How to Start a Business: A Startup Guide for Entrepreneurs [Template]

Published: February 15, 2024

I started a local HVAC business in the summer of 2020, and since then, I’ve learned a lot about which steps are most important for getting a business venture off the ground. To help you make your business idea a reality, I've put together a complete guide that walks you through the steps of starting a business.

how to start a business; entrepreneur learning how to start a business and talking to suppliers

The guide covers every step I’ve discovered you need to start a business, from the paperwork and finances to creating your business plan and growing your business online. At the bottom, you’ll find a library of the best free tools and resources to start selling and marketing your products and services.

Use the links below to navigate to each section of the guide:

  • What do you need to start a business?

How to Start a Business

How to make a business plan, how to decide on a company name.

  • How to Choose a Business Structure

How to Register Your Business

How to comply with legal requirements, how to find funding for your new business, how to create a brand identity for your new business, tips for starting a business, resources to start a business, how to start a business online.

Let's get started.

Every budding entrepreneur wants more visitors, more qualified leads, and more revenue. But starting a business isn’t one of those “if you build it, they will come” situations. So much of getting a startup off the ground has to do with timing, planning, and the market, so consider if the economic conditions are right to start a company and whether you can successfully penetrate the market with your solution.

In order to build and run a successful company , you’ll also need to create and fine-tune a business plan, assess your finances, complete all the legal paperwork, pick your partners, research apps for startup growth, choose the best tools and systems to help you get your marketing and sales off the ground … and a whole lot more.

When I first started my business, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of requirements, which is why I’ve summed up the process to make it easier for you.

In brief, the requirements for starting a business are:

  • A business plan.
  • A business name.
  • An ownership or business structure.
  • A business registration certificate.
  • A legal license or seller’s permit (as well as other legal documents).
  • A source of funding.
  • A brand identity.

Without these elements in place, you unnecessarily risk your new business’s future. Now let’s go over these basic steps for starting a business.

  • Write a business plan.
  • Choose a business name.
  • Choose an ownership structure.
  • Register your business.
  • Review and comply with legal requirements.
  • Apply for funding.
  • Create a brand identity.

Having a great business idea is only part of the journey. In order to be successful, you’ll need to take a few steps to get it off the ground. In order to refine your business idea and set yourself up for success, consider doing the following:

1. Write a business plan.

Your business plan maps out the details of your business, including how it’s structured, what product or service you’ll sell, and how you’ll be selling it. Creating a business plan will help you find any obstacles on the horizon before you jump into running a business.

Pro tip: Remember that part of a business plan is telling investors or funders which specific items you need funding for. Be sure to list what you need to be funded, the reasoning behind items, and how long you will need funding.

Recommended Reading:

  • What is a Business Plan? Definition, Tips, and Templates
  • How to Build a Detailed Business Plan That Stands Out
  • How to Write an Ecommerce Business Plan
  • How to Become an Entrepreneur With No Money or Experience

70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

Jump to: How to Start a Business Plan →

Featured Resource: Free Business Plan Template

how to start own business plan

Below are the key elements in a business plan template, details about what goes into each of them, and example sections at the bottom. You’ll also learn tips for writing a business plan .

1. Use a business plan template .

how to start own business plan

The executive summary should be about a page long. It should cover:

  • Overview . Briefly explain what the company is, where you’ll be located, what you’ll sell, and who you’ll sell to.
  • Company profile. Briefly explain the business structure, who owns it, what prior experience/skills they’ll bring to the table, and who the first hires might be.
  • Products or services . Briefly explain what you’ll sell.
  • The market. Briefly explain your main findings from your market analysis and product market fit .
  • Financial considerations . Briefly explain how you plan to fund the business and what your financial projections are.

Featured Resource: Executive Summary Template

how to start own business plan

On the marketing side, you’ll want to cover answers to questions like:

  • How do you plan to penetrate the market?
  • How will you grow your business?
  • Which channels will you focus on for distribution?
  • How will you communicate with your customers?

Pro tip: Marketing trends change year after year, so be sure to keep up on the latest trends by subscribing to the Hubspot Marketing blog .

On the sales side, you’ll need to cover answers to questions like:

  • What’s your sales strategy ?
  • What will your sales team look like, and how do you plan to grow it over time?
  • How do you plan to scale for growth ?
  • How many sales calls will you need to make to make a sale?
  • What’s the average price per sale?

Speaking of average price per sale, you’ll want to go into your pricing strategy as well.

Featured Resource: Marketing & Sales Alignment Template

how to start own business plan

More importantly, it typically doesn’t entail giving partial ownership of the business away. Instead, it’s a way of getting funding not from potential co-owners, but from potential fans and customers who want to support the business idea, but not necessarily own it.

What you give donors in exchange is entirely up to you — and typically, people will come away with early access to a product, or a special version of a product, or a meet-and-greet with the founders.

Pro tip: Choose the right platform for your crowdfunding campaign type. Some platforms are more geared towards traditional investors, while others are for donations. Learn more about crowdfunding here .

5. Venture Capital Financing

Only a very small percentage of businesses are either fit for venture capital or have access to it. All the other methods described earlier are available to the vast majority of new businesses.

If you’re looking for a significant amount of money to start your company and can prove you can quickly grow its value, then venture capital financing is probably the right move for you.

Venture capital financing usually means one or more venture capital firms make large investments in your company in exchange for preferred stock of the company — but, in addition to getting that preferred return as they would in series seed financing, venture capital investors also usually get governance rights, like a seat on the Board of Directors or approval rights on certain transactions.

VC financing typically occurs when a company can demonstrate a significant business opportunity to quickly grow the value of the company but requires significant capital to do so.

Pro tip: A lot of venture capital financing is simply being in the right room with the right people. Make sure to network extensively if this is your approach to financing.

When you’re first starting a business, you’ll need to build the foundation for a strong brand identity. Your brand identity is about your values, how you communicate concepts, and which emotions you want your customers to feel when they interact with your business. Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers.

Here’s what you need to do to develop your brand identity:

1. Design a logo.

Creating the right logo for your business requires careful thought and consideration. It should be representative of your brand’s purpose and target audience, while also being memorable and distinct from competitors.

To start, you need a deep understanding of your business’s mission, values, and target audience. Think beyond what your company does and truly examine why you do what you do and who you do it for. This knowledge will serve as the foundation for your logo.

Conducting market research and identifying current logo trends can help you understand what works well for others and strategize on how to stand out. Then, start brainstorming design ideas that showcase what makes your business unique.

For instance, you could try writing out a list of words that best describe your business and what makes it special and then use those words as inspiration to start sketching ideas and concepts.

Once you have some sketches created, pick which ones you think are the best and share them with stakeholders, colleagues, and buyer personas to gather feedback and refine your design. After narrowing down a design, you’ll want to test its versatility and scalability to ensure it works well in different sizes and formats.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on designing your logo, and then try out different logo design features in Canva’s logo maker .

2. Develop a visual identity.

Your brand’s visual identity doesn’t stop at creating a logo — you’ll also need to establish guidelines for typography, color palette, imagery, and other graphic elements. The more consistent your brand is with its visuals, the more consumers will be able to recognize and trust it.

To get started, consider creating a brand mood board. Ask yourself: What kind of emotions do you want your brand to evoke? Is there a specific visual aesthetic that you want to emulate? This can help you gather visual inspiration that resonates with your brand.

Choose your color palette and typography wisely. Spend some time researching color theory , as color can have a major impact on how people perceive your brand. Make sure your typography is readable and looks good across different sizes and formats.

Additionally, you should create other visual assets such as patterns, shapes, illustrations, and icons that pair well with your color palette and typography.

Pro tip: If design and color palettes aren’t your thing, consider hiring a freelance graphic designer on LinkedIn or Fiverr to help you create your visual identity and incorporate it into your logo and overall design.

3. Craft a tagline.

In just a few words, your tagline should encapsulate your brand’s essence and communicate its value. Think of it as a written or verbal version of your logo. Both elements are created to immediately capture the attention of your audience. Even if consumers don’t remember anything about your product or service, they will remember a catchy tagline.

When crafting your tagline, keep it simple. You want your tagline to be memorable, so aim for a short phrase and focus on key benefits or unique aspects of your brand. Also consider using techniques like alliteration, rhyme, or play on words to make your tagline stand out — just make sure it aligns with the rest of your brand’s voice and tone.

Pro tip: This is another element of starting a business that could benefit from someone with experience. A marketing consultant or a content writer could help you establish a compelling tagline with the next step of developing your voice and tone.

4. Develop your voice and tone.

Your brand voice refers to the personality that your brand adopts in its communication with its audience. It provides direction on what to say and how to say it, allowing you to differentiate yourself and cut through the noise.

A well-defined brand voice helps create a distinct and memorable identity for your brand, allowing you to connect with your target audience on a deeper and more meaningful level.

When determining the appropriate voice and tone for your brand, remember that consistency is key. Ensure that your brand voice and tone align with your brand’s values, mission, and positioning. Alignment between your brand’s personality and its communication style is crucial for building trust and authenticity.

Pro tip: Adapt your voice and tone to suit the preferences and understanding of your audience. Additionally, use emotion and storytelling techniques to engage your audience and resonate with them.

5. Create brand guidelines.

Once you determine all of the previously mentioned brand elements, establish a set of brand guidelines that communicate how to appropriately use them. Having these rules and standards set in place ensures consistent and cohesive messaging and representation for your brand.

Get started by defining the rules for using your brand elements across different channels and applications, such as digital and print media, social media profiles, web design, packaging, and any other relevant materials.

Show practical examples of correct and incorrect usage scenarios to demonstrate the do’s and don’ts of brand representation. This helps stakeholders and users understand the guidelines and their application. You can also offer your team templates or mock-ups to ensure correct implementation.

Once the brand guidelines are set, distribute them to internal stakeholders and relevant external partners. To make sure everyone’s on the same page, take the time to review the guidelines with everyone and consider conducting training sessions if necessary.

As your brand evolves, so should your brand guidelines. Continuously review and update them to reflect any changes or refinements. Keep the guidelines easily accessible and communicate any updates effectively.

Pro tip: A writing style guide is a great place to start when creating brand guidelines. Check out this blog on brand style guide examples.

how to start own business plan

Starting a business online is a little different from starting a traditional business. Here are some important steps for starting and scaling your business online.

1. Determine your niche and business idea.

Your business niche is the target focus area for your product or service. It’s important to choose a niche because customers like brands and businesses that specifically cater to their needs. Most customers are more likely to purchase products or services from a brand that provides personalized experiences.

When determining your niche and business idea, first identify your target audience and specify everything from their age to their interests. Then, use that information to figure out their principal need. If your product doesn’t resolve a specific need, your business will fail to get off the ground.

Pro tip: You should have a good idea of the market at this point. Use that knowledge to position yourself in a way that differentiates you from your competitors.

2. Conduct market research.

Conduct market research to understand what product or service you should offer, whom you should serve, and where you face the stiffest competition. From physical goods to digital downloads, understanding your target market and competitors will help you determine how to best position your product.

Your research should help you create a strong selling proposition . In other words, what makes your business unique? Why should someone buy from you?

Pro tip: Sometimes, market research is as easy as calling around to competitors and getting a quote on services. Make sure your pricing is competitive but not so low as to be unsustainable.

3. Learn online business laws.

While online businesses may require fewer licenses and permits than traditional businesses, there are still legal requirements that you will need to adhere to. Be sure to check:

  • What kind of business license (if any) do you need to start operations?
  • What legal structure makes the most sense for your company?
  • Are there any permits that you need to obtain?
  • Are there any inspections that you need to pass?
  • Do you need a sales tax license?
  • Are there any specific regulations applicable to online businesses only?
  • What are the laws regarding hiring contractors and hiring employees?

Pro tip: Check out this article for more information on starting an online business and navigating online laws.

4 . Make sure your business is insured.

Depending on your business type, you may be required by state law to be both licensed and insured. HVAC businesses have a lot of liability as they involve both plumbing and electricity. I spoke with several insurance agents before deciding on the best insurance for my business needs.

There are also many different business insurance types, such as:

  • Liability insurance.
  • Worker’s comp.
  • Property insurance (think your business location, tools, and equipment you use).
  • And more. Be sure to research these different insurance types and purchase the necessary ones.

Pro tip: Check out this article on small business insurance.

5. Create a website.

After handling the research, taking care of legalities, and honing your products or services, it is time to create your website . When creating your website, you will need to choose a strong ecommerce platform that will allow you to sell products online.

Pro tip: Check out Hubspot’s free CMS tool for website building here.

6. Set up shop.

Once your website is complete, it’s time to add products or services to your store. When adding your products, pay attention to product images and descriptions. Having a crisp image and a detailed but concise description will help your audience maneuver your website smoothly.

After you have finished setting up your store, it’s critical to ensure you offer a seamless shipping or delivery experience to your buyers. For example, you can use HubSpot to manage quality control before you ship products out.

Finally, you want to make sure everything is working before you hit the live button on your website. Make sure that everything is clickable and that all pages look good across all devices and browsers. Once you’ve checked that, you are ready to go live.

Pro tip: If you take credit card information on your website, you will need to abide by compliance laws that ensure the safety of sensitive data. Read more on credit card compliance .

7. Create a marketing plan.

You’ve created an awesome product, and now it’s time to get the word out. In other words, it’s time to grow your audience. There are numerous ways to reach your target customer, including:

  • Social media : Use hashtags and paid ads to expand your reach.
  • Influencer marketing : Send free samples to “celebrities” in your niche.
  • Facebook groups : Connect with your target market on this platform.
  • Google advertising : Put your products in front of people all over the web.
  • Content marketing : Publish blog posts to bring organic traffic to your site.
  • Word-of-mouth : Encourage customers to spread the word.
  • YouTube videos : Start a channel to showcase your products.

Pro Tip: Google ads and LinkedIn ads regularly offer discounts or free ad money; consider using these promos to try online advertisements out.

8 . Grow your business.

You’ve heard it said that in business, you’re either growing or you’re dying. Here are a couple of tips for growing your business online:

  • Reduce the amount of time it takes online viewers to receive value from you and your brand.
  • Answer the questions no one in your industry is answering — for example, a lot of companies won’t talk about pricing, forcing customers to keep looking for someone who will.
  • Create a dynamic website that changes with the times. Update your images and writing to reflect what’s happening with your business now, and ensure your website isn’t dating you.
  • Invest in content and SEO . They aren’t cheap, but they are really important for being found online, organically.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on how to become an SEO expert, according to HubSpot’s SEO team.

9. Watch your income and expenditures closely.

The first year of your business is an essential set point for discovering your overhead and your profit. Have a date in mind of when you want your business to start turning a profit and a solid plan for if you aren’t meeting that goal. Read further on potential exit strategies below.

Pro tip: Use a free business budget template to monitor your finances.

10. Plan for an exit strategy.

If you’re like me, you didn’t consider an exit strategy when thinking up your business. You probably assumed you’d run your business for the foreseeable future. However, economic uncertainty or unexpected success can both impact the end of your business. In fact, 90% of startups fail , which makes it a wise choice to know under what circumstances you would close down your business.

You could also experience unexpected buzz and success and be offered a buyout. A good exit strategy will plan for this as well. What amount of money would make selling worth it? Consider also how long you would have to run your business before considering offers. Some want to sell high and fast, whereas other business owners want to see where things go during a set amount of time.

An exit strategy could also include who you want to inherit your business, maybe family or an employee.

Pro tip: Check out this blog on the importance of having an exit strategy.

Next Steps: Getting Ready to Launch Your Business

I know from experience that being a small business owner isn’t easy, but with the right plan, you can set up your business for success. Be sure to check and know your requirements, have a solid business plan, and submit your legal paperwork before you take your business live. Once you have a solid business plan and the financing to execute your goals, you’ll be well on the path to launching a successful enterprise.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide

From market research to managing growth

how to start own business plan

The U.S. is home to 33.2 million small businesses, which drive over 43% of GDP.   If you are looking to start a business, there are key factors to consider—from market research and creating a business plan to scaling your business. These factors are critical to your journey and can make a big difference no matter what stage of the process you are in.

Entrepreneurs who take concrete action can differentiate themselves from competitors, innovate, and grow. For successful entrepreneurs, the execution of the business is often what means the most. 

Key Takeaways

  • Starting a small business involves extensive market research of your target audience, competitors, and gaining a deep understanding of the industry.
  • It is important to build a comprehensive business plan that includes the product or service description, your target customers, financial projections, and all other key details.
  • Understanding the legal requirements of starting your business involves knowledge of business registration, permits, licensing, and other regulatory requirements.
  • There are various types of funding channels for starting a business, including financing it yourself, securing external funding from your network, and applying for government and corporate grants and loans. 

The Importance of Market Research

Being clear about your business goals involves doing your research. Successful entrepreneurs often do extensive research on their field. This includes understanding their prospective customers, the technical aspects of the industry, and the challenges other businesses are facing. 

Understanding how other players operate in an industry is important. Attending conferences, joining associations, and building a network of people involved in the field can help you learn how decisions are made. Often, comprehensive market research takes six months to a year. 

Understanding Your Target Audience

Knowing your target market is critical for many reasons. These are the customers who are most likely to purchase your product, recommend it to friends, and become repeat buyers. Apart from driving your bottom line, having a strong understanding of your target audience will allow you to tailor your offering more effectively, reach your customers more efficiently, and manage customer expectations.

Compiling demographic data on age, family, wealth, and other factors can give you a clearer understanding of market demand for your product and your potential market size.

It’s important to ask, “Why would someone buy this and part with their discretionary income?” or “Will someone love this enough to tell someone about it?” At the heart of these questions is understanding whether your business solves a key problem, as well as whether it delivers the “more” that connects to your audiences’ human emotions.

Assessing Market Trends and Opportunities

To find an advantage in a given market, look at key market trends in customer behavior and the business landscape. Explore the state of business conditions and consumer spending, along with the economic environment and how interest rates may affect financing and business growth.

Several resources are available to dive into market trends across industries, such as Statistics of U.S. Businesses and the U.S. Census Business Builder . To analyze the competitive landscape, and in turn, identify key opportunities, Porter's 5 Forces is a classic model to help businesses build their competitive strategy.

Creating a Business Plan

A business plan is a road map for achieving your business goals. It outlines the capital that you need, the personnel to make it happen, and the description of your product and prospective customers.

There are a number of models for creating a business plan. The Small Business Administration (SBA) , for instance, provides a format that includes the following nine sections:

  • Executive summary: This should be a description of your company and its potential for success. The executive summary can cover your mission statement, employees, location, and growth plan.
  • Company description: This is where you detail what your business offers, its competitive advantages, and your strengths as a business.
  • Market analysis: Lay out how your company is positioned to perform well in your industry. Describe market trends and themes and your knowledge of successful competitors.
  • Organization and management: Who is running your company, and how is your business structured? Include an organizational chart of your management team. Discuss if your business will be incorporated as a business C or S corporation, a limited partnership, a limited liability company, or a sole proprietorship. 
  • Service or product line: Here is where you describe how your business will solve a problem and why this will benefit customers. Describe how your product lifecycle would unfold.
  • Marketing and sales: Detail your marketing strategy and how this will reach your customers and drive return on investment. 
  • Funding request: If you're looking for financing, lay out the capital you’re requesting under a five-year horizon and where, in detail, it will be allocated, such as salaries, materials, or equipment. 
  • Financial projections: This section shows the five-year financial outlook for your company and ties these to your request for capital.

Having a coherent business plan is important for businesses looking to raise cash and crystallize their business goals.

Setting Goals and Strategies

Another key aspect of a business plan is setting realistic goals and having a strategy to make these a reality. Having a clear direction will help you stay on track within specified deadlines. In many ways, it allows companies to create a strategic plan that defines measurable actions and is coupled with an honest assessment of the business, taking into account its resources and competitive environment. Strategy is a top-down look at your business to achieve these targets.

Financial Projections and Budgeting

Often, entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of funding needed to start a business. Outlining financial projections shows how money will be generated, where it will come from, and whether it can sustain growth. 

This provides the basis for budgeting the costs to run a business and get it off the ground. Budgeting covers the expenses and income generated from the business, which include salaries and marketing expenses and projected revenue from sales.

Legal Requirements

Another important aspect of starting a business are the legal requirements that enable you to operate under the law. The legal structure of a business will impact your taxes, your liability, and how you operate.

Businesses may consider the following structures in which to operate:

  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship

Each has different legal consequences, from regulatory burdens to tax advantages to liability being shifted to the business instead of the business owner.

Registering Your Business

Now that you have your business structure outlined, the next step is registering your business . Your location is the second key factor in how you’ll register your business. In many cases, small businesses can register their business name with local and state government authorities. 

If your business is being conducted under your legal name, registration is not required. However, such a business structure may not benefit from liability protection, along with certain legal and tax advantages. Often, registering your businesses costs $300 or less.

Before filing, a business structured as a corporation, LLC, or partnership requires a registered agent in its state. These agents handle the legal documents and official papers on your behalf.

Businesses that are looking to trademark their product, brand, or business, can file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Understanding Permits and Licenses

If your business conducts certain activities that are regulated by a federal agency, you’re required to get a permit or license. A list of regulated activities can be found on the SBA website, and includes activities such as agriculture, alcoholic beverages, and transportation.

Exploring Funding Options

There are many different ways to fund a business. One of the key mistakes entrepreneurs make is not having enough capital to get their business running . The good news is that there are several channels to help make this happen, given the vital role entrepreneurs play in creating jobs and boosting productivity in the wider economy.

Self-Funding vs. External Funding

Bootstrapping, the term commonly used to describe self-funding your business, is where companies tap into their own cash or network of family and friends for investment. While the advantage of self-funding is having greater control, the downside is that it often involves more personal risk.

External funding involves funding from bank loans, crowdfunding, or venture capital , among other sources. These may provide additional buffers and enable you to capture growth opportunities. The drawback is less freedom and more stringent requirements for paying back these funds.

Grant and Loan Opportunities

Today, there are thousands of grants designed especially for small businesses from the government, corporations, and other organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a weekly update of grants and loans available to small businesses. 

For instance, Business Warrior offers loans between $5,000 and $50,000 to small business owners. As another example, Go. Be. Elevate Fund offers $4,000 to grant recipients who are women and/or people of color business owners to help them grow their businesses.

Crafting a Marketing Strategy

When it comes to marketing, there is a classic quote from Milan Kundera: “Business has only two functions—marketing and innovation." In order to reach customers, a business needs a marketing strategy that attracts and retains customers and expands its customer base.

To gain an edge, small businesses can utilize social media, email marketing, and other digital channels to connect and engage with customers.

Branding Your Business

Building a successful brand goes hand in hand with building a great experience for the customer. This involves meeting the expectations of your customer. What is your brand offering? Is it convenience, luxury, or rapid access to a product? Consider how your brand meets a customer's immediate need or the type of emotional response it elicits. Customer interaction, and in turn loyalty to your brand, is influenced, for example, by how your brand may align with their values, how it shifts their perception, or if it resolves customer frustration.

