Starting a business can feel daunting and the to-do list can be miles long. But, I’m here to tell you that the list of things you have to do to get started might just be less than you’d think. In this episode, we are exploring what actually needs to happen to get your business up and running, plus what can wait a while longer. If you’re in the earlier stages of your business or planning to start a business soon, this episode will give you clarity
(and an actual to-do list!) to get rolling!
Thank you to Amy Wolterman for sending me this topic as an episode suggestion!
If you ever have any topics you’d like to suggest, send me a message on Instagram (@elizabethmccravy) or comment on my latest post with your idea! I’d love to hear it!
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE NOW:
Let’s talk about the things you NEED
when starting your service-based business:
1. You need a business name.
And you might be thinking “But Elizabeth, this is the hardest thing!!” And, I FEEL YOU! As many of you know, I’ve operated my business under 3 different business names. And, I’ve considered MANY more than that. So, I know the name-game struggles. Depending on what you do exactly, my suggestion would be your own name for getting started or even permanently.
By using your own name, you can operate both as a business and as a personal brand. I can’t tell you what to name it, but I will say just pick something and if you don’t know right now, pick your own name. I have a business naming guide that might be helpful if you’re stuck in this phase.
2. You need a domain name.
Your domain name is your website’s URL. You need a domain name because that’s where your website is going to live. It is important to note that your domain name is separate from your website. There is NO REASON not to have a domain name. Do not operate off a WordPress.com site or a Wix subdomain or anything like that. You want your own home on the internet.
Domain names are priced based on how much the domain seller thinks that domain is valuable. Weird, misspelled domains are going to be crazy cheap, while something like “websitedesigner.com” could sell for thousands.
I want you to buy (regardless of your business name) your OWN NAME as a domain name. It is worth it to own it, and then you can redirect it to your website if you don’t use it. You could someday want it, and it’s worth it to go ahead and buy now if it’s affordably priced. The more common of a name you have, the more likely it is to just be unavailable or really expensive. But, if it’s available and affordable, buy it!
There are several options when it comes to buying domains. I personally love and use GoDaddy. They also have a great domain search engine on their website that offers great suggestions and is easy to use. Google domains is also an excellent options. You could expect a domain to be around $40 or less for the first year, and then it usually goes up some after that. I’m looking at one now for example that’s $12 the first year, then $17 every year after. That’s the domain for one of my client’s names that we ended up buying. It’s worth it, and in GoDaddy you can easily redirect the domain to whatever other domains you have set as the main one.
3. You need a website.
Establishing your business name, domain, and website is very important! This is your business’ store front. For your website, I recommend starting with a website template. Choose a platform you’d like to work on for your website to exist on and choose a designer’s shop to buy from. You can do that in either order! Maybe you know you want a Showit template, but you don’t know who yet, so you research. Or, maybe you know the designer but don’t care so much about the platform.
I have a website template shop, so I am one of the website designers I’m talking about! And, my templates work with the Showit platform. Showit is a host and a website builder. I have people who buy from me in both of those boats… sometimes they know they want MY templates and sometimes it starts with them knowing they want a Showit template and going from there.
Most templates (mine included) will have a logo spot in the template where you can simply type in your business name. It also comes with set fonts and colors that you can keep or change, so this helps you still have a brand set up, without hiring a logo designer. So, get a template! Or, you can also hire someone for a custom website, but I think starting with a template is perfect. There are also additional aspects to keep in mind under the “website” category; such as, identifying your services and pricing, writing your website copy and having photos to go on your website.
4. You need CLIENTS!
This is not the end of the list, but at this point, you can begin to book clients! You don’t need the rest of this list to find clients. You need a website. Listen to episode 24 where I shared 8 ways to find your first paying clients. This episode will tell you what to do in this step. And, if you listen through those points, you’ll realize that you don’t need an LLC or a business name or a business bank account to start booking clients. You just need to have services available.
