If you've already read Part One of this week's blog series on all of the things you should think about and work on before leaving your 9-to-5 to pursue your business full-time, welcome back!
Now that you've read through the five actionable steps you can take to build your business to the point of sustainability, now it's time to chat through all of the bases you should have covered before taking that big leap.
I'm going to break these bases down into five separate areas – finance, legal, branding, marketing and operations – with bulleted action items for each area of your business. And yes – it's OK and totally normal if you feel overwhelmed by this post. I've been there!
1. Finance to-dos
• Open a business bank account: who will you bank with, what are the associated account fees, which bank branch is most convenient for you?
• Consider your start-up costs: will your business require you to "spend money to make money," are are you starting with fairly low overhead? Calculate this and plan to save up if needed.
• Plan for withholding income for taxes: as a business owner, your taxes aren't going to magically come out of your paycheck! Make a plan to withhold the necessary amount of income each month to pay for future taxes, and educate yourself on the ins and outs of small business taxes.
• Invest in an invoicing system: if you're a service-based business owner like me, invoicing your clients is necessary. Research online payment and invoicing systems and any fees associated with them. Personally, I use Wave and love it!
• Hire an accountant: this is the biggest one for me. I knew that I didn't want to run into any issues with the IRS (ah, scary!) down the road, so I invested in an accountant from day one. You'll feel less stressed about doing your taxes and can rest assured that they'll be done right.
2. Legal to-dos
• Have your contracts reviewed: as a service-based business, I rely on contracts to solidify every client project that I take on. To ensure that your contract is bulletproof and will fully protact your business, consider having a lawyer take a look over it and revise as-needed.
• Register your business legally in your place of residence: we went over this in Part One, but I can't say it enough – make your business legit and legal ASAP! Whether you choose an LLC, Sole Proprietorship, Corporation or other business type, setting your business up legally from day one is key.
• Set up a separate business filing system: I don't know about you, but I've ventured through adulthood I've accumulated a lot of paperwork. With that in mind, keep a separate folder in your desk for your business and legal documents so that they never get misplaced or tossed.
3. Branding to-dos
• Name your business: this may seem like a no-brainer, but naming your business is one of the most important steps in launching! Choosing Lindsay Scholz LLC was easy for me, but what if you want to operate under something other than your own name? Research thoroughly to ensure that another business with the same name doesn't already exist, and choose one that radiates your core values.
• Launch your website and brand identity: once you name your business, this is where the fun begins. I fully believe that businesses should have a website and brand identity crafted before they launch. Not only does this set you up for success, but it also gives a face to who you are as a business owner. Invest in a Squarespace site, buy your personalized domain name and consider hiring a designer to develop a brand identity that will last you for years to come.
• Order business cards: call me old fashioned, but I still love business cards and think that they're an important part of running a business. Once you have your brand and website live, order business cards to have on hand for networking events or business opportunities that may pop up on a whim.
4. Marketing to-dos
• TALK ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS: I really do hate using all caps, but felt that this was necessary. Leading up to taking my business full-time, I didn't really share about it too much. I kept it to myself, hoping that it would somehow magically grow that way. Looking back, I wish I had been more open about it! So, once you feel comfortable enough, make a plan to share your side hustle with the world. This could be in a Facebook post, an Instagram post or a quick email to your subscribers list. Put your business out into the world, and your ideal clients and customers will follow.
• Own your social handles: once you name your business, one of the first things you should do is make sure the Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and (maybe!) Twitter handles are available for your business. If they are, grab them ASAP! Begin posting consistently when you feel comfortable and begin building your platform and audience.
• Build an email list: y'know those social audiences I just mentioned? You don't own them. But if you build an email list from day one, you will be able to call those subscribers your own. Platforms like MailChimp will allow you automate your email marketing for free!
• Join relevant Facebook groups: until this year I wasn't big on Facebook groups, but they've lead to several meaningful connections and business leads! Check out business-focused groups that appeal to you and see if they're a good fit. You never know when someone may be seeking your services or product at just the right moment.
5. Operations to-dos
• Set up email addresses and contact methods: If you don't have a professional email address set up for your business (ex. firstname.lastname@example.org), it's worth investing in one. If you'll have an office outside of the home, establishing a business phone number that's not your cellphone is also key.
• Set office hours: one of the beautiful things about being your own boss is that you get to set your own hours. For me, the 9-to-5 grind worked, but I know that I personally create my best work between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. With that in mind, I begin my workdays very early and aim for a late afternoon stop. I'm still working hard to cut back on the hours that I work, but determining when you're most productive and happy is key to setting successful office hours.
• Figure out your office situation: will you have a home-based office, or work from a coworking space? If you'll be working from home, do you have an office already established, or do you need to make an IKEA trip for that to happen? Determine where you'll create your best work and make a plan for how you'll spend your days before you take your business full-time.
• Stock up on office supplies: once you have your office in order, it's time to make sure you have all the supplies that you need. As for me, I'm pretty simple: I need my desktop, laptop, my to-do list and I'm good. If you're a product-based business, consider what packaging materials you'll need to invest in, and where you'll store them.
Whew – this post was a big one, wasn't it? Honestly, there are so many things I could talk about when it comes to successfully establishing your business before investing in it full-time. With that being said, don't be surprised if this post gets periodically updated with new learnings over time! Tell me: was this post helpful? What things are you currently struggling with in your side hustle? What have some of your biggest successes been? Leave your thoughts in the comments!