Digital Marketing and Social Media

We live in a digital-first world, and utilizing social media channels can help your business reach a wider audience and connect and engage in real time. Given that a strong brand is at the heart of successful companies, it often goes without saying that cultivating a digital presence is a necessity in order to reach your customers. 

According to HubSpot’s 2023 report, The State of Consumer Trends, 41% of the 600-plus consumers surveyed discovered new products on social media and 17% bought a product there in the past three months.

Managing and Growing Your Business

Managing a business has its challenges. Finding the right personnel to run operations, manage the day-to-day, and reach your business objectives takes time. Sometimes, businesses may look to hire experts in their field who can bring in specialized knowledge to help their business grow, such as data analysts, marketing specialists, or others with niche knowledge relevant to their field.

Hiring and Training Staff

Finding the right employees involves preparing job descriptions, posting on relevant job boards such as LinkedIn, and effectively screening applicants. Careful screening may involve a supplemental test, reviewing a candidate's portfolio, and asking situational and behavioral questions in the interview. These tools will help you evaluate applicants and improve the odds that you'll find the people you are looking for.

Once you have hired a new employee, training is the next essential step. On average, it takes about 62 hours to train new employees. Effectively training employees often leads to higher retention. While on-the-job training is useful, consider having an onboarding plan in place to make the transition clear while outlining expectations for the job.

Scaling Your Business

Growing your business also requires strategy. According to Gino Chirio, executive vice president at the consultancy group Maddock Douglas, there are six ways that companies can grow their business to drive real growth and expansion:

  • New processes: Boost margins by cutting costs.
  • New experiences: Connect with customers in powerful ways to help increase retention.
  • New features: Provide advancements to your existing product or service.
  • New customers: Expand into new markets, or find markets where your product addresses a different need.
  • New offerings: Offer a new product.
  • New models: Utilize new business models, such as subscription-based services, fee-for-service, or advertising-based models.

With these six ways to grow a business, it is important to consider the risk, investment, and time involved. Improving your margins through new processes is often the most straightforward way to grow. Offering new features is also effective since it is tailored to your existing market with products you have already delivered.

By contrast, offering new products may involve higher risk since these have not been tested in the market. However, they may offer higher reward, especially if you have a first-mover advantage and release your product in the market before the competition.

How Do I Start a Small Business for Beginners?

A good place to start building a business is to understand the following core steps that are involved in an entrepreneur's journey : market research, creating a business plan, knowing the legal requirements, researching funding options, developing a marketing strategy, and business management.

How Do I Create a Business Plan?

A business plan is made up of a number of primary components that help outline your business goals and company operations in a clear, coherent way. It includes an executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management description, service or product line description, marketing and sales plan, funding requests (optional), and financial projections.

What Are Six Ways to Grow and Scale a Business?

Business growth can fall into the following six categories, with each having varying degrees of risk and investment: new processes, new experiences, new features, new customers, new offerings, and new models.

The Bottom Line

Knowing how to start a small business involves the key steps of market research, setting up a business plan, understanding the legal requirements, exploring funding options, crafting a marketing strategy, and managing your business. 

For aspiring small business owners, these steps can help you successfully deliver your product or service to the market, and ultimately grow. While it can take a considerable amount of work, the payoffs are manifold: independence of work, personal fulfillment, financial reward, and following your passion.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. " The State of Small Business Now ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Market Research and Competitive Analysis ."

U.S. Small Business Administration." Write Your Business Plan ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Choose a Business Structure ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Register Your Business ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Apply for Licenses and Permits ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Fund Your Business ."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. " 52 Grants, Loans and Programs to Benefit Your Small Business ."

Ogilvy. " Behind Every Brand Is a Great Experience, and Vice Versa—Why Today's Customer Expects Synergy ."

HubSpot. " The State of Consumer Trends in 2023 ."

Training Magazine. " 2022 Training Industry Report ."

Harvard Business Review. " The Six Ways to Grow a Company ."

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How to make a business plan

Strategic planning in Miro

Table of Contents

How to make a good business plan: step-by-step guide.

A business plan is a strategic roadmap used to navigate the challenging journey of entrepreneurship. It's the foundation upon which you build a successful business.

A well-crafted business plan can help you define your vision, clarify your goals, and identify potential problems before they arise.

But where do you start? How do you create a business plan that sets you up for success?

This article will explore the step-by-step process of creating a comprehensive business plan.

What is a business plan?

A business plan is a formal document that outlines a business's objectives, strategies, and operational procedures. It typically includes the following information about a company:

Products or services

Target market


Marketing and sales strategies

Financial plan

Management team

A business plan serves as a roadmap for a company's success and provides a blueprint for its growth and development. It helps entrepreneurs and business owners organize their ideas, evaluate the feasibility, and identify potential challenges and opportunities.

As well as serving as a guide for business owners, a business plan can attract investors and secure funding. It demonstrates the company's understanding of the market, its ability to generate revenue and profits, and its strategy for managing risks and achieving success.

Business plan vs. business model canvas

A business plan may seem similar to a business model canvas, but each document serves a different purpose.

A business model canvas is a high-level overview that helps entrepreneurs and business owners quickly test and iterate their ideas. It is often a one-page document that briefly outlines the following:

Key partnerships

Key activities

Key propositions

Customer relationships

Customer segments

Key resources

Cost structure

Revenue streams

On the other hand, a Business Plan Template provides a more in-depth analysis of a company's strategy and operations. It is typically a lengthy document and requires significant time and effort to develop.

A business model shouldn’t replace a business plan, and vice versa. Business owners should lay the foundations and visually capture the most important information with a Business Model Canvas Template . Because this is a fast and efficient way to communicate a business idea, a business model canvas is a good starting point before developing a more comprehensive business plan.

A business plan can aim to secure funding from investors or lenders, while a business model canvas communicates a business idea to potential customers or partners.

Why is a business plan important?

A business plan is crucial for any entrepreneur or business owner wanting to increase their chances of success.

Here are some of the many benefits of having a thorough business plan.

Helps to define the business goals and objectives

A business plan encourages you to think critically about your goals and objectives. Doing so lets you clearly understand what you want to achieve and how you plan to get there.

A well-defined set of goals, objectives, and key results also provides a sense of direction and purpose, which helps keep business owners focused and motivated.

Guides decision-making

A business plan requires you to consider different scenarios and potential problems that may arise in your business. This awareness allows you to devise strategies to deal with these issues and avoid pitfalls.

With a clear plan, entrepreneurs can make informed decisions aligning with their overall business goals and objectives. This helps reduce the risk of making costly mistakes and ensures they make decisions with long-term success in mind.

Attracts investors and secures funding

Investors and lenders often require a business plan before considering investing in your business. A document that outlines the company's goals, objectives, and financial forecasts can help instill confidence in potential investors and lenders.

A well-written business plan demonstrates that you have thoroughly thought through your business idea and have a solid plan for success.

Identifies potential challenges and risks

A business plan requires entrepreneurs to consider potential challenges and risks that could impact their business. For example:

Is there enough demand for my product or service?

Will I have enough capital to start my business?

Is the market oversaturated with too many competitors?

What will happen if my marketing strategy is ineffective?

By identifying these potential challenges, entrepreneurs can develop strategies to mitigate risks and overcome challenges. This can reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes and ensure the business is well-positioned to take on any challenges.

Provides a basis for measuring success

A business plan serves as a framework for measuring success by providing clear goals and financial projections . Entrepreneurs can regularly refer to the original business plan as a benchmark to measure progress. By comparing the current business position to initial forecasts, business owners can answer questions such as:

Are we where we want to be at this point?

Did we achieve our goals?

If not, why not, and what do we need to do?

After assessing whether the business is meeting its objectives or falling short, business owners can adjust their strategies as needed.

How to make a business plan step by step

The steps below will guide you through the process of creating a business plan and what key components you need to include.

1. Create an executive summary

Start with a brief overview of your entire plan. The executive summary should cover your business plan's main points and key takeaways.

Keep your executive summary concise and clear with the Executive Summary Template . The simple design helps readers understand the crux of your business plan without reading the entire document.

2. Write your company description

Provide a detailed explanation of your company. Include information on what your company does, the mission statement, and your vision for the future.

Provide additional background information on the history of your company, the founders, and any notable achievements or milestones.

3. Conduct a market analysis

Conduct an in-depth analysis of your industry, competitors, and target market. This is best done with a SWOT analysis to identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Next, identify your target market's needs, demographics, and behaviors.

Use the Competitive Analysis Template to brainstorm answers to simple questions like:

What does the current market look like?

Who are your competitors?

What are they offering?

What will give you a competitive advantage?

Who is your target market?

What are they looking for and why?

How will your product or service satisfy a need?

These questions should give you valuable insights into the current market and where your business stands.

4. Describe your products and services

Provide detailed information about your products and services. This includes pricing information, product features, and any unique selling points.

Use the Product/Market Fit Template to explain how your products meet the needs of your target market. Describe what sets them apart from the competition.

5. Design a marketing and sales strategy

Outline how you plan to promote and sell your products. Your marketing strategy and sales strategy should include information about your:

Pricing strategy

Advertising and promotional tactics

Sales channels

The Go to Market Strategy Template is a great way to visually map how you plan to launch your product or service in a new or existing market.

6. Determine budget and financial projections

Document detailed information on your business’ finances. Describe the current financial position of the company and how you expect the finances to play out.

Some details to include in this section are:

Startup costs

Revenue projections

Profit and loss statement

Funding you have received or plan to receive

Strategy for raising funds

7. Set the organization and management structure

Define how your company is structured and who will be responsible for each aspect of the business. Use the Business Organizational Chart Template to visually map the company’s teams, roles, and hierarchy.

As well as the organization and management structure, discuss the legal structure of your business. Clarify whether your business is a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or LLC.

8. Make an action plan

At this point in your business plan, you’ve described what you’re aiming for. But how are you going to get there? The Action Plan Template describes the following steps to move your business plan forward. Outline the next steps you plan to take to bring your business plan to fruition.

Types of business plans

Several types of business plans cater to different purposes and stages of a company's lifecycle. Here are some of the most common types of business plans.

Startup business plan

A startup business plan is typically an entrepreneur's first business plan. This document helps entrepreneurs articulate their business idea when starting a new business.

Not sure how to make a business plan for a startup? It’s pretty similar to a regular business plan, except the primary purpose of a startup business plan is to convince investors to provide funding for the business. A startup business plan also outlines the potential target market, product/service offering, marketing plan, and financial projections.

Strategic business plan

A strategic business plan is a long-term plan that outlines a company's overall strategy, objectives, and tactics. This type of strategic plan focuses on the big picture and helps business owners set goals and priorities and measure progress.

The primary purpose of a strategic business plan is to provide direction and guidance to the company's management team and stakeholders. The plan typically covers a period of three to five years.

Operational business plan

An operational business plan is a detailed document that outlines the day-to-day operations of a business. It focuses on the specific activities and processes required to run the business, such as:

Organizational structure

Staffing plan

Production plan

Quality control

Inventory management

Supply chain

The primary purpose of an operational business plan is to ensure that the business runs efficiently and effectively. It helps business owners manage their resources, track their performance, and identify areas for improvement.

Growth-business plan

A growth-business plan is a strategic plan that outlines how a company plans to expand its business. It helps business owners identify new market opportunities and increase revenue and profitability. The primary purpose of a growth-business plan is to provide a roadmap for the company's expansion and growth.

The 3 Horizons of Growth Template is a great tool to identify new areas of growth. This framework categorizes growth opportunities into three categories: Horizon 1 (core business), Horizon 2 (emerging business), and Horizon 3 (potential business).

One-page business plan

A one-page business plan is a condensed version of a full business plan that focuses on the most critical aspects of a business. It’s a great tool for entrepreneurs who want to quickly communicate their business idea to potential investors, partners, or employees.

A one-page business plan typically includes sections such as business concept, value proposition, revenue streams, and cost structure.

Best practices for how to make a good business plan

Here are some additional tips for creating a business plan:

Use a template

A template can help you organize your thoughts and effectively communicate your business ideas and strategies. Starting with a template can also save you time and effort when formatting your plan.

Miro’s extensive library of customizable templates includes all the necessary sections for a comprehensive business plan. With our templates, you can confidently present your business plans to stakeholders and investors.

Be practical

Avoid overestimating revenue projections or underestimating expenses. Your business plan should be grounded in practical realities like your budget, resources, and capabilities.

Be specific

Provide as much detail as possible in your business plan. A specific plan is easier to execute because it provides clear guidance on what needs to be done and how. Without specific details, your plan may be too broad or vague, making it difficult to know where to start or how to measure success.

Be thorough with your research

Conduct thorough research to fully understand the market, your competitors, and your target audience . By conducting thorough research, you can identify potential risks and challenges your business may face and develop strategies to mitigate them.

Get input from others

It can be easy to become overly focused on your vision and ideas, leading to tunnel vision and a lack of objectivity. By seeking input from others, you can identify potential opportunities you may have overlooked.

Review and revise regularly

A business plan is a living document. You should update it regularly to reflect market, industry, and business changes. Set aside time for regular reviews and revisions to ensure your plan remains relevant and effective.

Create a winning business plan to chart your path to success

Starting or growing a business can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you're a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting, a well-written business plan can make or break your business’ success.

The purpose of a business plan is more than just to secure funding and attract investors. It also serves as a roadmap for achieving your business goals and realizing your vision. With the right mindset, tools, and strategies, you can develop a visually appealing, persuasive business plan.

Ready to make an effective business plan that works for you? Check out our library of ready-made strategy and planning templates and chart your path to success.

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

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What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.



A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

how to start own business plan

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Starting a Business | How To

How to Start a Small Business: An Ultimate Guide

Published October 9, 2023

Published Oct 9, 2023

Agatha Aviso

WRITTEN BY: Agatha Aviso

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This article is part of a larger series on Starting a Business .

Starting A Business?

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  • 1. Come Up With a Business Idea
  • 2. Test Your Business Idea
  • 3. Write a Business Plan
  • 4. Acquire Funding
  • 5. Choose Structure & Register
  • 6. Get Business Insured
  • 7. Build Team
  • 8. Set Up Systems & Software

Bottom Line

Whether you’re starting a part-time business or quitting your corporate job to create your dream biz, you’ll find information in this guide to help you succeed. Throughout this article, you’ll learn how to start a small business from experts in finance, legal, marketing, human resources, software, insurance, as well as expert advice from former small business consultants.

Starting a small business involves coming up with a business idea, testing the idea, writing a business plan, acquiring funding, choosing a business structure, registering the business, getting it insured, making key hires, setting up systems, and finally, marketing and promoting it.

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As you’re starting your business, it’s wise to register it as a legal entity, like an LLC. Doing this will protect your personal assets if a lawsuit were to occur against the business. You can register your business as an LLC through an online legal service.

IncFile is an online service that handles and files the paperwork so your business can become an LLC quickly.

Start your business today with IncFile for as little as $0 plus state fees with no contracts and no hidden fees.

Step-by-step infographic of how to start a business.

Should you start a business? Before coming up with a business, it’s crucial to determine if you’re ready to become a business owner and there are many things to consider. Examine the main points to consider by reading our guide on determining if you should start a business .

“Starting a business is not for everyone. Generally, starting a business, I’d say, No. 1 is to have a high pain threshold. When you first start a company, there’s lots of optimism and things are great. Happiness at first is high, then you encounter all sorts of issues and happiness will steadily decline, and then you will go through a whole world of hurt, and then eventually, if you succeed—and in most cases, you will not succeed—if you succeed then, after a long time, you will finally get back to happiness.” – Elon Musk

Step 1: Come Up With a Business Idea

All businesses start with the same first step— coming up with a business idea . When coming up with an idea for your business, consider your own skills and experiences, as well as business trends and problems or pain points your business could help address.

As you go through your day, you should write down any ideas you have. Look for problems you’re having in your own life. Can you solve that problem yourself and turn the solution into a business?

It’s also important to consider your personality when choosing a business idea:

  • Would you like to work at home in silence or talk with customers in a store?
  • Would you like to have a lifestyle business, which caps your income, or an eight-figure business with employees?
  • Would you like to start from scratch or purchase an existing businesslike a franchise?
  • Would you like to work 80-hour weeks and grow a business fast or keep a more balanced life and grow the business slowly?
  • Would you like to create products and have other people sell them or sell products that other people have created?

Think about these questions to help you begin with the end in mind. Another personality-based test is to notice your energy levels when doing tasks at work and home. What tasks give you energy, and what depletes your energy? Running a business that gives you energy will be much more likely to succeed.

Business Idea Examples

Browse our list of business ideas for inspiration:

  • Best Business Ideas to Make Money
  • Best Business to Start
  • Best Businesses to Start With Less Than $500
  • Mompreneur Business Ideas
  • Home-based Business Ideas
  • Small Farm Business Ideas
  • Low-cost Franchises
  • Creative Business Ideas Started During the Pandemic

Additionally, you may want to browse “how to start a business” guides to learn more about a specific business idea:

  • Restaurant or catering business
  • Cleaning business
  • Clothing boutique or a consignment store
  • Coffee shop
  • Dropshipping business
  • FedEx routes
  • Ghost kitchen
  • Lifestyle blog
  • Online store
  • Online T-shirt business
  • Personal training
  • Retail store

Starting From Scratch vs Buying Existing vs a Franchise

One question you may have is if you should start your small business from scratch, buy an existing business, or purchase a franchise? Two things to consider are your business experience and available funds.

If you have no experience running a business or in a particular industry, buying into a franchise can increase your odds of success. When you buy into a franchise , you’re mostly learning how to run the business. If you follow the franchise formula in a well-populated area, you’re likely to succeed.

The same line of thinking applies to an existing business. Purchase an existing business, and you’ll learn how to run the business—plus receive previous customers. This combination makes the likelihood of success higher than you’d have for a brand-new franchise.

The challenge with buying a franchise or an existing business is cost. The high cost is one of the main reasons most new entrepreneurs start their business from scratch. However, keep in mind that there are dozens of franchises that cost under $25,000 .

  • Buying a Franchise: How to Buy a Franchise in 8 Steps
  • Financing a Franchise: 7 Best Loan Options
  • 11 Franchise Marketing Tips to Grow Your Business
  • 19 Best Franchises Under 10K

How Much Money Do You Need to Start?

It’s essential to know the answer to this question before starting your business. I’ve met with several people who never got their business off the ground because it required too much money. Remember, if you don’t have the capital available: Dream big, but start small.

To start some businesses, such as residential cleaning or power washing, you may only need $1,000. Use these funds to register the business, purchase supplies, get your first customers, and then, you’ll be in business.

Opening a store with a location is more costly. You’ll need at least $50,000 in funding—possibly several hundred thousand dollars. For a very small retail store, you should plan on earning at least $100,000 a year to cover overhead costs and make a nice profit.

If you need substantial debt to open your first business—over $20,000—you should seriously think about that decision. What’s the worst-case scenario? And how long will it take you to get out of debt? If possible, start part time with the business and acquire the necessary entrepreneurship skills. Or consider waiting. Save up cash, and take on as little debt as possible.

Learn More: How to Choose a Business to Start

Now that you’ve settled on an idea, it is time to really dive into the market.

Step 2: Research Your Market and Competitors

Once you have chosen your business idea, you need to test the idea to determine the likelihood that it will work. The majority of new business owners skip this step—that’s why 20–22% of small businesses fail within the first year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics .

Don’t skip this step! You may learn valuable information that alters the type of business you start or how you implement it. All the information you collect will go into your business plan (step No. 3).

Validate Your Business Idea

Validating your business idea involves making efforts to ensure the solution you want to sell is something customers will pay for. True validation comes when someone spends their money on your product or service. However, you may not be able to figure out with certainty how well your product will do in the market until it’s created, or your business is open.

This is where research becomes crucial. Consider creating a few focus groups and surveys to gather feedback. Building an audience online is a great way to elicit feedback for your idea. Additionally, starting a crowdfunding campaign is one of the best ways to ensure your business idea is a good one.

  • Evaluate your competitors. Consider your top five potential competitors and list their strengths and weaknesses. What strengths do your competitors have that you cannot beat? What weaknesses do they have that you can improve upon? If you have no competitors, that is not always a good sign. Ask yourself why there are no competitors in your area. There may be a reason. For example, the market may be too small to support your idea or people are not willing to pay for your product or service.
  • Identify your target demographic. Customer research is key in deciding whether or not the business will work. There must be people willing to pay for your product or service in your area. To narrow down your customers, consider creating customer profiles for each type of customer you will have. Once you are clear on your customers, you want to determine how many of them are in your area. ReferenceUSA is a database you can use to do this research. ReferenceUSA is a powerful tool that allows you to research customers based on demographics. Tens of thousands of local libraries provide free access to ReferenceUSA.

Perform a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis is an exercise that helps you think critically about your business idea. SWOT analysis may reveal certain aspects of your business you have not considered—both positive and negative.

Go through each section below and list your ideas:

  • Strengths: What will the business do well?
  • Weaknesses: What may the business not do well?
  • Opportunities: What external market opportunities are there—such as less competition and underserved segments?
  • Threats: What external factors may make success difficult—such as regulations?

Guide infographic for conducting a SWOT analysis.

  • Identify your competitive advantages. A SWOT analysis helps you identify your own competitive advantages. A question to ask yourself is: “What is my advantage that the competition will struggle to match? ” Is it your quality of product or service, customer service, or knowledge? This question will help you determine if you can be the best at something. Being the best in a certain area of a business makes it more likely that the business will succeed.

Research a Location

If you’re considering an office or storefront, start your research into the location now. You want to start early to make sure you can afford it. Look into potential locations to develop a rough estimate of the build-out cost (renovations) and monthly rent. The information you collect will go into your business plan and financial projections.

Once you have validated your idea, performed in-depth research, identified target demographics and possible locations, and performed competitive analysis, you are ready for the next step. So far, you have put together informal pieces of a business plan. Now, it’s time to write down information in a document as part of a formal business plan.

Step 3: Write a Business Plan

When you’re just starting your business, a business plan, along with a solid business philosophy , can help you plot your future. Additionally, a business plan is an opportunity to show why and how your business will become a success. All businesses need to create a business plan or a strategic roadmap to guide their business decisions.

The business plan contains several elements, including market analysis, competitor analysis, and financial projections. If you’re seeking funding from a bank or investor, you will need a business plan. The plan shows on paper how you will start your own business. After you open, the document keeps you focused and on track with your goals.

A typical business plan may contain over 40 pages of info about your business. You should plan on spending at least 30 hours creating a well-researched business plan. In addition to writing the plan, you will also spend time doing market research and creating financial projections.

Planning to launch a very small business such as a side business? Creating a one-page business plan might be better. With this plan, you’ll write a couple of sentences for important business concepts. It should include items such as the business model (how will it make money?) and competitive advantage (what will it do better than competitors?).

