Launching your own business can be a complex task. But with the right tools and guidance, it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience.
This post outlines the essential steps you should take to start your own business. From choosing a business structure to researching your competition to laying the groundwork for marketing and more, these tips will help you launch a successful business.
The first time I started a business was way back in 2011. I was a mom to a two-year-old and a newborn and got the crazy idea that I should bake gluten-free cookies for my aunt and uncle’s cafe.
In my sleep-deprived stupor, I flailed my way through the process of getting started, sure I was messing up every step of the way.
It was a miracle I did the steps at all, let alone right!
That business grew into a gluten-free and vegan granola company that I ran for three years before selling.
Since then I have started a few more businesses and have a much better idea of what to do and when. So let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
The Birth of Your Business Idea
The first step to launching your own business is identifying a great idea. This can be something that you are passionate about or something that you believe will solve a problem in the marketplace.
1. Brainstorm Business Ideas
Sit down and make a list of all the things you are interested in or knowledgeable about. Think about what skills you have and how those skills could be used to start a business. Brainstorm ideas with friends, family members, and mentors to get their take on your idea.
Once you’ve got a long list of ideas, it’s time to narrow down your choices by evaluating each one:
- What is the purpose of starting this business?
- Do you believe there is a need for this product or service?
- Does the idea solve a problem that is currently unaddressed in the marketplace?
- Do you have the experience or knowledge needed to run this business?
- Are you willing to learn whatever is necessary to be successful?
- Is this something you are passionate about?
After evaluating your ideas, it’s time to dive a little deeper.
2. Identify a problem
Look for a problem in the marketplace that you can solve. Talk to potential customers and find out what challenges they are facing. What issues do they have with the products or services that are currently available? If you can offer a solution to these challenges, you will be one step closer to starting a successful business.
3. Research the market
Conduct market research to determine if there is a demand for your product or service. Study your competitors and figure out what sets you apart.
Once you have come up with a business idea, it’s critical to research your market so that you know whether or not your idea is viable.
You can use a variety of methods to do this:
- Interview potential customers
- Read through posts in Facebook groups
- Read reviews of similar products
- Send out a survey
Among other things, this research can help you figure out if there is already competition in the space and whether there is enough potential demand for your product or service.
4. Define your target audience
Determine who your ideal customer is and what their needs and wants are. Before you launch your business, you will need to know who your customers are. This involves narrowing down your target market. Once you’ve done this, work to find out where these customers are located, what their problems are, and what made them choose your products or services over others in the industry.
The best way to do this is with the Ideal Customer Workbook 😉
Ideal Customer Workbook
Figure out exactly who you are selling your product or service to with the Ideal Customer Workbook. Answer the questions, figure out which words they love and which they hate, and get ready to write targeted copy. 9 pages.
BONUS #1: Includes the presentation slides from Before You Write: Defining Your Ideal Customer, with six ways to find words that will connect with your ideal customer. 10 slides.
BONUS #2: 20 questions to use while interviewing your customers to help you develop an ideal customer persona.
5. Write a Business Plan
Writing a business plan is a crucial step in launching your own business. It will help you define your goals and objectives, identify potential challenges, and provide a roadmap for you to follow.
I like to ask just a few questions to help me create a business plan. This is not the type of business plan that will help you procure funding, it’s more of a roadmap for your business journey.
What Problem Am I Solving?
This is the most important question to answer in any business. “What problem are you solving for your clients?”
Think about it this way, why should they hire you or buy from you if you are not solving a problem in their lives?
Anything you write to clients, a landing page, a proposal, or your email welcome sequence, should highlight how your products or services will make their lives easier and solve their essential problems.
One of the biggest reasons to niche your business down is that you can get very specific about the types of problems you solve. This will help you attract your ideal client and grow your business.
How am I Going to Solve This Problem?
Write how your offer solves the problem your clients have. Explain what you do exactly and in detail.
Make it very clear and use simple terms that anyone could understand instead of jargon.
You don’t need to list out every service you offer, stay focused on your ideal client and what you can do for them.
How Will I Make Money?
It turns out no one really likes to think about where the money comes from. Mostly, everyone just wants it to appear in their bank account when the bills need to be paid.
But you are not like everyone else! You are going to make a plan for where the money comes from!
This is where you need to think about what your hourly rate is and how often you will increase it. Once you have a rate, figure out how many clients (or hours) you’ll need in order to make enough money.
It can be tempting to price yourself on the low end to get started and although that makes some sense, be VERY careful. You don’t want to price yourself so low that you resent the money.
Even beginners need to charge what their time is worth or they’ll burn out quickly.
Who is My Competition?
