Step-by-step guide to get your business started today.
The perfect business name can be challenging to select! You should choose a name that represents your product or services, while being memorable, and positively engaging your buyers. Your chosen business name must be unique and distinguishable from other business names in the state you register in. You should also search the state database to verify that the name you want isn't used by anyone in the state(s) where you want to conduct business. See our complete guide to selecting the right business name.
Every business needs a website, even if it is not selling online. A website is a modern-day business card and gives business credibility. Also, if you don't want a website now, it is worth reserving your domain name so no one else can use it. You can find and buy a domain name for less than $10 through various domain services like Namecheap.com or Google Domains. Try to get a .com domain for your business. If the .com is unavailable, try adding words to the name to get a .com (i.e., "getdropbox.com" vs. dropbox.com)
Use your new domain name to set up a business email address with Google Workspace. We do not recommend using an email service from your domain service provider. Google Workspace allows you to use your domain name as part of your email address. Having a dedicated company email address will help you with the state business name registration process.
Social media marketing is vital for any business. Ensure you can get social media accounts in the name you want before deciding on a business name. For brand continuity, try to get the same handle on each platform (i.e., @companyname social media handles on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook). The most important social media accounts depend on your field and marketing plan. You may want to use Namecheckr, to see whether social media accounts are available across multiple social networks. If the name you want is open, you should move quickly.
Logos are synonymous with the companies they represent (i.e., Apple, Amazon). If you don’t have a logo that stands out, you are missing an opportunity to make your business memorable in the minds of your customers and fans. A logo is the first thing your customers will see for when you publish any content from your brand. Your logo should present in all of all your marketing materials such as websites, social media accounts, business cards, flyers, advertisements, etc. We had our logo designed on Fiverr.com for $35 and you can do the same.
It is required to list a company address when you form your business. If you work from home or are starting an online business, this could be your home address. In most cases, we recommend using a Virtual Mailbox as your address. Using a Virtual Mailbox protects your home address from the public record. We recommend a Virtual Mailbox Service with locations in all 50 states. Alternatively, most neighborhood mailbox locations offer P.O. Boxes with real street addresses. Make sure your virtual mailbox has an actual street address.
It is required to list a company phone when you form your business or set up an online payment processor. If you work from home or consult, you will likely just use your cell phone. In most cases, we recommend using a Virtual Phone Number to protect your private contact info from being shared in the general public. If you have a smartphone with an e-sim, you can get a second phone number from your carrier for as little as $10/mo. You can also use an app like phone.com and get a second number to ring to your cellphone for about $15/mo.
Before forming your business, you'll need to choose what state you want to set up your LLC in. For most business owners, incorporating in your home state is the best idea. Some states are recognized for business formation due to some legal protection, among other benefits. Please know that many of those advantages won't apply to most small businesses. And you will still likely have to file as a Foreign business and pay taxes in your home state. Typically, you will register in your home state as a "Domestic" business.
While you can go into business as a sole proprietor or as part of a partnership, we recommend forming an LLC for your business. Setting up an LLC will give you liability protection and some tax advantages while helping suppliers, partners, and customers take you more seriously.
Setting up your LLC business is quick and easy to DIY. You can also use one of our partners to form the LLC for you in as little as 1 day. Our partner will collect all the information you need and then file your new business in a couple of hours.
When you form a business, you must have a "Registered Agent." You can act as your own Registered Agent if you plan on receiving legal communication about the company. Acting as your own Registered Agent is best if you are doing a DIY business formation. If you have concerns about your availability or about your privacy, then it is best to hire a Professional Registered Agent service. Read more on Registered Agents here. Our partners offer formation and Professional Registered Agent Services.
We recommend getting a Federal Employment Number (EIN) from the IRS. This unique number allows LLCs, corporations, or sole proprietors to identify themselves for tax purposes. Think of it as an SSN for your business. You can get an EIN online from the IRS in under 10 minutes after you have finished your state registration.If you intend to employ people in your business, you will need an EIN. You will use your company EIN when paying wages and in filing or paying taxes. Your state government may also use an EIN for particular tax-related administration or payment.
All businesses should have internal rules that state how they are run. Having rules documented helps avoid confusion and keeps all the members, managers, or directors understanding how to make operating decisions. LLCs use a document called an "Operating Agreement" to define the business rules and outline how the business should run.
An Operating Agreement might sound complicated, but it's not. We can provide you with an Operating Agreements template that you can tweak to your exact needs. For LLCs, most Business Banks will want a copy of your Operating Agreement to set up your account. You should also keep minutes of members' meetings to stay compliant with state rules.
An LLC must have a separate business bank account. Luckily if you completed your State Registration, obtained an EIN, and signed an operating agreement, then setting up a business bank account is simple. Each bank has its own requirements, but most will need the incorporation paperwork from your state (the Articles of Organization) and your EIN.
Choose a bank that works for you — whether it’s a large bank like Chase, a smaller local bank, or an online bank. If you have partners where it is hard to coordinate going to the bank to set up a business, we recommend an online business bank. We recommend the online banks Brex, Mercury, or Novo. Contact your bank to see their specific requirements for opening up a business bank account. Most banks will provide checkbooks and business debit cards that are linked to your account.
If you are an online business selling digital products or brick-and-mortar, you will need a merchant account to accept credit and debit card payments from your customers. Some accounting software (WaveApps), payment gateways (Stripe), or other systems let you accept cards by default if you just need to take payments online. If you receive payments in person, you will want to get a merchant account to get the best rates on your card transactions. We recommend Square or Shopify Point of Sale Systems (POS).
