Starting a new business is both exciting and overwhelming. There are a few basics every business needs, so make sure you tackle these first.
1. A Name
Duh. Right? But it's not as simple as thinking up something you like and going with it. Picking the right name is vital to your business, because it's how people will identify your business. It can help make a good first impression and tell people what you do and sell. It can also speak to your brand identity and personality.
When picking a name, it may help to be specific, though you may not want to be too specific. For example, when I first registered Red Balloon Station as an LLC, I did so to self-publish my first book, so I registered it as Red Balloon Station Books. Not very smart, because as my writing career expanded, having books attached to my name didn't make sense. It also didn't make sense to set up a new LLC for each writing service I provide, so I dropped the "Books" in my name and am officially just "Red Balloon Station," a creative hub for strategic and impactful copywriting and storytelling services.
Thankfully, I didn't have a lot of marketing assets I needed to change, so the change was not a huge burden to me. But depending on your business, especially if you sell product, a name change is A LOT of work.
It's also a good idea to think of a few names, then do a trademark search on whether anyone has your same business name both in your state and the US Patent and Trademark database. You don't want to run into any issues with confusion or someone else already owning the trademark to your business.
Having a few names to start can also help you test which one resonates best with your target audience.
All in all, take time to think of the best name for your business.
2. Decide on Business Structure
Depending on your business, you may think that a simple DBA will suffice, particularly if you're a solopreneur. As a solopreneur, a DBA may well be just fine, but my law school education always has me leaning towards officially incorporating your business (as an LLC, Corporation, or other legal business structure) if you're selling any kind of product or service. It simply helps separate you and your business, and better protects you that way. This is in no way legal advice, just an opinion.
And if you use a legal service company like Incfile or Rocketlawyer to help you get set up, they typically handle all the other logistics like registering for a federal and state identification number, secure a registered agent service, and more.
3. Physical Business Address
You need a physical business address in the US and it cannot be a P.O. Box. I personally do not recommend using your home address, because your address is available for the public. Many people who do not need a physical brick and mortar to operate their business use a virtual address or register with a co-working space. I went the co-working space route.
4. Separate Business Account and Credit Card
It's important to keep all business related funds and expenses separate from you personal. This way, if someone sues you, they cannot go after your personal assets.
5. Business License and Permits
Remember license to get your local business license and any other license or permit your business may require. For example, if you're in the business of selling food, you'll likely need other licenses or health clearances to make sure all is being done properly.
6. Business Insurance
You may or may not require business insurance, so it's a good idea to look into this to see if it makes sense for your business.
7. A Website!
Your website is your virtual home where people will go to find more information on you. It always frustrates me when people don't have websites, because not only is your website how customers get to know who you are, what you do, your mission and values, it's also a place to go find answers to questions they may have. A website is so important and I will write a separate post on the basics every business website should have. So stay tuned for that!
These are a few of the must-haves when starting a business, but remember to check with your state's requirements. If you're starting a nonprofit, remember to look into those requirements, too.