This post is another in my entrepreneurship series (read more here). Starting a small business comes with a lot of research. You will want to know many things before you make your first sale, talk to your first client or advertise your services. So, what are some things you need to consider? Although there are many more items than what I’m listing here, I’ll talk about what I believe to be the top 5 things you need to deal with first:
- Decide what kind of business entity you wish to have. Do you want to structure your business as an Inc., an LLC, a sole proprietorship, an S-Corp? There are a lot of ways you can incorporate your business, so decide this before you file the papers. You can change it later if you feel the need to do so, but choose the one that’s right for you for the first several years. Each one has different financial and legal implications, so take your time with this decision. Check out how the IRS defines these business structures.
- Contact your local Small Business Administration. This is a great (and usually free!) way to find out more information about how to start and run your small business. There are many volunteers who take the time to meet with people just like you to talk about different options you have. You may find some of the information to be less than helpful, while other information is more helpful than you would have expected. Take advantage of the different services the SBA offers and decide how best (or not) to use the information you receive. Figure out what works best for you and your business, and go with that.
- File the proper paperwork with the federal, city and local tax and small business authorities. What does this mean? Yep, you have to file your business with the federal government, with the state and with your city. States are all different in the way that you have to file and pay your taxes, so look this information up and get informed. Believe me… taxes are not something you want to have take you by surprise. I have registered my business and filed taxes in three different states. Each one was completely different. One was incredibly simple, and one (the most recent) is the most complicated I have seen yet. When you file with the state, you will also need to find out if your business name is available. It may already be taken by another business. So, do your homework!
- Obtain the proper business licenses. If you will be working from home, make sure that you find out if you need to have a license for your business in order to work from home. I do. It’s not expensive, but I have to have it. And I have to renew it annually. You should be able to find this information fairly easily by looking at your city’s website or calling to find out. Another thing to find out for certain types of businesses is if you have to follow any specific zoning laws. Before you choose where to place your small business, find out about any zoning laws and how they might affect you.
- Ask lots of questions. Then, ask some more. Questions are the best thing you can have when you start your business, in my opinion. If you are unsure about something, ask. If you are not able to find the information you need online, ask. If you’re not sure how to figure these things out for your own business, look for someone to help you. With the business registrations I’ve handled in different states, I’ve inevitably had questions to ask about how certain forms are filed, how often, the fees involved and what else may be expected of me. And I have yet to have someone be rude to me or think I’m silly for asking a specific question. In fact, people are usually glad you ask instead of letting something slip. This means that you’re trying to avoid problems later. And believe me, there’s plenty else to do and to worry about in running your small business. The last thing you need is to worry about whether you’re going to be fined because you didn’t file the proper paperwork or apply for a certain license.
In doing all of these things to get your business moving, just remember: you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have questions. And you’re going to learn from both your mistakes and your questions. You’ll have more questions after you have answers to the first ones. That’s just the name of the game. You’ve got to start somewhere. If you can find it in yourself to stick with it, I know you’ll be happy with the outcome.