Creating Your Own Business: Where Do I Start?
We've heard it before. It's the familiar chorus that has gotten louder and louder with more and more successful people chiming in. The message of the tune is simple: you can start your own business, simply because you can literally afford to.
Billionaire Tony Hsieh has already made his thoughts well known on the matter, stating that students are better off spending their tuition dollars elsewhere, as an investment in their own businesses. Meanwhile, author and entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau has made it his mission to inform people of how cheap it can be to start their own enterprises.
"I traveled across the U.S. and around the world, and kept meeting unconventional entrepreneurs — people who had started a business almost unexpectedly, usually without a lot of planning and almost always without a lot of money," said Guillebeau to Forbes. "Most of them did so for $1,000 or less, and half of them did so for $100 or less. My goal was to tell their stories in a way that readers could use in their own quest for freedom."
You may be brainstorming in your head right now, while considering an idea you may have and trying to figure out how best to make money off of it. Well, it should go without saying that handling a business can become a complex matter. But starting one is, by all accounts, a low-risk endeavor. With that in mind, here are five fundamentals you should consider if you're trying to get your million-dollar business on its feet.
1. Your Product
The first is a no-brainer, figuring out specifically what it is that you want to sell or offer as a service. What market are you trying to appeal to, how big is it, and how much money do they have to spend on your product? It's important to mold the answers to these questions into one concise plan that will dictate exactly how you will make a profit. Once that is taken care of, transform it into an approximately 2-page business plan.
"Try to cover the basic sections, especially if you expect to make a pitch to investors or lenders," says the New York Times' Tom Taulli. "These sections should include an overview of the business, industry background, the product or service, the business model (how will you make money?), the strategy and the team."
2. Your Brand
You will, of course, have to choose a name for your business. But before doing so, you'll want to check the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so you can make sure that your company hasn't already been created. One thing you will want to avoid is killing yourself over a name, as many experts have expressed a simple thought: It's not that serious. As Inc. writer Jeff Haden put it, "If you're waiting until you come up with the perfect name, you're also waiting to start making money."
Haden also reminds us that you can always change your company name later or legally operate under another title, but getting started is most important.
3. Your legitimacy
If you're going to sell a product or have employees, you're going to need to have the appropriate amount of paperwork done. And while it does sound like a hassle, Haden says obtaining the documents you need can be a pretty straightforward process.
If you're going to sell a products -- shirts, gadgets, etc. -- you're going to need a seller's permit, which you can find on your state's taxation website and can be found here.
If you plan on having people work for you, plan to start a corporation or a partnership, you will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number, which can be applied for here.
Haden also details other documents you may need to fill out here.
4. Your accounts
First, it's important that you immediately begin documenting the amount you're spending to get yourself started and, in the future, the amount you're going to take in. The basic go-to move in this situation is creating an excel sheet to track all expenses. Creating a company bank account is also standard while, depending on just exactly what it is you plan to do, you might want to consider business loans.
5. Your web services
It's 2013, there's no way you're going to operate a business and try to spread the word without a good online presence. You can, for example, easily create a site using Wordpress.com, where a .com domain name can cost you as little as $18 a year, or you can consult web.com to help get your online platform started. Of course, that's just one suggestion.
USA Today's Rhonda Abrams offers many more in an article that lists free web services that can help you save money on calling, newsletters and balancing the books.