How to Start a Business in 15 Steps

How to start a business

This post was last updated on June 8, 2021.

When it comes to starting a business, you’ve got to learn how to navigate an ecosystem of multi-layered tasks with remarkable precision. From forming an idea to creating a website and promoting your brand, there are several essential steps for launching your venture.

Though this may seem like a lot to take on, outlining your strategy ahead of time will help you tackle challenges as they come and progress smoothly toward your goals. For this reason, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about how to start a business to help you begin this transformative experience.

How to start a business

  1. Brainstorm and refine your business idea

  2. Pick a business name

  3. Create a professional website

  4. Conduct market research

  5. Write up a business plan

  6. Build a pitch deck

  7. Choose a legal structure

  8. Secure capital and cash flow

  9. Check out competitors

  10. Brand your business

  11. Make your business official

  12. Apply for tax IDs, licenses and permits

  13. Set up an accounting system

  14. Build a strong team

  15. Market your business

Are you ready to start a business?

Before you launch your business, take a moment and make sure you’re fully prepared to begin this process.

Throughout life, you may have already flirted with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, whether as a youth testing an early business idea, coming up with a business idea that's one of a kind, or as your present-day self creating stepping stones to reach the next level. Starting a business is attractive because it means achieving professional growth, pursuing long-awaited goals, developing new skills and overcoming challenges.

While there are many benefits to starting a business, you also need to be prepared for the realities that may follow. Even the world’s top industry leaders experience hard times, becoming valuable lessons for the rest of us. That’s why I want you to truly feel equipped before beginning the journey of entrepreneurship.

Here’s six signs that show you’re ready:

  • You’re passionate about the new venture

Like love that drives romantic relationships, being passionate about your business translates to one thing: an inclusive desire to see it succeed. Make sure you’re excited about your new idea, as this will help you push through any obstacles along the way.

  • You truly believe in your idea

There’ll be moments when it feels like no one else understands how important your business idea really is. But you've got to be a firm believer in your product or service in order to keep going and not let anything or anyone hold you back.

  • You’re prepared to face the fear of failure

About 20% of small businesses fail within the first year, found the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as reported by Fundera. This is a more slightly positive statistic than one might imagine, as 80% will continue into their second year. That said, having a plan for your business is one of the best ways to overcome the risk of failure.

  • You’re ready to keep learning

Starting a business sounds pretty good when you think about how you’ll finally get to be your own boss. But becoming the gatekeeper of the entire enterprise shouldn’t deter you from learning anything new again. Rather, you’ll see that there is always more work to be done, so spend the time to research and learn about all aspects of your industry.

  • You’re able to secure financing

Whether you’ve anticipated and saved money for this life-changing moment or are qualified to get a small business loan, the biggest part of running a business long-term is securing cash flow. With a solid financial plan in place, you can reach for the stars. Perhaps you’ll want to schedule a free consultation with a local financial advisor for further insight. Seeking out experts to help you with this stage is crucial.

  • You can manage your own time

When you start your own business, you’ve got to wear many hats. With all the multitasking you have to juggle, it may feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to actually get everything done. Planning your week ahead helps you organize your work better, and with these time management tips, you'll make starting a business go much smoother.

The ways to tell that you're ready to start a business

01. Brainstorm and refine your business idea

Having a great business idea is the reason why you decided to strike out on your own and start a business in the first place. The eureka effect gives us adrenaline and makes us feel like we might be part of something bigger than ourselves.

Still, keep in mind that most ideas require money, time and may even come with potential risk. You’ll need to refine and test your idea to make sure it’s a viable option. If you’re concerned about the cash, explore these examples of low-budget online business ideas that you can start right away.

Business idea examples

Open a dropshipping business

When considering how to start a business on a budget, dropshipping is a great way to go. That’s because it's a type of retail fulfillment that lets you sell products without needing to manage your own inventory. In other words, your main job will be to market the products and make sales. The rest will be taken care of by third-party suppliers. If you’re interested in having a dropshipping business, start by connecting with dropshipping suppliers and choosing your products. Next, add those items to your online store so that customers can purchase online. Once they check out, you’ll forward the purchasing information to the supplier, who will then ship and fulfill the order. With dropshipping, the most important thing to figure out is what to sell. There are people who might advise you to sell what you know, but I believe the secret to sales success is selling products that you love. This will result in keeping both you and your clients positively engaged with your business.

Dropshipping as a business idea

Sell print on demand items Starting a print on demand business involves working with a supplier who’ll take your own designs, print them on blank items, such as t-shirts and mugs, and ship the orders. This is a great way to put your own spin on everyday products and sell them online. For artists and designers, it’s a viable way to start monetizing your creativity.

