You have a great idea for a creative business. Great! Now what? Here at The Curious Life Project, we will never focus on getting funding from venture capitalists or even borrowing large sums of money to start a business. The focus on curious careers is for businesses that allow you to create freedom for yourself with a very small business. If you are like me, you may be trying to create several tiny businesses, that will add up to a nice income. You will have successes along the way and failures, like I have.
Many entrepreneurs stop at the idea stage, because well, your first time, there are many things required to take your idea into reality. That is why I wanted to create a quick startup kit for would be tiny business entrepreneurs. Here is all you need to start your business and make it legit. Give yourself a deadline, then go find your first customers!
1.) Name Your Business – There are as many articles about how to name your business as there are stars in the sky. Many of them give conflicting advice. Many will also advise you to get professional help, which as a tiny business owner, is almost never in the budget or if you have a bit of creativity, extremely unnecessary. I always take half an hour or so and simply brainstorm 1 or 2 word business names. I try to combine something with personal meaning, that translates to the type of business I am starting.
- After writing down your ideas, circle your top 5, get some feedback from friends and do a quick google search to make sure no one is already using your brilliant idea as their business name. This always eliminates a few ideas.
- Check to see if your business domain name is available. The best place to do that for free is here: https://www.whois.net. For example if your business name is Namaste Web Solutions, check for http://www.namastewebsolutions.com to see if it is available.
- I use the KISS method for choosing business names. Keep It Simple Stupid. Short, sweet, catchy and to the point.
2.) Create or Get a Logo – You need a logo for your tiny business and it needs to look good. This is a place in my skill set that is lacking so I tend to invest a small amount of money in a good logo. If you can create your own, fantastic! If not then hiring someone is a good idea.
- Create your own: If you have an artistic bone in your body, but maybe don’t own expensive graphic design software, PicMonkey is a great tool. It offers a surprising amount of functionality, for the low low price of free. http://www.picmonkey.com
- Hire Someone Else: Don’t pay more that $300 for a business logo. There are plenty of resources out there and talented logo creators that offer a very good value. I have hired graphic designers in my network and also used sites like https://99designs.com which allows many graphic designers to submit multiple logo examples. This allows you to see many versions of your business logo, then pick the best.
3.) Create a Website – If you are going to start several businesses, it would be very valuable for you to learn a bit of code. You can create great looking websites without much skill using wordpress.com, weebly.com or a host of other website builders that make creating your website easy. This way you can do it yourself for free. This will be frustrating at first, as it has been for me, but once you get through your first business website you will be prepared for future sites which becomes easy. If you don’t have the time you can also hire a developer to create your site for you. But be prepared to spend a good amount of money to do so. To create my business ToolShare, I was quoted, $10,000 USD to create an app for the project. Another successful tech entrepreneur told me to create a basic site myself to test the idea before spending so much money. I was glad I listened to his advice.
- If Creating Your Own Site – Remember branding matters. Use 2 or 3 colors max, that look good with your logo. Use those same colors when setting up your social media feeds.
- If Hiring – Shop around. Do not go with the very first person you find.
- Launch Before It Is Perfect – Seriously. If 6 months have gone by and you are still tinkering with just the right font, or just the right placement of your purchase button, launch, it is taking you too long. It will never be perfect.
4.) Make It Legal – This depends on the country and even state you live in, but in most situations you need to make sure your business is legal. File Your Business Structure before making your fist sale. Personally, I usually form an LLC (Limited Liability Company) because we live in a very litigious society. There are many types, but for a tiny business these are the best:
- Sole Proprietorship – Most basic type of business and is great for tiny businesses. You alone own the company and control its assets and all activity. This is almost the definition of a tiny business.
- LLC (Limited Liability Company) – Basically if someone decides to take legal action against you because of something related to your business, they can’t take your house if they win. All they can get is what your business is worth.
- Partnership – This is the only other type of business that makes sense for a tiny business. Use this if you decide to create a business with someone else.
After you decide which type of business you want to operate, simply go to your governmental website (for example the Colorado Secretary of State) to file the correct form. This should only take 10 minutes or so.
4.) Choose the correct type of social media – I have a new business that targets other businesses and provides a service to nonprofits. This is a classic B2B or business-to-business model. I chose LinkedIn and Twitter as my only two social media feeds for this business because given a limited amount of time I know that Facebook and Pinterest will not be the best channels for this particular business. For my publishing company, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have been amazing sources of new customers because of the type of content my publishing company creates. Most people create a smorgasbord of social media feeds for their business because they think they need to be everywhere. For a tiny business you most likely will not have enough time to make them all relevant and worth your time. Pick two to begin and create your accounts.
- If you have multiple accounts and several businesses Hootsuite is a great tool. It allows you to schedule posts from 1 screen, on all of your accounts. That way you can devote an hour 1 day a week to scheduling all of your social media activity.
5.) Open A Business Bank Account – For tax purposes, and organizational purposes it makes sense to open a business bank account. When I first began to search for my business bank I had 1 requirement, no fees. Most banks charge small businesses monthly or yearly fees which I simply did not want to pay. At this point most of my small businesses earn about $500 USD per month, and paying fees to keep that money somewhere simply does not make sense economically. Rest assured, there are a few great banks out there that do not charge you to keep your business financial house in order.
6.) Go Get Your First Customer Or Client – Create a plan. How and where are you going to find your first customers? Social media has been great for me and utilizing hashtags to get new eyes on my businesses. I don’t have huge followings, but I do get a lot of quality traffic from the channels I do have. Will you advertise? I love Google AdWords, because it is a very cut and dry way to see a positive ROI and find new customers.
7.) Keep Track Of What You Spend – This is especially true here in the United States where you can write off business expenses when tax time rolls around. Taxes are complicated, but to keep it simple, just keep track and when it is time to file your taxes this can save you a bundle of money. How much should starting a business cost? This obviously depends on your business, but if it is a tiny business, I never spend more than $500 USD going through the above steps. My newest business, which I launched this week, only cost $18 USD to start.
Good luck my curious friends!!