So you’ve decided to start a business — it’s an exciting time but actually getting things off the ground can seem a bit daunting. It takes more than just a great idea to build a successful business. You’ll need to research, plan, and set up everything, from a website to accounting. So if you’re ready to get started, read through this comprehensive checklist for launching a brand new business:
Validate your idea with a business plan
When you’ve got a brilliant idea for a new business it can be pretty tempting to jump straight in without any planning. But creating a business plan will help you to validate that your idea is going to work long term. It’s essential to check there’s a demand for your products or services, and how much people are willing to pay.
You’ll also do some competitor research and find out who you’re up against and how you’re going to do better. Overall a business plan will also provide you with a roadmap for how your business will develop in the first few years.
Plan your finances
Before you launch your business you need to answer some hard questions about how your finances are going to work. How much money is it going to take to launch your business? What profits are you going to make, and how long will it take before you start to see profits? Do you need to look at business loans or finding investors? Will you start the business in your spare time?
You need to consider the other costs of your business; whether you’ll need to rent office space or if you can operate at home to start with, and whether you need to hire staff. Answer these questions and come up with a plan for your finances so you know the budgets and timeframes that you have to stick to.
Establish your brand
A solid brand is the foundation of your new business. To start branding your business, you need a unique brand name, brand values, and purpose that will help you to establish your identity. When you’re coming up with a brand name you need to check that it’s not already in use and that you can register a relevant domain name. Your branding also includes colors, fonts, website styling, packaging, and promotional materials.
Register as a business
You’ll need to formally register your business, apply for any licenses, and get the relevant business insurance.
Marketing planning is easily overlooked when launching a business but ultimately marketing is going to make or break your business. You need a comprehensive marketing strategy to draw customers or clients to your business.
Research your target market - find out everything about them so that you can come up with a plan to draw them into your business. Choose appropriate marketing channels - if your business is purely online focus on channels such as paid advertising, social media, email, and content marketing. Offline marketing such as flyers, posters, trade shows, or events are key to local or offline businesses.
Set up a website
It’s pretty impossible to launch a business these days without a website. Even if your business isn’t based online, having a website is one of the best ways for potential customers to discover you.
Consider what kind of website you need. To launch an ecommerce website it’s best to use a content management system that's designed for online stores. Likewise, a website that exists purely to market your business could be built using a straightforward website builder such as WordPress. Although you can also add ecommerce functionality to a WordPress site using the WooCommerce plugin.
You’ll also need to make your website optimized for search engines — write SEO-focused copy including keywords relevant to your business, make sure your site is easy to use, and it’s mobile-friendly. Setting up a blog for your website and consistently publishing content can also help with organic traffic.
Create social media accounts
Not only is social media a great marketing channel but it helps to extend your online presence and validate your business. You don’t need to set up accounts for every social media platform, but pick the key ones that your target customers are using.
Set up your accounting
It’s important to avoid getting your personal finances tangled up with your business. Start by opening a separate business bank account. And put processes in place for financial processes such as expenses, wages, and taxes - it’s a lot easier to stay on top of your accounting from the start. Accounting software is usually a good way for new businesses to manage their finances.
Sort out the logistics
Every business is going to have certain logistics - whether it’s suppliers, distributors, packaging products, shipping or IT infrastructure. Ensure that everything is set up and in place to run smoothly from the word go.
Set up your policies
They might be tedious to write, but terms and conditions and company policies are absolutely essential to launching a new business. You’ll need policies that cover returns, refunds, warranties, or guarantees so that you can give a consistent response when any issues arise. Terms and conditions are an important part of protecting your business.
Set up the infrastructure to scale
There are a lot of things you’ll be able to do manually while your business is small. But you should research and set up software and apps that will help you to operate more efficiently so that you can focus on growing your business.
Review your progress
One of the best ways to ensure your business is successful is to consistently review and analyze your progress and feed this back into improving it. Set up goals and targets that you can track, and listen to customer feedback for insights that you might not be able to pick up on yourself.
This checklist covers all the basics that you’ll need to launch a new business. While it’s important to take time to plan your launch, and all of these steps are important, not everything is going to be perfect straight away. Don’t spend too long on the setup and put off launching your business, it’s essential to get things up and running as soon as you can.
Written by: Kayleigh Alexandra
"Micro Startups is your online destination for everything startup. We’re dedicated to spreading the word about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world. Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe @getmicrostarted."