You should plan on spending around an hour to write out a one-page business plan. The simplified financial projections will be the most challenging and time-consuming. You most likely will need to do research online to get accurate income and expense estimates.

Download our one-page business plan template to start your business planning today.

One-Page Business Plan Template

Showing a graphic of one-page business plan.

Most business owners can easily do the research and write the plan. Where most have difficulty are the financial projections, which require creating several financial documents. If you don’t have a financial analysis background or interest, it’s a wise strategy to purchase business plan software that walks you through the financial projection process.

Related: 4 Types Of Business Plans (Plus Software & Writing Services)

Here are nine sections to include in your traditional business plan:

  • Opening Organizational and Legal Pages: Cover page, nondisclosure agreement, and a table of contents
  • Executive Summary: A summary of the entire business plan in fewer than two pages; Complete this section last
  • Company Summary: Basics of the company, such as its history, location, facilities, company ownership, and competitive advantage
  • Products and Services: How your business makes money (business model), the products or services it provides, and future products or services
  • Market and Industry Analysis: Analysis of potential customers and industry. Include any data here about your current (or ideal) customers, business industry, and competitors
  • Marketing Strategy and Implementation Summary: Discussion of marketing, sales, and pricing strategies
  • Management and Organization Summary: Business ownership and operation. (If your business isn’t open yet, give a compelling reason why your background will make it a success. Include information on any managers in the business as well.)
  • Financial Data and Analysis: Financial projections such as a profit and loss statement, projected cash flow, and business ratios
  • Appendix: Any documents or information that doesn’t fit in the above categories goes in the appendix. You may want to include documents such as a floor plan, trademark, or marketing materials.

This might be a big undertaking for some, so there are business plan writing services you can seek help from. Alternatively, Here are some industry-specific business plan templates that can help:

  • How To Write an SBA Business Plan [+Free Template]
  • 4 Free Retail & Online Store Business Plans
  • How to Write a Real Estate Business Plan (+ Free Template)

Learn More: How to Write a Business Plan

Step 4: Acquire Funding

Obtaining financing for your startup business may be the biggest challenge you face in your company’s infancy.

If you don’t have sufficient personal funds to start your business, you’ll need to secure additional funds. There are several funding options available for soon-to-be business owners, including several types of loans, investors, and crowdfunding.

No matter which type of startup financing your business applies for, you can increase the chances of getting a small business loan by preparing a solid business plan, improving your personal credit score , saving up personal capital, building your business’ customer base, and maintaining updated financial projections .

Family & Friends

A popular saying that many in startup financing like to say is, “You should always look to family, friends, and fools for funding before an investor or loan.” The reason is that family and friends (and fools) are the cheapest sources of capital.

The main downside of securing capital from family and friends is the potential for a damaged relationship. To avoid this, draw up an agreement that states how and when you need to pay back the funds.

A loan is a sum of money that needs to be paid back with interest. Business loan amounts can range anywhere from under $1,000 to over $1,000,000.

Just because you may qualify for a loan doesn’t mean you should use it. Start your small business with as little debt as possible. Remember, if your business were to fail, you would still need to pay off the debt you incurred, which could take several years.

Here are several different types of loans to fund your business:

  • 10 Best Business Credit Cards for Startups
  • 10 Best Sole Proprietorship Business Credit Cards
  • 6 Best Instant Approval Business Credit Cards
  • 6 Best Credit Cards for New Businesses With No Credit History
  • 8 Best LLC Credit Cards
  • 13 Best Small Business Credit Cards
  • 6 Best Personal Loans for Business Funding
  • Business Loans vs Personal Loans: Which Is Best for Your Small Business

See also: 7 Best Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) Providers

  • Home equity loan or line of credit : These loans pull equity out of your home for a loan. They are appealing because of their low-interest rate.

See also: SBA Microloans: What They Are & How to Apply

  • SBA Loan Requirements
  • How to Get an SBA Loan in 4 Steps
  • How to Get an SBA Startup Loan in 6 Steps
  • SBA Community Advantage Loan: What It Is & How to Apply
  • Understanding the SBA Guarantee Fee

See also: How to Get Unsecured Startup Business Loans in 6 Steps

Find an Angel Investor

An angel investor is typically a wealthy individual who funds early-stage businesses. Investors usually want equity ownership in businesses they invest their money in. Having ownership means they will collect a percent of your profits in exchange for their investment. Read more about the pros and cons of angel investments .


Crowdfunding a small business is when you get customers to pre-order products or services. It’s a great way to raise funds before opening your business or creating a product.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are crowdfunding platforms that assist with raising the money for your business. The cost to use the platforms is 5% of the final price raised plus payment processing fees, which are around 3%.

  • Pros and Cons of Business Crowdfunding
  • 11 Best Crowdfunding Sites for Small Businesses

Apply for Business Grants

Business grants are funds given to start a business that doesn’t have to be repaid. Federal, state, and local governments are common sources of grants. Many new business owners seek them, but they are hard to find.

A business grant is typically reserved for a particular type of business, such as a research-based business. Grants may also come in forms other than money, such as reduced rent to open a business in a disadvantaged area designated by a city.

  • 8 Best Small Business Grants
  • 8 Great Minority Small Business Grants
  • 13 Best Small Business Grants for Women

Apply for Venture Capital Funding

Venture capital is private equity designed to help startups with long-term growth potential scale. In this arrangement, groups of investors pool money to fund a startup in exchange for equity. Typically, venture capitalist firms also shape the strategies of the companies, provide expertise, and make introductions. Read more about the disadvantages and advantages of venture capital funding .

Learn More: Startup Business Loans: The 7 Best Ways to Fund Your Startup

Step 5: Choose a Business Structure & Register Your Business

After acquiring funding, it is time to file the necessary legal paperwork and register your business. You want to take the steps below to comply with city, state, and federal laws. You also want to protect your personal assets if something happens in your business that results in a lawsuit. Additionally, if you have a unique business idea, you want to protect that from competitors.

The cost of registering a business varies between $40 to $500, depending on the state in which you choose to register. You can register through the state’s official business registration website. If you find the website challenging to navigate, use an online legal service such as Rocket Lawyer to assist with the process.

Registering your business is a must-do before taking on your first customer. You don’t want to start your business and not be properly prepared to deal with something like a trademark infringement or a home-based business inspection from a city official. To ensure the business registration process doesn’t become overwhelming, use our checklist to keep track of what has been accomplished and what needs to be completed.

Infographic with steps on how to register a business.

Prepare to Register Your Business

This may only include obtaining an employment identification number (EIN), opening a business bank account, and registering the business as a legal entity in the state in which it operates.

Or registering your business can be several tasks including those above in addition to obtaining a professional business license, getting a State Taxpayer Identification Number, and passing a city health inspection. It’s best to prepare for these tasks in advance to ensure they go smoothly.

  • Choose a business name. Before taking any legal steps below, you need to decide on your business name. This is important to do first because your business name will be on all of your legal documents. Know that you don’t have to stick with this name forever. If you’d like to change the public-facing name of your business, you can always file a DBA (doing business as) registration with the state in which your business is primarily located. Try our business name generator if you need help coming up with a name for your business.
  • Choose a location to receive important documents. Your city or state may require certain documents to be signed and will mail them to you. Additionally, your state will mail documents to your address every year to remind you to re-register your business. It’s important to re-register on time because the late fee is often higher than the initial registration cost.
  • Obtain your Employment Identification Number (EIN ). Your EIN is a federal business number provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to primarily identify your business for tax purposes. It’s free to obtain your EIN and you will use it on several documents. Many banks require an EIN before opening a business bank account.

See also: Can I Open a Business Bank Account Without an EIN?

  • Open a business bank account. It’s important to open a business bank account before incurring any business expenses. This ensures you’re not mixing personal and business expenses. Many banks require a balance of at least $1,500 or they deduct a monthly fee.

Choose Your Business Structure

We recommend all businesses register as a legal entity, such as a limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, or C corporation. Registering your business as a legal entity protects your personal assets if a lawsuit were to ever occur against the business.

Research and determine the right type of legal entity for your business. While these legal entities have different pros and cons , they all achieve the vital goal of separating the business owner from personal financial liability if the business were sued or went bankrupt.

Here are the most common business structures:

  • Sole proprietor: If you don’t register your business, this is the default business structure. Typically, only very low liability businesses should stay a sole proprietor, such as a beginner graphic designer or tutor.
  • Partnership: Similar to a sole proprietor, except a partnership has two or more owners.
  • LLC and LLP (legal entity) : This is similar to that of a sole proprietor, except it provides personal asset protection in the event of a lawsuit or business bankruptcy. An LLP (limited liability partnership) is for multiple partners.
  • S corporation (tax status) : Elect your LLC or LLP as an S-corp to save money on taxes. Consider this structure if you are paying yourself more than $20,000 per year from the business.
  • C corporation (legal entity) : This business structure provides several benefits, including transferable shares and perpetual existence. You’ll likely need to work with an attorney before forming a C-corp to create the needed documents.

Here is a snapshot of the different business structures you can consider and their key advantages and disadvantages.

Register Your Business With the State

Now that you’ve done the research and chosen your business’ legal entity, it’s time to submit the entity registration to the state it’s operating in. You can do this on your own by navigating to your state government’s business registration website. Or you can use an online legal service to assist you in the process. Additionally, if your business has a sales tax, you’ll want to obtain a state sales tax identification number (STIN).

Get State Licenses & Local Permits

Depending on your type of business, you may need a professional license issued by the state or a local permit. Additionally, if you work from home and receive customers or employees, you may need to obtain a work-from-home license.

  • State professional licenses are typically for businesses that may pose a public health risk. Each state may require different professions to obtain a professional license.
  • Local license and permit requirements vary by state; however, typically, before opening a physical location you’ll need a local building inspection to ensure the facility is safe for the public.
  • A home-based business license is needed if you’re accepting employees and customers or creating products from your home. This license is to ensure the business isn’t causing a public health risk. However, Most businesses that operate from a home won’t need a license.

Secure Your Intellectual Property

Although it’s not necessary to start your business, you may want to register a trademark, copyright, or patent. A trademark ensures no other business uses your logo, business name, or tagline. A copyright gives you increased legal protection over your creative work. A patent ensures no one can take your product idea.

  • Trademark Costs: DIY Registration vs Online Service vs Lawyer
  • How Much Does a Patent Cost? The Beginner’s Guide

Step 6: Get Your Business Insured

Business insurance is a form of protection small business owners can buy to safeguard their personal or business assets. Getting the appropriate coverage for your operations protects your assets by covering customer lawsuits, property damage, and other perils so the costs following a disaster don’t put you out of business.

Most businesses deal with third parties who may claim your business caused their property damage, bodily harm, or financial loss. Different types of business insurance cover these accusations by paying the associated costs.

Certain small business insurance policies are considered fundamental because they protect against risks that most business owners face. General liability is a good example of this because it covers claims that your business is responsible for someone else’s damages. Many business owners also get commercial property insurance because it pays for damages to their property.

Common Types of Small Business Insurance Policies

How to get business insurance.

Small business owners can get business insurance online through brokers or directly from carriers. To get the appropriate coverage for your business, it’s important to first assess your risks and then to find providers who offer coverage that protects against them.

  • 6 Best Small Business Insurance Companies
  • 6 Ways To Save Money on Business Insurance

Because no business is immune to general liability claims, getting coverage should be a standard business practice. However, cash-strapped small business owners who are looking for inexpensive general liability insurance should remember that price shouldn’t be the only consideration. Smart business owners evaluate coverage limits, additional fees, and the carrier’s reputation as well.

Step 7: Build Your Business Team

After taking care of the necessary legal steps to get your business registered and protected, it is now time to make key hires. Your first employees will be vital to the success of your business. Additionally, many new business owners overlook the importance of hires outside of the business such as a bookkeeper, attorneys, and mentors.

Connect With a Business Attorney

A business attorney may help you form your new business, create custom forms or contracts, and provide legal advice. Even if you won’t need an attorney for these activities, it’s wise to connect with one before a legal matter occurs in your business. You don’t want the stress of interviewing business attorneys after your company has been served.

Meet With a No-cost Business Adviser

The federal and state government funds several organizations that provide no-cost business consulting and mentoring. The SBDC has over 5,000 consultants across the United States that provide no-cost consulting in a variety of business areas. These consultants typically have advanced education or experience owning a business.

SCORE Advisers are volunteers who typically have previously owned a business. They serve as mentors to business owners. A SCORE Adviser can be a great asset to your business, especially if they have experience in your industry.

Hire Your First Employee

Hiring great employees is the key to growing your business. A thoughtful hiring process includes well-written job descriptions, effective recruitment ads, and strong interview processes, all of which should promote your values and culture and adhere to fair labor practices.

Many first-time business owners find employees online these days —through job boards , LinkedIn , Facebook, and Instagram. You will likely hire your first employee through word-of-mouth or from one of your family members or friends .

  • How to Hire Employees
  • How to Create a New Hire Checklist [+ Free Template]
  • 10 Best Startup Hiring Tips for Finding Top Candidates
  • Hiring Bias: 13 Unfair Prejudices & How to Avoid Them
  • New Employee Onboarding Best Practices: Steps & Checklist

Hire a Bookkeeper or Accountant

If you’re starting a part-time business, you can likely track your income and expenses with software such as QuickBooks Online. However, if you have a full-time business with multiple products and services and have several expenses to track, you may want to hire a professional.

Many new business owners are unsure if they should hire a bookkeeper or accountant, but most people starting a small business only need a bookkeeper . If you need complicated financial statements or business tax advice, it’s wise to hire a certified public accountant (CPA).

Step 8: Set Up Your Business Systems & Software

As you organize your business, you will find yourself creating systems to manage repeatable tasks and ultimately increase profits . You’ll often find software to assist with the tasks.

Below you’ll find two lists—one with processes and systems that almost all new small businesses will need to implement. The second list includes several systems and software that—if they apply to you—are highly recommended.

Must-have Systems & Software

  • Payment processing: You’ll need this to accept credit card payments . Sign up with a merchant service provider before setting this up.
  • Bookkeeping: This is how you track income and expenses. If you are managing it yourself, you’ll need accounting software . If not managing yourself, consider hiring a virtual bookkeeper .
  • Payroll processing: If you have employees, you’ll use this system to pay them. To make the process easier, consider payroll processing software .
  • Business tax payments: It’s a best practice to make business tax payments to the IRS quarterly so you don’t have a large tax bill at the end of the year. Aside from tax software , you can often use your accounting and payroll software to submit early tax payments.
  • Business phone number: You’ll want to secure a business phone number so that you can separate personal calls from business calls. You can get a virtual phone line for free or for a small fee .
  • Branded business email address: You don’t want potential customers to email a “@gmail,” “@yahoo,” or another alternative. It looks unprofessional. Get a business email that ends with “@yourcompanyname” so that it looks more professional . Google Workspace provides this for $6 a month.

Additional Systems & Software to Consider

  • Business website: If potential customers are typing your business name into the search engines, you need a business website . You can set one up yourself and pay around $15 a month. Here are small business website examples you can use for inspiration.
  • Sell online: Expand your products’ or services’ reach by selling to customers online . You can build an ecommerce website or use a platform such as Amazon , Facebook Shop , Instagram , or Etsy .
  • Customer management: If you have dozens of customers (or more), you’ll need customer relationship management (CRM) software . This software helps you keep track of customer information such as previous communications and contact info.
  • Appointment scheduling: Don’t schedule appointments by hand (unless you want to). Use free appointment scheduling software to store your appointments in the cloud. Also, allow clients to schedule online without communicating with you.
  • Work from home: COVID-19 is forcing and encouraging many people to work from home for the first time. Set up your home office and manage it so that you can keep up productivity and enjoy your working environment.
  • Take video calls: Video meetings and calls have skyrocketed since the pandemic arrived. Give your clients the option to meet through video conferencing software .

Overwhelmed? Don’t be. Free business software helps your company save money and become efficient. You can use free business tools to do accounting, accept payments, and pay employees.

If you’re starting a business, going with free business tools is a great way to keep operating expenses at a minimum. Free business tools are a low-risk test as you figure out the best systems and software for you. If you like them, keep them and possibly expand their features with a paid version. If you don’t like them, stop using the software with no added costs to your business.

Step 9: Market Your Business

Your last step to starting your business is to get customers. You’ll use your marketing strategy to get your new business in front of potential customers.

There are a lot of strategies you can implement to get your business noticed. Don’t get overwhelmed! Remember, you don’t have to implement—and pay for—all of these strategies. A few done well will get your business enough customers to make it a success.

Before diving headfirst into any of the marketing strategies, take time to write a marketing plan . Think through and plan out how you want to market your business. In your plan, outline your brand, such as the logo, colors, font, and tagline.

At a minimum, you’ll want to create business cards to hand out to potential customers and vendors or while networking. Other marketing materials to consider are brochures , flyers , cards , and branded apparel. Many new business owners make the mistake of relying too much on online marketing. Don’t overlook the effectiveness of having physical business marketing materials in someone’s home.

Market Online

  • Social media marketing : Connect with your customers where they are spending their time online. Don’t try to grow a following on all social media platforms. Choose one and spend the majority of your time growing your account there.
  • Email marketing : Stay in touch with past customers by sending them valuable or entertaining emails . Don’t make your emails all about sales and discounts. You’ll lose subscribers.
  • Content marketing : Create and distribute articles, videos, case studies, and other forms of online content created to attract leads, create brand awareness, move prospects through the buying journey, or convert them to customers.
  • Google My Business (GMB) listing : This listing is free for all businesses looking for local customers. Many marketers are calling GMB the new small business “homepage.” It’s what customers see on Google before your website when they search for your business.
  • Online directories : It’s likely your business can be on several online directories such as Yelp and Yellow Pages . Consider any industry-specific directories as well.

Network With Local Businesses

When you first open, explore networking groups available for local businesses. It’s always a good idea to meet and network with other business owners. Word-of-mouth recommendations and referrals may lead to some of your first customers.

Related: 8 Business Networking Statistics to Generate New Opportunities

Pay for Advertising

You may want to pay to get your business in front of ideal customers. This paid marketing can give your brand recognition a jump-start. You can pay for advertising online or through traditional advertising channels.

  • Search engine ads : Pay to get your business at the top of Google or Microsoft . Typically, you will pay every time an interested searcher clicks on your ad. The cost of the click will depend on the number of businesses competing for the ad space.
  • Social media ads : Get your social media ad in front of both followers and nonfollowers. Ad cost depends on the competitiveness of the audience you’re targeting.
  • Online directory leads: Depending on the directory, you can pay for higher rankings or leads. Yelp provides both options.
  • Direct mail : Create cards or brochures and send them to homes of potential customers near your business.
  • Radio ads : This type of advertising is an excellent option if your business appeals to an audience in a broad industry such as retail or home improvement.
  • Billboards : The cost of a billboard varies depending on location. Pay anywhere from $250 per month for a rural area to over $15,000 per month in a larger market.

Media Package

You want local media to know about your new business. Local media prefers information about your business submitted to them in a press release. A press release is a summary and story of your business. You also want to include owner headshots and photos of the business in the press kit . It’s important to include a hook, which is a way to present your business that creates interest so that the business journalist will cover the opening of your startup.

Learn More: 11 Strategies to Market a New Business

How to Start a Small Business Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click through the questions below to get answers to some of your most frequently asked starting a small business questions.

How can I start a small business with no money?

A business can be started with no money, but it is not recommended. You aren’t required to spend money to register your business. When you don’t register, it is called a sole proprietorship. The problem with not registering is that your personal assets are at risk. For example, if you’re starting a lawn care business and something costly gets destroyed at a customer’s property, that customer can sue you for damages, and your personal assets are at risk.

What is the easiest business to start up?

The easiest business to start is one that relies on your expertise. People pay you for your expertise because you know more than they do. For example, if you are a social media manager for a business, you can take your social media marketing expertise and charge local businesses to manage their accounts.

There is little cost to this type of business because your time and expertise are the product.

How much does it cost to start a small business?

Starting a business does not need to cost a lot of money. If you’re providing a service like resume writing, the only cost is registering the business in your state. As you add additional components to your business like a website, accounting software, and a branded email address, your business costs will increase. For example, adding a low-cost website is another $100 or more per year. A branded email address will cost another $100 or more per year.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks to start your business, don’t stress! Starting a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient. Give yourself time to absorb and understand the above steps.

“The truth is, success is a process—you can ask anybody who’s been successful.” – Oprah Winfrey

Be proud that you’re learning and trying to figure out this messy world of starting a business. Make your next move today: What micro-step are you taking today to make your idea a reality?

About the Author

Agatha Aviso

Find Agatha On LinkedIn

Agatha Aviso

Agatha Aviso is a retail software expert writer at Fit Small Business. She specializes in evaluating ecommerce and retail software features that help small businesses grow. She has evaluated dozens of the top software for retail SMBs. Agatha has more than 10 years of experience writing online content for both small business owners as well as the marketing industry. She also served as a content strategist and digital marketing manager for many entrepreneurs.

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How to start a business in 14 steps: a guide for 2024

  • Amanda Bellucco Chatham
  • Dec 3, 2023
  • 31 min read

Get started by: Creating a website →  | Getting a domain →

How to start a business

In the words of Steve Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Starting your own business is one step towards doing work that you love. But from forming an idea to creating a business website , there are several essential steps and questions to consider before you dive in: What problem are you solving? Who is your target audience? What differentiates your product or service from existing offerings? And, most importantly, where exactly do you begin?

This comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of the journey: brainstorming ideas, perfecting your branding, registering your business and more. Use it as your trusted roadmap on how to start a business, empowering you to navigate the exciting world of entrepreneurship with confidence.

Ready to create a business website? Start building yours today .

How to start a business

Brainstorm and refine your business idea

Conduct market and competitor research

Pick a business name

Write up a business plan

Choose a legal structure for your business

Secure business capital and funding

Register your business and make it official

Apply for tax IDs, licenses and permits

Apply for business insurance

Organize your finances

Brand your business

Create a professional business website

Market and promote your business

Build a team

01. Brainstorm and refine your business idea

You might already have a great business idea that you can’t wait to start, or maybe you’re still in the early brainstorming stages of finding your niche. If the latter applies to you, think about what you’re passionate about and what skills you possess. The best business ideas often emerge from your interests and expertise, making it easier to stay motivated and dedicated throughout the journey.

Keep in mind that there are some very real, very unavoidable small business challenges to consider. Most business ideas require money, innovation and time to yield results—some may even come with financial risks. This is true for both brick-and-mortar businesses and online business ideas . That’s why as a first step, you’ll need to refine and test your idea to make sure it’s a viable option. Here are some effective ways to kickstart your brainstorming process:

Be realistic: While it’s important to choose a business idea that’s in line with your passions, it’s also crucial that there’s market demand for your product or service. Ask yourself, is your business idea scalable? Who’s your target market ? Do you have the necessary skills and expertise?