You can also use print on demand to expand on existing business ideas. For instance, if you start an online business, you can sell company gear with your own logo side-by-side your main products. This is yet another idea for making money online, and can help you strengthen your brand identity.

Print on demand as a business idea

Offer professional services

There are two sides of a business coin - products and services. If you opt to start a service business rather than selling products, you’ll essentially be monetizing your talents and expertise.

Begin by choosing a service business idea - this could be a fitness trainer, copywriter, life coach or carpenter - and then, create a service website to sell your offerings. You can even let clients book directly through your site using an online scheduling software.

Starting a professional service business

Define your purpose

Are you inspired by these examples? I suggest you take a step back to pause and consider the motivation behind your choice. While it’s always good to know what you want to launch and for whom, it’s equally important to ask yourself why you should.

To start, here’s a question for you to answer now, “Is your idea serving a personal or marketplace purpose?” While it’s important to choose an idea that’s in line with your passions, it’s also crucial that there’s market demand for your product or service. In order for your business idea to thrive, you must think of it in terms of scalability and long-term need for it by those of your target market.

Test it out

Before moving forward with your business idea, you’ll want to validate it by trying it out in the real world. This can involve anything from focus groups to information-gathering surveys and interviews.

Another strategy is to build a landing page for your target audience and to see whether you get any clicks. This is not only low-cost, but can also help you measure consumer demand in your marketplace and generate interest in your product idea.

If you find that your idea doesn’t pique the interest of prospective clients, it’s time to reassess other choices. Consider how you can refine and refresh your idea to bring something new to the table, or how you can adapt it to more directly address consumer needs.

02. Pick a business name

Feeling satisfied with your business idea? The next step is to come up with a business name.

This is one of the most crucial and potentially challenging steps of starting a business. First, your business’s name will show up wherever your business goes, influencing your marketing and branding efforts down the line. Second, the right name will create a stronger first impression on potential clients.

Getting help from a business name generator to name a business

Now that I’ve elevated the importance of getting the business name right, I’d also like to help ease your mind with these tried and tested methods for finding yours:

Use a business name generator

A business name generator can help you brainstorm some initial ideas. Think of a word or two that best describes your venture, and then type it into the tool. During this step, I advise you to use descriptive terms that communicate what you want your business to represent, such as “fast,” “bright” or “innovative.”

Afterwards, you can narrow down the choices by performing some market research and seeing what competitors are naming themselves. This will help you assess the overall personality and tone of other brands in your industry. You can check out these best company names for further insight.

Make it memorable

“Unforgettable, that's what you are…” sang the great Nat King Cole. I’d say this powerful opener can also inspire budding entrepreneurs to develop a business name that leaves an indelible imprint on the mind. The key is to make it short and simple, so that customers won’t forget who you are and will remember how to find you.

Pick a name that’s scalable

I don’t believe in fortune tellers, but there’s a method for choosing a name that can actually grow with your business. You need to consider all the potential pathways your business could take in the near future. This may mean a change in geographic location, niche or product offering. Then, you might realize that naming your business after a place, specificity or product type could potentially limit you when you want to expand. While your name should be specific enough to reflect your brand, it shouldn’t be so specific as to restrict your offering.

Tell your story

Stories express universal ideas that others can relate to, helping form bonds between people. In the same line, incorporating your brand story into your business name can stir certain emotions in your audience, thereby attracting customers. The iconic Irish Spring deodorant soap, for example, has a business name that evokes the scene of an idyllic Irish village or forest. While the company was originally launched in Germany, its name - and the story it evokes - inspires consumers to buy the product.

Check that it’s available

Business owners need to think about the legal issues of their company name. You’ll need to make sure that no one else has registered your desired business name, which you can check by doing a quick search on the US Trademark Electronic Search System. Taking this step will let you see if any trademark has already been registered for another business or related products or services.

There’s also another point to consider when checking the availability of your business name: eventually, you’ll want to build a website for your business. Because your domain name (also known as your online address) will most likely be the same as your business name, you’ll need to make sure it’s available. To check the domain availability of your business name, do a domain name search. For more information on creating a website and choosing a domain name, read through the section below.

Conduct a domain name search

03. Create a professional website

With more people online than ever before, having a strong website is an absolute must for starting a business. Likewise, prospective clients, investors and partners are going to check out your website, so it’s an opportunity for you to build a strong first impression of your brand. With this mind, take a look at these small business website design tips to guide you:

Find a business website template

Begin building your site by choosing a professionally designed business website template and customizing it to meet your needs and cater to your customers. From technology and real estate to finance and law, browse through the different categories of templates for your business. Consider what you want your website to express and how the layout will serve your business’s goals. For inspiration, check out the best business websites of the past year.

Business website templates