Start Your Own Business: 50 Things You'll Need to Do

From insurance to accounting to taxes, here are the steps to starting a business.

Thinking about starting a business? You're not alone. Every year, thousands of Americans catch the entrepreneurial spirit, launching small businesses to sell their products or services. Some businesses thrive; many fail. The more you know about starting a business, the more power you have to form an organization that develops into a lasting source of income and satisfaction. For help with the beginning stages of operating a business, the following checklist is a great place to start.

Evaluate and Develop Your Business Idea

Step Description Resources
1 Determine if the type of business suits you. Start the Right New Business for You.
2 Use a break-even analysis to determine if your idea can make money. Will My Business Make Money?
3 Write a business plan, including a profit/loss forecast and a cash flow analysis. Writing Effective Business Plans
4 Find sources of start-up financing. Business Financing, Loans & Capital
5 Set up a basic marketing plan. Marketing & Advertising

Decide on a Legal Structure for Your Business

6 Identify the number of owners of your business. Partnership Information
7 Decide how much protection from personal liability you'll need, which depends on your business's risks. What are the risks of starting my own business?
8 Decide how you'd like the business to be taxed. Business Tax Information
9 Consider whether your business would benefit from being able to sell stock. Incorporate Your Business
10 Research the various types of ownership structures. Sole Proprietorship
C Corporation
S Corporation
11 Get more in-depth information from a self-help resource before you settle on a structure. If you are unsure, talk to a lawyer. Nolo Store
Talk to a Lawyer

Choose a Name for Your Business

12 Think of several business names that might suit your company and its products or services. Your Business Name
13 If you will do business online, check if your proposed business names are available as domain names. Choose and Register a Domain Name
14 Check with your county clerk's office to see whether your proposed names are on the list of fictitious or assumed business names in your county. Your Business Name
15 For corporations and LLCs: check the availability of your proposed names with the Secretary of State or other corporate filing office. Register Your Business Name
16 Do a federal or state trademark search of the proposed names still on your list. If a proposed name is being used as a trademark, eliminate it if your use of the name would confuse customers or if the name is already famous. How to Do a Trademark Search
17 Choose between the proposed names that are still on your list. Choosing a Business Name FAQ

Register Your Business Name

18 Register your business name with your county clerk as a fictitious or assumed business name, if necessary. Register Your Business Name
19 Register your business name as a federal or state trademark if you'll do business regionally or nationally and will use your business name to identify a product or service. File a Federal Trademark Application
20 Register your business name as a domain name if you'll use the name as a Web address too. Choose and Register a Business Name

Prepare Organizational Paperwork

21 Partnership Partnership Agreement
Buyout agreement (also known as a buy-sell agreement)
22 LLC Articles of Organization
Operating Agreement
Buyout Agreement (also known as a buy-sell agreement)
23 C Corporation Pre-Incorporation Agreement
Articles of Incorporation
Corporate Bylaws
Buyout Agreement (also known as a buy-sell agreement or stock agreement)
24 S Corporation Articles of Incorporation
Corporate Bylaws
Buyout Agreement (also known as a buy-sell agreement or stock agreement)
File IRS Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation

If you're looking to create an LLC or corporation, Nolo has great online applications that can make it easy. Check out our Online LLC and Online Corporation applications, as well as our suite of books on the subject. 

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