So you want to start a business, but you're not sure where to start? You're in luck! In this article I'm going to take you step by step from start to finish, so you can get your entire business setup in just one day! I've also included costs for each section. Let's go!
. . .
Step One - The Idea Phase: Free
If you’re reading this then I assume you already have a business idea that is worth starting. Although in case you don’t, you’ll obviously need one! My biggest tip for coming up with ideas is to think about problems that you can solve. Write down any annoying things that happen in everyday life. And I mean EVERYTHING. Every time something doesn’t work, something bothers you, something that takes too long, anything and everything that is a problem. Probably 80% of these won’t result in a viable, scalable business idea, but it’s where you start. Now because most people already have an idea I won’t dwell on this topic, so for more check out my article How to Come Up With Business Ideas here.
It’s also important to think about what makes a great company. Who are you? What do you do? Why do you do what you do? What do you stand for? How do you change things, how do you innovate? Simon Sinek speaks about this in his legendary video about ‘Starting With Why’ where he talks about the Golden Circle. If you want to know why Apple is the most innovative company in the world year after year, click here to watch.
Before we move on, we are going to create an elevator pitch, which is a condensed version of your business that you can tell to people in the time takes to go between floors in an elevator. This is not only an incredibly important thing to have, it’s also a very useful learning exercise. It’s important to avoid buzzwords and explain it like you’re explaining it to a child; simple and clear. Here is a template you can use as an example. This is not a one-size-fits-all template, and there may be better and more exciting ways to pitch your business, but it is still useful. (PS Don’t worry too much about the name and logo. Those things can be done later, and right now there are more important things to do!)
My company (name of company) is developing a (a defined offering) to help (a defined audience) to (solve a problem) with (your secret sauce).
Step Two - The Business Roadmap: Free
Now you’ve got your idea, you need to know what your business is and create a plan. I say roadmap here instead of business plan because you don't need a useless 50 page business plan to get started. Business plans these days are mostly used to impressive outsiders like board members or investors. If it's just you, you do not need this right now. What you need, is a basic understanding of how your business will work.
To do this, you'll need to do a lean canvas. It will only take you 15 - 30 minutes if you haven't done it already. I talk about the lean canvas quite a bit with people when it comes to starting a business, and it's because it's fast, effective and flexible. It takes all the most important factors of a business and simplifies them down to the core. By doing this, you’ll realise one of two things.
1) You’ll know whether your idea is worth pursuing at all, or
2) You’ll realise there are sections you need to learn more about or improve / change. Print out a large version or draw it on a large piece of paper / white board and use post it notes to fill in the gaps.
These are designed to be flexible, so add and remove notes as you go. If you want to download my eBook on a 'Guide to Getting Started' which talks a bit more about this, you get it for free when you join The Exceptions with your email. Click here to get it.
Step Three - Choose a Legal Structure: Varies
Of all the choices you make when starting up a business, choosing the right legal structure is one of the most important ones. The way you set this up affects:
- How much tax you pay
- The amount of paperwork and fees that are required
- The personal liability you face
- Your ability to raise money.
Figuring out which structure is the best will depend on your situation, you can’t just make an assumption that one form is better than another. It’s important to know the differences, and also to get business advice from someone with experience. I go into more depth about all of these in the legal section of my Ultimate Startup Blueprint, however the main entities to choose from are below:
- Sole Trader: an individual trading on their own.
- Partnership: an association of two or more people running a business together, but not as a company.
- Company / Corporation: a legal entity separate from its shareholders.
- Trust: an entity that holds property or income for the benefit of others.
When deciding on a structure for your business, choose the one that best suits your business needs, keeping in mind that there are advantages and disadvantages for each structure. It's important to investigate each option carefully, as choosing the correct one matters. Decide which one you're going to be, and then you can move on to the next step. Different costs will apply for difference structures. For more information on these, you can visit the ATO website here.
Step Four - Register The Name & Business: $113
I'll just quickly note here, before you set your heart on your business name, make sure it's available as a domain. Nothing is more annoying than paying to register a business name, and then not having the domain available. I talk about this more in a moment.
There are a bunch of different sites that allow you to set up your business, with costs varying slightly but nothing major. If you're operating in Australia, when you register your name you will also need to get an ABN (Australian Business Number) if you haven't got one already. Don't worry, this is easy to do. I've attached a link to ABN Direct because it's very easy to use. Going directly through the ATO is a pain, because it's one of the ugliest and most confusing websites out there. The name and ABN will cost you $113 for both.
