7 Steps to Starting a Business This Week
Have you ever thought about starting your own business, but worry that it’s too hard and you’ll never be able to get it done?
Let’s take a look at some of the main things you need to consider after you get “bitten by the entrepreneur bug.” Although there are many steps, the good news is that a lot of them can be taken care of in a single afternoon!
1. Consider Your Needs
Before you get started, take the time to look at your situation and make sure you have everything you need at hand to launch the business you want.
Here are some questions to help get you started.
- “How much money do I need to launch this idea?” Some businesses can operate on a shoestring. Others–especially brick and mortar shops–will need initial operating capital, often in the form of a business loan.
- “Do I possess all the expertise necessary to get started?” Or will you need to hire a manager, website developer, accountant, etc.?
- “Will I need to hire employees?” Or are you planning to be a solopreneur?
- “Do I have time to devote to this business?” If you have a full-time job, when will you make time for your own business?
- “Can I afford this business to not be profitable right away?” Keep in mind that, while your idea may have incredible potential, very few new businesses bring in profits for at least a year.
As you’re thinking about your business idea, be sure to check out our article on articulating your business vision.
2. Write a Basic Business Plan
So, you have your resources and you’re ready to go. But before you can hang out your shingle, you’ll need to collect your ideas, identify and research your unknowns, and put it all together in a written business plan.
The complexity of business plans has frozen some would-be entrepreneurs in their tracks, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. At its core, a business plan simply outlines your concept. It explains your potential market, your staffing or professional needs, and other issues that you need to know before you can open your physical or virtual doors to customers.
Unless you’re seeking outside funding, a business plan isn’t absolutely necessary, but the process of writing one can help your idea take shape.
Here are some questions to consider when drafting your business plan:
- What’s already out there that’s similar to your idea? Who are your main competitors?
- How does your idea improve upon an existing product or service? Does your business solve a problem? If so, what is it? How does it improve your potential customers’ lives?
- Who is your most likely audience? Who will you target to buy your products or hire you? What are their pain points that you can solve for them?
- What are the basic needs for your business? This could include technology (hardware and software), an office or storefront, an e-commerce website, sales people or other staff, or legal and accounting professionals.
For the basics of what to include in a business plan, there are a number of templates you can download. For context, it might also help to take a look at Apple’s first business plan for the Macintosh computer.
Once you have a pretty solid basis for your business idea, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
3. Create Your Brand
There are many elements involved in creating a brand, so let’s start with the basics. What’s the name of your business going to be? How is it going to stand out from your competitors?
Before you commit to a name, do your due diligence to make sure it works. Here are some things to consider:
- Google the name (as well as alternative spellings and variations) to make sure no one else is using it. You don’t want anyone to confuse your business with someone else’s. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll want at least be sure you no one else already uses name locally. (e.g. Nancy’s Bakery in Chicago isn’t likely to threaten the business of Nancy’s Bakery in Vancouver, however, nancysbakery.com might be a different story.)
- Is the associated domain name available? If not, we’ve got you covered.
- Does your name (and domain name) pass the radio test?
- Check to see if you can get social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) in the same name . Namecheckr allows you to search across all platforms as well as domains.
If you’ve taken care of all these points, congratulations! Go ahead and register your name in all the appropriate places as soon as possible (domain registrars, town business records, etc.).
Next, you’ll need your “trade name.” In the U.S. that’s your DBA, which stands for “doing business as,” while in the UK and many other countries, it’s referred to as “trading as.” A trade name or DBA allows you to legally operate your business as a separate entity from you as a person, and is required in order to open up a bank account or begin other legal/financial activities (see below). Typically, it’s a simple and inexpensive process but will vary depending on your location. For more information, WikiHow has a great article providing more detail on DBAs for Americans.
If you have a product or business that’s likely to be copied, you might consider trademarking your business name or getting a patent on your new product.
4. Carve Out a Financial Space
- Open a new bank account just for this business. Many banks will ask for the DBA (and in the U.S, an Employer Identification Number (EIN)), so be sure to get that first.
- Check country and local laws about tax collection. You may be responsible for sales tax (in the U.S.), the Value Added Tax (in Europe), or other taxes.
- Set up a system for recording income and expenses. If you’re just starting out, you can use an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. If you want more features, such as invoicing, linking up to your bank account, sharing with your accountant, etc. it might be worth looking at professional software. A few great accounting and invoicing options include:
Depending on the nature/size of your business, your business structure, and number of employees, you may wish to secure accounting assistance. You can hire a bookkeeper to keep your records in order and assist with payroll, or you might want a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who can file your tax paperwork and handle other higher-level accounting functions. To help you decide on the right thing for your business, check out this article from The Balance.
5. Get Your Legal Ducks in a Row
When you create a business entity, you’ll have some legal obligations.
First off, will you need permits or special licenses? These are critical if you plan to do construction, serve food, provide medical care, or do business in other regulated industries. Fortunately, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers a helpful guide to walk you through your obligations in this area.
Next, it’s time to consider your business structure. You’ll need to decide whether or not you want to run your business through your personal tax return, or if you want to file your business taxes separately. If you’re just doing a side job, counting your income on your personal tax return might be enough. However, if you plan for this business to be your main bread and butter, or if there is any potential for liability down the road, it’s a good idea to consider a legal structure for your business.
Don’t let the sound of this step overwhelm you. For freelancers and single-employee businesses, this step can be pretty easy. Even if you have bigger plans (or have a business partner), you can usually take care of all of this in a single day. Just reach out to an attorney who specializes in small businesses or talk to your CPA.
6. Make a Splash
Once you’ve created your business, it’s time to start attracting new customers and clients.
First, you’ll need to register a domain name and build a website for your business. And, as luck would have it, we have a few articles that you might find useful: Learn how to get started with WordPress to build your website. If you’re not convinced a website’s in your future, our article on why websites are great for business might help change your mind.
After that, it’s time to consider promoting your business. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Order business cards.
- Create your business social media profiles.
- Make sure you take advantage of local SEO and review sites so people can find you.
- Consider online advertising with Google AdWords, Facebook, and others.
For more help, we asked the experts for more tips on how to find customers.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
Start your own business can be daunting, we know, especially if it’s your first time out. Fortunately, there are people out there who want to help you succeed.
Here are a few suggestions for finding further assistance:
- Consider joining or attending events at your local Chamber of Commerce. Going global? There’s even an International Chamber of Commerce.
- The Small Business Administration has lots of great resources for starting and growing your business
- Look into industry-specific networking meetings and conferences to connect with fellow entrepreneurs
- Research Facebook groups in your industry that can help with finances, marketing, or other areas in which you need assistance
When all else fails, look at your personal network of friends and family. Odds are there’s at least one successful entrepreneur in your circles who can give you advice or a helping hand.
Are You Ready to Take the Leap?
Starting a business can feel like a massive undertaking, but if you view it as a series of steps, you can break it down into simple and achievable goals. You’ll need to step out of your comfort zone, but taking a risk is often the best way to move forward. Not sure if your idea is good enough? There’s only one way to find out.
It’s important to understand that successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the perfect brand and business card. They don’t wait until a professional designs their website and logo. Instead, they get out there and begin networking with people in the industry and identifying potential customers. And they use their passion to get the ball rolling, followed with hard work and determination to keep up the momentum. At the end of the day, those qualities are what will determine their success.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your dream in gear today!
All of these steps should apply wherever you’re located, though some procedures are specific to the United States. If you’re based in another country, please be sure to review local laws and requirements.