This is the point at which you might need to do some research. Join some Facebook groups and check out other social media platforms.
You’ll want to get an idea of what else is offered in your niche. Also, make note of how they talk to potential customers, you might find some great ideas for your own site and social media accounts. (Don’t copy of course, but it’s fine to be inspired!)
Now, think about how you will be different. How will you stand out in a crowded marketplace?
Who is My Ideal Customer?
You should have just finished putting this together if you’re following the steps. Once you’ve sold a few of your offers, you’ll have a better idea of who you want to work with long-term.
You can also think about who you don’t want to work with and write a bit about the types of clients you want to avoid.
How Will I Market My Business?
And this is where it can all fall apart.
Marketing is such a beast and can mean so many different things.
Think I’m exaggerating?
How many different social media platforms are there? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube…
Each platform attracts a different kind of person and requires a different type of post. And most of them have free ways to post and also ways to pay for advertising.
And seriously, trying to keep up with them all will burn you out in no time.
So what should you do?
Pick two ways to market your business and get really, really good at them. Then expand, one platform at a time until you have all the work you can handle.
There is a ton of info out there on who hangs out on each platform, so do a little research using your ideal client profile.
This is also the point at which you want to decide if you are going to stick with free advertising for now or invest in some paid advertising.
What is the Action Plan For The Next Six Months? One Year? Three Years?
The good news is you’ve reached the fun part now!
There is where you get to dream. Where do you want your business to be in six months? How many clients? How much revenue?
Looking at all the work you just did, map out what you need to do in the next six months to reach these goals. Break each of these goals down into realistic action steps and WRITE THEM DOWN!
Look at this action plan every day and do it.
Cause I’m going to let you in on a little secret…
The secret to success? Actually doing the work and not just making the plan.
You can download a One-Page Business Plan outline when you join The Vault, my free weekly newsletter.
6. Choose a Name and Tagline
Choosing the perfect name and tagline for your business is a crucial step in building a strong brand identity. Your name and tagline will be the first things customers see and hear about your business, so it’s important to choose something that is memorable, unique, and relevant to your products or services.
When you are ready to start naming your business take a few minutes to look at similar businesses for some inspiration. Make note of what feelings their names evoke, what kinds of customers they are trying to attract, and what words they use in their copy. Start a list of the words you like and would like to be associated with your business.
Brainstorm a list of words you use to describe your business. Use adjectives, nouns, place names, colors, verbs, and anything that gives a sense of what your business is about. Add words that you want to be associated with how your business makes customers feel. Add synonyms to those words using a Thesaurus. Narrow your list down to around 10 words you love.
Write down all the ideas that come to mind, then narrow down your choices by looking to see if the domain name and social media profiles are taken. If they are, keep looking! You don’t want to get into a dispute with an established business.
What Not To Do When Choosing a Business Name
Don’t Be Cute
It might seem like choosing a funny spelling or using a word like “shoppe” is cute but it will make it harder for people to search you out. Don’t replace a Q with a K or an F with a PH or you risk sending customers to the wrong business when they try to do a search for you.
Don’t Be Generic
Choose something that has personality! Don’t use too many generic words that don’t evoke a feeling in your customers. Choose words that are descriptive and bold, then you can mix in a few words that are more general.
It is good to get inspiration from business names you like, but don’t choose anything too close. The number of blogs that use a combination of smart, mom, business, and blog is overwhelming and I am constantly getting them mixed up. I am sure it was unintentional but make sure to Google your choice to make sure there is nothing too close. Google mixed up versions of your name too so you don’t miss anything.
Get Your Legal and Financial Ducks in a Row
One of the most important things you need to do before launching your own business is to make sure you have your legal and financial ducks in a row.
7. Choose a Business Structure
There are several types of business structures you can choose from. Consider factors such as startup costs and ongoing expenses, how well your business idea fits with the structure you choose, and the amount of personal liability you assume by choosing a particular structure. When deciding on a business structure, take the time to research and consult with legal and tax professionals.
A sole proprietorship is the simplest type of business structure. You will be personally liable for any debts or liabilities incurred by the business.
The general partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship, except there are two or more owners. Each partner will have unlimited liability for the debts and obligations of the business.
In a limited partnership, there is one general partner who manages the business and has unlimited liability and another limited partner who invests money but does not participate in managing the company. Liability is limited to the amount they invest in the business.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
An LLC is a hybrid between a corporation and a partnership. LLCs are formed at the state level, and restrictions on ownership and management vary by state.
8. Register Your Business
When launching your own business, one of the first steps you need to take is registering your business. This process varies depending on where you live, but it generally involves registering with either the local government or a state agency.
