Start Your Home Business in a Month: Week Two

Home Business Startup Week Two: Putting In the Foundation of Your Home Business

building blocks to business
Put the building blocks of your home business in place. George Paul | Getty Images

This is the second part of a four-part series on starting a home business in a month. If you missed the first week, which is all about planning, you can review it here:

Start Your Home Business in a Month: The First Week

Once you’ve done your research, chosen a business to start and made your plans, it’s time to put the foundation in place. During this second week, you’ll take care of all the legal and set-up tasks to get your business up and running.

Day 8: Set Up Your Business Structure

Don’t let this step scare you. Establishing a business structure doesn’t have to be hard. There are several structures you can consider.

Sole Proprietorship: A sole proprietorship is the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to start your business. It doesn’t require any paperwork or cost. However, in a sole proprietorship, you and your business are viewed as a single entity, which can put your personal assets (i.e. home) at risk if you’re sued.

Limited Liability Company (LLC): A safer business form is a limited liability company (LLC), which sets up your business separate from you. If you hire a lawyer or use a legal resource, it can cost several hundred dollars, plus the fee your state charges. Or, you can do it yourself. Nolo offers several books on what’s required.

Partnership: If there’s more than one of you involved in the business, you’ll want to set up a partnership, which is more expensive and involved, but crucial to protecting all partners.

Day 9: Obtain Needed Permits and Licenses

This is another area many would-be home business owners feel overwhelmed about, but it’s not hard or complicated. In fact, most, if not all, of these issues can be taken care of online.

There are several types of permits or licenses you may need, including:

Business License: Odds are your city or county’s official website has information for businesses including permits and licenses.

If not, you can call or visit your local city or county’s government office for information and details.

Sales Tax Permit: If you sell tangible goods (stuff you can hold in your hand), and your state charges sale tax, you’ll need to collect and pay sales tax on your items. Check your state’s tax or comptroller’s office online for information. You’ll probably be able to sign up for the permit online.

Occupational Permit or License: Depending on the business you run, you may need an occupational permit. These are supplied by states that regulate certain businesses. For example, you may need a license to run a day care out of your home. Typical regulated businesses include day and elder care, financial businesses, grooming (i.e. hair stylists or pet grooming), and food and beverage creation and sales. Check your state’s website for information on occupational licenses.

Fictitious Name Statement (Doing Business As or Assumed Name): If your business name is something other than your given name, your city or county may ask you to file a fictitious name statement, sometimes called doing business as or assumed name statement to let residents of your area know about your business. This is often done through your local city or county clerk’s office.

Employer Identification Number: This isn’t required in all business types, but it’s free and can help keep your business separate from your personal life. If you have employees, you’ll definitely need one. Visit the IRS online for details on whether or not you need Employer Identification Number (EIN) and how to get one.One advantage to getting one, is the ability to use your businesses number, instead of your social security number, in your business-related activities (i.e. filling out a W-9) that require a federal ID number.

Business Bank Account: Once all this is set up, it’s time to open a business bank account.

Even if you run your business as a sole proprietor, you’ll want a separate account for business. The IRS is a stickler for not comingling personal and business funds.

Day 10: Set Up Your Home Office Including Billing, Invoice, Money Management etc

Setting up your work space can be fun. Just make sure you have adequate lighting, comfortable furniture, and the tools and equipment needed to do the job.

Along with establishing a place to work, you need to set up your work systems, one of the most important of which is billing and accounts receivable. There are many computer-based and online accounting/bookkeeping tools you can use.  Don’t forget to consider your payment policies, such as when payment is due and any penalties for late payment.

Day 11: Create Logos, Fliers, Biz Cards, etc

Once your structure and licenses are in place, you’re officially in business. The next step is to create your business image and put together marketing tools to promote your business. Like your business name, your logo should represent the theme, tone and nature of your business. Once created, it should appear on all your marketing materials including business cards, websites, social media etc.

The types of printed marketing materials you create will depend much on the business you run. At the very least, you should have a business card. They’re cheap and easy to hand out. Other printed marketing materials you may want to consider are fliers and brochures.

Day 12: Build Your Website

Even if your business is local, you absolutely need a website. Think of the last time you used your phonebook to find business information. Odds are you used the Internet instead. So will your potential clients and customers. Not only is a website a way for them to find you, but most people now research businesses before contacting them, which means if you don’t have an online presence, people can’t learn about you.

You’re actually getting two days to build your website. It sounds daunting, but today, it’s easier than ever to do. If you can create word processing documents, you can build a website.

There are many options for building a website. My recommendation is to buy a domain (which you should have done day six during the first week), web hosting services and use WordPress to build your site. You can have the framework of a website set up within an hour. After that, it’s all about customizing the look with themes, and adding your business information. At the very least you want information about what you do and offer, and how to contact you.

Day 13: Finish Your Website

On day 12, you put in the foundation, a first-draft, of your website. Day two is about improving the website, fleshing it out, and making sure all the needed content is there and it’s easy to navigate. Include meta tags so that search engines can find it. Because the Internet is more visual than ever, include pictures and video.

Day 14: Create an Email List including Freebie

Too many newbie home business owners put off starting an email list until later. That’s a big mistake. Of all the marketing tasks that can boost sales, the email list is the most important. So set it up from the start.

The first step in setting up an email list is deciding your free offer; what to give away in exchange for people giving you their name and email. The easiest offer is a report. Simply type up a how-to or report that gives something of value, convert it to PDF, and upload it to your server. Other options include video tutorials and consults.

Once your free offer is ready, you’ll want to sign up for a list service to manage delivery of the offer as well as the ability to send other email. List services also take care of CAN-SPAM issues and unsubscribe requests. MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers, making it a popular choice. Other email list service options include Aweber and Constant Contact.

Signing up is easy and once you do, you can create a list that includes welcome email, the link to your freebie and more. Add the sign-up form your website and then take good care of all the people who join your list.

You’ve made it to the end of week two. You have your business foundation in place. In week three, you’ll begin marketing your business.

If you're ready, here are your week three home business activities.