9 Tips to Legitimize Your Small Business

Please note: These steps will get you in the right direction to setting up a scalable business, but you should consult with a reputable accountant and attorney before making any business decisions.  This information should not be considered legal advice.

From the last few years of experience, below are my favorite vendors to use when launching a new business.  These methods are all very cost effective, yet still scalable for when your business hopefully takes off.  Good luck!

1. Get a Logo Designed – 99 Designs (~$400)

Vendor: 99Designs

  • Post a logo project and give as much direction as possible to the prospective designers
  • BE ACTIVE give feedback as often as possible on designer submissions, active projects get much more designer competition
  • Don’t be afraid to give strong criticism to designers, and make sure to submit a rating for every design.

2. Register Your Domain and Hosting – Namecheap (~$6/mo)

Vendor: NameCheap

  • Strongly .COM and not .ly, .net, etc
  • Choose as short of a domain as possible
  • Add Namecheap’s WhoisGuard to protect your domain registration info from spammers.  It’s only $3 per year.
  • If you simply need an informational website, simply sign up for Namecheap’s $4/mo shared hosting plan.  If you have a database intensive website, you should seek consultation for a more powerful server solution.

3. Set up your business e-mail – Google Apps (free)

Vendor: Google

4. Incorporate and Trademark your company – Trademarkia (~$700)

Vendor: Trademarkia

  • You should consider trademarking both your company name, and separately trademarking your company logo, icon, or other marks.  Please seek legal advice on this.
  • Seek legal/accounting advice on whether an LLC, C Corp, S Corp, or other type of incorporation method will be right for you.
  • Seek legal advice on what state you should incorporate in.  Keep in mind that if you choose a state that you do not have active mailing address in, you will have to pay an annual fay for a registered agent service.
  • Make sure to save and backup a PDF copy of your articles of incorporation, and any other formal documents.

5. Register your EIN (free)

Vendor: IRS

  • Make sure to use your business address, or a permanent address when getting your EIN.  Most banks will require that your mailing address matches the address on your EIN document.
  • Make sure to save an electronic copy (backed up!) of your official EIN document.  You will need this to open a bank account.

6. Get a Business Bank Account (free)

Vendor: Bank of America

  • You can waive your monthly fee by using your business checking debit card once per month (Set it up as the payment method for your web hosting)
  • Use the Bank of America iPhone app to deposit checks from your phone

7. Get a Website Design Template ($~50)

Vendor: Themeforest

No need to pay thousands of dollars for a custom website design if you are just starting out.  Use a theme database like ThemeForest and get an awesome WordPress design template for less then $50.

  • Make sure you choose a WordPress template.
  • Choose something simple.  Complex themes have a lot of content sections you will not use, and you will have to pay your freelance developer to remove or hide those unwanted sections
  • Before buying a template, read the comments on the template and see if the author is responsive to questions.  This can come in handy later if you make a request for improvements.

8. Find a Freelancer to Launch your Website (~$400-$1000)

Vendor: Odesk

  • Post a project on Odesk asking for a PHP programmer with WordPress experience
  • Pay rates ranging from $10-$15 per hour are reasonable for a WordPress freelancer
  • In the project posting, specifically ask developer to send a link to the best wordpress site they have developed (and to only ONE site, not a massive list).  Most developers won’t read your special request, so you can quickly hide their applications.
  • Install WordPress on your Namecheap hosting account.  Instructions here.
  • Send the developer your ThemeForest template files.
  • Create a google doc with tasks, and share it with your developer
  • When giving feedback to any developer, use a screenshot tool to effectively communicate changes you request.

9. Bookkeeping, Expense Tracking, and Invoicing (free to start)

Vendor: Freshbooks

  • Get started with a basic account for free
  • When tracking expenses, use the spreadsheet import function to save time
  • Accept credit card payments for invoices.  Well worth the ~3% fees to save hours of time processing paper checks


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