Google your state’s Secretary of State office and you should find information on the regulations where you live.
9. Get a Tax ID Number
Once you’ve determined what type of business entity you have you can sign up for a tax ID number. Depending on your business entity, you may need to provide a copy of your business license, articles of incorporation, or other documents.
The IRS website has an online application for obtaining a tax ID number. Just enter the information requested in the application. This includes your business name, address, and contact information. Once you submit the application, you should receive your tax ID number within a few days.
Make sure to keep a record of your tax ID number. You will need it for filing taxes and other business activities.
10. Obtain Licenses and Permits
When launching your own business, it’s important to ensure that you have all the necessary licenses and permits required by law. Failure to obtain these licenses and permits can lead to serious legal issues down the line.
The first step is to research what licenses and permits are required for your specific type of business. This can vary depending on the industry, location, and other factors. You can start by checking with your state or local government offices, as well as industry-specific organizations.
After you have gathered all the necessary information, it’s time to apply for the licenses and permits. This can typically be done online or through a physical application process. Be sure to carefully review all instructions and provide all required documentation.
In many cases, you will be required to display your licenses and permits in a visible location within your business. Be sure to comply with all display requirements.
Then make sure to keep track of renewal dates so you don’t forget to submit the renewal paperwork!
11. Set Up a Business Bank Account
Setting up a business bank account is an essential step toward launching your own business. Not only does it help you keep track of your finances, but it also ensures that your personal and business expenses don’t get mixed up.
Start by researching different banks in your area that offer business accounts. You can do this by searching online or asking for recommendations from other business owners. Once you have a list of potential banks, compare their fees and features to find the best fit for your business. Look for things like monthly fees, transaction fees, ATM access, and mobile banking options.
To open a business bank account, you will need to provide certain documents such as your business registration certificate, tax ID number, and proof of address.
Most banks offer different types of business accounts, such as checking, savings, and merchant services. Choose the account type that best suits your business needs. You will then need to fund your new account with an initial deposit.
Build Your Brand
Building a strong brand is crucial for the success of any business. It sets you apart from your competitors, creates customer loyalty, and establishes your reputation in the market.
12. Establish Your Brand Colors and Fonts
Establishing your brand colors and fonts is a crucial step in launching your own business. It sets the tone for your brand and helps you establish a visual identity that customers will recognize and remember. Here are the essential steps to establish your brand colors and fonts.
Before you choose your brand colors and fonts, you need to define your brand personality. Think about what values and characteristics you want your brand to embody.
Start by choosing your primary color. Your primary color should reflect your brand personality and be easily recognizable. Pick a color that stands out and represents your brand.
Then choose your secondary colors. Secondary colors complement your primary color and help create a cohesive visual identity for your brand. Pick colors that work well together and reflect your brand personality.
I really like a site called Coolors for choosing colors. It allows you to upload a photo, choose a color palette, or just start playing.
Next, choose your fonts. Your brand fonts should be legible, reflect your brand personality, and be versatile enough to use across different mediums. Consider using a combination of serif and sans-serif fonts.
Finally, you can create a style guide. A style guide outlines your brand colors, fonts, logos, and other visual elements. It ensures consistency across all your brand assets and makes it easier for others to understand and use your branding.
13. Design a Logo
Designing a logo for a small business is an important aspect of branding, and it’s crucial to create a logo that accurately represents your business and resonates with your target audience. Here are some tips to consider when designing a logo for your small business:
- Keep it simple: A simple logo is more likely to be memorable and recognizable. Avoid clutter and keep the design clean and easy to read.
- Make it versatile: Ensure your logo can be used in different contexts, including digital and print media. Consider how it will look in different sizes and backgrounds. It’s good to have a version that is a single color for print purposes.
- Get feedback: Show your logo design to others, including colleagues, friends, and family, and ask for their honest feedback. Consider their opinions and use them to refine your design.
- Hire a designer: If you’re not confident in your design skills, consider hiring a professional designer who can create a custom logo that accurately represents your brand.
If you want to create a logo yourself, I recommend using Canva. It’s a simple-to-use graphic design platform that allows you to create a logo in a variety of file types.
14. Create a Website
Your website is the first point of contact for potential customers, and it can help establish your brand and credibility. Here are some steps to follow to create a website for your business:
1. Determine your website’s purpose: Before you start building your website, you need to determine what its purpose is. Is it a blog, an e-commerce site, or a portfolio? This will help you decide on the necessary features and layout.
2. Choose a domain name: Your domain name should be your business name if at all possible. I purchase my domain names from Namecheap.
