Sign & Digital Graphics

Start Here October '19

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12 S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 9 Here are six key steps toward launch- ing an official business: 1. Pick a business name—it marks the beginning of your new brand. You'll want to choose something that's easy to remember and reflects what exactly what you are all about. Conduct a search to see if a domain is available and claim it. Be sure to perform a free business name search with your Secretary of State to make sure your proposed name is avail- able and not taken by a business in a similar industry. 2. Determine your business entity—if you prefer not to form an LLC or cor- poration, you can register your business name with the state via a DBA (Doing Business As) filing, and operate as a sole- proprietorship. You may decide to take your business to another, more serious level later. 3. Register your business and apply for a Federal Tax ID number (aka Employer Identification Number or EIN)—if you incorporate or form an LLC (Limited Liability Company) for your business, your personal assets are shielded from creditor claims against the business. In addition, formalizing your activity as a corporation or LLC helps show the IRS you are serious about the business. 4. Obtain the necessary business per- mits and licenses—depending on the spe- cific nature of your business, you may be required to get one or more licenses or permits from the state or local govern- ment. The most common requirement is the Resale License (and the proper way to collect and report sales tax). You might also need a general business operation license, health department permit, or zoning or home-based business permit. 5. Open a business bank account— once you have registered your business and obtained an EIN, you can open a business bank account and accept checks made out to your business name. In addi- tion, a business bank account keeps your personal and business finances separate— a must for Corporations and LLCs and a wise practice, if you go the sole-propri- etorship route. 6. Learn about marketing—estab- lishing a new company is not "Field of Dreams", folks—"If I build it, they will come." You can be the best in the world at what you've chosen to do, but if you don't market your business, you'll never get enough customers to turn a profit long-term. Read up on small business marketing and observe carefully how other similar yet successful businesses promote themselves. Don't Forget the Bare Essentials All businesses, regardless of size or legal structure, need outside support. This means retaining the services of an accountant, lawyer and financial advisor. These professionals can best advise you on how to minimize your exposure and liabilities. In business today, everybody needs an online presence to generate activ- ity. This means creating and maintain- ing a website, social media profiles, and everything else that goes into branding yourself as a professional. A few people will stumble across you online, but a lot of business success happens via word of mouth and networking. You have to be prepared to be active on this side of self- promotion, as well. Find clubs, conferences and groups in your specialty that cater to other professionals in the niche. You'll learn a lot at these events (such as Chamber of Commerce expos and industry trade shows, like the regional NBM Shows) and get the chance to mingle with people who are at the same stage as you, and preferably a little further. Just be sure you have an elevator pitch prepared for moments like those. Secure your "first client", even if you have to work for free. Your first customer will give you confidence in your business idea and make it psychologically easier to market yourself. If you do decide to make that first order "on the house", make sure it's in exchange for a nice online review, testimonial, or some sort of barter that you could use later. Some things you may want to discuss with your S B D C advisor to help you better understand your financial picture include creating a start-up expense chart, building a cash cushion, developing a sound cash-flow budget, and completing a break-even analysis. The philosophical approach here is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Once you make the final decision to go into business, all of your other interests must take a back seat. I mean all of them, including and especially your regular full-time job. Business ownership can be wildly rewarding and painfully stressful at the same time. If you take the time to do your homework and learn from other people's experiences, you should be able to reap many of the benefits of owning a company without the head- and heart - ache of trial and error. Good luck. There are many advan- tages to running a busi- ness from home includ- ing flexibility of setting your own hours, saving money and rent, and no wasted travel time. Photo courtesy Cheryl Kucheck)

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