So, you’re ready to upgrade your small side hustle into a fully-fledged, full-time enterprise or turn your dream venture into a reality. It’s an exciting time, but also one where you will have an overwhelming amount of work to do and a lot of moving parts to manage.
To help make sure you don’t overlook anything in the start-up phase of your new venture, we have created a “How to start a business” checklist. From incorporation to tax numbers and building your brand identity with a domain and website, the checklist contains the steps you should take to get your business up and running.
Track your progress as you go, and you’ll be on your way to getting your company started the right way – and set up for success from the get-go!
Checklist: How to start a business
After you evaluate your business idea, research the market and your potential customer base, and determine start-up costs, you’ll be ready to take on the next steps.
From finalising your idea, to drafting a business plan and government paperwork, there’s a lot to consider.
The last thing you want is for one of these mandatory tasks to slip through the cracks.
Here’s a simple checklist to help steer you in the right direction.
- Get organised.
- Prepare your financials.
- Branding basics.
- Business best practices.
When it comes to starting a new business, preparation is key. Let’s look at what’s involved with each main step in our checklist.
1. Get organised
First things first – you’ll need to establish some ground rules for your business.
Name your business and buy a matching domain.
Even if you’re not ready to launch your company yet, it’s always a good idea to secure your domain early.
Write a business plan.
It should outline your business goals, operating procedures and target market, as well as help you identify your unique selling proposition. Not sure where to start? Check out these business plan templates.
Determine your business entity options.
Sole proprietorship? Partnership? Limited company? Research your business entity options and choose the one that works for you. If you wish to register a company, look at the CIPC website for more information.
Ask an accountant for help if you’re not sure which option is best, since each has benefits and drawbacks.
For example, incorporation is one of the most important decisions you can make and helps distinguish your personal assets from your business assets. But running as a sole proprietor has lower admin costs and requirements.
Obtain your tax number.
Get a corporate income tax number from SARS and register for VAT (if you expect your annual turnover to exceed R1 million or wish to claim VAT back on your expenses) and as an employer if necessary. An accountant or tax practitioner can help you understand the requirements.
As a self-employed sole proprietor without a formal company, you must register as a provisional tax payer. This means you will need to file an ITR12 – the annual tax return for individuals – as well as provisional returns by August 31 and February 28 each year.
Decide on a location.
Will you be working from home or looking to rent office space? Depending on your business, it might be beneficial to have both an online and offline presence. Don’t forget to factor building costs and resources into the equation.
2. Prepare your financials
Once you’ve got all the paperwork in order, it’s time to start thinking about money.
Set up a business bank account.
It’s important to set up an account just for your business – one that’s separate from your personal finances.
Get experts on your side.
Consider hiring a professional accountant (formal companies will need an accountant to do the books) or tax practitioner (a great option for provisional taxpayers). Their expertise could come in handy throughout the life of your new venture.
Obtain necessary business insurance.
As your business grows, having the right insurance in place could save you heartache and cash. The options are complex, so speak to a broker or your insurance company for help.
3. Branding basics
Before you can welcome customers, you’ll need to make sure your business’s identity is solid. Using your business domain as a starting point, keep these considerations in mind when creating a consistent presence.
Set up a professional email address.
A professional email address shows customers that you’re serious about your business by attaching email to your new domain. It establishes credibility and strengthens your brand.
Get a logo.
Create a logo and use it on business cards, letterheads and across your website for a streamlined identity. Don’t have time to design one yourself? Get a beautiful creation with GoDaddy’s logo design service.
Launch a website.
Whether you’re starting an e-commerce venture or simply need a stunning site to display business information, a website is a must-have in today’s digital world. Here’s the start-to-finish guide for creating your first website.
Pro tip: If you’re already taking on too many tasks, leave the web design to a professional. With GoDaddy’s Website Design Service, you can unveil a mobile-friendly site in as a little as seven business days.
Set up your business’s social profiles.
Whether or not you’re ready to start engaging on social media, you’ll want to set up an account for your business across multiple platforms. That way, when you are ready to start tweeting, sharing, posting and more, your social identity will match your business name.
Create a marketing strategy.
Much like establishing a business plan, you’ll want to outline some ideas for marketing success before you take your products or services to market. Consider using social media to generate new leads or other advertising methods to bring traffic to your doorstep.
4. Business best practices
To succeed as a new start-up, you’ll want to position your business as a reliable, credible entity. To inspire trust and encourage visitors to act, consider these best practices.
Define business policies.
Clearly define any and all policies in easy-to-understand language. Make sure they’re visible on your site and easy for customers to access.
Craft sound contracts (if needed) for your business ahead of time.
Setting straightforward guidelines and expectations benefits your business, your employees and your customers.
Make contact information easily accessible.
Make sure your contact information is readily displayed across your website, as well as your official operating business hours.
Offer social proof.
Include customer testimonials on your website. Testimonials are a great form of social proof, and they provide unique and trustworthy insight into your products, services or business.
How to start a business: Checklist tips
Here are some special features you’ll find as you go through the checklist:
Take time to review the background steps you need to take before starting a business, including establishing business goals, determining the best location for your business, and assessing your financial situation.
Make sure you align with the requirements of entities like SARS and the CIPC.
After you get a domain, move down the checklist for ideas on how to create a website, business cards and logo. These branding basics can make a strong first impression to future customers.
You’ll find a rundown of essential start-up business transactions, such as hiring a lawyer, establishing a line of credit and obtaining business insurance.
There’s a lot to do when you start a business. By laying the proper foundation ahead of time, you can bring your new venture to life with confidence. Remember, it isn’t necessary to tackle all these steps in one weekend – rather, take your time and build your business with care. Once you’ve established a steady cadence, you can add new tactics, like email marketing and a business blog, to secure even more customers.
This article has been adapted from an original piece by Jennifer Friedman.