3. Select a hosting provider: Hosting providers store your website files and make them accessible to visitors. Look for a provider that offers reliable uptime and fast page load times. You can also use Namecheap for this.
4. Choose a website builder: I like to install WordPress and then use Elementor to build out my sites.
5. Pick a template or theme: Templates and themes provide the overall design of your website. If you use Elementor then you can just choose their Hello theme to get started.
6. Customize your website: Add your branding, logo, and colors to your website. Make sure your website reflects your brand’s personality and values.
15. Decide on Your Pricing Structure
When launching your own business, one of the most important steps is to decide on your pricing structure. This can be a tricky task, but with the right approach, you can create a pricing strategy that works for your business and your customers. In this pre-launch checklist, we will take you through the essential steps to help you decide on your pricing structure.
Before setting your prices, you need to know your costs. Calculate all the costs involved in producing and delivering your products or services. This will help you set a price that covers your expenses and allows you to make a profit.
There are several pricing strategies you can choose from, such as cost-plus pricing, value-based pricing, or penetration pricing. Consider your business goals, market position, and customer needs to decide on the best pricing strategy for your business.
Finally, you are ready to set your prices. Make sure you take into account all of your costs as well as other factors that can affect your pricing strategies such as discounts, shipping costs, and sales tax.
Market Like Heck
Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to a target audience. It involves creating awareness, generating interest, and influencing purchase decisions.
Basically, marketing is talking about your offer. But before you start talking, you need to develop a strategy.
16. Develop a Marketing Strategy
A marketing strategy is a plan that outlines how a business will reach its target audience and achieve its marketing goals. It should include the following:
- Target market: The first step in developing a marketing strategy is to identify the target market. Luckily, you did this earlier in the process.
- Marketing goals: The next step is to define the marketing goals. What does the business want to achieve with its marketing efforts? Do they want to increase brand awareness, generate leads, or drive sales?
- Marketing mix: The marketing mix is the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. The business needs to decide how it will position its product, set its price, distribute its product, and promote its product.
- Marketing tactics: How will you promote your product? There are many options to choose from, here are a few to consider:
- Leverage social media
- Utilize email marketing
- Employ content marketing
- Pay for ads online or offline
- Attend local events
- Partner with other businesses
- Ask for customer referrals
- Timeline: The business needs to decide how long it will take to achieve its marketing goals.
A marketing strategy is a living document that should be reviewed and updated regularly. As the business changes, so should its marketing strategy.
17. Create a Marketing Budget
Creating a marketing budget will help you determine how much money you can allocate toward marketing efforts and what types of strategies to use. Once you’ve created a strategy, use the following steps to create a budget.
- Determine your overall business budget: Before creating a marketing budget, it’s important to know your overall business budget. This includes all expenses for running your business, such as rent, inventory, website, licenses, etc.
- Set your marketing strategy: Determine what you want to achieve through your marketing efforts. Your goals could be to increase sales, generate leads, or improve brand awareness.
- Estimate costs: Estimate the costs associated with each marketing tactic.
- Allocate a percentage of revenue: Decide on a percentage of revenue that you can allocate toward marketing.
- Prioritize tactics: Prioritize your marketing tactics based on their potential impact and cost-effectiveness.
- Review and revise: Review your marketing budget regularly and revise it as needed based on changes in your business or industry trends.
18. Build Your Social Media Presence
In today’s digital world, having a solid social media presence is crucial. Social media is a powerful tool that can help you connect with your target audience, build brand awareness, and ultimately drive more sales.
Not all social media platforms are created equal though. Depending on your target audience and business goals, some platforms may be better suited for your business than others. Research which platforms your audience is most active on and focus your efforts there.
I recommend starting with only two platforms. Social media is a lot more time-consuming than people think. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin by trying to build on too many platforms.
Once you’ve chosen your social media platforms, it’s time to set up your profiles. Make sure your profiles are complete, including your bio, profile picture, and cover image. Use consistent branding across all your profiles to help build brand recognition.
Then it’s time to start creating content! Use a mix of text, images, and videos to keep things interesting for your followers. Don’t forget to engage with people either. Answer questions, thank them for their comments, and share how your offer solves their problems.
Launch Your Business!
And that’s it! Just 18 simple steps to start a business. Yeah, that isn’t simple, is it?
Don’t be intimidated by everything that needs to happen to get your business up and running. Take your time to do each step and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Remember to stay adaptable, regularly review and revise your strategies, and prioritize customer engagement to foster lasting relationships with your target audience.
With hard work, dedication, and the right approach, your business will be well on its way to achieving its goals and making a positive impact in your industry. So go ahead, take the leap, and get started launching your own business!