So you have a new business idea and you aren’t quite sure where to get started? No worries, I’ll walk you through some of the very basics and give you some pointers on how to make your business legitimate on a startup budget.
The Business Plan
Writing a business plan is the most important part of the process of starting a business. Even if you just quickly write down your thoughts and ideas for what you want your business to be, it’s good to have something in writing so you keep your focus. Do you have an invention that will change how people perform an every day task? Great! Now write down how you plan to manufacture, market, and even gain inventors in your new venture. What about a web based business you want to start? Perfect! Now write down what you want the website to focus on, who will benefit from it, how you plan to market it, and how it will grow throughout the upcoming months and years. Whether it be a few sentences, a bullet list, or a full Business Plan know what you want to do, where you want to go, and how you plan on getting there will make you a success.
The Basic Legal Checklist
Now that you know what you want to do to make money and where you want to go, you want to be sure you are on the legal up and up with regards to your new business. The following is a simple checklist of all of the legal documents you will need to get your business started:
- Determine Legal Structure of Business
- Register Business Name (DBA)
- Get a Tax Identification Number
- Register for State and Local Taxes
- Business License and Permits
- Employer Documents and Responsibilities
It may seem overwhelming at first, but getting everything together and finalized when it comes to your taxes and business license is a must with any and every business venture.
Make it Legit
No matter what size your business is and your initial budget, with a few parts to the business set up in the beginning will give your business the appearance that you have been around for a long time. It will not only help you feel the reality of your dream coming to fruition, but your customers will feel more confident in spending money with you.
The following is a checklist of all you will need to get your basic marketing and business aspects off the ground and running:
- The Website
Every business needs a website nowadays or customers just don’t feel the legitimacy of the business. Setting up a Wordpress site is a great way to get started and can run you just under $40 to register the domain, and as little as $10-30 per month for your hosting.
You can also find someone to develop a website for you which will cost a bit more, but will be easier on you. You can ask for a WordPress site setup for around $500 – $1,500 (depending on the complexity of the site) or have a website custom build for anywhere from $5,000 – $10,000 (or even more depending on what is needed). At Jenn Mathews Consulting we can help you get started for a reasonable fee.
- Phone Number
Some businesses starting out will simply use their cell phone, or set up a Google Voice to grab those phone calls. I have extensive experience with, and highly recommend OneBox for your phone number. You can grab a basic phone number in your area code, and can even add extensions for a bit more if you have several partners or sales people. They also have toll free numbers available, or for a bit more you can pay for a vanity number that might include your business name. The costs can run you anywhere from $30 – $80 per month (depending on all the bells and whistles you may need) which aren’t too bad. The numbers come with a fax receiving capability, and customizable greeting. You can add “Click to Call” widgets for your website and even webinars and conference lines if you need them. When the number is dialed your caller will be directed to the phone of your choice (either an office phone or your cell phone) at a set schedule you determine (i.e. between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday). If you miss a call the voicemail is sent to you via email as an attachment so you won’t miss an important call.
- Physical Location
If you have an office all ready to move into great! Not all entrepreneurs are able to pay the exorbitant amounts for an office location when they get started. Setting up in your home is perfectly understandable, but you don’t want people walking up and knocking on the door thinking they are visiting your office (trust me, it’s happened to me before). So a PO Box will do for any mailings you will need. Finding something in a UPS or FedEx store close by, or even in a Post Office. It can cost you just $20 – $30 per month (or even less) and they are usually very secure. You will still need a physical location for some of your marketing, so if you can eventually find an office space it will be very beneficial. Check out your local coworking space. Some will allow you to use their address as a physical business address.
- Solidifying Brand
You will want to solidify and protect your new brand before you even get started. Registering the name as a Trademark is highly recommended and can be much more affordable that you think. For anywhere between $170 – $300 you can head to LegalZoom and start the process there. I do, however, recommend you pay the extra to have a lawyer look over your documents. It’s well worth the extra to make sure you did everything on the up and up.
With the growing popularity in social media, you will want to make sure no one has your new name before you even get to start using it. Head to KnowEm.com and you can perform a lookup for your name and see where it is still available. You can use their tool to grab all of the social channels yourself, or pay them a one-time fee anywhere from $300 – $700 to do the work for you.
- Social Media
We have many articles to help businesses get started in social media. Plan on spending some money to get some followers on Twitter and Facebook. A small budget of just $100 – $200 per month is the bare minimum recommended so you can run ads to grow your Facebook Page ‘Like’s and Twitter Followers. Of course, the more you are willing to spend the better. Do avoid any promotions or the like to try and grow your followers. Those never result in valued followers that you will generate revenue from, more just people willing to click a button to get something for free.
So there you have it. That should be enough to get you going with your new venture. Starting a new business is like riding a roller coaster: it has it’s very high ups and plummeting downs. If you have all your proper documents, and everything in order before you get started it will make those downs much easier to fair through.