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Small Business Start Up Checklist

Updated on June 16, 2016
Starting your Own business is work. Money doesn't fall from heaven-Not at first, anyway!
Starting your Own business is work. Money doesn't fall from heaven-Not at first, anyway!

So you want to start your own business. Bravo!

So, for those self motivated, entrepreneurial types, let's get started! This is a basic outline for starting a business - Your Small Business Startup Checklist.

If your plan is to jump into something without looking then you'll want to know that of the people who start their own business, 95 percent did not realize how much work it would be.

1 - Begin with a business plan. Before you do anything, research your market to make sure that your business can be profitable. Look at: Consumer trends; Current markets (local, national and international); Industry knowledge; Competition, Future growth, . . . just to name a few.

To get started, there are free tools that you can get from the government. Check here for free information on starting a small business - Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Checklist - IRS

Since you'll want to be picky about how you use your start up cash, free is a very good place to begin!

Carpe Diem
Carpe Diem

Small Business Startup Checklist-For Home Business Too

2. Does your address location have zoning requirements - Parking restrictions - other restrictions? Make sure you can operate in your own neighborhood (i.e. a group home, day care, restaurant).

3. Get your business name registered - Gone are the A-Z listing for the phone book.

  • TIP-Think keyword research for your business name - Get help for this if you don't know what I am talking about. If you don't do this you will be invisible to the search engines and people who may need AND want your product and/or service!

Check both locally (city) and county agencies. Ask yourself-Will you operate your business as a sole proprietor or as a partnership, LLC or corporation?

4. Check also to make sure that you don't or won't need a business license from your local government office. Requirements can vary by city and state, and also the type of business you're starting.

  • TIP-Some cities and local government offices allow you to download applications from their websites. Do you need to get a copyright for your logo or business name or product? A Trademark? A Patent?

5. Once you have your business name registered, get a separate bank account. If you are new to business you are well advised to look for a smaller bank, or even credit union. you normally get more personal service, so that you can establish a professional and personal relationship with them easier (something you may need later if you need funds to keep your business going).

Business bank accounts are not always more expensive than personal bank accounts.

  • TIP-You DO NOT want to co-mingle your business and personal funds - That is a red flag to the IRS! And, it is just plain BAD BUSINESS!!
  • TIP-You may need a federal ID number from the government to get your account set up. That is easily obtained with a form SS-4, and can be sent by fax.
  • TIP-You are often given a federal ID number the same day you send a fax. If you do not send in your information online or by fax then it can take up to 5 weeks to get a federal ID number by mail.

Small Business Startup Checklist 6-10

6. Planning your business before you start is important, especially if you need to get help with financing. Business plans can be simple or complex, depending on your business. Business planning software makes the process easier. There is free business plan advice online.

7. Secure your business funding with whatever method you will use. If you are borrowing money from family or friends - get a contract for them because when it comes to business and friends and business and family and business and understandings - they often get confused by convenient memory.

  • TIP-Getting a business credit card and helps you establish business credit. you can't take a handshake to court and win - No way.
  • TIP-Make sure your contract has a plan in it for paying that money back or your name will be mud!

8. If you live in a state or do business in a state that has a sales tax then register with that state to pay the sales tax.

9. Register with your local county or state too - for taxes.

10. Get your books set up with an bookkeeping ledger, accounting software or hire an accountant or bookkeeper (you'll save money with a bookkeeper to do bookkeeping versus a CPA to do bookkeeping) to handle business bookkeeping.

  • TIP-If you decide to get an accountant then you'll want to make sure that your accounting software and theirs are compatible so you can trade files. If you don't you'll be paying extra for the accountants services - A PIA fee.

Small Business Checklist 11-15

11. Lease or buy the commercial space for your business. If you need to put together contracts or legal documents of any kind, get advice from qualified legal professionals.

  • TIP-Often you can go to the Chamber of Commerce or the Small Business Administration for advice and assistance in your area. Their services are usually free or with a small fee.

12. Meet with a local insurance agent about business insurance requirements and options. Make sure you are covered - For instance you want to know if you are covered for important paperwork loss if you are a bookkeeper (not a normal option, so it is not often discussed).

13. Get your business telephone number or numbers. You may want a multi-line phone system, VoIP or add an additional phone number to your existing service.

  • TIP-Be sure to also get a 1-800 number for customers who are out of your local area. You can even find online conferencing services for less money.

14. Now it is time to order business cards. Business cards are an efficient and low cost advertising method. They help with branding and encourage call back from customers.

15. Get a website. Even if you don't sell any products or services online. A website is a way for customers to find you and get information on your business.

  • TIP-A website gives you a higher level of credibility and no matter what business you own, it says that you are forward thinking and business savvy.

Paying the piper may mean singing for your supper through some beginning lean months!
Paying the piper may mean singing for your supper through some beginning lean months!

Small business Checklist 16-18

16. Get a merchant account set up for handling money transactions online. If you want to save money, sign up for a merchant account with PayPal for free. There are no monthly fees; you pay only per transaction. Payments are made through their secure server, so you don't have to have your own.

  • TIP-However, look at their terms of use and guidelines because they can be evil about releasing your money if you have a business that has sales that go up and down sporadically and PayPal can (and will) hold your funds for up to 6 months or even longer.

17. If you need employees - Hire them now.

  • TIP-Employees are a paperwork nightmare, so check with all agencies about hiring. There should be a Department of Labor and Industries in your area that you can call for an appointment on how to get started with hiring employees. Yuck!

