Starting a home business can seem like a daunting task, but with a clear plan and expectations, success can be achieved.
Creating a business plan is an essential part of starting a home business, so that expectations and deadlines are realistic and clear.
Photo by Fotolia/violetkaipa
Start Your Own Home Business After 50 (Quill Driver Books, 2013) is the perfect book to help you take care of your retirement income. Robert W. Bly offers advice and proven plans for starting a home business and achieving the income you’ve always wanted. Excerpted from “Launching Your New Business,” this selection makes starting your own home business a matter of simple planning and achievable goals.
No matter what business you have decided to set up, you will need to take some steps to make sure you can get off to a good start. These steps apply whether you are 25, 50, or 75; if you want to succeed in a home business, you must take the time to do it right. In this chapter, you will learn about some of the steps you need to take to get your new venture up and running. We will look at:
• Choosing a legal form for your business
• Choosing and registering a business name
• Creating a business plan
• Making the necessary financial plans
• Creating a website
• Announcing your new business
First, consider how you want to set up your company. Do you wish to set it up as a sole proprietorship (only you) or do you want to incorporate the business? Corporation types include S and C corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability corporations (LLC). Each has different financial, tax, and legal ramifications and requirements.
You must make your decision based on what services you plan to provide and what liabilities you might incur during the course of doing business. Are you in a business that is at high risk of being sued? Are clients coming to your home to do business? You’ll need to be protected from anything that could occur on the premises, however obscure.
My suggestion here is to find a really good CPA (certified public accountant) and/or a lawyer in your state to look over what you plan to do and help you set everything up fully and correctly. Your choice will affect your business liabilities, personal liabilities, and how you protect your assets. You definitely want to get this step right.
You should also obtain a federal tax identification number that you will use for all your business income and expenses, as well as for any contract workers you might hire for your business and projects. Bring the paperwork sent to you when you signed up for the ID number when you register your company in your county, state, or province. Your CPA and lawyer will be able to advise you of current best practices so you don’t run into trouble with the Internal Revenue Service at a later date.
Your best bet when it comes to naming your business is to use something that represents your type of business and is easy to remember. It can be as simple as operating under your own name as a corporation or sole proprietorship. Or, you can come up with a more elaborate name that reflects your business niche but does not include your name.
If marketing and public relations are not your game, think about hiring a consultant who can help you decide on a name, design a logo, and develop a slogan that represents the kind of service you want to offer your customers. If your marketing consultant is a copywriter, have him or her write copy for your website and any other promotional documents you need for advertising, marketing, and public relations.
Before you file the necessary paperwork with your new business name, you need to check to see whether that name is being used somewhere else. Contact your local, county, and state agencies or do an online search. You can find a good resource for name searches and business filing requirements broken down by state at www.usa.gov. Certain businesses, depending on the type and scope of their services, may also need to search federal registries and may need trademark or copyright protection.
Most individuals starting a new business choose to form sole LLCs or file for a “DBA” certificate, which means “doing business as.” In most states, you will have to file an application with the Department of State, Division of Corporations and/or your local County Clerk’s office. Depending on the nature of your business and its legal structure, you may have to meet additional licensing requirements, obtain permits, and file tax registrations before conducting business.
While you are wading through all of the legal decisions and paperwork, spend some time creating a business plan, which will come in really handy for a number of reasons. First, it helps you organize your business arrangements and focuses you on what needs to be done next in your organizational process. Also, if you go to a bank to open up a checking account or to seek a loan for your business, the loan officer or bank agent is going to want to know if you have such a plan, because a solid business plan allows them to see how serious you are about building your business. You may also need this documentation if you apply for grants through various foundations or for loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Haven’t a clue what a business plan is? Check at your local bookstore or at Amazon.com to find books that provide business plan outlines and supply sample business plans. If funds are tight, go to your local library and ask for help in finding some of these books. A good starter book would be Business Plans Kit for Dummies, 3rd ed., by Steven Peterson, Peter Jaret, and Barbara Schenck (For Dummies, 2010).
Depending on the type of business you are opening, I recommend hiring an attorney and CPA on a monthly retainer to make sure everything goes correctly right from the start. Your attorney can help set up basic contracts to use for future clients and review any contracts clients want you to sign. A CPA can help you prepare your taxes and make sure that you take advantage of laws and deductions that benefit small businesses.
Reprinted with permission from Start Your Own Home Business After 50: How to Survive, Thrive, and Earn the Income You Deserve! by Robert W. Bly and published by Quill Driver Books, 2013.