How to move your service-based business online

April 21, 2020
5 minutes read

As the world is going through a global pandemic, small businesses who once opened their doors to bustling foot traffic and to their local community and loyal customers, have had to temporarily close down until it becomes safe to reopen to the public.

Small businesses that once relied on in-person services have taken the hardest hit. Hairstylists, private tutors, fitness instructors, contractors, dental hygienists, landscapers —the list goes on.

If that’s you, you’re in the right place. In this guide, we’re giving you hands-on tips and tools to keep your service-based business running, even if your doors are physically closed.

1. Offering your services online

Your clients may be at home, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need your services. We’ve looked into some search terms and have seen huge spikes in volume (as seen on Google Trends and the COVID-19 dashboard by Glimpse):

  • “How to cut your own hair” and “DIY haircut”
  • “How to do your own nails”
  • “Guitar tuner”
  • “Resistance bands,” “yoga mat,” and “dumbbells”
  • “Bread maker” and “yeast for bread”

This means people are craving your expertise even if they can’t walk into your hair salon, gym, or bakery. Here’s how you can make it happen.

Provide 1:1 virtual consultation

Use your skills and knowledge to consult your clients over a video call. While you can’t physically be there with them, you can teach them how to do something themselves and answer their questions in the process.

Tip: Asking for donations or a pay-what-you-can model from your clients is a great way of allowing them to support your small business – we’ve seen tremendous support for the small business community so do not be afraid to ask.

Here are some ideas to use as inspiration:

  • Beauty salon: virtual assessment for makeup or skincare recommendations
  • Hair salon: consultations for trimming edges, hair color touch ups, updo hairstyles, DIY masks, etc.
  • Fitness studio: individual workout plans and demo of individual exercises on the call
  • Contractor: virtual assessment of walls or kitchen cabinets for recommendations

To provide an individual virtual consultation, you only need two tools:

  • Zoom for video calls: free for unlimited 1:1 meetings, or $14.99/month if you want to provide recorded calls for your clients for future reference
  • Calendly for call scheduling: free for one event type, or $8/month for unlimited event types

Host live virtual training for groups

You can take the first option and scale it by offering group training. You can think of this as less of a personal consultation and more of a class setting where you’re teaching to a group. As a bonus, you can add a Q&A session at the end

Check out these ideas and get inspired:

  • Yoga studio: a full-hour class that everyone can follow from their home, with yoga mats they already have
  • Restaurant: a cooking class for a two-course meal
  • Dog walker: a class on keeping dogs entertained and healthy at home with games, scents, homemade dog toys, etc.

The toolkit for live virtual trainings is simple—simply choose one of these two:

  • Zoom: free option for group calls under 40 minutes, $14.99/month for up to 100 participants
  • Podia for webinars: ideal if you want to host live training and keep selling that recording later on, $39/month with a free 14-day trial

Create an online tutorial

Like the idea of selling your training without doing it in real-time? You can package your knowledge in many ways, such as step-by-step tutorials and demonstrations. It can be in video, audio, or text format, and you can mix them based on what’s best for your topic.

You can also sell resources that solve your client’s problems on a smaller scale, such as checklists, templates, scripts, and similar digital elements.

Here are some ideas:

  • Nail salon: course on DIY nail art at home, color chart for finding best nail polish color for each skin tone
  • Photography studio: course on portrait photography, packs of Photoshop actions
  • Guitar instructor: course about chords for beginner and advanced players, chord libraries

Our recommended tool you can use to sell any digital products is Podia. On top of webinars we mentioned before, you can use it to sell online courses, digital downloads, and even memberships. You can see how they’re supporting creators during COVID-19 here.

Bonus: Get products into your client’s hands

If it’s safe and feasible for you to do so, you can bring extra delight to your clients (and income for yourself) by delivering products you’d otherwise use for your in-person services.

