Starting a business can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. On one hand, you’re passionate about your idea and motivated to make it successful. On the other hand, getting an idea off the ground takes a lot of work.
Because there’s so much legwork involved in launching a business, we’ve created this quick eight-step checklist of things to do when you start a business. It also includes a few helpful resources so you can focus on growing your business instead of finding the things you need to start it.
1. Pick a name
First things first: if you’re going to start a business, it needs a name. Brainstorm a list of potential names you feel would fit your company. You want to make sure it’s the right fit before you dedicate the time and money developing your company around it, so take your time on this step.
● Check with your county clerk or Secretary of State to make sure the name is available.
● Search federal and state trademarks to make sure potential names aren’t already taken.
● Google potential names to make sure questionable material isn’t popping up in the search results.
2. Set up communication systems
You can’t exactly do business if people can’t contact you. Once you’ve named your company, you’ll want to set up a website, email address, and phone number. Not only will these systems help customers talk to you, but they will also make your business look more professional.
● VoIP phone systems make setting up a business phone number easy and low cost. Jive offers a great small business package with features such as time-based routing, call recording, and call analytics.
● WordPress is an easy and professional-looking website builder. Even if you decide to hire a company to do the initial setup and design, WordPress’s backend interface is so user friendly you can do most of the maintenance yourself.
● Google Apps for Work is an affordable option for small businesses who want to use a custom domain for their email address. Plus it uses Google’s Gmail system so you and your employees will already be familiar with the platform.
3. File the appropriate legal paperwork
To start doing business and making money, you need to file the appropriate forms with the proper city, state, and federal agencies. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need to obtain insurance or permits, but take care of this early. Every day you put it off is another day you put off earning revenue.
● Get your Employer Identification Number from the IRS. Technically you don’t need one unless you have employees or form a partnership, LLC, or corporation, but it’s a good thing to have and only takes a few minutes to get.
● Get your business license. The easiest way to do this is to visit your local county or city clerk’s website or office and fill out the appropriate forms.
● You’ll need to register your business name if you don’t plan on operating under your personal name. You can do this through either your county clerk’s office or your state government depending on where you will be operating and the business laws in your state.
4. Write a business plan
A business plan is essential to your company’s future. Not only is it useful for raising investments, but it also provides you with a roadmap for growing your business. This holds you accountable for creating and meeting goals, which ensures your business has the best chance for success.
● Your local Small Business Development Center can help you write a business plan for free or at a very low cost.
● Web apps like Enloop can automatically generate a business plan based on the information you enter.
5. Set up a bank account
There are many reasons you’ll want to have a business banking account. For one, it offers you legal protections that your personal account does not. It also makes your accounting and taxes go a lot smoother and helps your company appear more professional as it makes standard business transactions.
● Inc has an in-depth article on things you should consider when choosing a bank for your small business.
● NerdWallet also has a great list of free business checking accounts in each state.
6. Set up a bookkeeping system
Speaking of accounting and taxes, you’ll also want to set up a bookkeeping system so you know how and where you’re spending your money. This will help you make standard business decisions to increase profitability and also protect you if your business is ever audited by the IRS.
● There are tons of low-cost online bookkeeping apps, such as Wave and Quickbooks.
● There are also bookkeeping agencies, such as Bench, that cost less than a professional CPA but still provide professional guidance and advice.
7. Brush up on marketing
A solid marketing plan is what will get your company’s name out there, which will lead to new customers. That’s why it’s imperative that you take some time to research marketing strategies and create a plan of action. Each industry and type of business (e.g. retail, restaurant, b2b, e-commerce) will have its best practices, so be sure to consider those as you start the research process.
● Neil Patel’s Quicksprout blog has great Internet marketing tutorials. It’s a good place to start if you want to increase the presence of your website.
● Hubspot’s marketing blog is another blog you should be reading regularly. It’s mostly focused on Internet marketing, but it includes a lot of great business advice as well.
8. Start networking
Last but certainly not least, you should be networking with others in your community, and not just while you’re getting your business off the ground. You need to network constantly. These are the people who will help you grow your business—either by becoming new customers, referring new customers, or by providing advice and support.
● Check out your local Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Administration offices. These organizations often host networking events catered to bringing small business owners and other community members together.
● Attend come conferences. Eventbrite is a great place to see if any are happening in your area.
● Use social media. Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are all great tools for finding and participating in relevant groups and chats.