Man, almost nothing gets me more excited than brainstorming new business ideas or helping some one else to start their own business!
Well, except maybe chocolate.
Or a fancy coffee drink!
Or the idea of acting like a cat in public and watching everyone's super confused reactions! Like ... I really want to sit on my haunches outside a coffee shop or restaurant window while just meowing and gazing in longingly. Can you picture it?
For a more detailed step-by-step post on starting a profitable blog OR online business, check out this post right here.
Anyway! Today I'm sharing 16 of the steps necessary to get your business started. If you don't have a business idea yet, check out this post on how to brainstorm a business concept first!
1. Choose a business model.
Do you envision your business being just you behind your laptop, or do you envision having hundreds of employees some day? It's important to decide WHAT size business model that you dream of having. Do you want a 1.) Micro Business where it's just you? A 2.) Small business where it's you and 1-15 employees? Or 3.) A large company that will expand to hundreds of employees and will eventually take over the world? (Although you can certainly take over the world by yourself too!) It's really important to have a clear vision on the scope of your dream business before you begin!
2. Figure out who your ideal client is.
This one is so important! What type of person do you envision selling your services or products to? Get REALLY specific on this. In fact, take 20 minutes to do a complete write up of your ideal client. Their age, their income level, their interests, their dreams, their frustrations, the problems that they need solutions to, how many ice cream cones they eat in a week, how many ice cream cones they DON'T eat in a week, (okay forget those last two suggestions and mega BONUS POINTS if you know what movie I was starting to quote!)
But write it all down. A complete profile of your ideal client. (Once you figure out who that is, check out this post on HOW to attract them!)
3. Determine your start-up costs.
How much money do you need to get started? My advice is to TRY not to go into debt if at all possible, although depending on what type of business you're starting that may be easier said than done. Save money and start small though. When I first started my photography business I saved money and then purchased the bare essential photography equipment that I needed. Sure it was super tempting to go out and buy a million different lenses, but I didn't lose money this way. I purchased more equipment as my business grew and I made more money.
4. Decide what services/products you'd like to offer.
Again, be specific here! Don't just answer something vague like, "Life Coaching." What does that mean exactly? What exactly are you offering to your ideal client to make their lives better? Write down all the services and/or products that you'd like to offer that fit within your niche. What are you interested in that people will also pay you for vs what you're simply interested in?
5. Choose your business name.
This part is fun! Make sure your business name fits who you are but also appeals to your ideal clients. Some questions to consider when choosing a business name are ...
- Does this name fit you as a person?
- Do you intend to sell this company? (Because if so, you probably don't wanna name it after yourself!)
- Will you still like this name 5 years from now?
- Are there any other well known businesses (or local businesses in the area) with this name already? (Don't forget to check!)
- Is the domain for your chosen name available?
- Will your name be confusing to others?
6. Register your business name!
This part isn't quite as fun as choosing the name, but you still gotta do it. If your name is available you need to register it with the county clerk and have it trademarked at the state and federal levels.
7. Develop your brand.
Now THIS is where the fun starts ... I frigg'in love branding!!!!!
Ehem. No but really, it's so much fun. Your brand is the visual face of your business. It should encompass who you are and what you're about. Your brand should be unique because your brand is YOU.
If you're into branding and design, you can go through this process with yourself. Create your mood board, your colors, your fonts, your logo ... you know ... all that good stuff. Every detail should be carefully thought out to make sure that it matches your vision. If you're NOT branding obsessed, (like me,) then find a designer who you love to create a brand for you.
8. Create a business plan.
Yes, this is a must! Write out your goals for the year, and the specific actionable steps that you are going to take in order to achieve them. What is your income goal for the year? How many services/products do you need to sell to reach that goal? What are your business expenses? What is your weekly work schedule going to look like? Write it all down, baby! (I wrote an entire blog post on HOW to write a creative business plan here, and it includes a free editable template!)
9. Decide on your pricing.
Are you going to charge by the service or by the hour? How are you going to price your products? To help figure out how much you should charge for a service, first figure out how much TIME you will put into that particular service by writing out ALL of the steps you will need to do from start to finish in order to complete that service.
So for example, when deciding on how much to charge for my wedding photography, I made a list of ALL the steps I would be going through to complete that service. The consultation, the e-mails, the driving, the engagement session, the planning, the editing, creating the bride's timeline, blogging, shooting, etc. After I figured out how many hours I'd be putting in, I then figured out how much money I'd like to make per hour, taking into account taxes! (Nearly 1/3 of what I make - yikes!) And if you feel inclined, you should check out this post on how to figure out your pricing as a creative freelancer!
10. Create your contracts and other necessary documents.
I don't care if you're working for a friend- you always, ALWAYS need signed contracts! They protect you, them AND your business. They make clear what exactly you've giving them, what's expected, how much they are paying you, etc. Also don't forget to make things like pricing PDFs to send to potential clients as well as any other things you might need to communicate your services.
11. Decide what payment system you'd like to use.
Since you will be swimming in money very soon, (picture Scrooge diving into his vault filled with gold coins!) decide how you will be accepting payment. Cash? Checks? Credit cards? Here's some good online invoicing software:
12. Create your Website + Blog.
Yes, you'll see that I put the two of those together. Welcome to modern times! Now adays, having a blog for your business, (as well as an awesome website,) is kind of a MUST. Blogging allows you to connect with your customers, educate your clients, differentiate yourself from everyone else and is a great place to show your sweet skills.
Plus blogging is really fun, let's be honest. (Yeah yeah, I MIGHT be a little biased.)
Your website + blog NEEDS to be awesome and fit with your brand, so don't skimp on this! If you are not confident in creating it yourself, hire this out. (I love and use Nathan Evans as a graphic designer!) I recommend using Squarespace unless you are tech savvy because, as someone who used Wordpress.org for SIX years, it is much easier to use and customize.
13. Create your workflow.
This makes you more efficient and insures that you will give each and every client the same great experience! Write down every single step that you will do with each potential client/client. From the first e-mail to the cute card you'll send them in the mail to the note just to say "hi." Or if it's a project, write down all the steps you'll take to complete that project. This will make you consistent AND efficient! (Pssst, I wrote a post on how to speed up your blog's workflow if you'd find it helpful!)
14. Create your business goodies.
You know, the tangible goodies like business cards, stationary, letterhead, etc. (I secretly find this part really fun too!)
15. Know your tax obligations.
Man ... just TYPING the words "tax obligations" sends a shiver down my spine! This is the one part of running my own business that I despise but that is unfortunately mandatory. My best piece of advice: find an awesome accountant who can not only help you file your taxes correctly, but who can also educate you on how to keep track of everything throughout the year.
16. Launch your business, woo hoo!
You did the hard work. You put in a bazillion non-paid hours of your time feverishly getting everything together and now it's time to launch the crap out of your new business! But even the launch needs a bit of a plan. You gotta build up a bit of hype first, ya know? In the weeks leading up to your launch, don't forget to spread the word over social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Share behind-the-scenes photos and explain some of the awesome services/products that you will be offering to make your ideal client's life better! Get them excited.
And get you excited, too. You should be. It's the start of a new chapter!!!
Got any questions? Please feel free to ask away in the comments below!