By Andreas Rivera, Staff WriterJune 7, 2018
So you want to start your own business. Maybe you’re really knowledgeable and passionate about something, or you’ve found a way to fill a gap in the marketplace. Wherever your interests lie, there’s almost certainly a way to turn it into a business.
This journey isn’t an easy one, though: Starting a business requires a lot of time, effort and hard work, and many would-be entrepreneurs end up failing. But if your company survives, the rewards are well worth the obstacles you’ll face on the road to success.
There’s a lot to consider and plan before you launch, and it’s important to prepare yourself for entrepreneurship. If you think you’re ready to start your first business, here’s a step-by-step overview of what you need to do to make it happen.
In this article…
2. Build a business plan
3. Assess your finances
4. Determine your legal business structure
5. Register with the government and IRS
6. Purchase an insurance policy
7. Build your team
8. Choose your vendors
9. Brand yourself and advertise
10. Grow your business
1. REFINE YOUR IDEA
If you’re thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following business model are already in place; all you need is a good location and the means to fund your operation.
2. WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
Now that you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan.
A lot of mistakes are made by new businesses rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? If you can’t find evidence that there’s a demand for your idea, then what would be the point?
Conducting thorough market research on your field and demographics of potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys, holding focus groups and researching SEO and public data. A guide to conducting market research can be found on our sister site Business.com.
A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties and what you need to sustain it. A full guide to writing your plan can be found here, and when you’re ready to put pen to paper, these free templates can help.
3. ASSESS YOUR FINANCES
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you’re going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you’re planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have some money put away to support yourself until you start making a profit? Find out how much you’re going to need.
Experts generally agree that startup businesses often fail because they run out of money too quickly before turning a profit. It’s never a bad idea to overestimate the amount of startup capital you need, as it can be a while before the business begins to bring in a sustainable revenue.
If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you are unable to take out a bank loan, you can apply for a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [See related story: Best Alternative Small Business Loans]
Startups requiring a lot more funding up front may want to consider an investor. Investors usually provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company, with the expectation that the backers will have a hands-on role in running your business. Alternatively, you could launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers. You can learn more about each of these capital sources and more in our guide to startup finance options.