Starting a business is no easy undertaking. It requires plenty of planning, as well as resources like money and staff (unless you’ll be running it as a solopreneur). Get off on the right foot with these tips that are either free or affordable.
1. Start with a Plan
When you think of a business plan, do you automatically think of a giant document full of boring information? It doesn’t have to be. Even a 1-2 page business and marketing plan can help you set your ideas on paper and get organized about how you want to run your business. In it, outline what products or services you’ll sell, who will buy them, and how you’ll find new customers.
● Writing an Effective Business Plan: Introduction (Canada One)
● Sample business plans and templates (Canada Business Network)
● Business Owners Toolbox
2. Launch Your Marketing Before You Open
Putting off your marketing until you open your business only gives you more work to do later. Instead, set up social media profiles now and start following people that fit your target demographic. Start writing blog content for your business blog so when people start reading it, there’s plenty to keep them on your site. And having a website ahead of time is essential; this is your business’ front door, and how people will find your brand. Get your website designed (and know that this can take longer than projected, so starting early is a good idea) so that it’s ready to go.
● WordPress (to set up a blog)
● Hootsuite (to manage your social media)
● MailChimp (to set up email marketing)
3. Look For Low-Cost Small Business Resources
When you’re running your own business, you need all the tools and resources you can get to make the job easier. Having accounting software helps you keep your finances straight. Connecting to other business owners can provide you with great advice that will help you succeed. But doesn’t all this come with a high price tag? You’d be surprised how many free resources there are for entrepreneurs. Whether you’re looking for some mentoring, business advice, or tools to help you set up a website or manage your finances, there are tools and resources to help.
● Mastercard Business Owner Toolbox (30 day free trial of accounting, data backup, and website builder software)
● Canada One (business articles, events, and business directory)
● Small Business BC (articles, seminars, and expert advice)
4. Get High-Quality Images for Your Site and Blog
Images are going to be a part of your marketing strategy, and for good reason: people love them. A tweet can get 150% more retweets if it has an image. Using visual content can enhance emails, blog posts, and social media. But stock photos can be expensive! Below, find some affordable (or even free) places to source your images.
● Creative Commons
5. Get Set Up to Accept Credit Cards
Think you’ll be a cash-only business? Think again. A shocking two out of five consumers carry $20 or less, which means if you don’t accept credit cards, you’ll miss out on serious sales opportunity. On the other hand, accepting credit cards isn’t the expensive hassle you think it is. There are many companies that offer card swipers you can affix to your mobile phone or tablet, eliminating the need for a chunky card processing machine. And their fees are reasonable, too. You pay on average about 2.75% per transaction; a small price to pay to boost revenue.
● Your local bank
6. Get Your Business Licences in Order
Your business will likely need one or more business licences or permits, so get those squared away before starting your business to ensure that you’re compliant with local and regional business laws. You may need to file them at the city, province, or national level.
● Permits and Licences (Canada Business Network)
● Business Number (BN) Registration (Canada Revenue Agency)
7. Find Your Finances
Do you have a plan for how you’ll fund your business? There’s no way to know when you’ll start turning a profit, so it’s a good idea to have money in the bank for those startup and ongoing expenses, including your salary. You’ve got a few options for your financing, including your own savings, a second mortgage on your home, a loan from friends or family, a small business loan, venture capital, or crowdfunding.
● 10 Tips to Make Startup Funding Work for You
● 14 Creative Financing Methods for Startups
● Top 5 Crowdfunding Sites in Canada
8. Get Your Banking Ready
Once you start making money and paying expenses in your business, you’ll want to have a separate bank account from your personal accounts. This will help you have an easier time of filing your taxes, and it makes it simpler to keep an eye on what your business is bringing in. Open a business bank account now so that you’re ready to roll. Also, having an account gives you somewhere to put that funding you got in #7! Once you have your bank account set up, invest in accounting software so you can keep track of income and expenses, as well as send invoices to clients.
● Sage One (accounting software)
● Xpenditure (expense management)
● How Much Will You Sell? Projecting Revenue for your Startup
9. Choose the Right Business Structure
By default, you will operate your business as a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you have a partner) when you launch if you choose no other business structure. There are other structures to consider that can provide tax and other benefits, so do some research to figure out which is the best fit for your business.
● Canada Revenue Agency (information on different business structures)
● Corporation, Partnership, or Sole Proprietorship?
● How to Choose the Right Business Structures
10. Set Goals
Here’s a totally free — and necessary — task for starting your business. Reflect on what you want to accomplish at different intervals. Set goals for six months, a year, three years, et cetera. For each business goal, make a list of to-dos that will help you achieve them. But don’t just put away this document and forget about it. Put each task on your calendar to ensure you complete it, moving you closer toward each of your goals.
● 4 Simple Goal Setting Ideas For 2015
● The Science of Setting Goals
● 10 Business Goal Setting Tips: How to Set and Achieve Career Goals
Each of these tips is essential for starting your business off successfully. Take care of as many as possible before you launch so you’ll have less to do once you do.