By Melanie Saunders
With the latest craze of online and web-based businesses, finding information about how to get started in setting up and running a new local business can be hard to come by. From advertising and marketing to store-front rental and licensing, the information can be overwhelming. There are also many things that you will need to do differently than if you were planning on opening an online store, and they can be a bit more complicated. At the same time, there are certain businesses that need to work on a local level rather than online, and always will be. We’ve put together some information to help you get your new local business up and running.
Decide on Your Business
You may have already done this. There are going to be two basic types of local businesses, and you’ll need to decide on your business model: are you going to have a store front, or provide a service at other people’s locations? If you’re going to have a store or a restaurant, you need to consider things like area traffic, zoning, and competitors. If you’re opting for a service-based business, you need to make sure that there is a demand for the service in your area.
It’s not always as simple as hanging out a shingle and taking customers. In many places, you need to have a license to provide many services. Businesses like mechanics, cosmetologists, and home health workers may need to be licenses before they can begin working. Other industries such as home repairs or house cleaning may require that you purchase insurance before you can begin working in people’s homes. Still others, such as food service or other hospitality industries may have many other regulations you need to abide by. Make sure you understand these hurdles before you start your business, or you may wind up closing shop sooner than you expected.
Write Your Plan
While it’s certainly possible to start a business without a plan in place, it’s not a very good idea. Having a well-written business plan will help you stay focused and measure progress as you grow. A business plan is the basic road-map for how you intend to get from an idea in your head to making a tidy profit. If you need help, consider contracting with a writer who specializes in business plans.
Register Your Business
Once you’ve made sure that you have all the appropriate licenses and permits in place, you will need to register your business. You will need to make sure that you register and receive a tax ID for reporting your tax revenue, and many places make you register with the local chamber of commerce as well. While it may seem like a hassle, registering your business can also help protect your personal assets and family if something goes wrong. Your business becomes a separate legal entity, an as such, no one can come after you personally.
Open a Separate Bank Account
It’s critical that you make a point to separate your personal and business finances from the very beginning. This will help you at tax time, so you aren’t trying to sort out your business-related expenses from your household expenses. Before you collect any money from customers, you need to be sure that you have an accurate accounting system and that you don’t mix the expenses for the two.
The good news is that local advertising is becoming much simpler with social media. These word-of-mouth platforms are a great way for people to spread the word about a business, and it costs nothing to have a customer leave a recommendation. You of course will want to list your business in the local directory, and make sure that customers know how to contact you. If you have a store-front, some paid advertising on the radio or in local papers may be helpful, but for most service-based professions like house cleaners or landscapers, you’re going to drum up more business with satisfied customers than any other way.
Opening a local business doesn’t end when you’ve found a few customers. Perhaps the most overlooked part of opening a business is the customer service; once you’re up and running, getting your customers to keep coming back will be the difference between running a successful operation, and shutting down before you really get off the ground.
Photo credit: Business owner outside shop from Money Business Images/Shutterstock