Do you want to start a business? Great! Entrepreneurship is an amazing journey, and it is one of my great passions. Download the free Business Plan Basics worksheet to work alongside the information in this blog, and get ready to bring your vision into reality!
I am a third generation entrepreneur and I’ve owned 4 successful small businesses of my own. Small business offers rewarding hard work, a connection to what you love, and (if it is done right) financial abundance. The first step in moving from employee to entrepreneur is to assess if this is the right move for your unique personality and lifestyle. (Click here to schedule a free 60 min assessment with me!)
After you've decided that entrepreneurship is right for you, here is an outline of action steps for starting your small business, plus you'll find a ton of free tools and resources here.
Define your mission
Gain absolute clarity on what you want to offer, who you want to serve, how you are going to serve them, and what you are going to charge for those services. I’ve created a worksheet (click here) to help you if you’re still fuzzy on some of these details.
Crunch your numbers
This should be done in-depth as part of your business plan, but my experience is that a large percentage of people start (and run) their businesses without ever having a business plan. This isn't advised - even if your business is doing "pretty good" - it could be better if you took charge by developing a business plan.
However, even if you're not going to develop a full business plan, you must at least crunch some basic numbers to see if your business idea is feasible. I’ve seen a plethora of businesses fail just because there was a lack of awareness on this subject. First, find out what your overhead is by adding up all your expenses (including what you plan to pay yourself). Then, figure out how much of your product or services you’d need to sell to cover that expense. For example, say you want to open a popcorn store. If your overhead is $6,000/mo and you are selling popcorn for $15/bag, you’d have to sell 400 bags of popcorn a month just to cover your expenses (not to make a profit). You can dig deeper into cost analysis (including your personal budget and how that relates to a beginning entrepreneur) in my Employee to Entrepreneur course. Download a free budget template here.
Get Feedback/Do Market Research
This can begin in really simple ways. Talk to your friends about your idea for a product or service, and research the industry and other businesses that are offering a similar service. While you don't want to give your idea away, you can ask questions of the public community (Facebook Groups, Reddit, etc) to understand your market better. The Small Business Development Center is a great resource for vetting your idea............. If you still feel good about your idea after doing this preliminary research, you can begin to dig deeper. I've written a blog on how to do that here.
Decide on your business name
Your business name should be something that resonates with you and will be easy to brand. Many people just use their name, some people use a cute play on words, and others choose a word that has deep meaning for them. I suggest tossing around ideas with friends, and doing some internet research and make sure no one else is currently using this name, or a name that is too similar.
I know several different business that had to change their name years into owning and operating their business because another business had that name before their start date. Do your homework!
First, type your desired name into your favorite search engine and seeing if any other businesses come up. If that passes, go to the second stage, and check the US Trademark Office by typing in your desired business name. Finally, check with your Secretary of State to see if there are any businesses registered in your state with the name you want to use. For Oregon, you can find that information here. For other states, a quick Google search will find you the website you need.
Secure your URL
URL stands for Universal Resource Locator, but really it just means your website address. You can see if the URL you want is available by going to www.godaddy.com. Remember that your URL should be something short and easy for people to remember and type into a search engine. Double check that your name doesn’t accidentally say something that you don’t want it to. For example, the company “Who Represents” unintentionally becomes www.whorepresents.com. For more URL fails, click here.
Decide if you want a logo or image to represent your business
You don’t have to have a logo, but it can help people recognize your business and it can evoke a powerful feeling in your prospective clients. It’s also helpful to use in marketing and branding. You can make this yourself, have a friend help, hire a professional branding company, or use an online service. If you are going to design the logo yourself, make sure that you don’t use images from the internet unless you purchase them with rights to use them. If you're looking to create your own logo, I recommend using Canva. If you are going to select an online service, I suggest Tailor Brands or Fiverr. If you're looking to reinvest your money in your local community, use Google to find a company in your home community that matches your needs. In Bend, Oregon where I live, I highly recommend Chad DeWilde and Adele Ditman. I also help clients out with logo development from time to time, but it is not my expertise.
Decide on a business structure
Next, you need to establish your business as Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Company or S-Corporation. You can read more about these business types here. The easiest and cheapest to start is the Sole proprietorship. Barbara Weltman, a tax and business attorney and author of such books as J.K. Lasser’s Small Business Taxes says. “As long as you are the only owner, you automatically become a sole proprietorship by conducting business.” However, you still might have state and city laws to comply with.
