You're not the only one who feels the way you do... especially as a NEWBIE entrepreneur!
When I first started taking myself and the words "I am a business owner" seriously, I didn't know where to start. I felt like a fraud at times because I didn't have the type of credentials other business owners had, there was no structure or systems in place, I was still collecting payments on my personal account, I was working for free because I was too nice, and most importantly I was missing out on all the tax benefits other entrepreneurs received for running a legit business. I felt like a HOT MESS!
There really isn't a textbook definition on how to become an entrepreneur, but there are steps that you can take to be recognized as one. Just because you didn't have everything in order when you started doesn't mean you are failing. Now is the time to get yourself together. Here's a startup guide with 7 ways on how to establish a legit business that will help you gain the confidence you need to keep pushing forward.
1. Trademark your business name.
Trademarking is something EVERY new start-up should know about. This investment towards your business, keeps people from stealing your idea... AND CUSTOMERS! Yes, it is possible for someone else to register and own your business name, logo, or any other customized mark used to identify your brand. As an entrepreneur, you don't want to spend time and money building and marketing your business only to have someone else take the credit, confuse your customers and take business from you. Learn more about trademarking by visiting www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics and apply online or speak with a Trademark Attorney that can help with your application.
2. Register your business type.
Registering your business is not mandatory for everyone, however it does give some legal protection to your business asset should you have any personal liabilities. This is the registration you are asked to make when getting your EIN. If your business is not registered but you file taxes for it, the government will just consider your business entity as a sole proprietorship. Visit Small Business Administration website for a list of registrations you can use for your business type.
3. Write off your business expenses.
Experiencing tax deductions aka "tax write-offs" is one of the perks for being an entrepreneur. You've probably heard this phrase a hundred times and it's not something limited only to established businesses and wealthy people. A tax write off reduces the amount you owe Uncle Sam for operating in the United States regardless of your status. In order to write-off business expenses, you have to be in business to make a profit. Here are a few expenses you can write-off:
Education and Training
Rent and Lease
Employee Benefits (such as health insurance)
Meals and Entertainment
Every small business wants to save money and most business expenses are deductible, either fully or partially. To find out how you can maximize your deductions, it's best to talk to a tax professional like your accountant.
4. Open a business bank account.
Having a bank account dedicated specifically for your business will make it easier to manage your business transactions. It's less stressful to do it this way then combining it with your personal finances. You can open a business checking account at your local bank or try a more convenient option like online banking with companies like Bluevine that offer no monthly fees for small businesses. Also, establishing a bank relationship will also give you the opportunity to get approved for your first business loan. Aside from that, opening a business bank account is an obvious proof that you are a LEGIT business.
5. Build credit with a DUNS number
A DUNS number is what you use to establish your business credit and give information to help confirm your company's creditworthiness as a customer. Having one is truly how you separate your credit background and is beneficial if you are starting off as a Newbie entrepreneur with poor credit history. You can use your DUNS to open business accounts with different vendors or suppliers, to run your business. These purchases could be considered business expenses and can be written off when you file taxes. Meet with a tax professional who can further offer more information on how to file as such.
6. Build an online presence.
Building an online presence requires a lot of work. This is how you really begin cultivating your relationship with your customers to secure brand loyalty for your business. After you build your website, figure out which social media platforms your customers are most likely using and engage with them there. Plan and design a strategy to redirect them to your user-friendly website that is recognizable and easy to navigate. Also, start your email list to stay in touch often. Do not solely rely on your social media accounts or any other online platform to communicate with your customers, because you DO NOT OWN IT!...However, you do own your website.
7. Be patient and consistent.
Patience is a virtue that will benefit you as a small business owner, because branding is not a one time thing you do and forget about it. It's an ongoing process and to build a LEGIT business you need to engage your customers CONSISTENTLY! Marketing your brand will need you to connect and acknowledge questions about your business, recognize and respond to feedback, comment on social media posts, share and like content that relates to your brand and customers and a lot more. With the help of a brand designer and strategist, this can be done.
Remember, everything is a process. You may feel like a mess now, but who doesn't from time to time. Don't get stuck and lose the momentum you had that excited you in the beginning to start your own business. You now have the creative direction to get out of that messy mindset.