Here are a few tips to get your business established before you jump in.
You’ve overcome the hardest part of becoming an entrepreneur just by being here! You have a dream, a vision and you are off on your way to making it a reality. There are a few recommended steps (1-4) to becoming a true business owner which I have covered below and a few (5-9) that will ensure that you are putting your best foot forward for yourself and for your business. Congratulations! Now let’s get started:
STEP 1 Name your Business
Choose a business name that is original and that you can say with confidence. This is a name that you want to be associated with. This name will become tied to you for many years to come! It is nearly as important as the name you choose for your child. Don’t rush this process!
The Secretary of State offers a free search of their database that will allow you to verify that your business name is available. I suggest also typing in variations of the name you are considering to be sure your name is yours alone.
Be sure that the name you have chosen is original enough not to be confused with another company. You are going to work hard to establish a good reputation for your company and you would not want a similar brand to tarnish that reputation.
STEP 2 Register your business name with the Secretary of State
The fees are different in each state range from $50 - $150. You will need to renew your LLC or DBA and file your taxes with the state annually to stay in good standing. LLC University is a great resource for questions on this topic and specific fees for your state.
STEP 3 Sign up for an Employer Identification Number
Otherwise known as an EIN, this number allows you to keep your social security number private, while still identifying you on federal documents such as a 1099 and is entirely free. Large jobs and some clients will request that you fill out a 1099 for them and you do not want your social security number in file cabinets all over town.
Fill out your application with the IRS directly.
STEP 4 Separate your money
There are many reasons to put this step off but it simplifies your bookkeeping so much that it is a MUST.
By opening a business account you can:
Save time balancing your books.
Know the cost of doing business. (If you don’t know what this is, check back soon. This is critical to avoid going belly up!)
Avoid confusion and frustration during tax season.
Rest assured that if you are audited that you have done your due diligence, assuming that you only use this account for work-related purposes.
Accept checks in your business’ name: I have had to ask clients to rewrite checks in my personal name instead of my business name, it is embarrassing. Don’t do what I did!
Research the costs and minimum balances at the banks that you are interested in working with. They are all a little different, so take the time to ask questions and compare.
While you are at it, start using a bookkeeping program. Eventually, you may want to purchase something big, like a house and will need to show profit and loss reports for the past two years. If you start now, these reports will already be available and you will always know if your business is profitable.
If you need an all-in-one Client Relationship Management tool, I highly recommend Dubsado. It is catered to creative entrepreneurs and will be your best friend! For 20% off use this code: alcblog
STEP 5 Purchase a domain name: yourbusinessname.com
There are many places that you can go to purchase your domain name. I prefer GoDaddy for a few reasons. The main reason is that they are in Arizona (aka the continental USA) and they offer excellent support from people that know the ins and outs of the site and its features. No question is too big or too small.
When choosing your domain, try to avoid dashes and other punctuation. We want people to remember your domain name intuitively. It is easier to recall yourbusinessname.com than it is to remember your-business-name.com.
STEP 6 Setup a business email address: @yourbusinessname.com
This goes hand in hand with your domain name. You can purchase them at the same time with the registrar of your choice. The cost varies from place to place a little but should be around $5/month.
There is a lot of wiggle room in what you choose for the “name” of the email address. You can choose your personal firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc. You get the idea.
STEP 7 Secure the social media handles for your business name
Even if you do not want to use social media yet, secure them to your business now. Two years from now you may choose to integrate a business page on Facebook and it would be a shame to find that someone else had secured that handle.
STEP 8 Hire a designer to create a brand for you
Your brand is the face and personality of your business. Dive deep into your goals and feelings about your brand and communicate these to your designer. A good brand is distinctive, personal, clean and simple. It must look great on all types of surfaces.
STEP 9 Hire a developer to create a website for you
A professional website is your businesses home away from home. It creates credibility for your company in the same way that a shop window did in the days of old.
Determining the style and look for your brand is difficult, I understand. I have helped many small businesses develop their brand and I want to share what I have learned with you. The download below is designed to help you curate your company style.