Test your idea in the real world: This can involve anything from a focus group to a small-scale pilot test. Another strategy is to build a landing page , which can help you generate and gauge interest. If you find that your idea doesn’t pique interest, it’s time to reassess. Consider how you can refresh your idea to bring something new to the table, or how you can adapt it to more directly address consumer needs.

Define your business model: As you think about ways to make money from your idea, think about the exact business model that will help you to grow your business in a manageable way. Think: How do you want your business to look a year from now? Two years from now? Five? Is it sustainable?

Dropshipping as a business idea

Popular business ideas to get you started

Dropshipping : Dropshipping is a great low-cost business idea that lets you sell products without needing to manage your own inventory. You simply need an eCommerce website , or a specific dropshipping website and a strong marketing strategy to get started.

Print on demand (POD): Another popular way to make money online , POD involves working with suppliers that print your designs on blank items, such as t-shirts and mugs, and ship the orders on your behalf. This is an effective way to put your own spin on a retail venture and start your own online store .

Freelancing: Freelance artists , writers and creatives can jumpstart their business by creating a portfolio website and monetizing their skills. Take Berlin-based illustrator and animator Rafael Varona for inspiration—his modern, visually engaging Wix website features artwork he’s done for leading companies including Disney, Google and Porsche.

Starting a service business : Service business ideas center around selling your expertise, skills or assistance—such as tutoring, dog walking, personal training or event planning. For inspiration, take a look at Whitehead Weddings + Events . Founder Anna Katherine Whitehead has built an elegant service website that showcases work samples, package offerings and more.

Selling handmade items: If you’ve got a knack for creating homemade jewelry, artwork, décor or clothing, you have a business idea just waiting to launch. Follow the lead of businesses like Tach Clothing , whose online Wix storefront features handmade crocheted clothing inspired by vintage fashion.

Boring businesses : Don't be fooled by the way these business sound, boring means anything but. These ventures are typically businesses that offer products or services that are essential but may not have flashy or attention-grabbing qualities. Think accounting firms, insurance companies, waste management services or industrial manufacturers.

Whitehead weddings and events homepage

How a successful business owner turned selling handmade items into a $2M business

Six and a half years ago, Amanda Buhse was working a 9-to-5 job as a graphic designer. Her day job was exhausting so Buhse and her best friend, a nurse, decided to meet a few times a week to decompress over a glass of wine and make candles together. The hobby stuck. Buhse eventually turned those evenings melting wax and cutting wicks into a bustling business.

Now she’s the owner and chief creative officer of Coal and Canary , a Canada-based online luxury candle company. Her candles are sold all over North America and have even made it into the glamorous gift bags handed out to VIPs at the Oscar and Grammy Awards.

What started as a passionate side hustle is now a $2M business. You can read more about Amanda’s business story here .

Other business ideas to consider:

Business ideas for teens

Small town business ideas

Part-time business ideas

Scalable business ideas

Family business ideas

Craft business ideas

B2B business ideas

Rental business ideas

Beauty business ideas

Is starting a business worth it?

Yes, starting a business is worth it. Business ownership can be a profitable venture, providing financial stability and potential for growth. Moreover, for people like Amanda Buhse, it offers the opportunity to escape the confines of a 9-to-5 job that may not bring you happiness or fulfillment. By taking the leap into entrepreneurship, you can create your own path and shape your future on your own terms.

More popular business ideas to consider

How to start an online business

How to start a consulting business

How to start a fitness business

How to start a fitness clothing line

How to start a makeup line

How to start a candle business

How to start a clothing business

How to start an online boutique

How to start a t-shirt business

How to start a jewelry business

How to start a subscription box business

How to start a beauty business

How to start a photography business

How to start a food business

How to start an interior design business

How to start a rental property business

How to start a painting business

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How to start a babysitting business

How to start a plumbing business

How to start a coaching business

How to start a finance business

02. Conduct market and competitor research

When your business is still in its earliest stages, doing market research is critical. This step helps you understand your target audience’s needs and preferences, allowing you to tailor your products or services accordingly. It also enables you to evaluate the competitive landscape, identify market gaps and make informed decisions. All of this increases your chances of success and mitigates risk.

When it comes to consumer behavior, there are two sets of research: primary and secondary.

Primary research: This is the direct study of your target market by researching them firsthand, such as by conducting user interviews or holding focus groups. You’ll want to define who your customers are and further segment your market by age, location, language, spending power or even stage of life (for example, college students, newlyweds or retirees).

Secondary research: This consists of gathering information from external sources. Conduct an online search or reference public agencies like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as a good starting point. Down the line, you might also find internal data just as useful. You can turn to your own sales reports and see what trends took off right under your nose.

This combination of primary and secondary research can help you create a thorough SWOT analysis , which is an insightful way to measure and evaluate your overall business outlook against your competitors. To do this, create a table with four quadrants, where you'll rank your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Strengths: Identify the areas where your business stands out. Then, turn to your competitors and ask yourself, “How can I do what they do, but better?” Look at the products and services they offer to help you understand what attracts their customers, and use this as inspiration to improve your own business strategy and competitive advantage .

Weaknesses: Be honest with yourself here. Answer this question as directly as you can: What do customers complain about or dislike? This will let you narrow in on one topic at a time, as opposed to tackling something abstract like, “What is wrong within my company?”

Opportunities: Think about your business in terms of growth. Consider different ways to expand and tap into new spaces, like running seasonal events, taking on a green initiative or testing out trends.

Threats: Be cautious of any external factors that can affect your business in a negative way. It can range from market fluctuations to consumers who no longer express interest in your offerings.

Remember to play to your understanding of what a specific audience needs. Identifying a gap in the market, or having an idea to make an existing product is an important part of market research for starting a business.

How one entrepreneur translated her understanding of her target audience into business success

Raquel “Rocky” Harris knows a thing or two about kicking ass. She’s a five-time Muay Thai champion, Team USA gold medalist, Fight Camp trainer (that’s basically the Peloton of boxing) and, most recently, a thriving entrepreneur (see our guide on how to become an entrepreneur ). Harris now uses Wix eCommerce to sell a collection of wellness products to athletes like herself as the founder of Warm Up .

“I was making my own hand sanitizer and thought ‘Why don’t they have sanitizers that kill fungus?’” she says. “There are always breakouts in boxing gyms due to common skin infections like ringworms. Tea tree soap is anti-fungal, so I started adding it to my hand sanitizers, which eventually evolved into my sweat butters.”

She launched her first product line while training clients and creating Wix sites for her colleagues, all while moving across the country to shoot workouts for Fight Camp. You can read more about her business story here .

Is it easy to start a business?

Creating a business doesn't have to be difficult or intimidating. It can start with a simple but strong idea, like Raquel Harris' realization that hand sanitizers would be all the more useful if they killed fungus, especially in boxing rings.

Starting a business does require dedication, hard work and careful planning—there's no way around that. While it may not be easy, per se, with the right mindset, research, resources and tools like Wix, anyone can embark on the entrepreneurial journey. The rewards of building a successful business can truly be fulfilling and worthwhile.

Market segmentation - how to start a business

03. Pick a business name

Feeling satisfied with your business idea? The next step is to come up with a business name that will leave a strong first impression on potential clients.

You’ll want a name that’s catchy, memorable and scalable (i.e., is still relevant even if your business expands to new locations, niches or product offerings). If you need a little nudge, Wix’s free business name generator can help you brainstorm some ideas, or you can check out these best company names for further inspiration.

You’ll also want to make sure no one else has trademarked or registered your desired business name, which you can check via the U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System or with the Office of the Secretary of State for the state in which your business is located. And, remember you’ll eventually want to build a website for your business. Because your domain name will most likely be the same as your business name, make sure your desired name is available by doing a domain name search .

Learn more:

Small business name ideas

Tech business name ideas

Craft business name ideas

Clothing brand name ideas

Consulting business names

Marketing business names

eCommerce business names

Beauty business name ideas

Fitness business name ideas

Getting help from a business name generator to name a business

04. Write up a business plan

Another essential step when starting a business is to come up with an organized plan. At its core, a business plan is a document that serves as a roadmap for how to structure, operate and manage your new venture. It serves multiple purposes, like helping to attract investors, earning the trust of banks and outlining the cost of starting your business . You can use a business plan template to get your thoughts on paper. No matter how you get started, your business plan should include these components:

Executive summary : Give a high-level view of your business proposal or concept. If you were to make a professional elevator pitch (explaining your business in about a minute), you’d be reciting this bit aloud.

Company description: Include your company’s name, the names of your founders, your locations and your mission statement . Your mission statement should include core values, goals and your guarantee to provide clients with quality service or products. Take a look at these powerful mission statement examples to gather inspiration for your own.

Industry analysis: Provide research about your industry, such as small business trends and growth. When writing this section, think about how large your industry is and how it’s expected to evolve. You should also consider who your competitors are, and make note of their strengths and weaknesses.

Customer analysis: Describe your target audience and how you plan to reach them. Clearly state the needs of your customers and specify how your product or service will meet them.

Organization and management: Provide an overview of your business' organization and leadership, encompassing any founders, executives, board members, employees or important stakeholders. Creating a visual representation—like an organizational chart—can assist in presenting your company's structure effectively.

Service or product offerings: Create a list of your existing and upcoming products and services. If you're still developing your business idea, write a concept statement to outline your vision. Additionally, incorporate a proof of concept (POC) to showcase the viability of your idea.

Marketing and sales: Outline how your business concept actually translates into sales. Explain your marketing strategies and tactics, including plans for advertising, promotions, pricing, distribution channels and digital marketing efforts, along with planned consumer touchpoints (website, mobile app, retail store, etc.).

Financial projections: Estimate how much money will be coming in—or share any data around early sales. Investors want to see hard numbers to justify their risk. Include a sales forecast (based on industry and market trends), expenses , sunk costs , overhead costs , anticipated break-even point, expected accounts receivable, an estimated cash flow (derived from your sales forecast and expenses) and expected profits or losses.

Operational plan: Wrap up with an action plan. If you have a team, write down how each member will contribute to achieving your company’s SMART goals and objectives. Answer questions like “Is there a timeline?” and “What are the milestones you wish to accomplish?” For both, think in terms of years and quarters.

CTA example - how to start a business

How choosing the right business model and establishing a clear business plan helped this online business succeed

Based in Oldbury, right in the heart of England, Andrew Darby, Faye Darby, Craig Pritchard and Terri Pritchard sold their first piece of jewelry in January 2019. Their story began with Wix eCommerce and a little inspiration from their spouses: “Our wives love jewelry, so we thought, ‘Let's do something mid-range and affordable. Nice pieces that last well.’"

For these new entrepreneurs, the key to starting their business off on the right foot was, in their own words, also their biggest challenge, “The biggest challenge was having a business model so to speak—or a blueprint and sticking to that blueprint. Eventually when we found our blueprint, we got ourselves out of trying to sell here, there, and everywhere.”

And for this business, it's worked. As of April 2022, Darby Pritchards had an annual returning customer rate of over 20%. Read more about how they started their business here .

Looking for a business plan for a specific business idea:

How to create a clothing line business plan

How to create a consultant business plan

How to create a photographer business plan

How to create a bookkeeping business plan

How to create a virtual assistant business plan

How to create a real estate business plan

How to create a restaurant business plan

How to create a plumbing business plan

Mission statement online - how to start a business

05. Choose a legal structure for your business

While there are different flavors of legal structures, choosing which one will best serve your needs is based on multiple factors, such as how much personal liability you want to have, taxes and business registration requirements. For example, a sole proprietorship is the easiest to file, but has the most personal liability. LLCs relieve you of many personal liabilities, but can come with hefty tax payments.

A great place to start is by reviewing your options via the U.S. Small Business Administration’s business structure breakdown .

The most common types of businesses or business entities in the U.S. include:

Sole proprietorship : This refers to a business owned by one individual who assumes all of its legal responsibility. Profits and losses from the business are reported on the owner's personal income tax return, and the owner is personally liable for any debts or legal issues that may arise, which could potentially put personal assets at risk.

Partnership : In this arrangement, two or more individuals or entities share ownership, responsibilities and profits. The partnership itself does not pay income tax; instead, the profits and losses "pass through" to the partners, who report them on their individual tax returns. Each partner is personally responsible for the debts and obligations of the partnership, which could potentially expose personal assets to business-related risks.

Corporations : This is a legal entity separate from its owners (shareholders) that can conduct business and incur liabilities in its own name. Corporations are subject to corporate income tax on profits, and its shareholders are generally not personally liable for the company's debts and legal obligations. If a corporation distributes dividends to its shareholders, they must pay personal income tax on these amounts. There are different types of corporations with varying legal implications, most notably C-corps and S-corps.

Limited Liability Company (LLC) : LLCs provide the limited liability protection of a corporation while allowing for the flexibility of a partnership. In terms of taxes, an LLC can choose to be taxed as a pass-through entity, where the profits and losses "pass through" to the owners' individual tax returns, or it can elect to be taxed as a corporation.

How do you know which one is right for you? We consulted with Shylene D’Addario, VP, associate general counsel with LegalZoom. Shylene offered the following insight:

"Sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations and LLCs are the most popular kinds of business structures, according to the IRS. But what type is best for you and why?

A sole proprietorship is best suited to a business owned by an individual or couple that doesn’t have employees or significant contracts with landlords, suppliers or subcontractors.

A business with two or more owners that hasn’t established an entity is treated as a general partnership. General partners typically share the management of the business and its profits and losses but don’t have any protection against liability for their partners’ negligence, misconduct or internal disputes.

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) provide their owners with protection against liability for company obligations. If your LLC can’t pay its debts or is unable to meet its obligations, only the business assets—and not personal assets—are at risk in a lawsuit. This flexibility and limited liability make LLCs a popular choice for small businesses of all types.

Corporations offer their owners (called 'shareholders') the same liability protection as LLCs. Corporations tend to have somewhat more complex recordkeeping and reporting requirements than LLCs, depending on the state in which you incorporate.

If you have additional questions about what kind of entity may be right for your needs, you can learn more on our website or LegalZoom can connect you with a business lawyer who can help advise you in this process."

Start an LLC with LegalZoom.

Do your research, and compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of the different business structures to find the right fit for you. A business lawyer can help advise you in this process, and the IRS’ guide to business structures can assist in evaluating tax implications.

What are the differences between starting a small business and an enterprise?

Starting an enterprise and starting a small business share some similarities but they differ greatly in scale, scope and goals.

Small businesses are typically, as the name suggests, small in scale. They often serve a local or niche market and have a limited number of employees. Enterprises are generally larger in scale, often with a broader geographic reach. They may have multiple locations and serve a larger customer base. Think a small, independent toy shop in a town versus a huge brand like Toys R us.

Small businesses are often owner-operated, where the owner is actively involved in day-to-day operations. Enterprises usually have a more complex ownership structure. They generally have multiple owners, shareholders and a board of directors. The owner's involvement in day-to-day operations can be limited, especially in larger enterprises.

Small businesses tend to offer a narrow range of products or services tailored to a specific customer base. They might focus on providing personalized, local solutions. Enterprises typically have a broader scope, offering a wide range of products or services. They often aim to capture a larger share of the market or diversify their offerings.

While small businesses can grow over time, they might not have aspirations for rapid or significant expansion. The primary goal may be to maintain a steady income or lifestyle. The primary goal of an enterprise is often rapid growth and scaling. They aim to expand their operations, market presence, and profitability.

types of business entities in the U.S.

06. Secure business capital and funding

The most common cause of startup failure is lack of financing (47%), according to a recent survey. Second to that is running out of cash (44%). Clearly, it’s never too early to start thinking about finances. You’ll need both sufficient capital and reliable cash flow to get your business off the ground.

Business funding can take many forms. From applying for grants and loans to reaching out to an angel investor or setting up a fundraising campaign, there are many different strategies here. Here are a few good ways to obtain capital:

Bootstrapping : This involves dipping into your own personal finances to fund your business. In some cases, the benefits of investing your own money may outweigh the challenges of having to depend on outsiders. This allows you to retain greater control over all aspects of your company, though you may face slower growth and potential personal risk.

Crowdfunding: This is a fast and easy way to share your ideas on a wide scale, get feedback and raise money at the same time. When choosing from one of the many crowdfunding sites available, consider the fees, terms and conditions of each, as well as the kind of audience they typically draw.

Small business grants: The biggest benefit of using grant money is that you won’t have to pay it back. A good place to begin looking for grants and eligibility is on the grants for community organizations page of the U.S. Small Business Administration website. Alternatively, you can check out private institutions that offer small business grants, including FedEx and the Second Service Foundation .

Credit cards: When used responsibly, credit cards can be a viable option for funding a new business. It’s advisable to open a business credit card just for this purpose; ideally one with a 0% introductory APR period and a rewards structure so you can earn cash back, credit statements or miles. This can also be a good way to build your business credit score, as long as you make on-time payments and keep a credit utilization of under 30% . You will need strong credit to obtain other types of financing.

Startup business loan : Small businesses can apply for loans from banks and other financial institutions through their offering of business banking services. First, you should know how much you need, and you should be able to demonstrate good reasons for it. Use the financial projections of your business plan to estimate an amount and determine the type of loan you need.

Business line of credit (LOC): This is a flexible loan that behaves similar to a credit card, letting you borrow and repay funds as needed. Business LOCs often have an annual income and time-in-business requirement, but new business owners may be able apply if they’re willing to put up collateral and have a good personal credit score ( over 670 ).

Angel investors: Often, angel investors are found through mutual contacts or even family members. That said, there are hundreds of other active high-net worth individuals who seed startups with their personal money, particularly in the early stages. You can check out Golden Seeds LLC (New York City) or Tech Coast Angels (Los Angeles) as just a few examples of angel investing firms who are involved in venture capital financing.

business funding

07. Register your business and make it official

Before you take your business out into the world, you’ll need to complete all the legal and formal paperwork. If you’re establishing a business in the U.S., your location and business structure will determine the steps you’ll need to take to register a business name .

Keep in mind that, according to the SBA , the benefits of registering your business include personal liability protection, legal and trademark protection, and tax benefits—all of which are crucial to the prosperity and expansion of any entrepreneurial operation .

Meanwhile, for those who are seeking to set up a business in the UK or EU , it's essential to familiarize yourself with the different requirements and rules for registering a business , relevant certifications and VAT.

how to start a business - register it in the us

How to start a business by state

How to start a business in Utah

How to start a business in Massachusetts

How to start a business in Oregon

How to start a business in Alabama

How to start a business in Missouri

How to start a business in Illinois

How to start a business in Maryland

How to start a business in Michigan

How to start a business in Connecticut

How to start a business in South Carolina

How to start a business in Tennessee

How to start a business in Minnesota

How to start a business in New York

How to start a business in Pennsylvania

How to start a business in Virginia

How to start a business in Indiana

How to start a business in Washington state

start a business - what makes an entrepreneur friendly state

How these co-founders managed to register their business one step at a time

For Andrea Shubert, Co-founder of Strathcona Spirits when it came to registering their new business they found the following crucial:

"Don’t start with a 'no.' We didn’t think the distillery was going to happen because of all the red tape involved, but we kept applying for permits to do this or that. When they said yes, we thought: great, let’s move on to the next thing. The idea that everything is permitted is the best place to start from and just go from there.

And when you get a 'no,' which we definitely have a few times over the last five years, we typically dust ourselves off and continue on until we find our 'yes.'"

08. Apply for tax IDs, licenses and permits

As a registered U.S. business, you’re going to need to obtain your federal and state tax ID numbers , known as your employer identification number (EIN). This is how your business is recognized by the government when it comes to paying taxes on both the state and federal levels. Furthermore, you’ll need a tax ID number to hire employees, open a bank account and apply for relevant business licenses and permits.

Check your local government site to see what types of licenses and permits you might need to apply for. If your company’s activities are regulated by a federal agency, you’ll need a license (selling alcoholic beverages or broadcasting on public radio are two examples). You can review the SBA’s list of business requirements for federal licenses and permits for more information.

Applying for an EIN is free and you can do so online with the IRS’ EIN Assistant tool . That said, tax requirements vary by state. Visit your state’s website to check whether you need to get a state tax ID number to remain compliant. You'll also need to understand which IRS forms are relevant for your business, income statement , tax return process, income tax audit process and corporate tax payments, if any.

Taxes are a major responsibility for business owners, and that responsibility can vary significantly from business to business. According to Sabrina Papini, marketing director of eCommerce and marketplaces at Avalara , "A small business owner might be subjected to various types of taxes depending on their location, industry and business activities." Papini notes that in particular, business owners may be required to pay the following:

Sales tax: If your business sells goods or services to customers within a particular jurisdiction, you might need to collect and remit sales tax. The rate and regulations can vary based on the location and type of product or service sold.

State and local taxes: Depending on your business' location, there could be additional state and local taxes beyond sales tax. These could include business privilege taxes, property taxes, local business license fees and city-specific taxes.

Excise tax: Certain industries that deal with specific goods like alcohol, tobacco, fuel or other regulated products might be subject to excise taxes. These taxes are usually included in the product's price and are paid by the manufacturer, importer or distributor.

International taxes: The company could encounter various international taxes and fees if the business engages in international commerce. These may include value-added tax (VAT), goods and services tax (GST), customs duties or tariffs. If you're a U.S. business operating overseas, or a foreign business operating from the U.S., you should also check for any double taxation liabilities.

Tax considerations should be part of your operational plan from the beginning, Papini emphasizes. "[Using] automated tools, staying informed about tax changes and seeking professional guidance when necessary are critical strategies for managing tax and staying compliant with regulations . These steps will not only help protect your business from legal issues but also contribute to its growth and success."

stamp of business license

09. Apply for business insurance

As a new small business owner, obtaining insurance is crucial to protect your venture from unforeseen risks and potential financial liabilities. Business insurance provides a safety net that can shield your assets and help your business stay afloat in case of accidents, lawsuits or other unexpected events.

When applying for insurance, you’ll want to first assess the nature of your business and identify the specific risks it may face. This includes any potential hazards, liabilities related to your products or services, and any potential lawsuits that might arise. Next, consider the coverage types that align with your business needs, such as general liability, professional liability, casualty or property insurance, etc.

A knowledgeable insurance broker can help you navigate the complexities of insurance policies and find the best rates and coverage options that fit your unique circumstances. Some types of insurance you might need to consider include:

Workers' compensation insurance: Mandatory in most states if you have employees, this insurance covers medical expenses and lost wages for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.

General liability insurance: This provides coverage for third-party bodily injury, property damage and related legal expenses resulting from accidents on your business premises or due to your products or services.

Professional liability insurance: Also known as “errors and omissions insurance,” this policy protects against claims of professional negligence, errors or omissions that may arise from providing professional services or advice.

