If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you have a great product or service idea and just don’t know how to start your business. In the last four months, I have started two businesses, All Things Swain, LLC and Swain Things, LLC. Honestly, the process was overwhelming at first until I began researching and realized there is a wealth of information and resources online. I chose to create Limited Liability Companies (LLC) to remove personal liability.  decided to outline the steps in hopes that someone else may benefit from this information.

Note: I live in New Jersey so the information I share will be specific to New Jersey. If you live in another state, you can likely find the equivalent information for your state online as well. Either way, this information can be used as a guide.

Before we begin, I want you to know that many of the links in this blog are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and subscribe, purchase or sign up for a qualifying product or service, I will earn a small commission. Click here to read my full Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Form and Register your LLC

  1. Identify your product or service. What are you offering consumers?
  2. Use your creative juices to create your business name. Now before you get 100% sold on your name, you need to make sure that name is not currently in use or too close to an existing business’ name. It’s also important to make sure the name does not have any negative connotations to it. Check the name for usage on the following ways:
    1. State where you will be doing business: New Jersey offers a Name Availability Look-Up Service which will check if a business name is available for use. You can also search all business names on file with New Jersey here.
    2. General Internet search: the name should not have negative connotations or be associated with negativity before you even launch.
    3. Domain search: you should be able to purchase a website domain that makes sense for your business name.
    4. Social Media search: how is this name used across social media platforms?
    5. Trademark search: Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office If you need more information about the difference between trademarks ™, registered® and copyright©, check out this blog.

Knowem can search social networks, domain names, and the USPTO Trademark Database all at once.

True story: I did not know the importance of Step 2 and spent days brainstorming and surveying business name ideas with friends and family. Once, I had selected my top two choices, I was shocked to realize that the name was so popular online and variations of the names was already trademarked or registered in New Jersey.

 

  1. Legally form your LLC. In New Jersey, you will have to form your business before you can register it. This will cost $125 for most business types (LLC, LLP, etc.). If you complete the formation online, there is an extra $3.50 fee. You have 60 days to register your business after it’s formed.

 

  1. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and identifies a business entity for tax purposes. New Jersey requires this number to register your business although other states may not. It is good to obtain an EIN at the beginning of your business creation regardless of whether you will have employees or not to separate your business from your personal identity.

 

  1. Register your LLC. This process is what legally allows you to conduct business. There is no cost associated with registering your business in New Jersey. You can complete the registration online.

 

  1. Create an Operating Agreement. This document will define the ownership structure of the business and duties of each business owner (referred to as members). It also defines the working and financial relations amongst the members. There are several websites that have templates that can be customized with your business arrangements. LawDepot has a free trial during which you can create and download legal documents.

New Jersey offers a Business Portal and Business Action Center on their website which provides a lot of information and resources for business owners. Definitely check them out!

 

Build Credibility

  1. Apply for a business banking account. You can start with the bank you use for your personal banking. Research other banking institutions to compare fees, services, etc.
  2. Get a separate business phone number. It doesn’t cost much to get a separate line just for business purposes. Many of the popular telecommunications companies will offer this service. RingCentral, eVoice, and Grasshopper have virtual phone services. T-Mobile offers extra phone numbers with their Digits service that links to your mobile phone.
  3. Get a fax number. Faxing documents online without a telephone line is a big thing for small businesses. There are many companies that offer this service: Plus, Fax.com, MetroFax, FaxBetter, and GotFreeFax are highly rated by business.com.
  4. Get a separate business address. Starting out, it may be hard to even think about leasing office physical office space. You can give a positive impression of your business by having a business address separate from your personal address. This also protects your privacy. Explore your options with USPS, Regus and The UPS Store.
  5. Apply for a D-U-N-S Number. D-U-N-S Numbers establish your business identity for lenders and potential business partners. It is free to register for a D-U-N-S Number.
  6. Open vendor accounts. Vendor accounts that offer Net-30 terms and report to Dun and Bradstreet (see why you need that D-U-N-S Number) are what you need to begin establishing business credit. This article lists five vendor accounts that will help build your business credit.
  7. Monitor your business’ financial health. Know what lenders and business partners will learn if they are deciding to do business with you. Equifax offers several options to monitor your business’ financial health. You can also obtain your business credit report and search other businesses financial health as well.

 

Build and Market your Brand

I made a poor attempt at designing my own logo using a free logo generator online. Thankfully, I discovered Fiverr before I launched and I was able to get a professional to design my logo for a reasonable cost. You can hire a Fiverr professional to assist you with each of the steps below. I would recommend purchasing packages that include the source files for your designs in case you need to make design changes later.

  1. Design your logo. Your logo is an important part of branding your business and should be designed carefully. Consider how it will look on multiple platforms: website, social media, stationary, business cards, etc. to ensure you have a look that is versatile.
  2. Create your slogan or tagline. I have not come up with a tagline yet for my businesses but I plan to do so in my next round of stationary design.
  3. Create social media accounts
    1. Facebook page.
    2. Instagram
    3. Twitter
    4. LinkedIn

Decide which social media platforms are best for your market. Every platform is not for every business. You can hire social media designers and managers on Fiverr.

  1. Design your stationary and business cards. Many of the Fiverr professionals offer stationary designs with some of their packages.
  2. Build your website. Your website is a big representation of your business. Building and designing a website is not an easy task. I would definitely recommend hiring a professional for this if you are not technically savvy. Once again, Fiverr offers this service.

 

Starting a new business is exciting but hard work. I hope that I have been able to help you navigate some of the areas that you are struggling with or unaware of. A good friend and fellow business owner told me “outsource the things that you don’t do well”. It was solid advice. Know your strengths. This day in time, most business and creative tasks can be outsourced; leaving you to focus on what you do best. Of course, outsourcing comes at a cost so you will have to weigh the pros and cons as a new business owner. Let’s go…Start your business today!

 

P.S. – If you are interested in starting a nonprofit business, check out this

 

 

Advertising Disclosure: Swain Things and its owner(s) are participants in several affiliate program. We receive compensation from qualifying clicks or purchases via our posted links. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are our own.