I always get asked the question – what do I really need to start my small business? To get started, focus on the basics. The key is to generate revenue as quickly as possible. You can add all the bells and whistles as the company grows. If you think you’re ready to become your own boss, here are the basics of what you’ll need to do to launch, find your first customers and start building a business:
1) A logo: When presenting yourself to customers, make sure your brand is strong. That starts with a professionally designed logo. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The brand doesn’t replace delivering value for the customer but it can help get your foot in the door. If you’re on a tight budget, use a service like fivrr to find a designer that fits your budget.
2) Business Cards: This might sound obvious, but I see a lot of newbie business owners with no business cards or worse, free business cards that are branded with fact they were free on the back. Have a designer layout a business card for you after you get a great logo. Be sure to include your email, website and phone number on your business cards. Make it easy for the customer to reach you. Uprint.com is a great service for quality business cards. Don’t walk into a networking event without them.
3) Website: Your website is your welcome mat and should accomplish a few things. First, is capturing the customer information or email address, second is clearly communicating how you can solve their problem or need and last is make an offer for them to purchase from you. If your website does not do these three things, it’s failing you. Make the necessary changes, roll out the welcome mat and invite potential customers in. When hiring a vendor to build your site, purchase your own URL and hosting package, so you always have control over your website.
4) Create a PPT Brochure: If you’re going to pitch to clients or referral sources, you want to be prepared. Get ready for the meeting by putting together a 5-8 page presentation that describes your company. Include a list of current customers, testimonials and a description of the products or services that you offer. I like using a slide show format because it supports creating something that’s visually interesting. Make sure that the presentation is not about you, but how your business can help.
5) Contract Template: You need your own contract. Ask a mentor for a copy of one of their contracts. Put together a template and have a small business lawyer review it so that your interests are covered. Too many small businesses make the mistake of not having their “business” in order. Don’t avoid the tough conversations. Make sure that you have a written agreement that details the terms including the scope of the work, timeline and payment.
6) Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN): One thing that is consistently true about being a business owner is that you don’t want to mess with Uncle Sam. Make your business official by registering for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS website. It’s a really quick process of answering a few questions and you get the number the same day. After you have an EIN, look into the requirements for your state to register as an S-corporation or LLC.
7) Open Business Bank account: You need an EIN number to open a business bank account. The funds that you make from the business should be exclusively used for that. Do not use the same bank or account as your personal bank. Comingling funds is a quick way to lose your legal protections as a company which separates your personal assets from any business liabilities.
8) Buy Accounting Software: One of the first things that you should put in place is accounting software to track expense and income. I like Quickbooks or Freshbooks as an option because it allows you to also take online payments. Look for a service that has additional features like connecting with your bank accounts, tracking inventory and linking with your website if you have online orders.
9) Protect Your Computer: Purchase a new computer, if you don’t, at least have a good laptop. Your entire business might be maintained on your laptop. Protect your data by backing up regularly to cloud-based system such as Dropbox. It’s also a great service because you can access your files anywhere and work anywhere. Be sure to purchase a three year crash and burn warranty.
10) Set up your Shipping Options: If you have a product based business start investigating your shipping options. Cover all your bases and be sure to see if any association you belong to qualifies you for discounted shipping with FedEx, UPS and USPS click and ship account. Don’t want to wait until you have orders to start figuring these out. When calling the companies, find out who is going to offer the best value for your money. Ask for volume discounts, shipping materials and if they will pick up deliveries from your office.
What other steps have you taken to start your small business?
charleane wilkinson says
Thank you for this site.
Ellen Rohr says
Solid tips! Also, get an accounting program and learn how to use it. Do the tutorials. Search videos online for ideas for setting up your chart of accounts. Put a budget together…and crunch the numbers for how much to charge. (It’s more fun than it sounds!)
Thanks, Melinda! Love your blog! xo$
Solmadrid Vazquez says
Great article and resource for soon-to-be business owners, Melinda!
One of your points that I think will get overlooked by many is the importance of protecting your computer/making backups. I’ve known far too many people, including clients, who have not backed up their data and have lost months, and even years, worth of work. Many people seem to skip this step and just hope for the best. No bueno!
A step that I took in creating my business was branding. i.e. establishing brand pillars, essence, mission statement, etc. I have found this extremely beneficial as it helps to guide our every action. We’re never wondering “Should I have done that??”. Congruence between brand image and actions naturally follow. Of course, it also aids in designing logos, business cards, and website elements.
Anyway, great article and looking forward to more!
One of the things that seriously help certain businesses is to join an industry association or business network. This can be essential in honing you with particular skills and insights as well as give you credibility in your operations. Some networks can also be a vital source of clients for your new business.
Right Cloud says
I’ve recently launched a Cloud call center business where we provide phone services for any industry 24/7/365. My biggest challenge is find new customers. What advise can you give us to find customers quickly? I saw an article and interview you did about automation. Would that be a safe way to find clients since any industry can utilize our services?
Chastity Rouse says
Hello, this is perfect I just wanted to know where to start. This has helped a great deal.