Property insurance: This policy covers physical assets of the business, such as buildings, equipment, inventory and furniture against damage or loss from events like fire, theft or natural disasters.

Product liability insurance: This type of policy offers coverage for claims arising from injuries or property damage caused by a defective product sold by your business.

Business interruption insurance: If your business operations are interrupted due to a covered event, such as a fire or natural disaster, this will provide compensation for lost income and ongoing expenses.

Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI): An EPLI policy provides coverage for claims related to employment practices issues, such as wrongful termination, discrimination or harassment.

types of business insurance

10. Organize your finances

Keeping a business running smoothly demands organized, detailed financials. As you put these systems in place, you’ll want to open a business bank account and consider how you’ll handle your business accounting.

Set up a business bank account

New small businesses should set up a business bank account for several reasons. First and foremost, separating your business finances from your personal finances is crucial for maintaining accurate and organized records. A dedicated business bank account enables you to track income, expenses and profits effectively, simplifying tax preparation and financial reporting.

Additionally, having a business bank account is usually required if you want a business loan or line of credit. It builds credibility with customers, peers and potential investors, as it demonstrates a professional approach to how you operate.

To open a business bank account, you’ll typically need to provide certain documents, including your business registration paperwork, employer identification number (EIN) or Social Security number (SSN). When setting up a business bank account, you’ll want to ask questions to make sure the bank can adequately handle your business needs. Make sure you ask about account fees, transaction limits, access to credit options and integration with financial accounting software to start.

Set up an accounting system

Having a meticulous bookkeeping system in place will help set your business up for success, especially when it comes to tracking expenses, paying taxes, managing invoices or handling payroll. There are a myriad of accounting apps and software options that can help you stay organized in this area, or you can hire a certified public accountant (CPA) to manage this for you.

With Wix, you can keep your books right from within the platform, eliminating the need for additional software and streamlining your workflow. You can manage customer invoices or product inventory directly from your website dashboard, or you can employ a number of accounting and payroll app integrations, such as QuickBooks and EasyTeam .

To fine tune your process, turn to this guide on small business accounting , which covers everything from creating financial statements to planning cash flow statements to managing balance sheets and more.

small business accounting

11. Brand your business

Building a brand is a vital part of understanding how to start a small business and shape a corporate identity . In a nutshell, branding is about creating a consistent voice, set of values and visual identity for your company. This can include everything from logo and brand colors to your company ethos, story and personality.

Brand visuals

When building your brand visuals, there are several key elements and assets you need to create to establish a cohesive visual identity:

Logo: A well-designed logo is the cornerstone of your brand visuals. It should be versatile, memorable and easily recognizable. You can get a professional design in minutes with Wix’s free logo maker .

Color palette: Choose a set of primary and secondary colors that reflect your brand's personality and evoke the desired emotions.

Typography: Select fonts that align with your brand's tone and are easy to read across different mediums.

Imagery: Decide on the type of images or illustrations that best represent your brand. This could include photography, illustrations or graphics.

Iconography: Create a set of custom icons or symbols that can be used consistently throughout your branding materials.

Website design: Ensure that your brand visuals and colors are integrated into your site design, including buttons, banners and overall layout.

Print materials: Consider how your brand visuals will translate to print materials like business cards, brochures and packaging. Not sure how to design a business card ? The Wix Business Card Maker can help you create a professional design in just six steps.

Email: Creating a business email takes just a handful of steps, and you can get a custom business email with Wix . Develop branded templates to maintain consistency in your online communications.

Setting up a business email

Brand story

According to Sitecore’s 2022 Brand Authenticity report, 70% of consumers want brands to connect with them on a more personal level. This is where your brand story comes into play.

Building a brand story is all about creating a compelling and authentic narrative that resonates with your target audience. Yaya Aaronsohn, head of brand maker at Wix, explains further. "At its core, branding hinges on trust—think of it as a relationship between two individuals: the customer and the brand, which represents the business. Within this relationship, authenticity plays a critical role. It builds trust and creates emotional bonds. It fosters consistency, engagement and reduces reputation risks."

A well-defined brand story can help you forge an emotional connection with customers, and should touch on your:

Origin story: Share the backstory of how and why your brand was created, including the challenges and inspirations that led to its inception.

Founder's journey: If applicable, humanize the brand by sharing the founder's personal journey and connection to the business.

Brand purpose: Clearly articulate the reason your brand exists, its core mission and the problem it aims to solve for its customers.

Brand values: Identify the guiding principles and values that drive your brand's decision-making and actions.

Evolution: Address how your brand has evolved over time and demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement.

Brand voice

Brand voice establishes a consistent tone that reflects your personality and communication style. It further helps customers relate to the face behind the brand, which can translate directly to sales.

Your brand voice should remain consistent across all channels to reinforce your identity. Some key elements to include are:

Persona: Identify how you want to be perceived by your target audience and craft a tone that supports that identity.

Language: Use language that aligns with your chosen persona, such as authoritative, knowledgeable, down to earth or humorous.

Communication strategy: Set clear communication standards for how you’ll respond to customer comments, reviews, emails or phone calls.

Example of business logo

12. Create a professional business website

Building a strong website and setting goals for your website is an absolute must when starting a business. For most prospective customers, investors and partners, your website will be their introduction to your business. It's a vital opportunity for you to create a positive first impression of your brand.

Expert advice from Amanda Buhse, Owner and Chief Creative Officer of Coal and Canary

"Something that I always heard growing up was that you could be the smallest fish in the sea, but if you have a professional website and branding, people will take you seriously. When I sent my website to potential retailers early on, we were making seven candles at a time out of my small kitchen. I think it goes to show that when you have a professional brand, the goals and dreams that you have are limitless." (Coal and Canary now produces more than 1,0000 hand-poured candles, a day from their 10,000 square foot warehouse.)

Learning how to make a business website is simple and doable for people of all skill levels. Follow the steps outlined below to get your online presence off the ground.

Ready to launch? Build a beautiful business website or eCommerce website today.

Find a business website template

Website builders make it easy to create a professional, well-designed website with a few clicks of the mouse. Wix offers more than 800 business templates , including more than 500 online store templates , encompassing everything from finance and fashion to crafts and consulting (and beyond).

To begin, simply choose a template and customize it to meet your needs. Alternatively, you can utilize Wix’s AI website builder tool, which translates information about your design and layout preferences into a professional website tailor-made to your needs—all in a matter of minutes.

If you need more inspiration, check out the best business websites of the past year.

Customize your tools and features

With the foundation of your website up and running, it’s time to fine-tune which tools and integrations you’ll use to help run your business.

Wix offers business owners a full assortment of native software solutions and built-in features that transform your site dashboard into a one-stop-shop for day-to-day operations. You can handle transactions with Wix Payments or Wix Point of Sale (POS) ; manage incoming payments with Wix Invoices ; schedule classes, workshops and appointments with Wix Bookings ; and even sell tickets with Wix Events & Tickets .

The Wix App Market offers hundreds of other third-party integrations that can help you manage payroll, expense tracking and more.

Choose a web host and domain name

After you’ve customized your template, you’re ready to move on to the next step: flipping the switch so that your site is visible to the public. This is a two-fold process.

First, you’ll need to pick a web hosting provider. Basically, this is just a tool that stores your website’s files so that they’re viewable online. Wix is the leading web hosting platform for small businesses , and it offers free website hosting that’s protected and reliable—complete with 24/7 security monitoring and integrated SSL certificates to keep your users safe.

Once you’ve selected a web host, you’ll need to connect your registered domain name to a hosting server. It will take a matter of minutes, but rest assured that when you purchase your website domain with Wix, you’ll also gain access to domain security and full customer support.

domain name search to choose domain and business name to start a business

Optimize your business website for SEO

When it comes to starting a business online, it’s essential to have some basic knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of optimizing web content to improve your site’s ranking for searches of specific keywords. Rebecca Tomasis, SEO expert for Wix Blogs, explains further. "The higher you rank in search, and the more keywords you rank for—the greater your visibility, traffic and potential for conversions or sales."

For example, if you sell organic baby items, you want to integrate exact phrases, like “eco baby products” and “natural baby toys,” into your site content. This improves your chances of showing up in search results when people type those phrases into the search bar.

You can use keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs or Semrush (which has native integration with Wix ) to find terms to incorporate into your web content. You can also use the Wix SEO Hub as a resource for all things related to learning SEO.

Your overall SEO strategy should include the following:

Technical SEO: "Technical [SEO] involves elements such as your site speed, core web vitals, the site hierarchy and structure and navigation," Tomasis details. In other words, your website should, on a technical level, be responsive, quick to load (including on mobile) and easy for search engines to crawl. You should avoid things like dead links, duplicate content and large, slow-loading media files that can impact the user experience.

On-page optimization: Optimize your website's individual pages for the targeted keywords you’ve identified. Place the primary keyword in the page title, meta description, headings and content naturally.

High-quality content: Create high-quality, informative and engaging content that addresses the needs of your target audience. If you have a blog, well-written articles attract visitors and encourage them to spend more time on your site, signaling search engines about its relevance. "Make sure your content is helpful and answers the intent behind the search term as directly and as clearly as possible," says Tomasis. "Everything about the article—its structure, its data, its headings—should be optimized to meet the intent of the user searching."

Mobile-friendly design: Ensure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly. With the increasing number of mobile users, mobile optimization is crucial for SEO and user experience.

Local SEO: If your business serves a local audience, optimize for local SEO. Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing, ensure consistent NAP (name, address, phone) information across the web and encourage customer reviews.

Register your domain name

13. Market and promote your business

Once you’ve launched your business and published your website, you can start building a small business marketing strategy that fuels business growth . A solid marketing strategy is essential for bringing in customers and taking your business to the next level. As Erin Shea, Senior Director of North America Marketing for VistaPrint shares, "Customers are the backbone of any successful small business and effective marketing is one of the best ways to build and sustain your community". According to Erin,

“Whether you’re engaging customers online or offline—remember that consistency is worth its weight in gold. A cohesive look to your marketing inspires confidence in your professionalism, builds credibility and strengthens customer rapport.”

Check out more of VistaPrint's 2024 marketing trends to help with your new business efforts.

Here are some of the most common marketing strategies to consider:

Paid advertising: By leveraging targeted advertisements, small businesses can reach a vast audience of potential customers who are actively searching for products or services related to their industry. Google Ads are particularly popular, letting businesses bid on relevant keywords, ensuring their ads appear prominently in search engine results. Wix users can manage Google Ad campaigns from their site dashboard, leaving one less external platform to worry about.

Social media marketing: Marketing on social media brings you massive exposure from diverse groups of people. Pick a platform that your target audience uses and maintain an active presence there. You can also implement paid social media marketing; for example, Wix users can boost sales with fully integrated Facebook and Instagram ads directly from their website builder.

Email marketing: A highly effective tactic, email marketing can promote your brand and build engagement . Using this method, you can reach customers directly, build a loyalty program and customize messages based on their individual interests. Wix users have access to a free email marketing tool with customizable templates, simple editing interface and advanced analytics.

Content marketing: This involves crafting and sharing valuable and relevant content in order to draw in your target audience. It can be done in a variety of ways, including publishing a blog, creating a podcast or making a YouTube channel. Use any of these outlets to share business updates, distribute relevant industry related news and build connections with potential customers.

Word of mouth: Positive word of mouth can give your brand's reputation and credibility a boost, increasing customer loyalty and customer acquisition. It’s a cost-effective strategy that can create a ripple effect, reaching a broader audience and generating organic growth for businesses.

Bear in mind that finding the right marketing strategy may take some time, experimentation and patience. But, Erin notes, consistency is key: "Whether you’re engaging customers online or offline, remember that consistency is worth its weight in gold. Even if you’re just starting out, try experimenting with different marketing tactics to see what works. As your sales grow, direct a greater portion of your revenue for your marketing budget and keep building.”

Market your business

14. Build a team

As your business grows, it may be difficult for you to play multiple roles—which is where hiring employees and delegating tasks comes in. Even if you decide not to hire in-house staff, you may find yourself needing extra assistance from freelancers or independent contractors.

Read also: Human resources guide

When you begin the hiring process, factor in your budget, your needs and the company culture you want to portray. Creating a well-defined vision statement will help you find the right people to satisfy all of these requirements.

There are many effective ways to source talent for your team. A few ideas to get you started:

Online job platforms: Websites like Indeed, LinkedIn and Glassdoor offer job posting services where you can find potential team members.

Local job boards: Many communities have local job boards or websites where businesses can post job openings to attract candidates from the area.

College career centers: Contact career centers at local colleges and universities to connect with talented students or recent graduates seeking employment opportunities.

Networking events: Attend industry-specific business networking events or job fairs to meet potential candidates face-to-face and discuss job opportunities.

Social media: Utilize social media channels like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram to reach out to a broader audience and attract job seekers.

Freelance platforms: Websites like Upwork, Freelancer and Fiverr offer access to freelancers who can work on specific projects or provide specialized skills.

Industry-specific forums or groups: Join online forums or social media groups dedicated to a particular industry to discover talented professionals interested in relevant job opportunities.

Building a team for your business

How to start a business FAQ

How do you start a business as a beginner.

To start a business as a beginner, follow these essential 14 steps:

How much money do you usually need to start a business?

How do you get money to start a business, do you need a business degree to start a business, what do you need to start a business, can you start a business with no money, how to start a business online, how to start a business as a teenager, how to start a business as a student.

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Questions to ask before starting a business

What are your strengths and weaknesses.

Your strengths and weaknesses will impact how effectively you operate as an entrepreneur. If you aren’t aware of what they are, then you’ll struggle to identify opportunities and problems before it’s too late.

Have you talked to the right people?

Don’t go into business alone. No, you don’t need to find a partner, but it’s worth chatting with people you trust to see how they respond to your idea and gather any advice they may have before starting.

Why are you starting a business?

Your reasons for starting a business will impact how likely you are to see it through. When the going gets tough, if you don’t have a firm reason for why you’re doing this, then you’ll struggle to keep going.

How much will it cost to start?

The cost of starting a business varies depending on the type, your location, and many other factors. The important thing is that you don’t just guess and actually budget and forecast your expenses beforehand.

Do you have a good business idea?

A good business idea is something that people want, and that solves a problem in their lives. If you’re unsure that your business does that, then you need to get out and validate it with potential customers.

Who are your competitors?

No business lacks competition. You need to know who they are, what they offer, and anything else that tells you how to position your business to be competitive.

Should you quit your job?

It can be tempting to go all in on a business idea immediately. However, entrepreneurship is hard and risky, and it may not be the wisest choice to cut your primary source of income. To know if it is the right time, you need to determine when your business will be profitable and sustainable.

How will you make money?

The business model is surprisingly overlooked by many business owners. They get caught up in the idea and the allure of entrepreneurship but fail to determine how they will make money. Don’t reinvent the wheel and explore some common options to see what fits your business.

12 steps to start your business

Stairs leading up a mountain. Representative of the steps you take before starting a business.

1. What to do before starting a business

Why are you starting a business? What does it take to be successful? Could you start with a side hustle? Let’s help you answer these and other vital questions before setting up your business.

Aspiring female entrepreneur thinking of a business idea.

2. Find the right business idea

Once you know why you want to start a business, it’s time to find your idea. Learn what it takes to develop a good idea and explore our curated lists of potential business ideas that may be a good fit.

A series of lightbulbs with checkmarks. Represents checking if your business idea will work.

3. Validate your business idea

How do you know if your business idea will work? By testing it out and verifying that you’re solving a real problem for real people. Here’s what you should do after coming up with your business idea.

Large magnifying glass surveying a city. Represents conducting market research to understand your customers, competitors, and industry.

4. Conduct market research

Who are your customers? Who are your competitors? What does the industry look like? Will you be able to successfully enter this market? These are necessary questions to answer through a bit of research.

Interconnected cogs working together. Represents deciding on a business model that will generate revenue.

5. Select your business model

How will you make money? This is answered with your business model, which covers how your costs, revenue streams, and customer expectations work together. And you don’t have to start from scratch—check out these common types of business models.

A series of price tags. Represents setting prices for your products or services.

6. Price your products and services

What are your customers willing to pay? It’s difficult to know when starting out, but don’t let that stop you. Learn how to set initial prices and compare common pricing models that may work for your business.

Female african american entrepreneur climbing up the side of a mountain. Representing the need to create a business plan to guide your journey.

7. Write your business plan

You need a business plan before starting a business. This isn’t about checking a box but improving your understanding of what it takes to run a successful business.

Gavel and podium. Represents the legal requirements to start a business.

8. Make your business legal

Before setting up shop, you must check all the necessary legal boxes. Don’t worry about spending hours researching—we’ve compiled the most common legal requirements.

Guidebook with money on top. Represents mapping out your small business finances.

9. Set up your finances

You need a firm grasp of your startup costs and funding needs. Which requires you to forecast your sales, expenses, and cash flow. That may sound daunting, but we’ve broken it down into steps to follow and even cover setting up accounting and payroll systems.

A series of buildings along a street. Represents selecting a business location.

10. Choose a business location

Will you be selling online? Running a traditional brick-and-mortar location? Maybe a bit of both? You need to consider where and how you’ll sell your products. Explore what to look for in a physical retail location and how to make a splash online.

Line up of diverse people. Represents building the right team for your business.

11. Put together your team

Learn when it’s the right time to hire, what makes a good employee, and how to successfully grow your team. Even if you’re running a business solo, you should know how your team will grow.

Bullhorn making noise. Represents marketing and promote your business.

12. Market your business

Learn the basics of creating a small business marketing plan, including what to prepare beforehand and how to track the impact of your marketing efforts.

Rows of lightbulbs with dollar signs. Representing tips and ideas to help you start a business.

Tips to start your business

Looking for additional guidance to help get your business off the ground? We’ve rounded up our favorite tips and resources from entrepreneurial experts to do just that.

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Start stronger by writing a quick business plan

Start a business FAQ

What are the basic steps to start a business?

To start a business, you’ll need to:

  • Identify and validate your business idea
  • Conduct market research
  • Select a business model and pricing strategy
  • Write a business plan and financial plan
  • Select your business structure
  • Register your business
  • Obtain licenses and permits
  • Select an online or physical location
  • Start building your team if necessary
  • Promote your business

How much money do you usually need to start a business?

The amount of money needed to start a business varies greatly depending on the type and scale of the business. It could range from a few hundred dollars for a home-based service business to several thousand or even millions for a manufacturing or tech startup. 

You must carefully consider and forecast your startup costs and cash flow to fully understand how much money you need to start.

What should I do first when starting a business?

The first step in starting a business is identifying a viable business idea and conducting market research to understand the demand, competition, and potential challenges. Additionally, it’s worth self-reflection to determine if you want to jump into entrepreneurship.

What do I need to start my first business?

At a minimum, you’ll need a business idea, a business plan, capital, a legal structure, a registered business name, necessary licenses and permits, a business bank account, and an accounting system.

How can I start a business with no money?

Starting a business with no money can be challenging but not impossible. You can consider service-based businesses that require minimal upfront costs. You can also minimize your upfront investment by starting your business as a side hustle while retaining a full or part-time job.

What 3 things make a business successful?

A clear and compelling value proposition, a strong understanding of the market and customers, and effective management and operations are three key elements that contribute to business success.

How can I start a simple business?

Starting a simple business often involves offering a service based on your skills or interests. This could be anything from pet sitting to graphic design. The key steps include identifying your service, understanding your market, setting prices, and promoting your business.

How do I start a beginner business?

As a beginner, start with a business idea that aligns with your skills and passions. Conduct market research, write a one-page business plan, and test if your idea resonates with your target customers. Start small, learn from the experience, and gradually grow your business.

How to start a business with only $100?

With only $100, consider a service-based or online business that requires minimal startup costs. This could be a consulting service, online tutoring, freelance writing, or selling handmade products. Use social media and free online tools for marketing and management to keep costs low.

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How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Table of Contents

  • You should prepare thoroughly before starting a business, but realize that things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations.
  • Learning how to start your own business involves conducting in-depth market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan.
  • In addition to selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are interested in what your business offers.
  • This article is for anyone who wants to learn how to start a business.

Starting a business can be hard work, but if you break down the process of launching your new company into individual steps you can make it easier. Rather than spinning your wheels and guessing where to start, you can follow the tried and true methods of entrepreneurs who’ve done it successfully. If you want to learn how to start your own business, follow this 10-step checklist to transform your business from a lightbulb above your head into a real entity.

  • 11 Things To Do Before Starting A Business
  • Tax and Business Forms You'll Need To Start A Business
  • 20 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Business

How to start a business

1. refine your idea..

refine your business idea

If you’re thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell online , or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, only faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan. 

Define your “why?”

“In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘always start with why,’” Glenn Gutek, CEO of Awake Consulting and Coaching, told Business News Daily. “It is good to know why you are launching your business. In this process, it may be wise to differentiate between [whether] the business serves a personal why or a marketplace why. When your why is focused on meeting a need in the marketplace, the scope of your business will always be larger than a business that is designed to serve a personal need.” 


Consider franchising.

Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following and business model are already in place; you only need a good location and the means to fund your operation.

Brainstorm your business name.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea. Stephanie Desaulniers, owner of Business by Dezign and former director of operations and women’s business programs at Covation Center, cautions entrepreneurs against writing a business plan or brainstorming a business name before nailing down the idea’s value.

Editor’s note: Looking for a small business loan? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Clarify your target customers.

Desaulniers said too often, people jump into launching their business without spending time to think about who their customers will be and why those customers would want to buy from them or hire them.

“You need to clarify why you want to work with these customers — do you have a passion for making people’s lives easier?” Desaulniers said. “Or enjoy creating art to bring color to their world? Identifying these answers helps clarify your mission. Third, you want to define how you will provide this value to your customers and how to communicate that value in a way that they are willing to pay.” 

During the ideation phase, you need to iron out the major details. If the idea isn’t something you’re passionate about or if there’s no market for your creation, it might be time to brainstorm other ideas.

Tip: To refine your business idea, identify your “why,” your target customers and your business name.

2. Write a business plan.

graphic of two people standing in front of a graph

Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan . 

Fledgling business owners can make a lot of mistakes by rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? What would be the point if you can’t find evidence of a demand for your idea? 

Conduct market research.

Conducting thorough market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data. 

Market research helps you understand your target customer — their needs, preferences and behavior — as well as your industry and competitors. Many small business professionals recommend gathering demographic information and conducting a competitive analysis to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market. 

The best small businesses have differentiated products or services from the competition. This significantly impacts your competitive landscape and allows you to convey unique value to potential customers.

Consider an exit strategy.

It’s also a good idea to consider an exit strategy as you compile your business plan. Generating some idea of how you’ll eventually exit the business forces you to look to the future. 

“Too often, new entrepreneurs are so excited about their business and so sure everyone everywhere will be a customer that they give very little, if any, time to show the plan on leaving the business,” said Josh Tolley, CEO of both Shyft Capital and Kavana. 

