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

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.

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How to start a business

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:

Is starting a business worth it?

Many business owners would say, yes. Business ownership can mean profit as well as some degree of financial stability. Moreover, for small business owners it offers the opportunity to escape the confines of a 9-to-5 job that may not bring you happiness or fulfillment.

That said, starting a business isn't without it's share of challenges - from launching a profitable idea, to securing funding, to managing a business, it all takes time, resources and a lot of hard work. Not all businesses succeed. Before launching your business make sure to be very clear about your goals and timeline for achieving them.

More popular business ideas to consider

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.

how to start a business - market research

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:

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.

how to start a business - how to develop a business plan

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:

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."

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

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."

how to start a business - branding

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.

start a business - make a business website

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.

Business website templates

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 collect payments online 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.

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:

  1. Brainstorm and refine your business idea

  2. Conduct market and competitor research

  3. Pick a business name

  4. Write up a business plan

  5. Choose a legal structure for your business

  6. Secure business capital and funding

  7. Register your business and make it official

  8. Apply for tax IDs, licenses and permits

  9. Apply for business insurance

  10. Organize your finances

  11. Brand your business

  12. Create a professional business website

  13. Market and promote your business

  14. Build a team

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?

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