Starting a Business? A Must-Do Checklist

New year, new you, new goals? If your 2019 plans involve starting that business you’ve been dreaming about, it’s time to lay some groundwork. Start here:

Decide on your business structure.

This will vary depending on what kind of services you’re planning to offer. A sole proprietorship may be the simplest way to go, but it’s usually only appropriate if you’re a freelancer or planning on running things solo. Incorporations, partnerships, and LLCs have a variety of different benefits, such as protecting your personal assets or providing different tax breaks. If you need help determining your business structure, take this business entity survey and consult with a small-business attorney.

Accept chip cards and Apple Pay everywhere.

Order the Square contactless and chip reader.

Make a plan.

Especially at the beginning, focus is crucial — so you’ll need to make a business plan. Ask yourself these questions as you craft it: Who are my competitors? How can I make myself unique? How will I advertise, and to whom? How much funding will I need? Where will I get the capital?

Brand yourself.

Obviously, you’ll need a name and a logo. But to figure this out, first ask yourself what you want your “voice” to be like. Who are your customers, and how do you want to come across to them? Once you’ve nailed this down, start to brainstorm names that fit the bill. If you’re coming up dry, consider hiring an expert namer who specializes in your industry.

Protect yourself.

When it comes to legal and accounting issues, you want as few surprises as possible. So before you cut that ribbon, make sure you have those bases covered and that you’re intimately familiar with the IRS. Then consult (or even hire) a small-business attorney — an attorney will be able to answer any legal questions you have off the bat and can serve as a go-to in an emergency. An accountant will help you organize and manage your finances early on and set you up for success.

Build your team.

Though you may want to start off doing everything yourself, identify the areas where you might be stretched too thin (clerical? services? maintenance?). Then decide how much help you’ll need. A part-time employee or two may be enough at first.

So there’s the foundation. After you check these boxes, you can dive into the fun stuff.

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