“When you board an airplane, what is the first thing they show you? How to get off of it. When you go to a movie, what do they point out before the feature begins to play? Where the exits are. During your first week of kindergarten, they line up all the kids and teach them fire drills to exit the building. Too many times I have witnessed business leaders that don’t have three or four predetermined exit routes. This has led to lower company value and even destroyed family relationships.” 

A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties, and what you need to sustain it. When you’re ready to put pen to paper, use a free template to help.

3. Assess your finances.

graphic of a businessperson standing in front of graphs

Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you will cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you’re planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have savings to support yourself until you make a profit? Find out how much your startup costs will be. 

Many startups fail because they run out of money before turning a profit. It’s never a bad idea to overestimate the amount of startup capital you need, as it can take time before the business begins to bring in sustainable revenue. 

Perform a break-even analysis.

One way you can determine how much money you need is to perform a break-even analysis. This essential element of financial planning helps business owners determine when their company, product or service will be profitable. 

The formula is simple:

build your team

  • Fixed Costs ÷ (Average Price Per Unit – Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point

Every entrepreneur should use this formula as a tool because it tells you the minimum performance your business must achieve to avoid losing money. Furthermore, it helps you understand exactly where your profits come from, so you can set production goals accordingly. 

Here are the three most common reasons to conduct a break-even analysis: 

Ask yourself: How much revenue do I need to generate to cover all my expenses? Which products or services turn a profit, and which ones are sold at a loss?

Ask yourself: What are the fixed rates, what are the variable costs, and what is the total cost? What is the cost of any physical goods? What is the cost of labor?

Ask yourself: How can I reduce my overall fixed costs? How can I reduce the variable costs per unit? How can I improve sales? 

Watch your expenses.

Don’t overspend when starting a business. Understand the types of purchases that make sense for your business and avoid overspending on fancy new equipment that won’t help you reach your business goals. Monitor your business expenses to ensure you are staying on track.

“A lot of startups tend to spend money on unnecessary things,” said Jean Paldan, founder and CEO of Rare Form New Media. “We worked with a startup with two employees but spent a huge amount on office space that would fit 20 people. They also leased a professional high-end printer that was more suited for a team of 100; it had key cards to track who was printing what and when. Spend as little as possible when you start, and only on the things essential for the business to grow and succeed. Luxuries can come when you’re established.”  

Consider your funding options.

Startup capital for your business can come from various means. The best way to acquire funding for your business depends on several factors, including creditworthiness, the amount needed and available options.

  • Business loans. If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you cannot take out a bank loan, apply for a small business loan through the S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [Read related article: Best Business Loans ]
  • Business grants. Business grants are similar to loans, but do not need to be paid back. Business grants are typically very competitive and come with stipulations that the business must meet to be considered. When securing a small business grant , look for ones specific to your situation. Options include minority-owned business grants, grants for women-owned businesses and government grants .
  • Startups that require significant funding up front may want to bring on an angel investor . Investors can provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company in exchange for a hands-on role in running your business.
  • Alternatively, you can launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers. Crowdfunding has helped numerous companies in recent years, and dozens of reliable crowdfunding platforms are designed for different types of businesses. 

You can learn more about each of these capital sources and more in our guide to startup finance options . 

Choose the right business bank.

When you’re choosing a business bank , size matters. Marcus Anwar, co-founder of OhMy Canada, recommends smaller community banks because they are in tune with the local market conditions and will work with you based on your overall business profile and character. 

“They’re unlike big banks that look at your credit score and will be more selective to loan money to small businesses,” Anwar said. “Not only that, but small banks want to build a personal relationship with you and ultimately help you if you run into problems and miss a payment. Another good thing about smaller banks is that decisions are made at the branch level, which can be much quicker than big banks, where decisions are made at a higher level.” 

Anwar believes that you should ask yourself these questions when choosing a bank for your business: 

  • What is important to me?
  • Do I want to build a close relationship with a bank that’s willing to help me in any way possible?
  • Do I want to be just another bank account, like big banks will view me as? 

choose your vendors

Ultimately, the right bank for your business comes down to your needs. Writing down your banking needs can help narrow your focus to what you should be looking for. Schedule meetings with various banks and ask questions about how they work with small businesses to find the best bank for your business. [Read related article: Business Bank Account Checklist: Documents You’ll Need ]

4. Determine your legal business structure.

graphic of a businessperson sitting at a laptop near signs

Before registering your company, you need to decide what kind of entity it is. Your business structure legally affects everything from how you file your taxes to your personal liability if something goes wrong. 

  • Sole proprietorship: You can register for a sole proprietorship if you own the business independently and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations. Be warned that this route can directly affect your personal credit.
  • Partnership: Alternatively, as its name implies, a business partnership means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. You don’t have to go it alone if you can find a business partner with complementary skills to your own. It’s usually a good idea to add someone into the mix to help your business flourish.
  • Corporation: If you want to separate your personal liability from your company’s liability, consider the pros and cons of corporations (e.g., an S corporation or C corporation ). Although each type of corporation is subject to different guidelines, this legal structure generally makes a business a separate entity from its owners. Therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. “Corporations, especially C corporations, are especially suitable for new businesses that plan on ‘going public’ or seeking funding from venture capitalists in the near future,” said Deryck Jordan, managing attorney at Jordan Counsel.
  • Limited liability company: One of the most common structures for small businesses is the limited liability company (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine which type of entity is best for your current needs and future business goals. It’s important to learn about the various legal business structures available. If you’re struggling to make up your mind, discussing the decision with a business or legal advisor is a great idea.

Did you know? You need to choose a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or LLC .

5. Register with the government and IRS.

graphic of a person sitting at a laptop in front of an eagle crest

You will need to acquire business licenses before you can legally operate your business. For example, you must register your business with federal, state and local governments. There are several documents you must prepare before registering.

Articles of incorporation and operating agreements

To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations need an articles of incorporation document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Similarly, some LLCs will need to create an operating agreement.

Doing business as (DBA)

If you don’t have articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, you will need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you’ve come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection. 

Most states require you to get a DBA. You may need to apply for a DBA certificate if you’re in a general partnership or a sole proprietorship operating under a fictitious name. Contact or visit your local county clerk’s office to ask about specific requirements and fees. Generally, there is a registration fee involved. 

Employer identification number (EIN)

After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or to save yourself the trouble if you decide to hire someone later on. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free. 

Income tax forms

You must file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations . Your business structure determines the forms you need. You will need to check your state’s website for information on state-specific and local tax obligations. Once you set this all up, the best online tax software can help you file and pay your taxes quarterly and annually.

“You might be tempted to wing it with a PayPal account and social media platform, but if you start with a proper foundation, your business will have fewer hiccups to worry about in the long run,” said Natalie Pierre-Louis, licensed attorney and owner of NPL Consulting. 

Federal, state, and local licenses and permits

Some businesses may also require federal, state or local licenses and permits to operate. Your local city hall is the best place to obtain a business license. You can then use the SBA’s database to search for state and business type licensing requirements. 

Businesses and independent contractors in certain trades are required to carry professional licenses. A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is one example of a professional business license. Individuals with a CDL can operate certain types of vehicles, such as buses, tank trucks and tractor-trailers. A CDL is divided into three classes: Class A, Class B and Class C. 

You should also check with your city and state to find out if you need a seller’s permit that authorizes your business to collect sales tax from your customers. A seller’s permit goes by numerous names, including resale permit, resell permit, permit license, reseller permit, resale ID, state tax ID number, reseller number, reseller license permit or certificate of authority. 

It’s important to note that these requirements and names vary from state to state. You can register for a seller’s permit through the state government website of the state(s) you’re doing business in. 

Jordan says that not all businesses need to collect sales tax (or obtain a seller’s permit).

“For example, New York sales tax generally is not required for the sale of most services (such as professional services, education, and capital improvements to real estate), medicine or food for home consumption,” Jordan said. “So, for example, if your business only sells medicine, you do not need a New York seller’s permit. But New York sales tax must be collected in conjunction with the sale of new tangible personal goods, utilities, telephone service, hotel stays, and food and beverages (in restaurants).”

6. Purchase an insurance policy.

graphic of a businessperson in a suit in front of a large insurance form

It might slip your mind as something you intend to get around to eventually, but purchasing the right insurance for your business is an important step to take before you officially launch. Dealing with incidents such as property damage, theft or even a customer lawsuit can be costly, and you need to be sure that you’re properly protected. 

Although you should consider several types of business insurance , there are a few basic insurance plans that most small businesses can benefit from. For example, if your business will have employees, you will at least need to purchase workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

You may also need other types of coverage, depending on your location and industry, but most small businesses are advised to purchase general liability (GL) insurance, or a business owner’s policy. GL covers property damage, bodily injury, and personal injury to yourself or a third party.

If your business provides a service, you may also want professional liability insurance. It covers you if you do something wrong or neglect to do something you should have done while operating your business.

7. Build your team.

graphic of a group of businesspeople gathered around a table

Unless you’re planning to be your only employee, you’ll need to recruit and hire a great team to get your company off the ground. Joe Zawadzki, general partner at AperiamVentures, said entrepreneurs need to give the “people” element of their businesses the same attention they give their products. 

“People build your product,” Zawadzki said. “ Identifying your founding team , understanding what gaps exist, and [determining] how and when you will address them should be top priority. Figuring out how the team will work together … is equally important. Defining roles and responsibilities, division of labor, how to give feedback, or how to work together when not everyone is in the same room will save you a lot of headaches down the line.”

8. Choose your vendors.

graphic of a businessman in front of business profile cards

Running a business can be overwhelming, and you and your team probably aren’t going to be able to do it all on your own. That’s where third-party vendors come in. Companies in every industry, whether that’s HR or business phone systems , exist to partner with you and help you run your business better. For example, with a business phone system, you can design an IVR system to automatically route your callers to the right representatives.

When you’re searching for B2B partners, choose carefully. These companies will have access to your most vital and potentially sensitive business data, so finding someone you can trust is critical. In our guide to choosing business partners , our expert sources recommended asking potential vendors about their experience in your industry, their track record with existing clients, and what kind of growth they’ve helped other clients achieve. 

Not every business will need the same type of vendors, but there are common products and services that almost every business will need. Consider the following functions that are a necessity for any type of business.

  • Enabling multiple customer payment types: Offering multiple payment options will ensure you can make a sale in whatever format is easiest for the target customer. Compare options to find the best credit card processing provider to ensure you’re getting the best rate for your business. That’s because small business credit card processing is often a direct route to more revenue and a larger customer base.
  • Taking customer payments: Set up a point-of-sale (POS) system so that you have a state-of-the-art interface for making sales. The best POS systems couple this payment technology — which largely overlaps with credit card processing — with inventory management and customer management features. As such, POS systems are especially important if you plan to sell products instead of offering services.
  • Managing finances: Many business owners manage their own accounting functions when starting their business, but as your business grows, you can save time by hiring an accountant , or by choosing the right accounting software provider .

9. Brand yourself and advertise.

businessperson at a computer in front of a large lightbulb icon

Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are ready to jump when you open your literal or figurative doors for business.

  • Company website: Take your reputation online and build a company website . Many customers turn to the internet to learn about a business, and a website is a digital proof that your small business exists. It is also a great way to interact with current and potential customers.
  • Social media: Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. The best social media platforms to use will depend on your target audience.
  • CRM: The best CRM platforms allow you to store customer data to improve how you market to them. A well-thought-out email marketing campaign can do wonders for reaching customers and communicating with your audience. To be successful, you will want to strategically build your email marketing contact list .
  • Logo: Create a logo to help people easily identify your brand, and use it across all of your platforms.

Keep your digital assets up to date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry. According to Ruthann Bowen, chief marketing officer at EastCamp Creative, too many startups have the wrong mindset about their websites. 

“The issue is they see their website as a cost, not an investment,” Bowen said. “In today’s digital age, that’s a huge mistake. The small business owners who understand how critical it is to have a great online presence will have a leg up on starting out strong.” 

Creating a marketing plan that goes beyond your launch is essential to building a clientele because it should continually get the word out about your business. This process is just as important as providing a quality product or service, especially in the beginning. 

Ask customers to opt into your marketing communications.

As you build your brand, ask your customers and potential customers for permission to communicate with them. The easiest way to do this is by using opt-in forms of consent. These forms allow you to contact them with further information about your business, according to Dan Edmonson, founder and CEO of Dronegenuity. 

“These types of forms usually pertain to email communication and are often used in e-commerce to request permission to send newsletters, marketing material, product sales, etc. to customers,” Edmonson said. “Folks get so many throwaway emails and other messages these days that, by getting them to opt in to your services transparently, you begin to build trust with your customers.” 

Opt-in forms are a great starting point for building trust and respect with potential customers. Even more importantly, these forms are required by law. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 sets requirements for commercial email by the Federal Trade Commission. This law doesn’t just apply to bulk email; it covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Each email violating this law is subject to fines of more than $40,000.

Tip: Create a strategic marketing campaign that combines various marketing channels, like a company website, social media, email newsletters and opt-in forms.

10. Grow your business.

graphic of a businessperson in a suit flying hear up arrows and graphs

Your launch and first sales are only the beginning of your task as an entrepreneur. To make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to be growing your business. That takes time and effort, but you’ll get out of your business what you put into it. 

Collaborating with more established brands in your industry is a great way to achieve growth. Reach out to other companies and ask for some promotion in exchange for a free product sample or service. Partner with a charity organization, and volunteer some of your time or products to get your name out there. 

While these tips will help launch your business and get you set to grow, there’s never a perfect plan. You want to ensure you prepare thoroughly for starting a business, but things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations. 

FAQs about starting a business

What are the four basics for starting a business.

The four basics for starting a business are your business name, business structure, business registration certificate and all your other licenses. You must take the proper legal and regulatory steps in each of these four areas before you launch your business. Obtaining external funding and putting together a business plan are also smart moves, but they aren’t legal prerequisites.

How can I start my own business with no money?

You can launch a successful business without any startup funds. Work on a business idea that builds on your skill set to offer something new and innovative to the market. While developing a new business, keep working in your current position to reduce the financial risk.

Once you’ve developed your business idea and are ready to start on a business plan, you’ll need to get creative with funding. You can raise money through investments by pitching your idea to financial backers. You could also gather funding through crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter, or set aside a certain amount of money from your weekly earnings to put toward a new business. Finally, you can seek loan options from banks and other financial institutions to get your company up and running.

What is the easiest business to start?

The easiest business to start is one that requires little to no financial investment upfront, and no extensive training to learn the business. A dropshipping company, for example, is one of the easiest types of new business to launch. Dropshipping requires no inventory management, which saves you the hassle of buying, storing and tracking stock. 

Instead, another company fulfills your customer orders at your behest. This company manages the inventory, packages goods, and ships out your business orders. To start, create an online store by selecting curated products from the catalog available through partners.

Which types of businesses can I start from home?

In today’s world of remote work, you may be thinking of an online business idea . Any online-only business that doesn’t require inventory should be easy to start from home. Ideas that fall within this category include but aren’t limited to copywriting businesses, online tutoring operations and dropshipping businesses. Anything you’re good at or passionate about that you can do from home, and for which demand exists, can make for a great home business. 

When is the best time to start a business?

Each person’s ideal timeline for starting a new business will be different. Start a business only when you have enough time to devote your attention to the launch. If you have a seasonal product or service, then you should start your business one quarter before your predicted busy time of the year. Spring and fall are popular times of year to launch for nonseasonal companies. Winter is the least popular launch season because many new owners prefer to have their LLC or corporation approved for a new fiscal year.

Max Freedman and Skye Schooley also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.


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Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Simple Business Plan

By Joe Weller | October 11, 2021

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A business plan is the cornerstone of any successful company, regardless of size or industry. This step-by-step guide provides information on writing a business plan for organizations at any stage, complete with free templates and expert advice. 

Included on this page, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan and a chart to identify which type of business plan you should write . Plus, find information on how a business plan can help grow a business and expert tips on writing one .

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that communicates a company’s goals and ambitions, along with the timeline, finances, and methods needed to achieve them. Additionally, it may include a mission statement and details about the specific products or services offered.

A business plan can highlight varying time periods, depending on the stage of your company and its goals. That said, a typical business plan will include the following benchmarks:

  • Product goals and deadlines for each month
  • Monthly financials for the first two years
  • Profit and loss statements for the first three to five years
  • Balance sheet projections for the first three to five years

Startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses all create business plans to use as a guide as their new company progresses. Larger organizations may also create (and update) a business plan to keep high-level goals, financials, and timelines in check.

While you certainly need to have a formalized outline of your business’s goals and finances, creating a business plan can also help you determine a company’s viability, its profitability (including when it will first turn a profit), and how much money you will need from investors. In turn, a business plan has functional value as well: Not only does outlining goals help keep you accountable on a timeline, it can also attract investors in and of itself and, therefore, act as an effective strategy for growth.

For more information, visit our comprehensive guide to writing a strategic plan or download free strategic plan templates . This page focuses on for-profit business plans, but you can read our article with nonprofit business plan templates .

Business Plan Steps

The specific information in your business plan will vary, depending on the needs and goals of your venture, but a typical plan includes the following ordered elements:

  • Executive summary
  • Description of business
  • Market analysis
  • Competitive analysis
  • Description of organizational management
  • Description of product or services
  • Marketing plan
  • Sales strategy
  • Funding details (or request for funding)
  • Financial projections

If your plan is particularly long or complicated, consider adding a table of contents or an appendix for reference. For an in-depth description of each step listed above, read “ How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step ” below.

Broadly speaking, your audience includes anyone with a vested interest in your organization. They can include potential and existing investors, as well as customers, internal team members, suppliers, and vendors.

Do I Need a Simple or Detailed Plan?

Your business’s stage and intended audience dictates the level of detail your plan needs. Corporations require a thorough business plan — up to 100 pages. Small businesses or startups should have a concise plan focusing on financials and strategy.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your Business

In order to identify which type of business plan you need to create, ask: “What do we want the plan to do?” Identify function first, and form will follow.

Use the chart below as a guide for what type of business plan to create:

Is the Order of Your Business Plan Important?

There is no set order for a business plan, with the exception of the executive summary, which should always come first. Beyond that, simply ensure that you organize the plan in a way that makes sense and flows naturally.

The Difference Between Traditional and Lean Business Plans

A traditional business plan follows the standard structure — because these plans encourage detail, they tend to require more work upfront and can run dozens of pages. A Lean business plan is less common and focuses on summarizing critical points for each section. These plans take much less work and typically run one page in length.

In general, you should use a traditional model for a legacy company, a large company, or any business that does not adhere to Lean (or another Agile method ). Use Lean if you expect the company to pivot quickly or if you already employ a Lean strategy with other business operations. Additionally, a Lean business plan can suffice if the document is for internal use only. Stick to a traditional version for investors, as they may be more sensitive to sudden changes or a high degree of built-in flexibility in the plan.

How to Write a Business Plan Step by Step

Writing a strong business plan requires research and attention to detail for each section. Below, you’ll find a 10-step guide to researching and defining each element in the plan.

Step 1: Executive Summary

The executive summary will always be the first section of your business plan. The goal is to answer the following questions:

  • What is the vision and mission of the company?
  • What are the company’s short- and long-term goals?

See our  roundup of executive summary examples and templates for samples. Read our executive summary guide to learn more about writing one.

Step 2: Description of Business

The goal of this section is to define the realm, scope, and intent of your venture. To do so, answer the following questions as clearly and concisely as possible:

  • What business are we in?
  • What does our business do?

Step 3: Market Analysis

In this section, provide evidence that you have surveyed and understand the current marketplace, and that your product or service satisfies a niche in the market. To do so, answer these questions:

  • Who is our customer? 
  • What does that customer value?

Step 4: Competitive Analysis

In many cases, a business plan proposes not a brand-new (or even market-disrupting) venture, but a more competitive version — whether via features, pricing, integrations, etc. — than what is currently available. In this section, answer the following questions to show that your product or service stands to outpace competitors:

  • Who is the competition? 
  • What do they do best? 
  • What is our unique value proposition?

Step 5: Description of Organizational Management

In this section, write an overview of the team members and other key personnel who are integral to success. List roles and responsibilities, and if possible, note the hierarchy or team structure.

Step 6: Description of Products or Services

In this section, clearly define your product or service, as well as all the effort and resources that go into producing it. The strength of your product largely defines the success of your business, so it’s imperative that you take time to test and refine the product before launching into marketing, sales, or funding details.

Questions to answer in this section are as follows:

  • What is the product or service?
  • How do we produce it, and what resources are necessary for production?

Step 7: Marketing Plan

In this section, define the marketing strategy for your product or service. This doesn’t need to be as fleshed out as a full marketing plan , but it should answer basic questions, such as the following:

  • Who is the target market (if different from existing customer base)?
  • What channels will you use to reach your target market?
  • What resources does your marketing strategy require, and do you have access to them?
  • If possible, do you have a rough estimate of timeline and budget?
  • How will you measure success?

Step 8: Sales Plan

Write an overview of the sales strategy, including the priorities of each cycle, steps to achieve these goals, and metrics for success. For the purposes of a business plan, this section does not need to be a comprehensive, in-depth sales plan , but can simply outline the high-level objectives and strategies of your sales efforts. 

Start by answering the following questions:

  • What is the sales strategy?
  • What are the tools and tactics you will use to achieve your goals?
  • What are the potential obstacles, and how will you overcome them?
  • What is the timeline for sales and turning a profit?
  • What are the metrics of success?

Step 9: Funding Details (or Request for Funding)

This section is one of the most critical parts of your business plan, particularly if you are sharing it with investors. You do not need to provide a full financial plan, but you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much capital do you currently have? How much capital do you need?
  • How will you grow the team (onboarding, team structure, training and development)?
  • What are your physical needs and constraints (space, equipment, etc.)?

Step 10: Financial Projections

Apart from the fundraising analysis, investors like to see thought-out financial projections for the future. As discussed earlier, depending on the scope and stage of your business, this could be anywhere from one to five years. 

While these projections won’t be exact — and will need to be somewhat flexible — you should be able to gauge the following:

  • How and when will the company first generate a profit?
  • How will the company maintain profit thereafter?

Business Plan Template

Business Plan Template

Download Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel | Smartsheet

This basic business plan template has space for all the traditional elements: an executive summary, product or service details, target audience, marketing and sales strategies, etc. In the finances sections, input your baseline numbers, and the template will automatically calculate projections for sales forecasting, financial statements, and more.

For templates tailored to more specific needs, visit this business plan template roundup or download a fill-in-the-blank business plan template to make things easy. 

If you are looking for a particular template by file type, visit our pages dedicated exclusively to Microsoft Excel , Microsoft Word , and Adobe PDF business plan templates.

How to Write a Simple Business Plan

A simple business plan is a streamlined, lightweight version of the large, traditional model. As opposed to a one-page business plan , which communicates high-level information for quick overviews (such as a stakeholder presentation), a simple business plan can exceed one page.