So, if this is you and you’re at this step… but, the idea of going and getting clients is scaring you and you’re putting it off. It’s not because you don’t have all your ducks in a row, it’s likely because you’re scared to get started for other reasons.
So, explore that! Journal about it. Why are you afraid of taking the leap of booking clients? Do you fear you’re not good enough? Are you afraid of getting rejected? Are you nervous about being a real “business owner”? Are you worried about what people will think? Welcome to the world of having a business!
(If you need help getting started journaling, I recommend listening to my podcast episode
Morning Journal Prompts to Start Your Day with Intention. These are the 10 exact journal prompts I do daily! )
At every “level” in your business, you will ALWAYS have nerves, doubts, and fear come up. Those feelings right now will go away, but new ones will come up.
As they say “new level, new devil”,
so you’ve got to get used to facing them NOW.
5. You need social media for your business.
I’d recommend using Instagram or Facebook, or both. It doesn’t have to be both, but one of those will be best in most cases! This CAN BE your personal Instagram account, it doesn’t have to be a new business account, but it can be. For Facebook, it does have to be separate from your personal account and will need to be a business page.
Social media is where you’ll start the process of marketing yourself.
It’s better to start early!
You could put this off, but I think you’ll regret it if you do. I certainly regretted waiting. I made a business facebook page really fast, but I waited on Instagram. Also, this step can come after you’ve started having clients, which helps with things to share about. Start sharing your portfolio work, your testimonials, advice on the things your clients struggled with, and other posts that will help your audience learn more about your business.
For this step, I recommend listening to my podcast episode about
how to book clients on Instagram with less than 1,000 followers.
It will really help you!
6. You need a professional domain-based email.
This one is higher on the list than it might seem like it should be,
but the three reasons I recommend doing this early in the process are:
- It’s super easy to do.
- It’s cheap.
- The longer you wait to do this, the more email contacts you have on your other email and the harder it is to switch over.
A domain based email is an email at your domain name. It’s professional looking and using GSuite can be really easy to manage internally. You will only need one email address to start with. I recommend for the first one creating “hello@” or “yourname@.” These are common and easy for your clients to remember.
7. You need a business bank account.
This will make your finances feel so much simpler! In episode 25, I talk about why this is so important; not only for your tax purposes but also to keep your business finances easy! When opening your business bank account, I recommend using the same bank you use for your personal finances and just opening another account under the same login and make it a business account. Also, you don’t have to have a registered business to open a business account! You are considered a sole proprietor and are allowed to open a standard business account.
(For this step, I recommend listening to my podcast episode about how to stop treating your business like a hobby, where I provide 5 specific tips on stepping into the CEO role!)
8. You need a simple accounting spreadsheet.
This goes with the bank account. You need a way to track money in and money out in your business. I don’t think you need any fancy accounting software to start, just a spreadsheet will do! For my business, I use QuickBooks now, but honestly I use my spreadsheets even more to get an actual picture of how my business is doing and where the money is going. I recommend using Google Sheets. This allows you to access the spreadsheets from anywhere. And, with GSuite, these sheets can be part of your bigger business GSuite account in a finances folder!
Check out the podcast episode of this blog post to learn more about how
I specifically use one giant spreadsheet for a yearly view of my business!
9. You need a business license.
It may surprise you that I am putting the legal related tip as the last thing you need to get started. It’s not first on our list because the government doesn’t care about your business unless it’s making money; and you’ve got to do the other things to be making money. This is NOT legal advice, I’m just sharing what I did. Now, what is a business registration? This is something you do locally with your city or county. The specifics of what you register may vary depending on where you live. In Tennessee, your business license is registered through the county clerk office, but again, check the specifics for your local area.
You also may want to register your business name. But, if your business name is your own name you actually don’t have to do this in most states. Look at what’s needed to be done with your state. I want to point out that this is different than filing an LLC or S Corp
(more on that in just a moment!)
Now, let’s talk about those things that can wait
(no matter how urgent they seem!)
