Setting Up Your Own Business? Here’s a Startup Checklist

There are so many details to take care of when setting up your own business. Based on my own experience with several small business ventures, including real estate rentals, I have put together a checklist of important items that you must do at the beginning.

Note:  I am writing as a US-based small business owner. The UK, Australia, Canada and even US territories all have different laws, rules and terminology.

Depending on your city, county, state– or even country — some of the following items may be optional and others will be mandatory. Always, always check with local governing officials about what is required of you specifically.

Setting Up Your Own Business

Before you proceed with the steps below, ask yourself the following questions…

  • Is the proposed activity legal? If you plan to have your business from home, is the activity allowed by local officials? (some cities have restrictive laws)
  • Is there a business licensing requirement, mandated by local, state or federal laws? If yes, what are the costs of getting the license?
  • If you plan to sell products, have you located wholesalers or suppliers?
  • If you are selling services, have you determined your pricing?
  • Have you attempted to forecast potential income?

Setting Up Your Own Business – Step 1

Choose A Business Name

This sounds obvious but many startup business owners don’t give enough thought to this step.

  • Is the name easy to pronounce?
  • Does it seem descriptive of your new business venture?
  • When you answer the phone, would it sound professional?
  • Is there a web address (domain name) available to match?
  • Are you sure that the name is not already taken in your local business area?

Once you have chosen the business name, file the assumed name certificate (fictitious name certificate as it is called in some places) with your county.

Setting Up Your Own Business – Step 2

Choose the Entity

This step may require consultation with a tax professional or legal professional.  In the US, the major entity choices would be:  sole proprietor, partnership, corporation , LLP (limited liability partnership) and LLC (limited liability corporation). Or sometimes there is a mixture of several entity types, depending on your circumstances.

Many startups begin with the simplest entity, sole proprietor, and then make changes as the business grows in the future. If you choose to incorporate, or create some form of LLC, you can still operate in the original business name, but it would become a ‘dba’ of the new Continue reading “Setting Up Your Own Business? Here’s a Startup Checklist”

Small Business Bookkeeping

Cloud-based help available for small business Bookkeeping

small business bookkeepingStarting a small business and making it successful is the dream of many Americans. In light of the struggling economy, more people are deciding to strike out and start their own venture. Today’s technology in many ways makes starting a new small business easier than ever.

Unfortunately, the creativity and drive that can lead someone to start a small business may not translate to one of the most important aspects of running a company, keeping the books. Small business owners must not only market their product or service and attract customers, they also have to maintain accounting records, send out and keep track of invoices and stay up to date on tax codes. Overlooking any of these can be detrimental to the business.

Luckily, many companies are offering cloud-based computer solutions to these problems. Most of them offer free trial periods to try their program out to see if it will work for you and some even provide a very basic level of service free of charge. These applications help organize a business without requiring any formal training for the person using the programs. Many users report they are able to cut out hours of paperwork each week.

There are several of these applications available and many are cloud-based, meaning your business data is saved on their secure servers. If the business computer goes down or is stolen, that data remains intact. Each one offers bookkeeping and organizational services in different ways.

Outright Online Accounting organizes all the business information by pulling it into one place. It also automatically categorizes transactions into the proper tax areas, keeping owners up to date on what they will owe the IRS.

For those who do not want to enter their own information, Shoeboxed allows users to mail or electronically senddocuments to them for entry. The information is then organized into proper categories and can be searched using name, date or payment type.

Freshbooks specializes in sending and managing invoices online. It also helps a business accept payment through PayPal, e-checks or credit card and even will send out automatic payment reminders to clients so you don’t have to keep track of those.

One of the most well-known bookkeeping aids is Quick Books. It also allows business owners to create invoices, track expenses and sales and keeps track of taxes.

Wading through piles of receipts, bills and business cards can be the bane of any small business owner. Those documents are all important to growing the company, but sifting through them can be time consuming and takes away from finding ways to improve sales. By taking advantage of a cloud-based accounting service, that time can be recaptured and put to better use.