Starting a business can be tricky.
It can be intimidating.
It can be expensive.
Many people assume they need to have a large sum of money before starting a business, whether that money comes from personal savings, taking out a loan, or raising capital.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact…
Starting a business can be really easy.
It can also be extremely inexpensive.
Here are the exact steps (and tools) needed to start your new business. Everything from creating your website, to setting up a professional phone tree, all for only $200!
Let’s get started...
- Start with an idea (Free)
- Choose a name (Free)
- Legal stuff (Varies)
- Email, calendar, and online file storage ($12 + $5/month)
- Create a forward for support emails (Free)
- Setup your email marketing (Free)
- Use a scheduling tool (Free)
- Get a business number (Free)
- Order business cards ($7.99 + shipping)
- Create a website ($5.95/month)
- Setup social media (Free)
- Bookkeeping (Free)
- Get to work (Free)
1. Start with an idea
Whether good or bad, all businesses start with an idea. An idea gives fuel to the creation of your business. It becomes the “why” of why you’re in business. Ideas come from a variety of sources. Some include:
- Solving an existing problem
- Improving upon an existing product or service
- Teaching a skill
- Making something more convenient
2. Select a business name
It’s okay to take some time when choosing your business name.
You want to choose a name that both stands out, and embodies the characteristics of your business. It’s also important to choose a name that’s easy to remember (think to yourself “Is it catchy?”).
A few other factors to take into consideration: is the domain name available? Is there a trademark violation? Can I build a brand around the name?
Remember that just because a domain name isn’t available doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose that name. There are lots of creative ways to incorporate the business name into your domain. For example:
- Add app to the end of your name (e.g. ToutApp)
- Choose a different domain extension such as .co or .biz
3. Legal Stuff
When starting a business it’s important to consider any legal requirements up front. Depending on the type of business, there may be licensing or permit requirements. The best way to ensure the safety of your business is to consult with a qualified attorney.
When it comes to setting up the legal structure and business entity itself, a great resource is LegalZoom.
4. Setup your domain, email, calendar, and online file storage
G Suite by Google.
Let’s not overcomplicate. G Suite is one of the best and simplest platforms to build your business. For only $5 per month you get everything from world-class email to calendaring and online file storage.
G Suite also includes a word processor, spreadsheet application, and presentation creator (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides).
G Suite works great for both small and large businesses. It’s backed by Google which means that uptime and security are world-class.
(Tip: If you’re building a software application, Google now offers a strong competitor to Amazon Web Services in the form of GCP, or Google Cloud Platform. It’s low cost and easy to setup.)
5. Customer Support
If you’re just starting out there’s no need to pay for a Help Desk solution. Consider setting up a free email forward inside of your G Suite account. G Suite allows you to create unlimited aliases such as: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.
Start off by creating either info or support @yourdomain.com and forward it to your business email.
A proper help desk may become necessary in the future. For now, let’s keep things cheap and easy by using the forward trick mentioned above.
6. Setup your email marketing
There is no shortage of email marketing tools. Each has its own advantages and more than one tool is perfectly capable of meeting business needs.
To make things easy, I’d recommend giving Drip a look. Drip offers a forever free plan until you reach 100 subscribers.
Drip allows you to create customized email campaigns for different segments of your business. It also allows you to send broadcast emails as often as you’d like.
Lastly, Drip offers website tools which will help you grow your email list. These tools are available in every plan and are extremely easy to implement.
While not essential to a new business, Calendly is a great tool to help automate scheduling. Calendly connects directly with your calendar and always knows your availability. When trying to schedule an appointment with a potential client, you can easily send them your Calendly link and let them choose a time that works best for them.
This saves you from going back and forth via email. Calendly takes into consideration different time zones. It also allows you to customize the confirmation and reminder emails that go out before an appointment.
Calendly’s Basic plan is completely free and allows you to set up one event type. This works great to get started and will save a considerable amount of time. It also helps you maintain a professional, organized appearance.
8. Get a business number
While not all businesses will require a phone number when starting out, it is a good idea to obtain a number that is separate from your personal telephone number.
An easy (and free) option is to sign up for Google Voice.
Google Voice allows you to choose a local number that will forward to your existing cell phone or landline.
Google Voice also allows you to choose business hours and to create a business voicemail message.
There’s no need to worry about outgrowing Google Voice (you probably will). Porting your business number to a new provider is relatively painless and can be done at any point in the future.
9. Order business cards
Don’t spend too much time here. Business cards are important to have when networking. Just remember that simpler is going to be better. A very simple design will get the job done and will probably look more professional anyways.
Choose from hundreds of pre-made designs on a site such as VistaPrint.com. Cards start as low as $7.99 + shipping.
10. Create a website
Every business should have a website. The amount of effort you invest on this website will be determined by the type of business you are starting. For some businesses, starting out with a clean, one-page website will be just fine. For others, more time may need to be spent.
Wordpress is an open source platform you can use to create a great looking website. Over 25% of the entire web uses WordPress which means there's an enormous amount of themes, plugins, and support to get your site off the ground.
11. Social Media
Be where your customers are.
Regardless of business type, chances are that your customers are hanging out on at least one of the social media platforms. While creating a profile on multiple social media platforms is fine, it’s a good idea to focus on one or two of the platforms when starting.
LinkedIN is great for B2B business types while Instagram may be your best bet if you’re going straight to consumer.
The initial goal with any social media tool is to begin building a following. Once your budget warrants it, you can begin experimenting with ads to drive additional traffic to your business.
With so many things to consider when starting a business, bookkeeping is often overlooked. The earlier you start the better. There are a handful of inexpensive tools you can get started with. These tools will guide you through the basic principles such as reconciling your bank statement, classifying expenses, and creating customer invoices.
If budget is an issue, consider starting out with a simple spreadsheet. Google Sheets offers a free template to get you started.
13. Get to work!
Now that your business is off the ground, it’s time to get to work! It won’t matter if you have the greatest, most innovative ideas in the world, if you fail to get them in front of the right audience, they will do neither you nor anyone else any good.
Pick up the phone and call potential customers.
Attend local business events and network with potential customers and partners.
Last of all, do not be afraid to ASK!
Ask your customers about paint points in their business. Ask them what needs they are looking to fill. Lastly, ask them to purchase your product or service. If they say no, ask them why and move on to the next potential customer! Perseverance will give you that extra push needed when starting your new business.
Starting a business is exciting. When done right, it can be one of the most fulfilling endeavors of your life.
Get started today and let us help you along in your journey!