1. Business cards can wait.
This may sound silly to some of you, but I know the other half of you have probably marked “ordering business cards” urgent on your list of to-dos! Many people think that they need business cards in order to get their business started. I think it’s an excuse to stay in “getting my business ready” mode. Hilariously, all of the sets of business cards I’ve ever bought until this last one, I changed my business name, my services, or my Instagram handle BEFORE I even got through all the cards, so I just ended up trashing them. When you meet someone who you might want to work with you, you can make the exchange without a business card. When I meet someone at a conference, I prefer to exchange instagram accounts and follow each other on the spot than exchange business cards. So, focus on your social media and website instead and wait on the business cards.
Down the line when you DO get business cards, I recommend Moo.
You can get 20% off here!
2. You can wait on getting a logo designed.
Some of you, especially other designers, might disagree with me, and that’s ok. I don’t think you need a logo to start your service based business. I think you need a website and that you need to start building a BRAND, but you don’t need a logo. It’s common for us to think it’s all the same, but it’s actually three different things that all connect. You can have a website without a logo and a logo without a website. Your website still technically has a “logo” on it where your name is, but it's not its own file on your computer.
And, you can start building a brand without a website or a logo! The reason I say this can wait is because I recommend a website template first, not a custom website. And because your business will change and evolve so much at first, you might not be able to even get much use out of that custom logo. I had a logo to start because I’m a designer! But, y’all if I wasn’t a designer and had hired someone for that, I would have gotten use out of it for around 8 months, due to how quickly I changed my business name and services. So, consider waiting on your logo design.
3. You don’t need to register your business right away.
This is a question I receive very often, and I’m not an attorney, so I’m giving my advice based on what I’ve done, what my friends have done, and what I’ve learned from accountants and attorneys.
Registering your service business can wait. However, this is often something we get unnecessarily hung up on! No one cares about your business being “registered” if you don’t have clients. The reason it doesn’t matter is because when you start operating your business you are naturally called a “sole proprietor.” For example, if you are a freelance designer or a freelance writer, you are a sole proprietor.
So, you can stop obsessing over becoming an LLC right away! The benefits of an LLC or S Corp don’t apply to you if you don’t have clients. You need to get licenses and permits for your business locally, but the registration can wait. Right now if you have clients and are operating a business, you are a Sole Proprietor.
But, if you really want to register, the options are LLC and S Corp. Most people listening will want an LLC or Sole Proprietorship. When I started my business, I was a sole proprietor until the end of last year. Most of the time I was NOT REGISTERED! I was, however, paying quarterly taxes and yearly taxes and I had all the proper licensing to run a business where I live.
In general, the reason to register your business is to protect yourself. The government sees a business as a PERSON under the law. When you’re a Sole Proprietor, you and your business are the same PERSON under the law. So, if someone were to attack your business, they would be attacking your personal finances. An LLC removes a lot of the liability of your business. Which is important long term for taking your business seriously. If this isn’t a hobby, you need this. But, this CAN WAIT. It doesn’t need to happen when you don’t have clients.
Here are some helpful resources on this topic:
4. You don’t need a business plan.
This is another silly one that holds people back from taking action. Skip the weird business plan stuff and just know what services you’re offering and a general idea of who those services are for and start working!
Let’s review what you do need:
- Business name (or use your name)
- Domain name
- Social media
- Domain based email address
- Business bank account
- Accounting spreadsheets
- Business licensing
To close us out, a favorite quote of mine from a favorite podcaster,
“Discomfort is the currency of your dreams.”
Links Mentioned in This Episode:
- FREE Business Naming Guide
- Buy Domains with GoDaddy
- Get a professional domain-based email with GSuite (20% off first year)
- Shop the EM Shop Showit Website Templates
- Get 20% off business cards with Moo.
- Do you need to register your freelance business? (The difference between SP, LLC, and S-Corp)
- What is a sole-proprietorship? (from the U.S. Small Business Association)
- LLC or S-Corp? (Episode on The Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast)