Over the years I’ve gotten a ton of questions about how to start a business, what tools you need, when to do certain steps, etc. Starting and running a business is a huge undertaking, and a decision that should not be taken lightly. There are a lot of moving parts. Since there are so many aspects, today I’m going to focus on the very starting point of setting up a business. If you’ve already decided to start a business, you may have done some of these steps. This is just laying the groundwork. If you have any questions or topics that you’d like to see me cover, please leave a comment so I know! I will be continuing this series so keep your eyes peeled for the next post!
You can also download this printable checklist to use as you go through these steps!
Choosing a name
Once you’ve decided you want to start your business, it’s time to choose a business name. Check to see if that business name is available in your state. I live in Michigan, so to check I can search here, but every state will have their own site. If you google business name search + your state, there should be a government site that will let you check. Just a heads up, there are SO many ads that will pop up trying to get you to search sites that will make you pay. You do not have to pay to check name availability, it is public record.
You will also want to make sure the domain is available for the name you chose. I remember trying so many different combinations to find a domain that worked for my first business. It was important to me to have a domain that ended in .com. It’s the most common so it’s easier for people to remember if you say it to them. That is completely up to you, but you will want to make sure there is a domain you’re happy with before concretely deciding on a name. While you’re checking if the domain is available, check if the social media handles are free as well.
If everything is available and ready for you, register your business to your state. This is a very easy form and usually a small fee of about $20. You can google the form. I know a lot of people are tempted to use a lawyer or legal website for this step. If that makes you feel better, absolutely do that. I personally think it’s very easy to do on my own so I have always chosen to fill it out myself.
Set up a website
I will be the first to admit that when I started out I had zero technical skills, and I mean ZERO. I didn’t know the first thing about coding, setting up hosting, etc. Now I’m not saying I’m a pro by any sense of the imagination, but I am proud of the skills I’ve picked up and the site I created.
When you set up a website you’ll want to choose the platform your site will live on. My advice to you is to use WordPress (WordPress.org, not wordpress.com — there is a difference which you can read about here!) as your backend from the get go. So many people want to start out on a free platform (blogger, wix, squarespace, etc.) Having a dedicated domain and setting up on WordPress are two of the investments I highly recommend making. I ended up moving to WordPress after about a year, and now I have many friends doing the same. It’s so much harder to move after the fact rather than starting out on the better platform. That being said, if you already have a site on one of the free platforms, moving is possible.
If you’re not technical and aren’t looking to spend thousands of dollars on your site design right out of the gate, I’d suggest finding a WordPress template that you like. I used a template for this site. It’s the easiest way to get a cohesive feeling while still having the freedom to customize your layout, color scheme, and content. I really like the themes from Bluchic and Restored 316.
If you decide to go with WordPress, you’ll need to choose a hosting company. A hosting company is the company that keeps all of your website content online via their servers. I personally use Bluehost; I’ve used them for all of the companies and websites I’ve had. Their customer service is usually very helpful. I actually sat on the phone with a guy on tech support for over an hour as he walked me through setting up different parts of my site! I will say that their live chat isn’t always the best though. Getting someone on the phone has been the most helpful way I’ve found to deal with them.
Once your hosting company is chosen, go ahead and buy your chosen domain through them. If you already have your domain, that’s okay too. I suggest buying through your hosting company because it just makes everything easier. You can transfer your domain to your hosting company after 90 days so if you already own your domain and have for a while, feel free to transfer it to your new web host. If you just purchased it, don’t worry, you can transfer it after 90 days. You can also still set up your website without your web host and domain being the same company. I only suggest that because I like dealing with as few companies as possible!
Now that you have your domain and web host, it’s time to set up your email. I love G suite. Like I said before, it’s so nice to have one place to find everything. Google has analytics, drive, email, calendar, etc. Having your email through Google is pretty cheap and very easy to set up. You can find set up instructions here.
Lastly, it’s time to secure your social media handles. Use your new email address to do this, if possible. That way everything is in one place, with one email address. You’re going to see a theme here. I love making things as simple as possible.
I know at this point you’re thinking that this is WAY more work than you originally anticipated, but I promise you, it’s worth it! If you’re anything like me (not techy!), there are times that this will be frustrating. Just stick with it. Every time I’ve set up a new website, I try to just check one major item off of my to-do list per day. That way I don’t get so frustrated that I want to give up.
One of the best pieces of advice I have for you right now is not to take short cuts. You will regret it and end up redoing whatever work you would’ve done in the first place. It’s so much easier to do it right the first time!
I hope this post was helpful for you. Don’t forget to use this checklist as you go! Please let me know if there certain topics you’d like me to cover in future business 101 posts!