Start your own business

Checklist for Starting Your Own Business

Ok, you have decided to become an entrepreneur or a solopreneur. Well, if you are wondering who or what is a solopreneur, first read this article. On the other hand, if you are wondering what all things you need to do focus on initially, read on. When I (re)started my entrepreneur / solopreneur journey a few years ago, I checked around to see if there is a checklist. Nope, there is no neatly laid out checklist that I could lay my hands on. Sure, they had a bunch of articles on how to incorporate or how to start a website, etc. but not a comprehensive list of things I had to get the business going. Hopefully, this article will give you that head start. Click here for THE Ultimate Business Startup Checklist.

The first item on the checklist: Self-Assessment

The very first thing you need to do before you embark on your entrepreneurial journey is ‘Self-assessment’. Why do you want to start a company or start your own business? What is the purpose? Do you either have or willing to acquire the discipline you need to be successful? Can you drive yourself day in and day out, through thick and thin, and persevere during tough times? What is your financial viability? How long can you survive without going broke? The rest of the items on the checklist are secondary to answering this primary question.

Business / Marketing Plan

Business plan: This was the most time consuming and tedious step for me but an absolute necessity. The plan should address questions like:  what product/service are you planning to offer; Is there a viable market for this kind of offering; Who are the intended customers and what are their pain points? Your business plan is more than the idea which inspired you. It is a set of steps to follow in order to launch your business into reality. In the world of business, there are many steps to starting a legitimate, legal company.

Foundational items

Business Name:
I took a considerable amount of time to select my business name. For my very first business, I tried to be clever and picked a name that was unpronounceable by many. I soon realized that it was a mistake and for my second company, I zeroed in on a business name that reflected our products and services but differentiated enough from our competition. I spent time doing Google search and also on many domain registrars to ensure that our name was unique.

Follow this process when selecting a name for your business:

  • Know your business mission and your own purpose for starting the business
  • Brainstorm possible names
  • Search names already in use to eliminate
  • Experiment with your short list of names and possible designs
  • Cross check with domain registrars like GoDaddy to make sure that there are no conflicts
  • Choose the best name possible

Choose Your Business Address:
A real address lends credibility to your business. If your business does not need a physical office space, consider signing up with part-time leasing and/or a mail pickup/delivery where you can rename as a suite to project a physical office address.

Obtain a Business Phone Number:
A business phone number also lends credibility to your company, as well as making it easier to keep business and personal calls and expenses separate. Many options exist, including mobile lines.

Create Your Business Identity:
This includes the steps above as well as getting your business known among your target market. A name, logo, contact information, and other physical props like signage and business cards all let the world know your company exists.

Register Your Business:
Your business must be registered within your state as a legal business entity under a specific name, as well as with the IRS for tax purposes.

Obtain a Business License and Necessary Permits:  
All businesses need some form of license or permit in order to operate legally. This often comes as a surprise to new business owners, especially online and home-based businesses.

Apply for Your Employee Identification Number(EIN):
This is only necessary if you will have paid employees. Otherwise, you can simply use your social security number.

Decide on a business structure:
Sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, corporation, etc. – and file the necessary documents and set up the necessary accounts with whatever agencies regulate you or for which you collect taxes.

Obtain a DUNS Number:
This is a unique nine-digit identifier for businesses, used to establish a D&B® business credit file. This is accessed by lenders and potential business partners to help predict the reliability and/or financial stability of your company in question.

Financial related

Financial Sources: Your financial viability plan must address the financial sources, required finances for at least one year of operations and contingency finances. I don’t have to tell you that there will always be unexpected expenses when it comes to money. 

Accountant or Accounting software: I decided early on that I’ll rely on accounting software to start with. I use Quickbooks Online and it seems to be sufficient for our needs. You may still need an accountant for tax purposes but it all depends on you to know if this is a must.

Establish a Business Checking Account: Keeping your personal and company finances separate is crucial, and not just for tax purposes. If you set up your business as anything besides a sole-proprietorship, you need separate bank accounts for handling your money.

An Accountability buddy: Find an accountability buddy, mentor or friend you can talk with regularly who can help you stay focused on your goals. This is very, very important as you’ll be driven in multiple directions on an ongoing basis.

Outreach list of items

Identify the professional associations and other groups your prospective clients belong to. Join and become active in at least one, with a goal of X number of referrals or clients within one year. Identify where your clients go for professional development, and find the most strategic way to contribute to their learning, through public speaking, writing a column, serving on a member-facing committee, etc. Conduct at least five successful informational conversations (a.k.a. reality-check interviews) with people who represent your market. Find out what they need, value and will pay for. ___ Write several vignettes that describe successful engagements (or your anticipated engagements), articulating the value you offer your clients.

​​​Web and Social networks

Establish a Website: In today’s global marketplace, a quality website for marketing and commerce is essential. Don’t skimp here; your website is most often the first impression a potential client sees when checking out your company. It can mean the difference between getting their business or losing it.

Establish Business Social Media Accounts: Social media is a powerful medium for promoting your business and linking back to your website, and business accounts separate from your personal accounts can be used solely for company interests.

Register with Online Business Directories: Many online directories exist to aid searchers with locating local businesses in certain industries. Register your company with several and be sure you are in the most applicable category that represents what your company provides.

Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface here. Under each item above there are numerous questions to be answered. Many considerations must be taken into account. You will likely need guidance from someone with experience launching new businesses.

About the Author Ramesh Dontha

I am an entrepreneur, writer, and blogger. I build businesses and love to share my experiences of my successes and failures. My mottos is: Live with purpose, Be Passionate about that purpose, Persevere through ups and downs and keep exploring Possibilities.

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