In the second decade of the 21st century, more and more everyday individuals are casting off the shackles of the rat race and starting their own businesses. Nowadays, it’s up to you to secure your own financial future. Since the economic nadir experienced during the summer of 2009, small businesses in the United States have hired at least 2.6 billion new employees. To profit from this trend, you need to be the boss rather than the employee. When starting a small business, keep the following in mind.
Laying the Groundwork
Ensuring long-term success comes down to careful planning at the outset. Sit down and conduct a frank assessment of your skills, your expertise, your strengths and most importantly your weaknesses before you commit to anything. Also, consider the broader economy and the prospects of any potential industry over the next 5 to 10 years. Your master plan should include a marketing strategy, a catchy business name and details about how you’ll network and attract customers outside of merely handing out business cards.
Taking Care of the Legal Red Tape
There’s nothing worse than starting a business only to find you’ve neglected to iron out all the legal details first. Obtain any necessary licenses and permits that your business may require from local or state governments. Also, select an appropriate legal structure for your business that will protect your assets and minimize taxes. Either an LLC or an S Corporation is a good choice for small and medium-sized businesses (“SMBs”) and one-man or one-woman operations. If you can’t set up an S Corporation or an LLC by yourself, contact an attorney and a tax adviser to assist you.
Minding the Books
No matter what industry you find yourself in or what kind of business you run, you’ll find that balancing the books will take up more time than you’d imagined. Consequently, a professional office setup for maximum productivity is crucial. A heavy duty accounting program is a must for client billing and inventory management. A solid contender is FreshBooks, though there are many fantastic alternatives such as, Invoicera and Ronin that take the headache out of billing.
If you’re going to run a serious business, you’ll need to set up a dedicated bank account or two. Make sure to put the bank accounts in your LLC or S corporation’s name. Next, assess your business insurance needs in the event that you’re sued or incur unexpected costs. It’s unlikely that the average small business will need to make use of a tax shelter in the Cayman Islands or the Netherlands. Regardless, have a financial adviser recommend an optimal banking arrangement to reduce tax liabilities.
Infrastructure & Cash Flow
As you prepare to launch your business, you’ll need to take into account required infrastructure such as commercial floor space and equipment. How to proceed on this front really depends entirely on your chosen business. Another critical consideration is the processing of transactions. Typical bricks and mortar operations usually have a POS (point of sale) system to process debit and credit card payments. In the Digital Age, small companies can actually get by using alternate payment options like Paypal, Dwolla, Square and Stripe.
Staffing & Employees
When starting any SMB, it’s vital that you carefully consider how much help you’ll need to get the company off the ground. Some businesses such as consultancies and small-scale landscaping outfits can be operated entirely by one person. However, running any kind of physical retail store will usually require at least one or two other part-time employees besides the proprietor to work effectively. Get all of your ducks in a row in the employee department before you launch to avoid headaches later on.
Establishing an Internet Presence
Long story short, any business more sophisticated than a roadside produce stand needs a website. Start by securing a domain name and some hosting from a provider like Godaddy. Next, create a page for your business using the versatile and 100% free WordPress, a Content Management System that makes dynamic website administration a breeze even for those who aren’t technically savvy. Lastly, create profiles for your business on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn to promote your new company via social media marketing.
Expanding Your Client Base Online
Once you’re up and running, you’ll need to maintain strong relationships with past and present clients while attracting new customers. One of the best ways to find new clients locally and beyond is through content and email marketing. Regularly post content on your WordPress site that will appeal to consumers in your industry or niche. While they’re on your site, encourage them to join your email list so that you can send them offers on your services. Robust programs for managing email marketing campaigns include Aweber and Constant Contact.
An Eye on the Future
Practically every small business owner has a unique reason for starting their enterprise. One universal motivation that seems to apply to just about everyone is a desire to feel in control of their financial future. Entrepreneurs are a special breed, willing to take risks and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes, that inevitably leads to failure. You can skew the odds in your favor by doing the necessary preparation and organizational legwork prior to starting out.