Owning and running a business is much easier if you use accounting software to keep track of your company finances weekly. There are numerous online software tools available for managing your invoices, expenses, transactions, and reports. We recommend WaveApps, Quickbooks, or Freshbooks to start. For invoicing, we suggest like Bonsai, And.co, or Invoicely. And don't forget Expensify for tracking expenses.
A company credit card gives your business a simple way to buy products and services and pay without cash. If your business is new, a business credit card will mainly be issued to your company based on your personal credit score. If you need to prepare your credit and get it in good shape, join out thepointsparty.com. It is crucial to pay your business card off monthly to avoid interest or fees.
A website is a crucial destination for people who want to learn more about your products or services.
You will need a business website that's tailored to your exact business needs. A website for a restaurant will be very different from a website for a freelance writer or accountant. Fiverr is a great marketplace where you can find designers to create a website for you.
If you're the DIY type, you can use an online web builder like Wix or Weblium. Or we have a great partner that can build you a great website and help you with any integrations. If you're selling online, Shopify or Bigcommerce is great for eCommerce. Mobile traffic is growing every year and now takes up more than 53% of all internet traffic. So, make sure your website is designed for mobile and desktop by telling your designer that you want your website "responsive".
Google Analytics and Google Search Console are powerful tools that give you insight into who is visiting your website. Google Analytics helps you understand how visitors find your site, what they do on the site, what pages are popular, analyze user demographics, and so much more.
Google Search Console helps you understand how your site pages are doing on Google searches. Use the Console to track search queries your website pages show for and optimize the pages to increase visibility in Google search. Pair Google Analytics and Google Search Console together to optimize your website for conversions or sales.
Local Google search is the best way to get your business found by customers in your city. Set up a Google My Business profile to display essential information about your business, like opening hours, location, contact details, and more. Use Google My Business with a Google Maps listing to appear in map searches, so searching customers to find you.
Social media networks like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat, or Pinterest all provide an opportunity to promote your services to potential customers. When using social media advertising, it is essential to carefully define your audience and then present your products or services that are relevant to keep their interest. If you spend money on advertising, you should save detailed tracking of what you’re paying for ads to ensure that you are getting a return on investment.
Social Media is best for brand awareness and content sharing but the are an ineffective way to continually speak to your customers. Email Marketing is the best way to tailor your messaging to specific customers. Send great-looking emails that get big results for your business with Constant Contact.
Get the word out! Start marketing by promoting your business and networking with potential partners, customers, or suppliers. We recommend talking to past colleagues, asking for referrals, attending local meetups, or meeting the chamber of commerce. Chance encounters or endorsements from your network can be surprisingly powerful.
We strongly recommend that you get an accountant/bookkeeper for your business. Precise financial management is required for any small business. You'll need to understand cash flow statements, balance sheets, and profit and loss reports to track your companies money. These are not hard to learn, but an accountant or bookkeeper may provide financial advice or help you with the business taxes. A bookkeeper typically helps with financial record keeping and reconciliation. An accountant usually assists with preparing or filing taxes and providing financial advice. You can hire a great bookkeeper or account from Fivver or Bench Accounting.
If you plan DIY Accounting, you should learn some basics about accounting because all businesses need to spend money to operate. Any payments for the goods and services required to run your business are called "expenses." Expenses are typically deducted from your business income ("Revenue"). You usually won't be required to pay taxes on your expenses. Expenses can be complicated, but here are some of the more common examples you can claim:
The above list is not comprehensive, and you should consult an accountant about all the business expenses you should track.
After your company is launched and generating revenue, you need to start thinking about taxes. As a business owner, you will have to plan for a lot of taxes. As an LLC, business profits will flow through down to your personal tax return, where you will pay taxes. Taxes you will have to pay may include:
When you know what taxes you are required to pay, you will need to pay estimated taxes to the federal and state government quarterly (four times a year). Talk to an accountant about when taxes are due each quarter.
We use and recommend Taxfyle or H&R Block for all your tax filing needs.
As a business owner, you will need a lot of different skills to make your business thrive. You cannot do everything your business will require on your own. Get used to outsourcing early, and it helps you scale more quickly. If you’re an entrepreneur, freelancer, knowledge worker, or recently started a company with a partner, you may not need employees yet. Most companies will need to hire employees at some point. You have a few different options for hiring people to work with
If you need a specialist for a specific task, it is best to contract a freelancer. There are several excellent options for freelance marketplaces like Fiverr, Freelancer, Upwork, or Toptal. Our go-to choice is the easy-to-use services at Fiverr. They also offer Fiverr Pro, where you can find vetted freelancers for more challenging projects. You can read our Ultimate Guide for Hiring Freelancers on Fiverr.
If you are overwhelmed by tasks but don’t want the expense or overhead of hiring a full-time employee, you should take advantage of virtual assistant and concierge services. Virtual assistants specialize in administrative tasks and can reduce the burden of your to-do list. Belay Solutions, FreeUp, or Fancy Hands all provide virtual assistant services for business owners.
You can always hire in-house employees. You may consider hiring a specialized staffing agency, or you can recruit employees yourself using LinkedIn or Indeed. No matter how you choose to recruit, you will need to write a job description, advertise the role, find candidates, review resumes, shortlist applicants, interview candidates, negotiate salary and employee benefits, agree on terms, hire the right people, and add them to your payroll system.
There is a lot to learn when starting a business, and you are going to face challenges every day. Keep going and solving problems—the more successful the company, the more problems they solved.