How to start a business: The Checklist

Practical steps for a smooth start

Updated March 26, 2018

Congratulations on preparing to move forward with your big idea! This is an exciting time. As you move through your “how to start a business” to-do list, you’ll find that you may never be busier than during this startup period. After you evaluate your business idea, research the market and your potential customer base, and determine startup costs, you’ll be ready to take on the next steps.

To help make sure you don’t overlook anything in the crush of daily duties, BizFilings and GoDaddy got together to create a handy “How to start a business” checklist.

From incorporation and business licenses to federal EIN numbers and building your brand identity with a domain and website, the checklist contains all the steps you should take to get your business up and running.

Track your progress as you go and you’ll be on your way to getting your company started the right way — and set up for success from the get-go!

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Checklist: How to start a business

Starting a new business can be a bit overwhelming. From finalizing your idea, to drafting a business plan, to filing all the right licenses and permits, there’s a lot to consider. The last thing you want is for one of these mandatory tasks to slip through the cracks. Here’s a simple checklist to help steer you in the right direction.

  1. Get organized.

  2. Prepare your financials.

  3. Branding basics.

  4. Business best practices.

When it comes to starting a new business, preparation is key. Let’s look at what’s involved with each main step in our checklist.

1. Get organized

First things first — you’ll need to establish some ground rules for your business.

Name your business and buy a matching domain.

Even if you’re not ready to launch your company yet, it’s always a good idea to secure your domain early.

Write a business plan.

It should outline your business goals, operating procedures and target market, as well as help you identify your unique selling proposition. Not sure where to start? Check out these business plan templates.

Determine your business entity options.

Sole proprietorship? LLC? S-Corp? Research your business entity options and file accordingly.

Obtain your federal tax identification number.

Get a federal tax ID number (otherwise known as employer identification number), as well as your respective state tax identification number (if needed). Contact your state taxation department to be safe.

Get your business license(s).

Determine and apply for necessary business licenses. Contact your Secretary of State and local government for current information.

Decide on a location.

Will you be working from home or looking to rent some office space? Depending on your business, it might be beneficial to have both an online and and offline presence. Don’t forget to factor building costs and resources into the equation.

2. Prepare your financials

Once you’ve got all the paperwork in order, it’s time to start thinking about money.

Set up a business bank account.

It’s important to set up an account just for your business — one that’s separate from your personal finances.

Apply for a business line of credit.

Uninterrupted capital helps with day-to-day expenses, and a credit line helps establish a favorable credit history.

Invest in bookkeeping software.

Tools like GoDaddy Online Bookkeeping will help you keep your finances in order from the get-go.

Get experts on your side.

Consider hiring a professional accountant or tax attorney. Their expertise could come in handy throughout the life of your new venture.

Determine how you will secure funding for your business.

From angel investors to government grants, every penny counts.

Obtain necessary business insurance.

As your business grows, you could take on more liability, and having the right insurance in place could you save heartache and cash. Visit the Small Business Administration Blog for more information about selecting the right kind of insurance.

3. Branding basics

Before you can welcome customers in the door, you’ll need to make sure your business’s identity is solid. Using your business domain as a starting point, keep these considerations in mind when creating a consistent presence.

Set up a professional email address.

A professional email address shows customers that you’re serious about your business by attaching email to your new domain. It establishes credibility and strengthens your brand.

Add a business phone line.

Consider adding a business phone line to your mobile device. Gone are the days when you needed two separate phones to do business — utilize a second phone number app like GoDaddy’s SmartLine to make and receive calls while keeping your personal information private.

Get a logo.

Create a logo and use it on business cards, letterhead and across your website for a streamlined identity. Don’t have time to design one yourself? Get a beautiful creation with GoDaddy’s Logo Design Services.

Launch a website.

Whether you’re starting an eCommerce venture or simply need a stunning site to display business information, a website is a must-have in today’s digital world. Here’s the start-to-finish guide for creating your first website.

Pro tip: If you’re already taking on too many tasks, leave the web design to a professional. With GoDaddy’s Website Design Service, you can unveil a mobile-friendly site in as a little as seven business days.

Set up your business’s social profiles.

Whether or not you’re ready to start engaging on social media, you’ll want to set up an account for your business across multiple platforms. That way, when you are ready to start tweeting, sharing, posting and more, your social identity will match your business name.

Create a marketing strategy.

Much like establishing a business plan, you’ll want to outline some ideas for marketing success before you take your products or services to market. Consider using social media to generate new leads or other advertising methods to bring traffic to your doorstep.

4. Business best practices

In order to succeed as a new startup, you’ll want to position your business as a reliable, credible entity. To inspire trust and encourage visitors to act, consider these best practices.

Define business policies.

Clearly define any and all policies in easy-to-understand language. Make sure they’re visible on your site and easy for customers to access.

Craft sound contracts (if needed) for your business ahead of time.

Setting straightforward guidelines and expectations benefits both your business and your customers.

Make contact information easily accessible.

Make sure your contact information is readily displayed across your website, as well as your operating business hours.

Offer social proof.

Include customer testimonials on your website. Testimonials are a great form of social proof, and they provide unique and trustworthy insight into your products, services or business.

How to start a business: Checklist tips

Here are some special features you’ll find as you go through the checklist:

Background steps

Take time to review the background steps you need to take before starting a business, including establishing business goals, determining the best location for your business, and assessing your financial situation.

An easy-to-use Incorporation Wizard

Incorporation is one of the most important decisions you can make and helps distinguish your personal assets from your business assets. But there is more than one way to incorporate.

The nifty Incorporation Wizard from BizFilings helps you discover the pros and cons of each business type (LLC, S-corp, C-corp or Non-profit) so that you can determine which is ultimately the right one for your startup.

You’ll also need to decide in which state to incorporate. Invest the time to go through the Wizard and read about your options, and talk to trusted advisors — it’s worth noodling this over from multiple angles.

Business License Wizard

Check out the BizFilings Business License Wizard to identify all of the business licenses your company needs to efficiently operate. Get instant access to applications for your business licenses and permits unique to your very own business and locale. Operating without the right permits can be risky and costly — and yet the regulations are complex. The Business License Wizard will show you the numbers — you may even need more licenses than you realize!

Links to important resources

The “How to start a business” checklist also includes links a number of valuable resources so you can take action on:

Many of these are important steps to establish your startup in a compliant way.

Branding basics

After you get a domain, move on down the checklist for ideas for how to create a website, business cards and logo. These branding basics can make a strong first impression to future customers.

Transactional to-dos

You’ll find a rundown of essential startup business transactions, such as hiring a lawyer, establishing a line of credit, and obtaining business insurance.

Pre-opening tasks

Learn about all of the pre-opening steps you may need to take, including reviewing building codes and joining professional organizations.

There’s a lot to do when you’re starting a business, no doubt! But this checklist will help you keep it manageable, ensure you’ve covered your bases early on, and put your startup in the best possible position. By laying the proper foundation ahead of time, you can bring your new venture to life with confidence. Remember, it isn’t necessary to tackle all of these steps in one weekend — take your time and build your business with care. And once you’ve established a steady cadence, you can add new tactics, like email marketing and a business blog, to reel in even more customers.

 

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