Step Five - Get a Business Bank Account: $10/m
For tax purposes it’s always best to separate your personal and business transactions. Set yourself up with a business bank account and get a separate card for all company related expenses. Trust me, I did this wrong when I first started and it created headaches. It’s usually free to setup, although there is a monthly maintenance fee. I use Commonwealth Bank which is $10 a month but you can set up an account with your preferred bank.
Step Six - Getting Setup Online: $12/m
To get your own website and social media setup online by experts for a great price, check out our partners at Mastered Marketing here.
Buying Your Domain - From $3.99
Like I said earlier, you need to check if your business domain name is available. Every single word in the alphabet with 6 letters or less, is taken. If it's taken, it means you have to pay (usually a lot, depending on the name) to get it, and you're just a startup so that's out of the question. Think of what you're going to call your business, and any variations you can have. So for example, my app's name was AroundAbout. Www.aroundabout.com was taken, so I made it www.aroundaboutapp.com because it's relevant, and I actually ended up preferring it. Check out Spotify's business name generator for inspiration here.
Always try and get dotcom (.com). Some websites go try to end in .co or .ly for convenience and availability's sake, but it's extra effort for the consumer and .com will always be the best. If you have a business that will only ever be in Australia you can end with .com.au although again, always best to have .com. I've attached a button that links to GoDaddy which issues domains. Also refer to the 'Setting Up a Website' section that outlines another way to purchase your domain.
Setting Up a Website: $12.00 a month.
There are a bunch of website building websites and softwares, although I cannot recommend Squarespace highly enough. It is the easiest way for anyone to create an exceptional website. Whether you need simple pages, striking galleries, a professional blog, or an online store, it's all included in a Squarespace website. Best of all, everything is mobile-ready right from the start, which is an absolute must for 2016. Simple drag and drop functionality, great templates and an awesome support team that reply really quickly with very useful and friendly responses. Plans start at $12.00 a month and this comes with one free domain, but you also get a 14 day free trial to check it out before you purchase, which I'm sure you will! Use code 'GIMME10' for 10 percent off your annual purchase.
Setting Up a Blog: Free.
Blogging is a very powerful way to reach audiences for free, and it's such important part of your online presence. Once upon a time it was something that I always thought about, but took me far too long to appreciate. You should definitely be using a blog to generate content for your content marketing, and bringing new users in. On top of SEO, discovery and content marketing reasons, blog articles also perform much better with ads and sponsored posts, rather than just promoting a page. For example my click through rate for my '5 Easy Ways to Save Money' article was less than a quarter of the cost of just promoting the home page of The Exceptions.
Assuming you've taken my advice and you've created / are going to create a Squarespace account, this is incredibly easy to set up. Simply click on Pages, click the plus icon to add a page, click Blog, press the plus icon to create a post and you're on your way. You can save them as drafts, publish them straight away or schedule them. I have two blogs which you can check out below:
Step Seven - Add Key Plugins to Your Site: Free
Setting Up Google Analytics: Free.
Some people don't set up Google Analytics for their website, and to those people I say, you are insane. If you don't keep an eye on your traffic, how the hell are you meant to know if it's doing well!? Setting up Google Analytics is relatively easy. Simply visit the site and follow the prompts.
Just a quick note, don't freak out when it says 'input this code into the header of your website.' All you have to do is go to Squarespace (if you're using it), and go into > settings > advanced > code injection, and copy paste the Google tracking code into here. Then you're done!
Setting Up Mailchimp: Free or $15 a month.
Collecting emails is so important and something that not enough people do. It's still one of the best forms of marketing, so you'd be crazy not to. You can send offers, content, basically anything you want (as long as it's offering value) to a pretty loyal following direct to their inbox.
The easiest (and best) platform for this that I've seen is Mailchimp. You can send out emails with a sexy design (and there's SO many to choose from), get an insight into your subscriber list and keep all the info in one place, automate emails to send out when they sign up (like the one you get with free books when you join The Exceptions), powerful analytics and more. It's also incredibly easy to integrate into Squarespace. Simply add a content blog, select form or newsletter and in storage, log in to your Mailchimp account. You can then create a list, so that the emails of everyone who subscribes go to that list. Easy! Their starting plan is free, although for a few bucks a month you get a stack of great features (particularly automation).
Setting Up SumoMe: Free
I wanted to include SumoMe because it's such a fantastic platform, and all it's core features have free packages. SumoMe is a bunch of tools to grow your website's traffic, and it works on any website. People just starting out seriously undervalue the power of analytics (don't worry I did too once). Here are some examples of the functions I use and how effective they are.
Share makes it stupid-easy for your visitors to share your content to their friends, family, and others. The more people share your site and content, the more viral traffic goes back to your site.
