If you’re thinking of starting your own business, then congratulations! It’s undoubtedly an exciting time, but you probably also have a lot of questions about what to do and when to do them.
Whether you’re starting a part-time venture involving just yourself or a full-on start-up, here’s a checklist of 23 activities that you’re going to want to know to make your small business a success!
Before You Start A Business
1- Start With Why
Ask yourself: Why you want to start a business in the first place? Are you looking to just make some money on the side, or do you truly want to see it grow into a thriving business that generates millions of dollars of revenue per year?
When you mentally set up the framework for what your business is what you want to accomplish with it, everything else you do will simply be a task to bring you closer to achieving that goal.
2- Define What You’re Going To Do
Determine what kind of services you plan to offer or what sort of niche you’d like to specialize in. Keep in mind that defining what you ARE going to do is two-fold because it also to decide what services you’re NOT going to do.
3- Research The Market
Find out what other businesses are offering the same types of services you plan to offer. You can also read their reviews and find out what they are doing right (or wrong).
4- Write A Business Plan
A business plan is where you state what your business is, its goals, and how you plan to get there. Even if your new venture is small and you are the only employee, it will still be helpful to formally dictate the terms of your business. If you need help writing one, then check out these tips from Entrepreneur.
An important part of a business plan is to crunch the numbers and see if it’s going to profitable. Find out how much it will cost to start your business and how much return you expect. Calculate the return on investment (ROI) as follows:
ROI = [Revenue – Expenses] / Initial Investment = Profit / Initial Investment
As a business, you’ll want a positive ROI of at least 15 to 30% (according to the site Small Business Rising). If your ROI isn’t in that range, then re-examine your assumptions and look for ways to cut your expense down. If it’s negative, then you may want to abandon your idea for a business and find a new one to pursue.
Make Your Business Official
5- Give Your Business A Name
If your business gets the green light, then its time to start making it real! Step one will be to give it a simple but creative name; something that is catchy and easy to remember.
6- Define The Roles
Decide what responsibilities are needed for your business and who will do them. This will be especially important if you plan on hiring employees, even if they are only part-time.
7- Decide On A Legal Structure
As required by the IRS, you have to define what type of business you’re starting. For most people working alone, they may wish to define themselves as a “sole proprietorship”. However, if you’d like more legal protection, then it may be best to form a limited liability corporation (LLC).
8- Register Your Business
Once you decide your business structure, you’ll need to register it with your city. Contact your local government and see how you can go about doing this. Usually you can just apply online.
If you formed an LLC or any other type of corporation, you’ll also have to apply for an EIN (employer identification number) with the IRS.
9- Get Licenses And Permits
Depending on the service or products you plan to offer, you may need to apply for special licenses and permits with your state and local county (example: sales tax permit). Get in touch with your local government administration and find out what the requirements are.
10- Purchase Insurance
To protect yourself and your business, there may be some insurance policies specific to your industry that you will need to purchase. For example, if you plan to perform any on-site services, you’ll likely need general liability insurance. Call your local insurance rep and see what they recommend. Keep in mind that some of your clients may not even work with you unless you have insurance.
11- Open A Bank Account
To keep your business separate from your personal finances, you’ll want to open a bank account in the business’s name. This will be especially important if you formed an LLC.
12- Apply For Funding
If you need cash up-front to get your business going, then start applying for loans. Though you’ll likely be disqualified by banks since you don’t’ have any cash flow yet, you may be able to get a loan through the SBA (small business administration).
13- Decide Where You Will Work
Determine if you will work out of your house or require a separate office or building. Bear in mind that some cities and neighborhoods may restrict you from operating a business of your house.
14- Purchase Equipment
Make a list of all the necessary tools and equipment you’ll need to get started working and start acquiring it. If you require more expensive items like a work truck, take some time to shop around for the best deal.
15- Hire Employees
If you need help, start taking applications and scheduling interviews. Be mindful that some questions are considered illegal – here’s a list of ones to avoid.
Build Your Customer Base
16- Create A Marketing Strategy
One of the biggest reasons why new businesses fail is because they have no strategic marketing plan in place.
A marketing strategy is simply a plan that accesses who your potential clients are and how you will reach them. Here you will come up with ideas for promoting your business such as a website, social media, advertising, etc. Here’s some advice on how to write a marking plan.
17- Get Your First Customers
Its time to start making some money! Get the word out there and start hustling your services. Be responsive to phone calls and emails, and make yourself available to provide quotes. Be assertive in trying to make a deal to secure your first clients.
18- Follow Up On All Quotes
One of the easiest marketing strategies available is to simply follow-up on the people who have already contacted about doing work for them. Give them a call and see if they are still interested in pursuing the job. If not, find out why as it might help shape your price or services you wish to offer. Always be professional (even if the other person is not).
19- Keep Up Your Marketing Efforts
Your marketing strategy wasn’t just a “one and done” activity. The tasks you defined are things you will need to actively do every week to drum up more business. Remember this and make it a priority in your routine of activities.
Plan For The Future
20- Ask Your Customers For Feedback
It’s always important for a business to know who they’re doing. Regularly follow up with your current customers and ask if there’s anything they didn’t like. You might find out something surprising about your workers or your services in general.
21- Keep Your Bookkeeping Up-To-Date
Don’t let your financial records become a mess. Stay on top of them every week so that when it comes to tax-time you’ll already be organized. Things such as payroll and other financial aspects are important to keep organized. Get into a good habit as early as possible.
22- Pay Your Taxes
You’re required by the IRS to pay your taxes. Don’t forget to do this before tax-day in April. Also do yourself a favor and work with a tax professional. They will know the laws better than you and can help you score the most deductions (which will lower your taxable income).
23- Think About Growth
No matter how small your business is, you should always be thinking about how it can grow. Take as little as one day per year to formally strategize how you plan to grow your profits. If you work with others, be sure to include them and their ideas. You may even wish to find a mentor who can help you take your business to the next level. The SBA has resources for finding mentors who can guide you.