- Business Plan- How will the business operate/function? There are several templates and models for writing business plans, but there is no one size fits all. Begin by writing out what you want to do, how you will do it, who, if anyone will help provide the service, how it will be funded, how you are going to market and make money. You want to at least have a written proposal or guide for yourself and for others to see where you are going; especially if you are seeking investors or a loan.
- Secure EIN – You will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for your business as it will be the business’ identification number. The same way you use your SSN for personal identification and verification, is the way the business will use your EIN. The EIN will be needed to open your business account, used for contracts, and when you file taxes for the business.
- Identify your niche – Decide what your focus area will be, your approach, and how your business will be different from others. Even if your business is the same as one already out there, they aren’t you. Picture the bread or cereal aisle in the grocery store; there are plenty of options for the same basic product. Think about what makes you and the service or product you provide unique.
- Marketing/Branding – you’ve got a great service or product, but how will people know if they can’t find you?
- Select your Business Structure/Type – some of the most common are Sole Proprietor, Corporation, Non-Profit, and Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). An LLC is often the ideal choice for small business getting started.
- Protect Your Brand – Your designs, logos, original creations, and all of things that may you and your business unique need to be protected. Be sure to speak with an attorney about registering your intellectual property for trademark and copyright protection.
- Secure a Domain Name – this is your business’ digital address, and will be one of the primary ways clients/customers find you. Be sure to obtain and secure a domain name that is relevant to your business’ name and/or brand.
- Business Accounts – One of the ways to maintain separation between yourself and the business to have a business account for all things business related. You need to avoid using personal funds for the business. If there is ever an issue and someone wants to sue you, they can come after your personal assets if there is no clear line between what’s business and personal. Check out NerdWallet’s recommendations for small business accounts.
- Insurance – You have (hopefully) health, car, and home/rental insurance for you and your family’s protection against the “what if’s”. The same is true for your business. Some industries require specific types of insurance while others don’t, but it’s good practice to have a base level insurance for your business. We hope and pray that it is never needed, but please don’t put yourself at risk of not having it and needing it. Be sure to check to see what types of insurance is required for your specific industry.
- Identify and Obtain Appropriate Licenses – Several industries require you to have a license to provide your service. Attorneys, counselors, cosmetologists, barbers, mechanics, etc. all must be licensed to conduct business. These license types are typically well known, but some states and cities require specific licenses to operate in that area. Examples of these licenses include, but are not limited to, a general business license, operator’s license, privilege license, commercial licensing, and zoning permits. Be sure to check with your state and city’s licensing commission so you know what license you will need to operate your business.
* Of course, it is also strongly encouraged that you speak with an Attorney (I’m available) and an accountant as a part of this process. There are several moving parts to opening and running a business, and it is not advisable to try and do it all alone. This is a quick guide to get your wheels turning.
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