You don’t need to take too many months to prepare if you’re really determined to start a business. Instead, you can complete these steps in a few days.
When you’re pondering the prospect of starting your own business, it’s easy to get lost in the myriad details of the process. You can end up spending too many months preparing, and during this time you might even hesitate and lose your nerve.
The truth of it is that you really don’t have to spend a lot of time to prepare to start your own business. You just need to focus, and with the following checklist of steps, you need to take you can be well on your way.
- Come up with a business idea. You need a business that best suits your preferences, skills, and interests. Pretend you have to ask for some seed money from a prospective investor. You have to make sure you have the skill set and the background for the business idea you’re offering. To make your idea more concrete, you have to serve a particular need or solve a specific problem. You need to identify this need or problem so that you can customize your solution and design your business accordingly.
- Do market research. You can go online for this, starting out by checking out your competition. If you’re starting a plumbing business, then you better know how many plumbers there already are in your town. You should also find out the level of demand for the business service or product you’re thinking about offering to the consumer public.
- Choose a unique business name. Uniqueness is more important than how catchy your business name is. You can always do a quick web search, though you also need to check with your state department of revenue that no one else in your state is already using the business name you’re considering. A trademark search will also be necessary. Check GoDaddy.com for a domain name.
- Define your target market. You can find lots of apps online that can help, and you can always conduct your own surveys.
- Pick the location where you’ll be working. Most people start by working at home, but that may change later on. But you have to find workspace options that you may need to use eventually, such as when you’re meeting with clients.
- Set up your website. That means buying your domain, obtaining your web hosting (we uses MediaTemple), and building a website. It probably will help a great deal if you let a pro handle all this, although you will have to pay for these services. The point is that a website is a must—people don’t really trust new businesses without websites these days.
- Put up phone service. Even though just about everyone has a smartphone these days, it’s still a good idea to have a business phone setup to make things a lot more professional. You can still use your smartphone, but the other people at the other end of the line will see your business phone number instead.
- Set up your customer database. You’ll need this if you regularly interact with customers. If you find keeping lots of contact information on Rolodex cards, then you certainly will find a database a lot more useful/
- Use lead generation software. Leads tell you where you can focus your sales tactics so that you don’t waste time contacting people who are unlikely to become your customers. You can find software that can identify these likely customers for you, and you can use them with your database.
- Get your business on social media. You should have a business profile on the social media platforms where you will find your most likely customers. You should also consider getting on Yelp and Google My Business.
- Obtain the business licenses you’ll need. You can do some research on the state licenses and permits you’ll need, along with the fees you have to pay.
- Get your Employer Identification Number if you have workers. The EIN will be required by the IRS if you’re going to operate as a partnership or corporation, or if you’re going to hire workers. You can just go to the IRS website for this.
- Open a business bank account. The most convenient bank is the one where you already have a personal savings account. But you can check out other banks in your area if they specialize in business accounts. You’ll most likely need your EIN, the documentation you needed to register your business with the state, and a copy of your business license.
- Invest in accounting software. Try FreshBooks and QuickBooks, along with Zoho Books and Xero. You’ll need this type of software to keep track of your revenues and expenses, and the reports will be necessary come tax time.
- Draw up a marketing plan. Again, you can go online and find templates you can use to promote your business. Your plan needs to identify your target market, as well as the ways to reach and advertise to these potential customers.
- Write your business plan. A business plan comes in handy to help you focus on the tasks you need to do to start and develop your business. This business plan also will be necessary when you’re looking for investors. This business plan will include a general description of your company, the data from the market analysis you’ve done, information about the products or services you’re offering, and some financial data.
- Obtain the funding you need. You can go to a bank or a relative to obtain a loan, and perhaps use up some of your savings. But you should also see if there are grants available for your business. Crowdfunding may also be possible.
- Think about trademarks and patents. You can discuss this with an attorney, though if a lawyer does all the work the fees can go into the thousands of dollars.
- Prepare a logo. A logo helps your business to stand out, and it can be very useful for marketing. We use 99designs.com and Fiverr.com for this task.
- Think about insurance. At the very least, you may need professional liability insurance. Check with your insurance agency to find out what your business insurance needs and options are.
You can do some of these steps in just a single day, so there’s no good reason to feel overwhelmed about the preparations you need to make. Starting a business can be a risk, but you can’t reap the rewards if you don’t take the plunge.