A great example comes from a New York hair salon. They offer at-home root touch up kits they personally deliver to their client’s doors, and plan to keep doing so for as long as they have the inventory:

If you want to do this, consider porch pickups and similar contactless forms of delivery. You can even pair this product sales with video chat consultations about the products if needed.

2. Get paid digitally

If you usually get paid through physical payments like cash or checks, this is probably a particularly scary time for you. Serving your clients virtually as we covered in the previous section won’t get you paid if you don’t make it possible.

Use invoicing for the online work you do

Invoicing will boost efficiency while helping you get paid despite not having your clients in front of you. You can simplify and automate this process by using Wave’s free invoicing software. You can make your invoices look professional by adding your logo and colors, customize columns for your line items, and save precious time sending follow ups by having Wave send automated payment reminders.

Receive payments quickly and automatically

If you’re providing online services to maintain your cash flow, check and cash payments aren’t a great option.

Wave’s bank payments (ACH and EFT) option is like getting paid by check, but better. Your invoice can have a “Pay Now” button that will let your client pay instantly by secure bank payment. Their payment will be in your bank account in as fast as 2-7 business days.

When you accept bank payments on invoices sent through Wave, all of your invoicing and accounting records are updated automatically.

Find out more about how Wave is easing financial burden on small business owners during a challenging time

Give your customers an option to pay through installments

Some of your customers might be going through a financially challenging time–so offering the option of paying through installments is a great way of securing new business while also offering options that cater to the needs of your customers.

There are times in which you may need to negotiate a payment plan with your clients; such as a subscription based service, large project or an installment plan. Managing a number of payment frequencies can become tedious and complex, especially if you’re creating invoices from scratch every time. Find out how Wave's Recurring Invoicing can help.

3. Win new clients online

You’ve hit the ground running in this new situation by reaching out to your existing and past clients. But your business has always relied on a steady influx of new clients—so how can you attract them now?

Here are some easy tips that will help you reach new potential clients online.

Get intentional with social media

Take some time to brainstorm different ways you can educate potential clients on your social media profiles for free. Some of these can include:

  • 15-second video tips on Instagram stories
  • Go live on Instagram or Facebook where you answer questions people ask in the comments
  • Short written tips on Twitter
  • Giveaways that encourage sharing your post or tagging a friend (remember to follow each platform’s official rules for giveaways)

These will give you extra visibility and help you book more clients. Map these activities out on your calendar based on the time you can dedicate to them.

Ask for ratings and testimonials from existing customers

Your happy customers already know that small businesses need their extra support. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them and ask for testimonials—it will only take a few minutes of their time.

Focus on services such as:

On top of that, be sure to submit your business to directories such as Yelp, Yellowpages, and any other directories relevant in your industry.

Connect through emails

If you haven’t considered email marketing for your service-based business, now is the time.

Email marketing is the primary way to acquire new customers for 81% of small and medium businesses, and 49% of consumers said that they would like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a weekly basis.

With a tool like ConvertKit, you can build a landing page in minutes and manage up to 500 subscribers for free. You can share your landing page on your social media and link to it in your profile URL.

You can use this strategy to:

  • Attract new leads by creating a landing page specific to one of your new virtual services
  • Email your new leads with available appointments or upcoming group sessions
  • Let your leads know they can reply to any of your emails with questions

4. Manage your business and finances

All of these new strategies and operations may throw you off your regular bookkeeping and accounting habits.

With the delay of tax-filing deadlines, we want to help you get your finances in order on time instead of getting overwhelmed with this new way of doing business.

Here are some ways you can get started:

We’re in this together

These are challenging times, but we’re here to help your business adapt . By taking the time now to set up your business online it will help keep your lights on, but it will also help set yourself up for the future as the world becomes increasingly more digital.


Do you need more tips and resources to navigate these new times for your business? Make sure to let us know by tweeting at us.

By Marijana Kay

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

Create your truly free Wave account today.

Let's do this