Below are the steps for creating a generic simple business plan, which are reflected in the template below .

  • Write the Executive Summary This section is the same as in the traditional business plan — simply offer an overview of what’s in the business plan, the prospect or core offering, and the short- and long-term goals of the company. 
  • Add a Company Overview Document the larger company mission and vision. 
  • Provide the Problem and Solution In straightforward terms, define the problem you are attempting to solve with your product or service and how your company will attempt to do it. Think of this section as the gap in the market you are attempting to close.
  • Identify the Target Market Who is your company (and its products or services) attempting to reach? If possible, briefly define your buyer personas .
  • Write About the Competition In this section, demonstrate your knowledge of the market by listing the current competitors and outlining your competitive advantage.
  • Describe Your Product or Service Offerings Get down to brass tacks and define your product or service. What exactly are you selling?
  • Outline Your Marketing Tactics Without getting into too much detail, describe your planned marketing initiatives.
  • Add a Timeline and the Metrics You Will Use to Measure Success Offer a rough timeline, including milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to measure your progress.
  • Include Your Financial Forecasts Write an overview of your financial plan that demonstrates you have done your research and adequate modeling. You can also list key assumptions that go into this forecasting. 
  • Identify Your Financing Needs This section is where you will make your funding request. Based on everything in the business plan, list your proposed sources of funding, as well as how you will use it.

Simple Business Plan Template

Simple Business Plan Template

Download Simple Business Plan Template

Microsoft Excel |  Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF  | Smartsheet

Use this simple business plan template to outline each aspect of your organization, including information about financing and opportunities to seek out further funding. This template is completely customizable to fit the needs of any business, whether it’s a startup or large company.

Read our article offering free simple business plan templates or free 30-60-90-day business plan templates to find more tailored options. You can also explore our collection of one page business templates . 

How to Write a Business Plan for a Lean Startup

A Lean startup business plan is a more Agile approach to a traditional version. The plan focuses more on activities, processes, and relationships (and maintains flexibility in all aspects), rather than on concrete deliverables and timelines.

While there is some overlap between a traditional and a Lean business plan, you can write a Lean plan by following the steps below:

  • Add Your Value Proposition Take a streamlined approach to describing your product or service. What is the unique value your startup aims to deliver to customers? Make sure the team is aligned on the core offering and that you can state it in clear, simple language.
  • List Your Key Partners List any other businesses you will work with to realize your vision, including external vendors, suppliers, and partners. This section demonstrates that you have thoughtfully considered the resources you can provide internally, identified areas for external assistance, and conducted research to find alternatives.
  • Note the Key Activities Describe the key activities of your business, including sourcing, production, marketing, distribution channels, and customer relationships.
  • Include Your Key Resources List the critical resources — including personnel, equipment, space, and intellectual property — that will enable you to deliver your unique value.
  • Identify Your Customer Relationships and Channels In this section, document how you will reach and build relationships with customers. Provide a high-level map of the customer experience from start to finish, including the spaces in which you will interact with the customer (online, retail, etc.). 
  • Detail Your Marketing Channels Describe the marketing methods and communication platforms you will use to identify and nurture your relationships with customers. These could be email, advertising, social media, etc.
  • Explain the Cost Structure This section is especially necessary in the early stages of a business. Will you prioritize maximizing value or keeping costs low? List the foundational startup costs and how you will move toward profit over time.
  • Share Your Revenue Streams Over time, how will the company make money? Include both the direct product or service purchase, as well as secondary sources of revenue, such as subscriptions, selling advertising space, fundraising, etc.

Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Lean Business Plan Templates for Startups

Download Lean Business Plan Template for Startups

Microsoft Word | Adobe PDF

Startup leaders can use this Lean business plan template to relay the most critical information from a traditional plan. You’ll find all the sections listed above, including spaces for industry and product overviews, cost structure and sources of revenue, and key metrics, and a timeline. The template is completely customizable, so you can edit it to suit the objectives of your Lean startups.

See our wide variety of  startup business plan templates for more options.

How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan

A business plan for a loan, often called a loan proposal , includes many of the same aspects of a traditional business plan, as well as additional financial documents, such as a credit history, a loan request, and a loan repayment plan.

In addition, you may be asked to include personal and business financial statements, a form of collateral, and equity investment information.

Download free financial templates to support your business plan.

Tips for Writing a Business Plan

Outside of including all the key details in your business plan, you have several options to elevate the document for the highest chance of winning funding and other resources. Follow these tips from experts:.

  • Keep It Simple: Avner Brodsky , the Co-Founder and CEO of Lezgo Limited, an online marketing company, uses the acronym KISS (keep it short and simple) as a variation on this idea. “The business plan is not a college thesis,” he says. “Just focus on providing the essential information.”
  • Do Adequate Research: Michael Dean, the Co-Founder of Pool Research , encourages business leaders to “invest time in research, both internal and external (market, finance, legal etc.). Avoid being overly ambitious or presumptive. Instead, keep everything objective, balanced, and accurate.” Your plan needs to stand on its own, and you must have the data to back up any claims or forecasting you make. As Brodsky explains, “Your business needs to be grounded on the realities of the market in your chosen location. Get the most recent data from authoritative sources so that the figures are vetted by experts and are reliable.”
  • Set Clear Goals: Make sure your plan includes clear, time-based goals. “Short-term goals are key to momentum growth and are especially important to identify for new businesses,” advises Dean.
  • Know (and Address) Your Weaknesses: “This awareness sets you up to overcome your weak points much quicker than waiting for them to arise,” shares Dean. Brodsky recommends performing a full SWOT analysis to identify your weaknesses, too. “Your business will fare better with self-knowledge, which will help you better define the mission of your business, as well as the strategies you will choose to achieve your objectives,” he adds.
  • Seek Peer or Mentor Review: “Ask for feedback on your drafts and for areas to improve,” advises Brodsky. “When your mind is filled with dreams for your business, sometimes it is an outsider who can tell you what you’re missing and will save your business from being a product of whimsy.”

Outside of these more practical tips, the language you use is also important and may make or break your business plan.

Shaun Heng, VP of Operations at Coin Market Cap , gives the following advice on the writing, “Your business plan is your sales pitch to an investor. And as with any sales pitch, you need to strike the right tone and hit a few emotional chords. This is a little tricky in a business plan, because you also need to be formal and matter-of-fact. But you can still impress by weaving in descriptive language and saying things in a more elegant way.

“A great way to do this is by expanding your vocabulary, avoiding word repetition, and using business language. Instead of saying that something ‘will bring in as many customers as possible,’ try saying ‘will garner the largest possible market segment.’ Elevate your writing with precise descriptive words and you'll impress even the busiest investor.”

Additionally, Dean recommends that you “stay consistent and concise by keeping your tone and style steady throughout, and your language clear and precise. Include only what is 100 percent necessary.”

Resources for Writing a Business Plan

While a template provides a great outline of what to include in a business plan, a live document or more robust program can provide additional functionality, visibility, and real-time updates. The U.S. Small Business Association also curates resources for writing a business plan.

Additionally, you can use business plan software to house data, attach documentation, and share information with stakeholders. Popular options include LivePlan, Enloop, BizPlanner, PlanGuru, and iPlanner.

How a Business Plan Helps to Grow Your Business

A business plan — both the exercise of creating one and the document — can grow your business by helping you to refine your product, target audience, sales plan, identify opportunities, secure funding, and build new partnerships. 

Outside of these immediate returns, writing a business plan is a useful exercise in that it forces you to research the market, which prompts you to forge your unique value proposition and identify ways to beat the competition. Doing so will also help you build (and keep you accountable to) attainable financial and product milestones. And down the line, it will serve as a welcome guide as hurdles inevitably arise.

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When teams have clarity into the work getting done, there’s no telling how much more they can accomplish in the same amount of time.  Try Smartsheet for free, today.

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How to Start a Small Business in 10 Steps

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Learn how to start a small business from scratch with expert guidance. Get essential tips and steps for launching your dream journey successfully.

how to start own business plan

Brett Grossfeld

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Do you have a killer idea that you think would be perfect for launching a small business? If you believe what you see on TikTok, becoming an entrepreneur is just about as easy as posting a 30-second video. But in the real world, launching a small business can be a bit more challenging.

Starting a small business may seem daunting, but if you ask those same business owners if it’s worth the risk — few would trade the opportunity to shape their own destiny.

But where to start? Thankfully, you don’t need to have everything figured out before going out on your own. Successful small business owners are constantly learning from their mistakes — and improving their ideas and dreams along the way.

If you’re ready to take the leap and become a small business owner, keep reading.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

What is a small business, how much does it cost to start a small business, how to start a small business in 10 steps, what do you need to start a small business, start small — but think big.

Small businesses are generally defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as independent operations having fewer than 200 employees. And the majority of small businesses in the United States have fewer than five employees, according to the U.S. Census Bureau . 

But the number — or lack — of employees doesn’t necessarily define a “small business.” A business’s size can also be determined by the number of sales, the range of individual business locations, and other factors.

Along with size requirements, the SBA considers a company to be small if it’s:

  • Independently owned and operated
  • Not dominant in its field
  • Physically located and operated in the U.S. (or a U.S. territory)

If your company meets the SBA’s definition of a small business, many government programs offer resources and local assistance for you to turn your dreams into reality.

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If you’re skilled in a certain trade — say, bookkeeping — you can launch a business with almost no money . But if your idea needs to be fleshed out and developed by researchers, scientists, and engineers, your startup costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and beyond. But most startup costs fall somewhere in the middle. 

Factors that influence cost

A sole proprietor working from home is going to have very different startup costs than a Silicon Valley startup flush with venture capital funds. But it doesn’t matter if you have $1,000 or $1 million to launch your small business — you’ll need to have a budget.

Are you moving the clutter out of your garage to make room for a desk? Or are you going to hire an architect to remodel a warehouse space in a trendy neighborhood? Obviously, both businesses are going to have wildly different expenses.

Think about your budget and what you can afford to get started. And it’s good to assume that unexpected expenses will pop up along the way — especially in your first year of business.

What kinds of costs to expect

The SBA has a worksheet that will help you calculate typical expenses for a small business, including one-time expenses such as:

  • Rent : This includes security deposit, first month’s rent and utilities. If you’re working from home, you can deduct a percentage of your rent or mortgage on your taxes .
  • Improvement costs: Anything that you might spend on your physical place of business to make it suitable for work.
  • Inventory : If you’re selling a product, you’ll need goods to keep up with customer demand.
  • Employees : This includes payroll, payroll taxes, and health insurance.
  • Professional services: Accountants, lawyers, and consultants will all need to be paid
  • Supplies : Think office supplies, such as paper and pencils, and operating supplies, like computers and printers.
  • Marketing: Business cards, stationery, flyers, and advertising all fall under this category.
  • Miscellaneous : This includes licenses, permits, legal fees, signage, technology, and accounting software. Everything else — liability insurance, repairs, maintenance, and dues.

The most difficult part of starting a small business is committing to your vision. It’s easier if you break down the process into small, achievable goals. Here are 10 steps that will get you on your way:

1. Do your research

If you don’t do basic market research before you launch your business, you may be down for the count before you even get started. Ask neighbors, friends, and even your barista if they would be interested in your product or service — and ask how much they’d be willing to pay for it. 

Conduct competitor research, local and global searches, and even offer surveys to consumers to see what the need versus want ratio is. 

2. Write a business plan

A business plan is your roadmap; it helps guide you as you start and grow your company. If you need capital to get started, most investors will want to review a business plan before they commit to any financing. 

To organize your ideas, download and fill out a business plan template . A well-written business plan provides clarity, confirms the math, and helps you establish goals so your business has the best chance of success.

3. Choose a business name

Finding the perfect brand name is a vital step in launching a new business. But hiring a professional naming company doesn’t come cheap — it can cost as much as $100,000 , according to Fast Company. 

If that’s outside your budget, there are countless AI-powered business name generators available online, and Fiverr has entrepreneurs who will help brainstorm business names for three figures or less.

4. Decide on your location

Take a look at the taxes, zoning laws, and regulations in your location. You may find that operating your business in a different location could offer financial advantages. Review the fees, costs, and tax benefits of each state to see which location makes the most sense for your business . A strategic move may put you ahead of the game before you even open the doors.

5. Get your finances in order

Startup costs discourage many would-be entrepreneurs, but the reality is that many successful businesses got started with little more than a vision, discipline, and hard work. However, if you really need cash for that newly opened business bank account, here are four ways of getting that money:

  • Self-funding: If you have the means, you may use your own earnings to kickstart your business or see out financial counsel to work it into your budget.
  • Outside investors: For a stake in your company, relatives or venture capitalists may be willing to invest in your business.
  • Small business loans: If you want to keep full ownership of your business, a small business loan may be the way to go.
  • Crowdfunding: If you’re feeling creative and confident, try sites such as Kickstarter or GoFundMe to generate capital.

6. Take care of the legal stuff

Register your business in the state where it was formed — and make sure that you’re set up to pay state income and unemployment tax. Review whether your local municipality requires filing for a license or permit to operate your business. 

To satisfy Uncle Sam, apply for an EIN from the IRS . Confirm that no one else is using your business name by contacting your state filing office or online database. Some business structures require using a doing business as (DBA) name, and you may be required to open a business bank account.

7. Develop a marketing plan

Once you have a terrific name for your company locked down, you’ll want to create an online presence for your business. Be consistent on your social media channels , ideally creating accounts on the channels — meeting them online where they are. 

Develop a website that’s intuitive and filled with all the information your customers need. Your marketing may also include advertising campaigns and public relations.

8. Set up your CRM software

To enhance your marketing efforts and grow your small business, try customer relationship management ( CRM) for Small Business . This will be your solution for storing and managing prospect and customer information such as contact information, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities — all in one single source of truth. 

With Salesforce’s Starter Suite , you can start in minutes and easily manage your marketing, sales, and customer service as your business scales.

9. Launch your product or service

Congratulations: You’ve done all the hard work and you’re ready to introduce your product to the world. Make sure to announce your launch on social media — and consider throwing a media-friendly bash to celebrate.

10. Keep your customers happy

When you use CRM software, you can keep track and personalize support for all your customers. And happy customers are good for business — 80% of them say the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services .

The United States has more than 33 million small businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce , and that number represents 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. And most of those small businesses started the same way — with an entrepreneur and an idea. But it takes more than just a dream to launch a small business.

So, where to start?

It’s time to take some notes. First, start outlining your business plan. If you’re stuck, ask yourself these four questions when developing your plan :

  • Goals : What do you need to accomplish to achieve your vision?
  • Methods : What are the steps you need to follow to get you there?
  • Measurements : How will you determine when each objective has been met?
  • Obstacles : What could throw you off course along the way?

Once you’ve written a business plan and are feeling confident, you’re ready to establish:

A name for your business

A great business name should succinctly identify your company and its audience. Brainstorm and get feedback from friends, family, and potential customers. And before you fall in love with your new company name, make sure that an established business in your industry isn’t already using that name.

A location for your business

Choosing where to conduct business is one of the most important decisions you can make for your small business. While staying close to home may be your first instinct, a change of venue may prove to be financially advantageous.

A business structure

For tax purposes and protection of personal assets, you need to choose a business structure that offers the right balance of legal protections and benefits. Common business structures include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, and cooperative.

A legal presence

If you want personal liability protection, legal protection, and tax benefits for your company, you’ll need to register your business with state and local governments.

Federal and state tax ID numbers

Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) works like a personal Social Security number, but for your business. You need an EIN to pay state and federal taxes for your company.

Licenses and permits

Whether your business needs to apply — and pay for — licenses and permits depends on your business activities, location, and government rules. Review regulations from city, state, and federal agencies.

A business bank account

Opening up a bank account exclusively for business use will help keep your personal finances separate, making life easier at tax time. There are several banks that will allow you to open a business checking account with a zero balance, but traditionally banks will require an opening deposit of anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000.

Start-up funds

Even if you open a business checking account with a zero balance, you’re going to want to have some funds to cover basic operating expenses. The SBA offers guidance on obtaining funding for your small business, including loans, grants, and investors.

Starting a new business may feel like a gamble, but business insurance will help you cover your bet. The right insurance policy will help protect you against accidents, natural disasters, and lawsuits.

You should also consider:

Customer relationship management

A CRM platform keeps your customer data organized and provides the foundation to build connected customer experiences (that can be made even better through artificial intelligence). Starting with a suite of sales, service, marketing, and commerce tools is easy.

Invoice and billing software

While it is possible to keep track of your financial records on a traditional paper ledger, modern invoice and billing software makes the process much, much easier.

A graphic designer

A well-designed logo can make or break a business. The Nike “swoosh” was created by a graphic design student — and the $35 Nike initially spent paid for itself many times over.

Many small businesses exist with just a presence on social media, but having a professionally designed website adds legitimacy to your business.

Marketing experts

Like graphic design, marketing expenses are costs that many small business owners initially want to avoid. But strategically investing in a marketing campaign can be a boon for a small business that wants to make noise in a crowded marketplace.

A Human Resources department

Once your business grows to a certain size, it’s time to create a human resources (HR) department — or, at least, to hire an HR professional. This professional can focus on things such as labor law compliance, employee recruitment, employee engagement and development, and compensation and benefits management while you manage your business.

An assistant

For most small businesses starting out, hiring an assistant to perform administrative and clerical duties is something of a luxury. If your budget is tight, consider a virtual assistant .

What are some popular small business ideas?

If you have a unique idea for a small business, great. But some of the best small business ideas build on your strengths and experience. What do you love to do? What lights you up when you are helping the community? Do you have a pull to do something more?

What are the odds that my small business will succeed?

Starting a small business is no guarantee of success. Approximately 80% of small businesses survive their first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survival rate decreases to 50% after five years and 30% after 10 years.

What are some Fortune 500 companies that started small?

Not all big companies started with millions of dollars in venture capital. Some of America’s biggest brand names had far more modest beginnings . Apple famously got started in a Silicon Valley garage, while Mattel was building dollhouse furniture from picture frame scraps in its early days.

What are the most business-friendly states?

Before setting up shop in New York or California, consider launching your small business in North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, or North Carolina. These states offer the best conditions to start a business , according to Forbes Advisor.

What can I deduct for my small business at tax time?

(Almost) everyone knows that you can deduct entertainment and travel expenses as a small business owner. But you can also deduct software subscriptions, office furniture, and interest on small business loans, according to NerdWallet .

Taking the leap to start your own small business is just the first step on your entrepreneurial path. But you’re in good company. Nearly half of all U.S. employees are employed by a small business — and more than 80% of those small businesses are solo ventures , according to Forbes Advisor. There’s no better time than the present to start turning your dreams into reality.

Want to grow your new small business? Sign up for a Salesforce free trial .

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Brett Grossfeld is a Product Marketing Manager supporting Salesforce's CRM, data, and AI tools. He's written for multiple websites across various industries and interests, including tech, wellness, and modern customer experiences.

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How to start a business: 10 essential steps

how to start own business plan

Content Type: Article

Increase the likelihood that your idea will stand the test of time by taking the following actions.

You have a brilliant idea for a business. Now you need a website, retail shop or an office—or maybe all three—so you can start generating revenue as soon as possible, right?

Not so fast, says Molly E. Schlobohm, managing partner of Sound Strategy Consulting in Seattle. Having started two businesses, Schlobohm serves as a mentor with SCORE, a national nonprofit that provides free and confidential business advice to entrepreneurs and is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Before you throw a grand opening, Schlobohm recommends you write a business plan.

The purpose of the plan is not to perfectly predict the future. In fact, Schlobohm acknowledges things may not go as you expect. Writing a plan  forces you to think through critical aspects of your business—insurance, taxes, pricing and more—before you open your doors. That way you can spend your precious hours growing your business rather than fighting fires.

Failing to create a plan can have major consequences. Schlobohm has seen entrepreneurs come up with a great idea, product or service, but fail to sit down and think out what the next three-to-five years might look like. “A year or 18 months after they launch, they’re working seven days a week, and they burn out,” Schlobohm says. “And then the business closes.”

If you want to give your business idea the best chance to succeed, these steps will help you refine your business idea and craft your plan.

Examine your why

Start your plan with honest answers to three questions. Are you excited about offering a product or service? Does your offer fill a void in the market? (You can either solve a problem that others don’t or provide a solution that’s superior to what’s already available.) Or do you just want to avoid having a boss?

If you answered yes to the first two questions and no to the third, you have what Schlobohm calls the “entrepreneur’s spirit” and are starting from the right place. If your primary motivator is saying goodbye to your boss, entrepreneurship may not be the right path. “Being your own boss is actually not as great as it sounds,” Schlobohm says.

Seek professional advice

Hire an accountant sooner rather than later (and maybe a lawyer, too). When you’re just getting started, an online legal service may be enough for setting up the basics, including an LLC or a corporation, says Schlobohm. But an accountant is essential.

This graphic is called “New business success rates” and reads “You may have heard that 90% of new businesses fail. But is that true? Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a more encouraging story. Of the businesses started in the year ending March 2013, 34.7% were still in business a decade later—that is, in March 2023.” There is a chart showing the progression of businesses started in 2013 that are still operating. Over 200,000 of those started in 2013 were still operating in 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Figure out how much you really need to charge

The number might surprise you because you need to include so many items in your pricing strategy : the cost of goods sold, taxes, marketing expenses, what you want to earn and, if necessary, rent and employee pay.

To determine your billable hourly rate for a service business, dividing your salary by a 2,080-hour work year—or 40-hour work week—is just the start. “Tack on another 40% because you have to pay all your employment taxes plus your health insurance,” Schlobohm says. Don’t forget to factor in office equipment, software and other recurring costs.

If you’re going to sell a physical product, selling it online can keep costs down. “Once you open a retail space, the overhead becomes significant,” she says. Bear in mind that commercial leases, either for retail or office space, often run five or 10 years, and therefore require a bigger commitment than a typical one-year residential lease.

Don’t forget about insurance

In addition to your own health insurance, you may want coverage for liability, cyberattacks  and more. If you have employees, the federal government requires you to carry unemployment, workers’ compensation and disability insurance. Some states have additional requirements.

Leverage resources from SCORE and the SBA

Access planning templates , low- or no-cost workshops and mentors to help you with every step of starting a business , including structuring your business, getting a business license and securing funding.

Build a following

Use social media  and in-person networking to connect with potential customers. “That way, when you’re ready to launch, you already have people waiting to buy,” says Schlobohm.

Start documenting processes

Prepare to grow before making your first sale by documenting your processes.

Nothing fancy is required. A simple word processing document with step-by-step instructions is all you need. Having one could save you a tremendous amount of time and money in the future, especially once you start hiring employees who need training.

Do your homework

“I love the energy of aspiring entrepreneurs, but it’s important to be realistic,” says Schlobohm. “Sometimes, I have to say, ‘Five other people are already doing what you thought nobody was doing,’ so it’s time to do more research.’”