Heat Maps shows you EXACTLY where people are clicking on your site. With this information, you can then improve your pages to show your visitors what they want to see.
List Builder converts one-time visitors into lifelong readers and email subscribers. You work hard to get people to your site, the beautiful List Builder lightbox makes sure they subscribe to your email list and come back for more! (I use a scroll box so it's less pushy).
No more digging through your data to find the numbers that matter. Google Analytics by SumoMe makes it super easy to view your Google Analytics directly on your site. We highlight your most important stats so you can easily track and grow your traffic.
If you have a blog, you probably think your visitors read your blog posts all the way through. In actuality, you have NO idea how much of your content people are actually reading. With Content Analytics, you'll can see exactly where your readers stop reading.
With this type of analytics, you can seriously improve your website. Most of all IT'S FREE! You'd be crazy not to! Same process as Google Analytics, follow the prompts them copy paste the code into the same place you did earlier.
Step Eight - Setup Social Media: Free
This is super easy, super fast and also super important. Having a social media presence in this day and age is an absolute necessity. If you're not on social media you are literally missing out on SO much. If you're reading this I would find it very unlikely that you don't already use social media, so it should be a breeze.
Pick 2 - 4 platforms that you will actually use. I personally recommend (in this order) Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Depending on your business and the industry, you might also use Pinterest, Snapchat or other platforms that make sense to your audience. It doesn't matter how many you use, as long as you are consistently using all of them, I just said 2 - 4 so it's relatively easy for you to manage. Set up your accounts with consistent information about your business (same name, website, logo, imagery, address, contact info etc.) and use beautiful imagery to make you stand out.
You can use tools like Hootsuite to manage all your social from one platform, and their free plan allows you to use three accounts for zero cost, so it's definitely worth checking out!
Step Nine - Do Some Design Work: Free
Design is easy to do these days. I'm about to tell you about two websites that will make your design life a breeze.
1) Canva. I would be very surprised if you have never heard of and / or used this before. For those of us not sufficient with Photoshop or other complex design platforms, Canva is the best god damn design site around. Whether you're designing posters, Facebook covers, business cards, YouTube thumbnails, anything! It's so easy to use, there are great templates available with endless possibilities, and I highly recommend upgrading and getting Canva for Work. It's only $13 or so a month and offers way more options, custom dimensions, transparent backgrounds and more.
2) Adobe Stock Get HD, royalty free images for so much cheaper than other sites. I searched around for weeks trying to find stock photos that weren't literally hundreds of dollars each. Well, you won't need to search because this is the best site in the world for cheap, great photos. You can get stock photos elsewhere that are free, but they're not as good.
Use these to sites together to create nice cover photos, use on your website, wherever you require imagery. Nice design is so important these days.
Step Ten - Tell Everyone You Know!
Your business is now set up and ready to go and it looks awesome! Now it's time to tell all your friends, family and colleagues about your brand new company. Do this any way you know how: Facebook status's, Instagram posts, emails, phone calls, whatever! Then it's time to actually get in front of your potential customers, and I've written a whole chapter just around this topic. Click here to get the Ultimate Startup Blueprint.
BONUS - Registering Trademarks: $840
I left this out of the ten steps because if you're just starting out with a small business, this isn't critical because it can be a larger than usual expense when you're just starting. You can do this later, although it's certainly something to consider. If I can give you any advice though, DO THIS YOURSELF. DON'T GET A LAWYER. It's easy enough to do by yourself, and lawyers (again) charge a dumb amount of money for something you can do yourself. That figure of $840 is including submitting, AND paying for the trademark for two classes (name and logo). A lawyer quoted me $1100 JUST TO SUBMIT IT! That part of the process will only cost you $240. So save yourself the $850+ and do it yourself (in under an hour).
If you're trademarking your name and logo in Australia, what you'll have to do is apply for a trademark at IP Australia. It's (from memory) $120 per class, and you will most likely trademark your name and logo, totalling two classes. You can trademark other things like slogans and such, but I doubt you'll need to. One company in the states actually trademarked the smell of freshly cut grass. People trademark all kinds of crazy things!
I will also note here that despite what more lawyers say (sorry they're really copping it today), you don't need a patent right now unless you've made something tremendously inventive and new. Patents are expensive and time consuming, and often they are used by businesses when they are selling to make it more appealing and present a barrier of entry. I wouldn't worry about this just yet, it will swallow your cash.
. . .
Congratulations - you've just started your own business with minimal time and money! If you want a full, comprehensive guide on the entire process from start to finish, check out The Ultimate Startup Blueprint here. If you found this article helpful, please share on social media!
(Twitter & Snapchat: @mitchills)