18. Write a press release and submit it to your local paper and online distribution service about the opening of your business. This is free publicity for your business.

19. Contact your local chamber of commerce to host a ribbon cutting ceremony - Again, free publicity. Even if you are a one person show - Free Publicity - Think, " FREE PUBLICITY!"

Welcome to the world of being in business for yourself. I've been in business for myself since 1999. Follow your passion so that if you aren't the 'one' to get dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking rich then at the least you are doing what you love!

  • "Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success."

    – Thomas J. Watson

Small Business Startups-Helpful Business Ideas & Tips

- Most Business ventures need start up cash or an influx of cash to get their business running or keep it running. In this article you'll find information on both of those needs.

- Everyone needs a business plan for most any business. So if you want to get started on the right foot - Here are some tips and strategies to walk you through how to create the right business plan for your company and your needs - both immediate, and down the road!

- Turbo Tax is a business tax filing software that you'll want to check into for your business needs. It may - or may not help you. you'll have to decide for yourself. But, for some information from a professional who has seen it and how it works, you'll find practical and helpful advice on the program that you may not have considered before.

Small Business Startup Checklist Comments

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    • Annette Hendley profile image

      Annette Hendley 5 years ago from London, United Kingdom

      Lots of useful information here. I am planning to start my own business and I will revisit your article.

    • Marc G profile image

      Marc Goodin 5 years ago from Connecticut - Florida - Canada

      Good info - I found the more how to systems from the beginning and more along the way made the business run more efficiently. I have had great partners in 3 businesses. One trick is not everyone can be in charge and it helps if you do not expect your partner to be the same as you or do the same as you.

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Thanks, Shawnhi77! Feels llike it took a lifetime to put together! ;-)

    • shawnhi77 profile image

      shawnhi77 7 years ago

      Great information....very good.

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Hi baggz - Thank you! yes, good employees are tough to find. Bottom line is - NOBODY will look after your business as well as you will. And when it comes to partners - it's not "if" the partnership end, but "when." So many people believe that friendships will endure a disagreement in business - That's just stupid . . . I mean "naive." Nope, I meant stupid.

    • baggz profile image

      franky joe hanson the third 8 years ago from bakk woods of sksk

      Yes there is allot of very good information here. I ran my small business for years and ran into many of those same problems. I was, somehow, smart enough to be doing what you say here....most of the time. I say most of the time cause who's perfect heheh.

      Yeah I went through many people. Most, sad to say, are not self starters. Also, you can not pick them, no matter if they look the part or if they look the part on paper. It is very hard to pick workers or partners. Best is no partners I found, well it worked better for me that way heheh.

      Workers, for workers you have to look at resume's very close but if just labourish jobs, that is a little harder.

      At any rate thank you for a very good hub with fabulous information. Keep em rollin : )

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Thank you, billyaustindillon! I have a lot of respect for your opinion after reading your Hubs. And, I appreciate your feedback! Too many people don't use any sort of business plan and it turns into a train wreck just waiting to happen! I guess that's why 95%fail in the first 5 years of business. Just opening your door and hanging out your sign isn't enough. Thanks again!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 8 years ago

      Mischelle I enjoyed this hub very much for it's usefulness and the tips are essential - starting off with having a plan, adjusting and testing that plan . and following that plan.

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Thanks, Manoo_bilige! Hopefully the information was helpful to you! ;-)

    • manoo_bilige profile image

      manoo_bilige 8 years ago from Internet

      i like the pictures you added in your hub

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 8 years ago from I'm outta here

      mwatkins, Great organized assembly of many vital steps needed to start a small business. You no doubt have good experiences and a wealth of knowledge on this topic. Thanks for sharing! Peace :)

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      I was rolling about the fantasia description! I hired my sister in law, whom I love dearly, but the two of us working together resembled a train wreck in slow motion - over a period of about two years! I had to let her go, but it was so painful! All you say, Nellianna is SO TRUE! Thank you for stopping by!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 8 years ago from TEXAS

      You are so knowledgeable! I've no present desire to start a business -=- but if I did, I'd consider this my bible! Thumbs up!

      I've modestly brushed shoulders with having my own businesses. I'm still a small business owner - with a DBA

      My favorite of your quotes here:

      "TIP-Employees are a paperwork nightmare, so check with all agencies about hiring. There should be a Department of Labor and Industries in your area that you can call for an appointment on how to get started with hiring employees. Yuck!"

      My devoted husband was my "employee" on the ranch; it went pretty well.

      But a friend I hired for another business was indeed a nightmare.

      She was like Mickey Mouse in the movie "Fantasia" - who couldn't stop carrying buckets of water & dumping them till the basement was flooded. That was how she overdid whatever I asked. Cost me more valuable time to try to answer superfluous questions than it was worth. And it's not easy to fire a friend! LOL

    • mwatkins profile image

      mwatkins 8 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

      Thanks Msorrensson! Fail your way to success is something I completely believe in - Fail forward, that way you'll always be facing the right direction!

      Kowality - LOL! I'm glad you find help with my tips! There is a lot of information to digest, but once you get your teeth into it, It's not so bad! You are a sweetheart! ;-)

    • kowality profile image

      kowality 8 years ago from Everywhere

      You have helped me so much with all the tips and guidance, that I would marry you in a New York Minute!

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 8 years ago

      I love the quote at the, mwatkins..

      This is sooo true..

      A great hub for those starting business, you covered everything. Thanks!


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