She recommends a SWOT analysis, which looks at your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Be sure to include research on your competitors  and the state of the industry you want to enter.

Testing your idea is another valuable research technique. Sell your service to a few clients at a discounted rate. Invite people to try a prototype of your product and answer a few questions. Low-cost, low-risk experiments help you better understand what prospective customers want. Then, you can adjust if you need to before you’ve built a website, rented an office or ordered thousands of dollars of inventory.

Don’t quit your day job yet

Include in your plan a clear picture of your finances. Schlobohm recommends remaining employed as long as you can  while building your business. Have enough money saved to pay all your personal expenses for at least six months.

Launch and refine

Once you do throw that grand opening party, be it online or in person, don’t forget to revisit and regularly update your business plan. “It’s a living, breathing document,” Schlobohm says.

Start today

  • Read more: Business certification has its advantages .
  • Learn more: Find more guidance at our Business Resource Center .
  • Take action: : Figure out how much you’ll need to start a business using our Business Startup Costs  calculator.

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How to Start an Event Planning Business: Your Comprehensive Guide Not sure how to become an event planner? Use this step-by-step guide to launch your event planning business from scratch.

By Laura Tiffany Edited by Brittany Robins May 21, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Event planning can be a great business if you have the right skills.
  • People need help executing personal and professional events of all sizes.
  • Based on how you structure your business, your startup costs will vary.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some people have a special ability to plan parties — whether they be weddings, large corporate events or smaller gatherings. If you have a knack for tackling complex problems and making big days run smoothly, you might have a future as a professional event planner. Whether you choose to work alone or with a team, starting an event planning service is no small task. Here are some important questions to consider before launching an event planning business, and a step-by-step guide to starting and scaling your business.

Related: Find Your Event-Planning Niche

What is an event planning business?

Event planning is the art and science of ideation, planning, coordination and operation. When a major event needs to run smoothly — whether it's a trade show, nonprofit gala or a major anniversary — people will enlist an event planning service or coordinator. Event planners are key service providers who ensure event production and execution goes off without a hitch , most often used for purposes like:

  • Corporate events, like after-work cocktail hours and galas.
  • Educational conventions, like graduations or conferences.
  • Major promotional events including product launches and fashion shows.
  • Celebrations and social events including parades, weddings, birthdays and reunions.

The primary duties of full-time or part-time on-site event planners include:

  • Researching venues and vendors prior to the event.
  • Selecting the appropriate site for the event.
  • Event design and team-building for project management.
  • Creating budgets and running fundraisers if necessary.
  • Coordinating decor, entertainment and food for the event.
  • Sending invitations to attendees.
  • Coordinating transportation for attendees to and from the event.
  • Arranging accommodations, including seating charts and place settings.
  • Coordinating tasks for onsite event personnel, including caterers or entertainers.
  • Being on call for any questions or problems that arise in the event-planning process.
  • Supervising activities at the event site.

Why do people hire event planning services?

People primarily hire event planning services for two reasons: So that hosts and guests don't have to focus on the inner workings of the event, and so that the event runs smoothly from beginning to end.

Consider a wedding. Many engaged couples hire event planners or event planning services to coordinate, organize and carry out their wedding plans. This helps the couple enjoy their special day and gives them the freedom to focus on getting married rather than worrying about details like catering, parking or the timeline.

Some events are so complex — particularly those with hundreds of guests or more — that it's almost impossible to properly plan and organize them without the help of a specialist. Knowledgeable, experienced event planners know how to organize groups of people, how much food to provide and other details that can make or break an important event.

Related: The Price Is Right: Turning a Profit in the Event Planning Business

Who should become an event planner?

You might consider becoming an event planner if you're organized, love hosting parties and find the challenge of coordinating large events to be thrilling. Planners handle many moving parts at once, some of which require overseeing chaotic work and competing agendas. Event planners also often work weekends and holidays since these are the days when most people schedule events.

Many event planners have backgrounds as managers or coordinators in other industries. The events industry, both for wedding planning and other events, requires excellent communication skills. Obtaining a bachelor's degree in public relations , marketing or related fields can be helpful but is not required. You should also consider acquiring certification for your event planning service, as it can help you cultivate relevant professional skills and attract more job opportunities. Meeting Professionals International (MPI) offers a list of degrees and certificates from various colleges and universities.

You can also become a Certified Special Events Professional or Certified Meeting Planner , both of which are offered by the MPI or the International Live Events Association (ILEA). By earning these certifications , potential clients will know you have the training and experience necessary to take on a complex event.

How to start an event planning business

Step 1: form your company.

To get your event planning business off the ground, you must first form a company, file the right paperwork and create a business plan — which should include the following details:

  • The business's name.
  • The business's tax structure (Sole proprietorship, LLC, S corp etc.).
  • What services you'll provide.
  • Market research .
  • A management plan.
  • Financial factors, including how you'll turn a profit.

Related: Check out these business plan templates to get started.

You'll also want to apply for an employer identification number (EIN), which is essentially a social security number for your business assigned to you by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This will allow you to operate your business independently of your personal affairs, help you hire employees and make it easier to file taxes quarterly.

Step 2: Choose your target market

Building on the research you performed to create your business plan, it's essential to find the right market for your services. For instance, if you want to primarily work with weddings, you need to determine how many other planners are in your area, how much you should charge for your services and what offerings you'll need to be competitive.

By doing enough research ahead of time, you'll know exactly what kind of clients to target and what their expectations will be. This will help you advertise your event planning service to be competitive relative to other local planners.

Step 3: Make a financial plan

When you start an event planning business, you'll have to consider not only startup costs but also how the enterprise will grow and how many clients you'll need in order to be profitable. For instance, working from home and primarily by yourself will keep costs low. But if you hire employees, rent office space, or expand to new markets, your monthly expenses will significantly increase – all of these things can add up.

You can always scale your business after acquiring steady work. You may start off as a one-person event planning service that only takes on small events. As you earn money from successful jobs, you can hire employees and rent a warehouse for your equipment, like cameras, chairs and more. You don't have to have all of the growth questions answered when you launch your business, but you should at least have them in mind.

Step 4: Understand the work involved and consider hiring employees

For your event planning service to be successful , you need to fully grasp the nature of each job and determine if — or when — it's time to hire employees. This will vary event to event, so you'll need to determine how much work each event will require. Even the smallest event demands careful attention to detail and advance planning, but as you acquire experience you'll become more adept at forecasting how much help you'll need, if any. For instance, you might hire two or three people to be on-site for a specific event, just to make sure things run smoothly.

Related: The Event Planning Recipe for Success

Step 5: Settle on a price structure and fee basis

How you price your event planning offerings will impact how much business you attract. You can determine your pricing structure and fee basis by things like:

  • The market segment you serve: For instance, nonprofit events may have different fee structures than weddings or corporate events. By understanding your event type, you'll know how much to charge and how to structure your fees.
  • Your location: If you live in a place with a higher cost of living or a competitive events market, you'll need to price your services accordingly.
  • Your reputation: As your business gains a reputation for success — and especially if you're so busy clients are competing for your services — you'll be able to charge a higher premium.

Step 6: Start marketing your event planning service

Once you know how much to charge your clients, it's time to start marketing your event planning service. Consider using tools like Google ads, social media profiles and other digital marketing efforts like email to get the word out about your business. You may even consider newspaper ads, flyers in public buildings or other traditional low-cost marketing tactics . As your business grows, so too will your reputation, meaning you'll likely have to spend less on marketing once you're known. Before you get there, though, it's important to dedicate significant time and resources to marketing your services (learn more here about the tools and strategies that should be part of creating your marketing plan).

Related: 8 Savvy Ways to Promote Your Event Planning Business

Costs of starting an event planning business

The costs of launching your business will vary greatly based on where you live, what kind of clients you work with and how large you intend to scale your operation. At a minimum, you'll need to pay fees to incorporate your business , purchase basic technology like a computer, buy business insurance and spend money advertising. But there are many other potential costs, including certification programs, hiring additional employees , renting office space and more. Here's a breakdown of common expenses associated with event planning, as well as a range of what it might take to get your enterprise off the ground.

Consider Startup Costs

As with any business, the startup costs for event planning vary by the region, the size of your operation and the type of clients you attract. Below are estimates that will help you determine what you can expect to spend in your first year.

*All figures are estimates and subject to change based on factors including location, business size and clientele.

Check out Entrepreneur's other guides and resources today.

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FACT SHEET: President   Biden Takes Action to Protect American Workers and Businesses from China’s Unfair Trade   Practices

President Biden’s economic plan is supporting investments and creating good jobs in key sectors that are vital for America’s economic future and national security. China’s unfair trade practices concerning technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are threatening American businesses and workers. China is also flooding global markets with artificially low-priced exports. In response to China’s unfair trade practices and to counteract the resulting harms, today, President Biden is directing his Trade Representative to increase tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 on $18 billion of imports from China to protect American workers and businesses.   The Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda has already catalyzed more than $860 billion in business investments through smart, public incentives in industries of the future like electric vehicles (EVs), clean energy, and semiconductors. With support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, CHIPS and Science Act, and Inflation Reduction Act, these investments are creating new American jobs in manufacturing and clean energy and helping communities that have been left behind make a comeback.   As President Biden says, American workers and businesses can outcompete anyone—as long as they have fair competition. But for too long, China’s government has used unfair, non-market practices. China’s forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft have contributed to its control of 70, 80, and even 90 percent of global production for the critical inputs necessary for our technologies, infrastructure, energy, and health care—creating unacceptable risks to America’s supply chains and economic security. Furthermore, these same non-market policies and practices contribute to China’s growing overcapacity and export surges that threaten to significantly harm American workers, businesses, and communities.   Today’s actions to counter China’s unfair trade practices are carefully targeted at strategic sectors—the same sectors where the United States is making historic investments under President Biden to create and sustain good-paying jobs—unlike recent proposals by Congressional Republicans that would threaten jobs and raise costs across the board. The previous administration’s trade deal with China  failed  to increase American exports or boost American manufacturing as it had promised. Under President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been created and new factory construction has doubled after both fell under the previous administration, and the trade deficit with China is the lowest in a decade—lower than any year under the last administration.   We will continue to work with our partners around the world to strengthen cooperation to address shared concerns about China’s unfair practices—rather than undermining our alliances or applying indiscriminate 10 percent tariffs that raise prices on all imports from all countries, regardless whether they are engaged in unfair trade. The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the benefits for our workers and businesses from strong alliances and a rules-based international trade system based on fair competition.   Following an in-depth review by the United States Trade Representative, President Biden is taking action to protect American workers and American companies from China’s unfair trade practices. To encourage China to eliminate its unfair trade practices regarding technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation, the President is directing increases in tariffs across strategic sectors such as steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries, critical minerals, solar cells, ship-to-shore cranes, and medical products.   Steel and Aluminum   The tariff rate on certain steel and aluminum products under Section 301 will increase from 0–7.5% to 25% in 2024.   Steel is a vital sector for the American economy, and American companies are leading the future of clean steel. Recently, the Biden-Harris Administration announced $6 billion for 33 clean manufacturing projects including for steel and aluminum, including the first new primary aluminum smelter in four decades, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. These investments will make the United States one of the first nations in the world to convert clean hydrogen into clean steel, bolstering the U.S. steel industry’s competitiveness as the world’s cleanest major steel producer.   American workers continue to face unfair competition from China’s non-market overcapacity in steel and aluminum, which are among the world’s most carbon intensive. China’s policies and subsidies for their domestic steel and aluminum industries mean high-quality, low-emissions U.S. products are undercut by artificially low-priced Chinese alternatives produced with higher emissions. Today’s actions will shield the U.S. steel and aluminum industries from China’s unfair trade practices.   Semiconductors   The tariff rate on semiconductors will increase from 25% to 50% by 2025.   China’s policies in the legacy semiconductor sector have led to growing market share and rapid capacity expansion that risks driving out investment by market-driven firms. Over the next three to five years, China is expected to account for almost half of all new capacity coming online to manufacture certain legacy semiconductor wafers. During the pandemic, disruptions to the supply chain, including legacy chips, led to price spikes in a wide variety of products, including automobiles, consumer appliances, and medical devices, underscoring the risks of overreliance on a few markets.   Through the CHIPS and Science Act, President Biden is making a nearly $53 billion investment in American semiconductor manufacturing capacity, research, innovation, and workforce. This will help counteract decades of disinvestment and offshoring that has reduced the United States’ capacity to manufacture semiconductors domestically. The CHIPS and Science Act includes $39 billion in direct incentives to build, modernize, and expand semiconductor manufacturing fabrication facilities as well as a 25% investment tax credit for semiconductor companies. Raising the tariff rate on semiconductors is an important initial step to promote the sustainability of these investments.   Electric Vehicles (EVs)   The tariff rate on electric vehicles under Section 301 will increase from 25% to 100% in 2024.   With extensive subsidies and non-market practices leading to substantial risks of overcapacity, China’s exports of EVs grew by 70% from 2022 to 2023—jeopardizing productive investments elsewhere. A 100% tariff rate on EVs will protect American manufacturers from China’s unfair trade practices.   This action advances President Biden’s vision of ensuring the future of the auto industry will be made in America by American workers. As part of the President’s Investing in America agenda, the Administration is incentivizing the development of a robust EV market through business tax credits for manufacturing of batteries and production of critical minerals, consumer tax credits for EV adoption, smart standards, federal investments in EV charging infrastructure, and grants to supply EV and battery manufacturing. The increase in the tariff rate on electric vehicles will protect these investments and jobs from unfairly priced Chinese imports.   Batteries, Battery Components and Parts, and Critical Minerals   The tariff rate on lithium-ion EV batteries will increase from 7.5%% to 25% in 2024, while the tariff rate on lithium-ion non-EV batteries will increase from 7.5% to 25% in 2026. The tariff rate on battery parts will increase from 7.5% to 25% in 2024.   The tariff rate on natural graphite and permanent magnets will increase from zero to 25% in 2026. The tariff rate for certain other critical minerals will increase from zero to 25% in 2024.   Despite rapid and recent progress in U.S. onshoring, China currently controls over 80 percent of certain segments of the EV battery supply chain, particularly upstream nodes such as critical minerals mining, processing, and refining. Concentration of critical minerals mining and refining capacity in China leaves our supply chains vulnerable and our national security and clean energy goals at risk. In order to improve U.S. and global resiliency in these supply chains, President Biden has invested across the U.S. battery supply chain to build a sufficient domestic industrial base. Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Defense Production Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden-Harris Administration has invested nearly $20 billion in grants and loans to expand domestic production capacity of advanced batteries and battery materials. The Inflation Reduction Act also contains manufacturing tax credits to incentivize investment in battery and battery material production in the United States. The President has also established the American Battery Materials Initiative, which will mobilize an all-of-government approach to secure a dependable, robust supply chain for batteries and their inputs.   Solar Cells   The tariff rate on solar cells (whether or not assembled into modules) will increase from 25% to 50% in 2024.   The tariff increase will protect against China’s policy-driven overcapacity that depresses prices and inhibits the development of solar capacity outside of China. China has used unfair practices to dominate upwards of 80 to 90% of certain parts of the global solar supply chain, and is trying to maintain that status quo. Chinese policies and nonmarket practices are flooding global markets with artificially cheap solar modules and panels, undermining investment in solar manufacturing outside of China.   The Biden-Harris Administration has made historic investments in the U.S. solar supply chain, building on early U.S. government-enabled research and development that helped create solar cell technologies. The Inflation Reduction Act provides supply-side tax incentives for solar components, including polysilicon, wafers, cells, modules, and backsheet material, as well as tax credits and grant and loan programs supporting deployment of utility-scale and residential solar energy projects. As a result of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, solar manufacturers have already announced nearly $17 billion in planned investment under his Administration—an 8-fold increase in U.S. manufacturing capacity, enough to supply panels for millions of homes each year by 2030.   Ship-to-Shore Cranes   The tariff rate on ship-to-shore cranes will increase from 0% to 25% in 2024.   The Administration continues to deliver for the American people by rebuilding the United States’ industrial capacity to produce port cranes with trusted partners. A 25% tariff rate on ship-to-shore cranes will help protect U.S. manufacturers from China’s unfair trade practices that have led to excessive concentration in the market. Port cranes are essential pieces of infrastructure that enable the continuous movement and flow of critical goods to, from, and within the United States, and the Administration is taking action to mitigate risks that could disrupt American supply chains. This action also builds off of ongoing work to invest in U.S. port infrastructure through the President’s Investing in America Agenda. This port security initiative includes bringing port crane manufacturing capabilities back to the United States to support U.S. supply chain security and encourages ports across the country and around the world to use trusted vendors when sourcing cranes or other heavy equipment.   Medical Products   The tariff rates on syringes and needles will increase from 0% to 50% in 2024. For certain personal protective equipment (PPE), including certain respirators and face masks, the tariff rates will increase from 0–7.5% to 25% in 2024. Tariffs on rubber medical and surgical gloves will increase from 7.5% to 25% in 2026.   These tariff rate increases will help support and sustain a strong domestic industrial base for medical supplies that were essential to the COVID-19 pandemic response, and continue to be used daily in every hospital across the country to deliver essential care. The federal government and the private sector have made substantial investments to build domestic manufacturing for these and other medical products to ensure American health care workers and patients have access to critical medical products when they need them. American businesses are now struggling to compete with underpriced Chinese-made supplies dumped on the market, sometimes of such poor quality that they may raise safety concerns for health care workers and patients.   Today’s announcement reflects President Biden’s commitment to always have the back of American workers. When faced with anticompetitive, unfair practices from abroad, the President will deploy any and all tools necessary to protect American workers and industry.  

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Claude by Anthropic 17+

The ai assistant by anthropic, anthropic pbc.

  • #99 in Productivity
  • 4.7 • 1.2K Ratings
  • Offers In-App Purchases



Get help on a variety of tasks whenever inspiration strikes—on everything from writing to analysis to math—from Claude, your trusted AI assistant. INSTANT ANSWERS With Claude you have a world of intelligence right in your pocket. Just start a chat, send Claude a photo, attach a file—and ask away. FASTER DEEP WORK Collaborate with Claude on critical tasks, brainstorming, and complex problems to make significant progress while you’re on the go. LESS BUSY WORK Claude can help draft your emails, summarize your meetings, and assist with all the small tasks you don't want to do. INTELLIGENCE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS Claude is powered by the Claude 3 model family—powerful AI models built by Anthropic—giving you instant access to knowledge on every subject. TRUSTED PARTNER Claude is designed to be reliable, accurate, and helpful. It's brought to you by Anthropic, an AI research company dedicated to building safe and dependable AI tools. Claude is free to use. If you want access to 5x more Claude usage and our most powerful model (Claude 3 Opus), consider upgrading to our paid Pro plan. Terms of Service: Privacy Policy:

Version 1.240513.0

Improvements and bug fixes

Ratings and Reviews

1.2K Ratings

Great supplement to handwritten notes

I really like to go analog when I’m doing deep thought work or taking meeting notes - I process best by writing notes by hand. It’s great to take a photo of my notes via Claude and ask the AI to suggest additional thoughts based on what I’ve written. It’s become a great tool for getting knowledge work done with just a notebook and my phone in a way that really adapts to whatever I write or sketch out. It’s also great for not having to type up my written notes, which is a huge hassle. I’m definitely enjoying the app so far! Also, I LOVE that Claude declines to answer anytime it feels a question isn’t suited for an AI answer. The transparency gives me a clearer idea of what this tech is and isn’t for in my own workflows. “I don’t know” is a wonderful response to see
Really handy with educational answers and general information. Really good at broad answers. Really like using it. Room for improvement? Specific information and memory, if that’s possible. Two things to note. One, it made up a ficticious business in an attempt to ‘be helpful’ in answering a question. When I called it out, of course Claude apologized and said it would learn from that. Next time I asked a question it didn’t have information to, it said it didn’t know. That was before I closed the app. If it’d do it again I’d yet to be seen. Two, I asked it to save a conversation thread under a file name for future reference and it said it had. But the next time I opened the app it said it had no ability to access such information. This ability would be tremendously helpful in future AI. I suppose a paid AI and personalized might have this feature but Claude does not. Still, for general education and learning it is great.

Good work + Feature Request

Nice work on the app guys. What I’d love is if you would allow the iPad version to be installed on apple silicon mac devices. The ChatGPT app disallows this currently and I really believe that Claude would appeal more to technically-savvy users (hackernews demographic certainly) if you simply flip the switch and enable your official app on macOS. Using the iPad version on macOS would be particularly tolerable for this type of application. Moreover, typical mac users would not stumble upon your app because the macOS store search is awful; you wouldn’t be dealing with complaints of how the designed-for-iPad app UX is lacking. Please consider enabling it 🙂

App Privacy

The developer, Anthropic PBC , indicated that the app’s privacy practices may include handling of data as described below. For more information, see the developer’s privacy policy .

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The following data may be collected and linked to your identity:

  • Contact Info
  • User Content
  • Identifiers
  • Diagnostics

Privacy practices may vary, for example, based on the features you use or your age. Learn More


  • Claude Pro $20.00
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The Sunday Read: ‘Why Did This Guy Put a Song About Me on Spotify?’

The answer involves a remarkable — and lucrative, and ridiculous — scheme to game the way we find music today..

By Brett Martin

Read by Eric Jason Martin

Produced by Adrienne Hurst and Aaron Esposito

Narration produced by Tanya Pérez and Krish Seenivasan

Edited by John Woo

Original music by Aaron Esposito

Engineered by Sophia Lanman and Devin Murphy

Listen and follow The Daily Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Have you heard the song “Brett Martin, You a Nice Man, Yes”?

Probably not. On Spotify, “Brett Martin, You a Nice Man, Yes” has not yet accumulated enough streams to even register a tally. Even Brett Martin, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the titular Nice Man, didn’t hear the 1 minute 14 second song until last summer, a full 11 years after it was uploaded by an artist credited as Papa Razzi and the Photogs.

When Martin stumbled on “Brett Martin, You a Nice Man, Yes,” he naturally assumed it was about a different, more famous Brett Martin: perhaps Brett Martin, the left-handed reliever who until recently played for the Texas Rangers; or Brett Martin, the legendary Australian squash player; or even Clara Brett Martin, the Canadian who in 1897 became the British Empire’s first female lawyer. Only when the singer began referencing details of stories that he made for public radio’s “This American Life” almost 20 years ago did he realize the song was actually about him. The song ended, “I really like you/Will you be my friend?/Will you call me on the phone?” Then it gave a phone number, with a New Hampshire area code.

So, he called.

There are a lot of ways to listen to ‘The Daily.’ Here’s how.

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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Isabella Anderson, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Elena Hecht, Emma Kehlbeck, Tanya Pérez, Frannie Carr Toth and Krish Seenivasan.



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