how to start a business and Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions, and completing a series of legal activities. Scroll down to learn about each step.
Conduct market research
Market research will tell you if there’s an opportunity to turn your idea into a successful business. It’s a way to gather information about potential customers and businesses already operating in your area. Use that information to find a competitive advantage for your business.
Fund your business
Your business plan will help you figure out how much money you’ll need to start your business. If you don’t have that amount on hand, you’ll need to either raise or borrow the capital. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to find the capital you need.
Pick your business location
Your business location is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Whether you’re setting up a brick-and-mortar business or launching an online store, the choices you make could affect your taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. how to start a business.
Choose a business structure
Your business structure affects how much you pay in taxes, your ability to raise money, the paperwork you need to file, and your personal liability.
Choose carefully. While you may convert to a different business structure in the future, there may be restrictions based on your location. This could also result in tax consequences and unintended dissolution, among other complications.
Consulting with business counselors, attorneys, and accountants can prove helpful.
Register your business
Your location and business structure determine how you’ll need to register your business. Determine those factors first, and registration becomes very straightforward.
For most small businesses, registering your business is as simple as registering your business name with state and local governments.
In some cases, you don’t need to register at all. If you conduct business as yourself using your legal name, you won’t need to register anywhere. But remember, if you don’t register your business, you could miss out on personal liability protection, legal benefits, and tax benefits.
Apply for licenses and permits
Federal licenses and permits
You’ll need to get a federal license or permit if your business activities are regulated by a federal agency.
Check to see if any of your business activities are listed here, and then check with the right federal agency to see how to apply.
Requirements and fees depend on your business activity and the agency issuing the license or permit. It’s best to check with the issuing agency for details on the business license cost.
State licenses and permits
The licenses and permits you need from the state, county, or city will depend on your business activities and business location. Your business license fees will also vary.
States tend to regulate a broader range of activities than the federal government. For example, business activities that are commonly regulated locally include auctions, construction, and dry cleaning, farming, plumbing, restaurants, retail, and vending machines.
Some licenses and permits expire after a set period of time. Keep close track of when you need to renew them — it’s often easier to renew than it is to apply for a new one.
You’ll have to research your own state, county, and city regulations. Industry requirements often vary by state. Visit your state’s website to find out which permits and licenses you need.
Open a business bank account
As soon as you start accepting or spending money as your business, you should open a business bank account. Common business accounts include a checking account, savings account, credit card account, and a merchant services account. Merchant services accounts allow you to accept credit and debit card transactions from your customers.
You can open a business bank account once you’ve gotten your federal EIN.
Most business bank accounts offer perks that don’t come with a standard personal bank account.
- Protection. Business banking offers limited personal liability protection by keeping your business funds separate from your personal funds. Merchant services also offer purchase protection for your customers and ensures that their personal information is secure.
- Professionalism. Customers will be able to pay you with credit cards and make checks out to your business instead of directly to you. Plus, you’ll be able to authorize employees to handle day-to-day banking tasks on behalf of the business.
- Preparedness. Business banking usually comes with the option for a line of credit for the company. This can be used in the event of an emergency, or if your business needs new equipment.
- Purchasing power. Credit card accounts can help your business make large startup purchases and help establish a credit history for your business.
Better than a piggy bank
John and Kelly opened a business bank account so they can receive and spend money on behalf of their auto repair shop.
Find an account with low fees and good benefits
Some business owners open a business account at the same bank they use for their personal accounts. Rates, fees, and options vary from bank to bank, so you should shop around to make sure you find the lowest fees and the best benefits.
Here are things to consider when you’re opening a business checking or savings account:
- Introductory offers
- Interest rates for savings and checking
- Interest rates for lines of credit
- Transaction fees
- Early termination fees
- Minimum account balance fees
Here are things to consider when you’re opening a merchant services account:
- Discount rate: The percentage charged for every transaction processed.
- Transaction fees: The amount charged for every credit card transaction.
- Address Verification Service (AVS) fees.
- ACH daily batch fees: Fees charged when you settle credit card transactions for that day.
- Monthly minimum fees: Fees charged if your business doesn’t meet the minimum required transactions.
Payment processing companies are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional merchant services accounts. Payment processing companies sometimes provide extra functionality, like accessories that let you use your phone to accept credit card payments. The fee categories that you need to consider will be similar to merchant services account fees. If you find a payment processor that you like, remember that you’ll still need to connect it to a business checking account to receive payments.