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.
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
LLC
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 Business Buyout Agreement (also known as a buy-sell agreement)
23 C Corporation Pre-Incorporation Agreement
Incorporate Your Business
Amend Corporate Articles & Bylaws
Business Buyout Agreements (also known as a buy-sell agreement or stock agreement)
24 S Corporation Incorporate Your Business
Amend Corporate Articles & Bylaws
Business Buyout Agreements (also known as a buy-sell agreement or stock agreement)
S Corporations

Find a Business Location

Step Description Resource
25 Identify the features and fixtures your business will need. Your Business Space & Commercial Lease.
26 Determine how much rent you can afford. Tips for Assessing the Cost of the Commercial Rental.
27 Decide what neighborhood would be best for your business and find out what the average rents are in those neighborhoods. Determine the Space Your Business Needs.
28 Make sure any space you're considering is or can be properly zoned for your business. (If working from home, make sure your business activities won't violate any zoning restrictions on home offices.) Home Businesses and Zoning Laws
29 Before signing a commercial lease, examine it carefully and negotiate the best deal. Commercial Leases: Negotiate the Best Terms

File for License and Permits

30 Obtain a federal employment identification number by filing IRS Form SS-4 (unless you are a sole proprietorship or single-member limited liability company without employees). Licenses & Permits for Your Business
31 Obtain a seller's permit from your state if you will sell retail goods. State Start-Up Requirements for Small Businesses
32 Obtain state licenses, such as specialized vocation-related licenses or environmental permits, if necessary.
33 Obtain a local tax registration certificate, a.k.a. business license. Local Start-Up Requirements for Small Businesses
34 Obtain local permits, if required, such as a conditional use permit or zoning variance.

Obtain Insurance

35 Determine what business property requires coverage.
36 Contact an insurance agent or broker to answer questions and give you policy quotes.
37 Obtain liability insurance on vehicles used in your business, including personal cars of employees used for business.
38 Obtain liability insurance for your premises if customers or clients will be visiting.
39 Obtain product liability insurance if you will manufacture hazardous products.
40 If you will be working from your home, make sure your homeowner's insurance covers damage to or theft of your business assets as well as liability for business-related injuries.
41 Consider health & disability insurance for yourself and your employees. The Employer's Legal Handbook

Set Up Your Books

42 Decide whether to use the cash or accrual system of accounting. Cash vs. Accrual Accounting
43 Choose a fiscal year if your natural business cycle does not follow the calendar year (if your business qualifies).
44 Set up a recordkeeping system for all payments to and from your business. Bookkeeping and Accounting Basics
45 Consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant to help you get set up.
46 Purchase small business accounting software

Set Up Tax Reporting

47 Familiarize yourself with the general tax scheme for your business structure. Tax Savvy for Small Business
48 Familiarize yourself with common business deductions and depreciation. Deduct It! Lower Your Small Business Taxes
49 Obtain IRS Publications 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, and 583, Taxpayers Starting a Business. Small Business Tax FAQ
50 Obtain the IRS's Tax Calendar for Small Businesses. IRS's Tax Calendar

More Information

As you can see, starting a business involves making quite a few initial decisions and getting policies and paperwork in place. For more information about and help with starting a business, consult the following Nolo resources:

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