Market Your Services

To make it big, you must promote your services. You can start small, for example, by ensuring that your information is correct on Yelp and in the Yellow Pages. In addition, hang signs in local shops with the owners’ permission, post your services on Craigslist, and offer current clients discounts for referring you to others. Then, as you build your client base, create a website, take out ads in the local paper, and even consider direct-mail pieces and T.V. and radio ads.

10. Don’t Do It Alone

One of the biggest traps that entrepreneurs face is getting lost in the details and the day-to-day tasks. Anyone who has started a successful business will tell you about the people that helped them succeed, just as everyone who fails will have an “if I only knew” story. The best way to combat this is to surround yourself with people that have more experience and are wiling to help you succeed. Mentors are invaluable not just at the beginning, but also before the beginning and well after. Make sure you seek them out and nurture those relationships.

11. Commit

Getting your business off the ground can be an extremely difficult proposition, especially if you are working another job. So be ready for the rigors of business ownership. Make sure that you have the dedication and energy to push through the hard times. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but this is also one of the reasons why it can be so rewarding.

1. Not Outlining the Specifics of a Job Before You Begin

When you provide a service rather than a physical product, it’s important to be clear about the scope and parameters of what you will provide to customers, otherwise they could easily misinterpret the situation. For example, if you have been hired to repaint a brand new house, you know you won’t have to do a lot of prep work because the building is new. But unless you’re clear about this from the beginning, the customer may start to wonder about the quality of work if they don’t see you prep the entire house. Make sure the customer understands the scope of the work you’re offering by including plenty of details in the estimate or bid. You can email clients an estimate by using this free customizable estimate template.

2. Being Vague About Project Costs and Timeline

It’s important to be specific about how much time it will take to complete a project, and how much you will charge for the work. Not doing so can hurt your business in two ways. First, you need to have a thorough understanding of what it will cost you in time before you can give an accurate bid. In addition, if you don’t tell customers in advance how much your services cost, it can create bad feelings if the bill is more than they expect. Imagine the house painter above told customers he would charge them by the hour, but didn’t estimate the number of hours the job would take. If the customer agreed, thinking it was likely a two-day job, but it took four days, the customer would likely be unhappy — and possibly publish negative online reviews of the business.

3. Not Having Customers Sign a Contract Before You Begin Work

It benefits both you and your customers to ensure that all legalities of the project are stated upfront, and that customers sign a contract indicating that they understand the terms. The contract should include the obvious, such as price, timelines, and how payment is to be made, as well as other details. For example, what happens if the customer changes the parameters of the project halfway through the job? How will you settle a dispute should one arise? What happens if the customer cancels the job after you’ve purchased the materials for it? If you don’t already have a service contract that’s legal in your state, Rocket Lawyer offers your first one for free.

4. Beginning Work Without a Deposit

It’s wise to ask customers for a deposit or partial payment when operating a service business. This helps pay for the materials you’ll need to complete the job, and will go a long way in keeping you from getting stiffed by clients. The amount you ask for is typically based on how long the project will last. For instance, if it’s a short-term project of a week or less, asking for 50 percent upfront, and the remaining balance after you’ve completed the job is standard. For a project expected to last a few weeks, ask for 25 percent upfront, 25 percent halfway through, and the remaining balance when the job is complete. If the project is scheduled to take longer than a month, you can ask for 25 percent upfront, two milestones of 25 percent each, and the final balance when the project is completed. If the customer fails to meet a payment milestone, the work should be put on hold until the payment is made.

5. Allowing Customers to Micromanage Projects

One of the quickest ways projects can go awry is if you let customers dictate the specifics of how you should do the job. Customers hire you because you have expertise they lack, and they are willing to pay you for it. But some customers still want to micromanage their service providers — and those jobs typically don’t end well. For example, our painter is trained and knows the best type of paint to use for the house. But if he allows the client to dictate the paint type, the job may not turn out as well as it would have had he been in charge.

Running a service business can be deeply satisfying because you’re doing work for customers with that they can’t do themselves. But to have a successful and profitable business, you’ll have to set up some smart business practices and avoid the mistakes described here.