Creating your own business can seem daunting. I’ve written before about when you should quit your job to make your side hustle a full-time endeavor. Even though making that leap can be scary, it’s actually fairly easy to get a business started.
5 Steps to Creating Your Own Business
- Secure your brand.
- Make it legal.
- Get your EIN from the IRS.
- Learn Quickbooks.
- Determine your tech stack.
1. Secure Your Brand
As an entrepreneur and marketing professional, a business’s brand is of the utmost importance. It’s also a fun and enjoyable part of the process.
Do your research to make sure there aren’t other businesses with the same name and service. Make sure the website domain and social media handles are available, too. If the unique name is available, purchase the domain name (I use GoDaddy) and secure the social media handles ASAP. If you’re working with creative peers during this initial process, you can also start to brainstorm your logo. Your first logo can be a very simple placeholder on your social channels and then you can graduate into something more defined as the business grows.
For example, consider how I developed the brand for my podcast Boston Speaks Up. My first move was to GoDaddy. I locked up bostonspeaksup.com for multiple years and then proceeded to secure @BostonSpeaksUp across social media platforms. Next, I threw together a quick and dirty logo that I drew by hand. My logo went through a few light modifications before I finally started generating some revenue to invest in the proper logo you see today.
2. Make it Legal
Setting up an LLC (limited liability corporation) is a quick and easy process. You should always consult with an attorney (and probably an accountant, too) before making any legal decisions. Many businesses choose to incorporate in Delaware due to the state’s flexible laws and reputation for protecting businesses. The numbers bear it out, too: 68 percent of Fortune 500 companies and 93 percent of all U.S.-based initial public offerings are registered in Delaware. I recommend reading up on the pros and cons of incorporating your business in Delaware.
Harvard Business Services can help you register your LLC in Delaware relatively inexpensively. I’ve been using HBS for more than a decade now. Not only can they help you set up a business in Delaware, but they can also help you check the appropriate boxes for setting up your business in your local state.
For example, I live in Massachusetts, which requires a foreign business registration for all businesses incorporated in another state. HBS handles that paperwork for me. It’s just about as easy as checking a box and paying a modest fee.
If you’re questioning whether to set up a business in a state like Delaware versus your home state, I cannot tell you definitively what’s best for you. What I can say is I’ve researched the subject, spoken to accounting and legal professionals and I’ve determined incorporating in the state of Delaware is the wisest choice to limit my liability and safeguard my businesses.
3. Get Your EIN From the IRS
Getting your EIN from the federal government is a relatively painless process. It’s free to apply, but you can also work with your attorney or other service that’s handling your LLC filing to help. I have the team at Harvard Business Services secure EINs for my businesses. It’s a simple box you check during the business incorporation process.
Even if you’re a single-member LLC, you’ll still want to consider an EIN. For example, if you plan to subcontract work to freelancers located around the country, an EIN is necessary come tax season. You’ll need to have your subcontractors complete a W-9 form and you’ll be issuing them each a Form 1099-MISC during tax season. You’ll need an EIN to do those things.
Does this seem like a lot of work? It really isn’t. Using proper accounting software makes it easy.
4. Learn Quickbooks
I know this isn’t very exciting, but you need to learn QuickBooks, or a comparable alternative such as FreshBooks or Xero. NerdWallet has great content on what accounting software is best for you.
I know, I know. It’s not the most fun, but you can’t operate a business without proper accounting.
I’m a QuickBooks guy. It’s really intuitive and the learning curve is pretty shallow. I felt like a QuickBooks expert in less than two weeks.
Accounting software is just one of those tools you need for invoicing, tracking expenses, managing subcontractors, and issuing W-9s and 1099s to subcontractors. It’s all click and play.
Then, come tax season, you and/or your accountant will have a much more manageable task ahead of you in terms of filing your annual taxes.
5. Determine Your Tech Stack
Outside of Quickbooks, you’ll likely need a variety of other tools to help facilitate your day-to-day. I know the last thing everyone needs is another Slack channel, but you need to set up a Slack channel. Very quickly keeping track of emails will become overwhelming. Slack is so popular because it gives people the ability to silo portions of their work and organize conversations more efficiently than email.
I also recommend project management software Monday.com to keep projects on track. Rather than having to follow up over email or Slack, everyone on the team can check the status of various projects. This is important if you’re managing multiple teams across many locations. Not everyone on the team will be working on every project, but people will often need visibility to what’s happening in order to start on their own section of a particular project.
MURAL is another terrific platform that essentially gives your team a virtual white board for collaboration. So much of my initial planning starts in MURAL before moving into development and design.
A customer relationship management tool, or CRM, is also a must-have in my opinion. Even if you’re a small operation, it helps to begin organizing your prospects and customers in a proper CRM. I recommend HubSpot.
These tips by no means guarantee success, however, they should give you a decent foundation to start a professional business that has the ability to grow, pivot and adapt in a variety of markets. I know it can be a little scary striking out on your own. If you’re reading this, then you’re likely ready (or close). Within a few weeks, you can make your dream a reality. Good luck, friend.