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How to Start a Small Business

A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting a Small Business

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Deciding to start a business can be one of the most exhilarating decisions you make in your life. But there are a lot of moving parts and many different elements to consider.

Here are 10 steps that provide an overview of the basic steps required to start a business successfully. Take one step at a time, and you'll be on your way to small business ownership.

Step 1: Get Inspired

All businesses start from a common point - an idea. You may have dreamed of starting your own business for years, or inspiration may have hit you unexpectedly. Regardless of the source, the first step of starting your own business is coming up with a business idea.

Step 2: Do Your Research

You've identified your big idea, now it's time to balance it with a little reality. Are you really ready to start a business? Take this starting a business quiz to gauge your readiness and see what you need to prepare yourself for business ownership.

The next stage of research you conduct in your small business start-up process will help you figure out if your business idea has potential.

In order for a small business to be successful, it must solve a problem, fulfill a need or offer something the market wants. There are a number of ways you can identify this need, including research, focus groups, and even trial and error. As you explore the market, some of the questions you should answer include:

  • Is there a need for your anticipated products/services?
  • Who needs it?
  • Are there other companies offering similar products/services now?
  • What is the competition like?
  • How will your business fit into the market?

Don't forget to ask yourself some questions, too, about starting a business before you take the plunge.

Step 3: Make a Plan

You need a plan in order to make your business idea a reality. If you intend to seek financial support from an investor or financial institution, a formal written business plan is a must.

Even if you don't anticipate seeking financial support, a simple business plan can give you clarity about what you hope to achieve and how you plan to do it.

In general, your business plan should outline your business goals and the motivation behind them, as well as your plan for reaching your goals in terms of marketing and funding.

Step 4: Plan Your Finances

Starting a small business doesn't have to require a lot of money, but it will involve some initial investment. There are a number of ways you can fund your small business, including:

You can also attempt to get your business off the ground by bootstrapping, using as little capital as necessary to start your business.

Step 5: Choose a Business Structure

Your small business can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. The business structure you choose will impact many factors from your business name, to your liability, to how you file your taxes.

You may choose an initial business structure, and then reevaluate and change your structure as your business grows and needs change.

Step 6: Pick and Register Your Business Name

Your business name plays a role in almost every aspect of your business, so you want it to be a good one. Make sure you think through all of the potential implications as you explore your options and choose your business name.

Once you have chosen a name for your business, you will need to check if it's trademarked or currently in use. Then, you will need to register it. A sole proprietor must register their business name with either their state or county clerk. Corporations, LLCs, or limited partnerships typically register their business name when the formation paperwork is filed.

Don't forget to register your domain name once you have selected your business name.

Step 7: Get Licenses and Permits

Paperwork is a part of the process when you start your own business. There are a variety of small business licenses and permits that may apply to your situation, depending on the type of business you are starting and where you are located. You will need to research what licenses and permits apply to your business during the start-up process.

Step 8: Set Up Your Business Location

Setting up your place of business is important for the operation of your business, whether you will have a home office, a shared or private office space, or a retail location.

You will need to think about your location, equipment, and overall setup, and make sure your business location works for the type of business you will be doing.

Step 9: Choose Your Accounting System

Small businesses run most effectively when there are systems in place. One of the most important systems for a small business is an accounting system.

Your accounting system is necessary in order to create and manage your budget, set your rates, conduct business with others, and file your taxes. You can set up your accounting system yourself, or hire an accountant to take away some of the guesswork.

Step 10: Promote Your Small Business

Once your business is up and running, you need to start attracting clients and customers. You'll want to start with the basics by writing a unique selling proposition (USP) and creating a marketing plan.

Then, explore as many small business marketing ideas as possible so you can decide how to promote your business most effectively.

Once you have completed these business start-up activities, you will have all of the most important small business bases covered, and be ready for small business success.

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