Small Business Tools: Get Started

Sometimes the details of starting and running a business are a little boring. Actually, a lot of the details are boring. But they’re really important and if you do them well, you can present your business as a professional, legitimate company far sooner than you may actually feel that way. 

This week’s installment of our Small Business Tools series is focused on all of the little details of getting your business up and running. We've broken it down into two phases: Bare Bones and Get Legit. 

BARE BONES

You’re just starting or have been working the side hustle for a few months. You are ready to call it a real business but you’re not letting go of that DIY attitude - these tips are for you: 

Get incorporated - Obviously you have to register a business to start a business. Whether you choose LLC, Partnership, non profit or others, this step is necessary for obtaining a business bank account, filing taxes and all that fun stuff. You can find more details on officially starting and registering your business here

Buy a domain name - Even if you’re not quite ready to launch your website, go ahead and buy your domain name. It’s inexpensive ($15-ish per year) and will ensure you have the right URL once you’re ready to launch a web presence. Personally, I’ve been a big fan of iwantmyname.com for domain purchase. There are lots of sites out there though and many website building sites that have domain purchasing and hosting built in (for example, Squarespace makes this super easy).

Set up an e-mail address - One of the ways to set yourself apart as a professional business early on is to have an e-mail address through your domain name. No more @gmail.com! Google Apps for Business is an easy and affordable way to set this up. Your e-mail will look just like your gmail platform but connect to your domain name. It’s roughly $5 per month for this simple service.

Set up a simple website - You might not be ready for a comprehensive web presence yet, but there’s no reason you can’t set up a beautiful one page site where you introduce your business and include contact information. There are some really amazing sites out there that help you do this. Some of our favorites: 

  • Squarespace: Our favorite web platform to date. Mobile responsive, easy to navigate, and affordable. Oh and integrates with Google Apps seamlessly! 
  • Strikingly: A great option for short and sweet websites. 
  • Shopify: The best platform for a robust online shop. Loads of options and upgrades - including selling in person with a card reader.
  • Big Cartel: A great option for slightly smaller shops that don't need quite as many options. 

Get Money - The best part about starting your own business is that you (hopefully) are getting paid! With that comes a few new responsibilities, like money management and taxes. A few services that are affordable and helpful early on:

  • Freshbooks: Easy accounting software for small businesses for only $10 a month. 
  • Invoicing: Not ready for accounting software but want an easy way to have clients to pay you? Both Paypal and Square offer professional invoicing options for a 2-3% fee. 

GET LEGIT

You’ve been in business for a little while and now you are ready to take to the next level. At this phase, there are a few professional services we think are worth investing in:

A professional brand - Obviously we are huge believers in the power of thoughtful brand strategy. To us, it should be tied directly to your business strategy and will help you map a path towards accomplishing your goals. In addition, having a brand guide in your tool kit will set you up to create all sorts of branded documents and graphics in-house. A brand guide can empower your DIY attitude by giving you a cohesive structure. 

Accounting - One of the biggest regrets a lot of small businesses have is not hiring an accountant sooner. One of our favorite local accountants is Chris O'Keefe in Richmond. He will help you do your taxes correctly, save you money in the long run, and you can even make an appointment with him online!

Lawyers - Turns out, lawyers are really awesome to have around when you’re running a small business. From reviewing contracts to protecting intellectual property, at some point you’ll need one. Two of our favorite RVA lawyers are Justin Laughter of Threshold Counsel and Caroline Fox. Both Justin and Caroline work with lots of small, creative businesses in the area.

Finance - At some point you might find your business needs more financial insight and regular structure than just a CPA. We recommend looking into a fractional CFO like The Fahrenheit Group.

Business Planning - If you're in need of comprehensive strategic business plan and forecasting services, Eric Glymph at Edge Business Planning is your guy. His passion for spreadsheets is next level. 

Nonprofits - Strategy and facilitation guru Sarah Milston of The Spark Mill is the expert on planning and excelling in the nonprofit business world. 

Okay so maybe it was a little boring but it wasn't nearly as terrifying as you thought right? We knew it! We started Campfire & Co while road tripping across the US and now we are two years in with a team of 4 and we just won our first interior design award! Great things can happen when you power through the boring to share your vision with the world.

Let us know if you have any great resources to add to our list!