So you have your big idea and you’re ready to go for it. You’re amped up and excited to begin … at least until you realize how much work is ahead of you. How
you get a business going? We can’t do it for you, but we can give you a little push with these nine practical tips.
1. AN UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR MARKET
Keeping the age, lifestyle, income, buying habits, and interests of your customer in mind will help you create a brand they’ll love. Not sure where to start? Check out the websites and storefronts of your competition and see who’s buying. Online reviews are especially helpful, as they can show you exactly what customers want, in their own words.
2. A GREAT NAME
You might have come up with the name of your business even before you had a business plan, but that lightbulb moment is just the beginning. Now is the time to check local (or online) business listings to ensure that nobody else has already claimed your clever shop name. Start with an internet search, and see if your name idea is available as a web domain.
3. A BOOKKEEPING SYSTEM THAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS
Think honestly and hard about your skill with, and interest in, accounting. Do you love it? Find it a cinch? Great. Choose your method and get to work. If you hate it or are worried about your ability to add two and two, don’t despair! You’ve got options. You could take a class or read a book on basic methods. You could choose an easy-to-use program. Or you could outsource the task entirely. Bookkeepers cost money, of course, but the peace of mind (and time saved) might be worth it.
4. THE RIGHT BUSINESS STRUCTURE
Think about the financial bones of your company. How many owners or partners are involved? What kind of liability is associated with your products or services? How many employees do you have? How much money do you (realistically) expect to make in your first year? All of these considerations can help you determine if your company is better off as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), or something else.
5. THE NECESSARY PERMITS AND LICENSES
You’re gonna need at least a few. Unless you’re your only employee, you’ll want a federal employment identification number. Planning to sell products? Get a seller’s permit. Think about your company premises: Are they zoned for business? If not, you may need a license to work out of your home. You may need some kind of additional insurance as well. Feeling overwhelmed? Take a deep breath. Lots of legal websites offer permit and license checklists for new businesses.
6. A KNOWLEDGE OF TAX REQUIREMENTS
Set yourself up for success by learning about local and federal tax rules now. Understanding what’s expected will keep your fledgling business above board and prevent you from getting too attached to all that money you’re taking in. Step one: Open a dedicated bank account for your business now.
7. CLEAR, COMPETITIVE PRICES
Setting prices for your services may be a little more complicated than it sounds. You’ll need to take into account the cost of materials and supplies, as well as your time and expertise, but you’ve also got to pay attention to what everyone else is charging. You may be able to get away with asking a little more, but only if your product is truly, and demonstrably, superior. Be realistic. It also might be worth it to lower your prices at the beginning to attract new customers or clients.
8. A WEBSITE
It doesn’t have to be flashy and complicated; in fact, it shouldn’t be. These days, it’s easy and cheap (or even free) to get a basic website up and running. Your company website should include anything a customer might want to know before patronizing your business: location, phone number, what you do, why you’re the best, and what you charge. Don’t be coy; making it hard to get information will not serve you in the long run.
9. BUSINESS CARDS
Yes, they’re old fashioned, but they’re also incredibly useful. What’s the first question we ask anyone we meet? “What do you do?” With a stash of business cards in your wallet, that cocktail party has just turned into a marketing opportunity. Don’t be pushy, but keep your information ready. You never know who you’ll meet or how you could benefit one another.