In previous decades, a person had to hire a full team and buy office space to start a new business. But technology has made it possible to start a business from anywhere, using internet-connected devices and an array of local resources. If you’re thinking about starting a business of your own, read on.
We’ll look at all of the elements a small business owner needs to run a one-man e-commerce or service-based business, including both physical and digital resources.
1. Make It Legal
Both service-based businesses and retailers will need to register as a business with the appropriate entities. This begins with choosing a name for your business, which will likely be driven by whether or not you can find a domain name that isn’t already taken. Use a domain search tool to enter the business name you want and get suggestions from the list of names that are available.
Once you’ve found a good domain name, you’ll have to make sure it’s available locally. States will reject a name if another business is operating in the same state under the same name. Once you’ve decided on a name, you’ll need to register your business with your local department of revenue.
At this point, you’ll need to determine the tax laws as they apply to your business. You’ll also need to prepare for collecting taxes on the products or services you provide.
2. Purchase the Basics
Before you can make your first sale, you’ll need some basic supplies to get started. You probably already have a laptop, smartphone and maybe even a tablet. You can use personal equipment to run your new business as long as it is reliable and has the software you need. There may be some basic office supplies you’ll need, as well, including a desk and chair, a briefcase and notepad for rushing to meetings, and a scanner for the occasions when a document needs to be scanned.
Once you have your office environment set up, you’ll need to make sure you’re equipped with the software you’ll need to handle transactions. For service-based businesses, this likely means an invoicing solution like QuickBooks, which will allow you to create and track invoices.
E-commerce businesses may need to set up credit card processing if they plan to handle their own online sales, rather than work through a service like PayPal or OpenCart. Don’t forget to save money as you make these purchases, because every little bit will help.
3. Set Up Your Website
When a brick-and-mortar business wants to open its doors, it usually starts by making its presence known by hanging a sign. At one time, that would also mean making sure its number was in the local phone book, and possibly placing an ad in the local newspaper. Today’s customers find businesses online, whether those businesses are located down the street or on the other side of the world.
For service-based business, an online presence starts with a website. Tools like Wix or SquareSpace offer templates that handle the design, requiring you to merely enter your own information into each section of each page. Customers should easily be able to find the information they need about your services, prices and how they can do business with you.
A B2B service may find it merely needs to market its services and stress its credentials, while a plumber or local spa may need to offer options like, “Click here to schedule an appointment today,” including the ability to enter payment information directly on the website.
If you’re selling products, you may find your website needs to be more complicated. Services like Shopify let you set up an online store, uploading photos and descriptions of your products and handling payment processing. You may also opt to sell through a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon to reach customers you wouldn’t have otherwise reached.
4. Start Marketing
No matter what type of business you run, you’ll need to put some effort into marketing. This starts with setting up accounts on all of the major social media sites, then following others in your industry and reaching out to invite people to follow you. Be careful not to over-market or you’ll scare your new followers away.
Marketing can be time-consuming, especially for the owner of a one-person business, so set up tools to make it easier. Dashboard services like HootSuite allow you to schedule posts and duplicate the same posts across multiple social media sites at once, which lets you continue with your day without neglecting the rest of your business. Be sure to regularly share posts by your online connections, and interact with any customers who directly address your business online.
You don’t have to hire a full team to start a business. You can start it on your own using some of the tools you likely already have. Once you’ve begun to land customers and made a name for yourself, you can begin to think about hiring a few freelancers or adding your first employee to your growing business.