Register your business in your City
Establish your business in the city where you live and work. You can Google to find out how. Usually, there is a small free $50-$100. For Bend, Oregon, you can register your business here.
Register your business with your State
Establish your business at the State level. You can Google to find the specific website in your state, for Oregon, you can click here. Usually, there is a slightly larger fee ($100-$200).
Register your business with the IRS
Depending on how you establish your business, check with the IRS about any paperwork you need to file. If you will have employees, you will need to do further work with the IRS (like getting an EIN #). If you are just opening a Sole Proprietorship (recommended for any small or home-based business), you can just use your social security number and to your personal and business taxes together.
*Note - there are businesses that will handle your business registrations for you. If you'd like to pay for this service, check out Legal Zoom or Zen Business. However, I have found these registrations very easy, and my guess is that you'll be able to do this on your own without any problems. Trust yourself. If you're already a client of mine, I can walk you through this process via screen share during a Zoom session.
Purchase Business Insurance
Even Sole Proprietors need general liability insurance because they are personally liable for all debts and obligations of the business. Different types of businesses need different types of insurance, so talking to an insurance professional is advised. When I first started my business, I just added my business insurance onto my GEICO plan with my auto insurance. It’s really simpler than you think.
Get a Business Email
There is a plethora of ways to do this. Some people choose to just get a free Google email like email@example.com. You can also usually get and @yourbusinessname email hosted with your website. GoDaddy, recommended above, does that for a very reasonable rate.
Open a Business Bank Account(s)
Choose a Bank or Credit Union to establish your business at. I’d suggest calling around or researching online to find our what requirement various banks have and the services they offer. After you’ve made a selection, make sure to ask them what paperwork you’ll need to bring into open your account. Most banks will need a copy of your business license, or something similar.
Secure a Location for your business
If you are going to start a home based business, then you need to set up a space where you can work, purchases a file cabinet where you can keep all your documents and create a system where you can stay organized with your business tasks. I’ve met many business owners who skipped this step and ended up missing out on opportunities because of it. For example, keeping (and documenting) all your recipes for business purchases will help you write off those expenses at tax time. If you are going to rent an office or a retail location, there is an entire other list of steps (not included here, but visit my blog for more information).
Establish a Business Phone Number
If you are going to have a business-only phone, now is the time to sign up for new service. Most business owners I know these days just use their cell phone. In this case, make sure to change the outgoing message on your phone to reflect your business, and make it sound professional. Google Voice is an incredible free service that allows you to get a 2nd number and import it to your cell phone. This is a good idea so that you can keep your business calls and personal calls separate.
Build a Website
Any business in this day and age MUST have a website. You can hire someone to build your website, or you can build your own using one of the many applications available online. I personally like Weebly (www.weebly.com). I find it easy to use, and I love being able to update it whenever I want to without having to go through a third party or a website designer. You can direct your website to any url(s) you buy (above). Make sure that you fill in the back SEO part of each page on your website. For clients coaching with me or taking my employee to entrepreneur course, we can build your website together using Zoom during our session time.
List your Business with Search Engines
List your Business on Referring Sites
This helps drive more traffic to your site. Make sure that you have a solid bio rich with key words and that all your information (address, phone, etc) is accurate and matches on each of the referring sites.
Create your Social Media Profiles
Create Printed Materials
At the very least, you will need business cards. Depending on your business you might also want to create posters or brochures. Vista Print is an inexpensive easy way to get started.
This is where you are going to go out and sale yourself. Many entrepreneurs find this to be the most difficult task. In order to sell yourself, you have to believe in yourself. You have to be confident, clear and comfortable with your products, or services and what you charge for them. People can feel your energy, and it is important that you are aligned (thoughts, emotions, and actions). If this is an area where you struggle, you can work through your blocks in my employee to entrepreneur course.
Once you are aligned, you can confidently and gracefully communicate with people who need your services. Tell your family and friends about what you are doing. Offer free courses or workshops relating to your business, identify people and businesses that could use your services and go talk with them. Drop of brochures and put up flyers. Go out and shine!
Business is an expansive and exciting subject, and this blog has just begun to discuss the tip of the figurative iceberg. For a more in-depth exploration, read more of my blogs or join my employee to entrepreneur course.
For more information, schedule a free consultation.
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Mindy Amita Aisling