It makes me really happy to see people starting businesses. As a fellow business owner and advisor for many people that have started a business here in the great ol’ state of California, it’s just a great thing to see. People with hopes and dreams making an investment in themselves. In my almost 7 years of being a business owner, I’ve seen many businesses come to an unfortunate close. But in the past few years, I’ve met and heard of many people starting new businesses again! For many, being the owner of a business is a scary thought. The lack of a “steady” paycheck, start-up costs, (sometimes) longer hours, and other things can be daunting. Though there are cons to owning a business, there are lots and lots of pros as well – doing work that you are passionate about, the satisfaction of seeing something grow from the ground up, contributing to the economy, seeing the value of hard work, networking and meeting new people, and so much more. A lot of people have asked me to weigh in on what they need to do to start a business here in California, so I hope to answer many of the frequently asked questions here.
Q: How do I start a business in California?
A: You first have to decide what kind of business structure is best for you. Sometimes talking to your accountant or lawyer for advice is best. They can give you valuable information about the pros and cons of business types so that you can make the right decision with an educated mind. If you do not want to seek the help of a professional, I would do research. Lots of research. The Small Business Association (SBA) is an EXCELLENT resource for all things business related. I’ve personally started sole proprietorships, partnerships, s-corporations, and LLCs – it all depends on the nature of your business and the amount of protection. The next step is to think of your business name and check if it’s available. You can find out more information here. Thought it’s not required, I’d also recommend getting your company trademark as well. Make sure you also check your tax certificate requirements for your city (for Los Angeles, download the form here).
Q: What kind of expenses go into starting a business?
A: There are filing fees when you start a business. For example, if you start a sole proprietorship in Los Angeles there is a fee to file your DBA and to publish your name in a local newspaper. If you start a partnership, LLC or corporation there is a $800 yearly there is a franchise tax. Then you have the expense of printing business cards, setting up your website, setting up your accounting program, internet and telephone lines, office rent (if applicable), and office supplies. I know, it’s scary. But the good news is these will help you when you file your taxes at the end of the year!
Q: How can I market my company?
A: There are many approaches to marketing your company nowadays. The best advice I can give is to hire a great designer. The branding of your company will be the forefront of how your audience will perceive you. And trust me, that perception means EVERYTHING. Branding doesn’t just mean your logo, but the avenues you’ll use for marketing, what your brochures and business cards will look like, what kind of content you put on your blog and website, every.thing. And having a firm grasp about what you want is key. Once you figure that out, come up with a realistic plan. Maybe you need to start small – start by telling your friends and family about your new business, start marketing your business on your Facebook and/or Twitter, join the local Chamber of Commerce and start attending networking events, etc. Or maybe you want to start off with a bang. On top of your local market, you want to start a full-blown marketing campaign complete with a launch party, online advertising campaign, and press release. There is no wrong way to do it, to be honest. Just make sure you know what is best for you and your brand.
Q: Should I create a Facebook Page and Twitter for my business?
A: This is probably the 2nd most popular question I get from people. My answer is always in the form of a question. Are you going to use it, and actively post relevant content on there? If not, then it’s probably not for you. The whole point of blogs and social media is to create conversations. The point is to engage people with relevant content and do so on a regular basis. If 6 months go by and you haven’t posted anything on your Facebook page, sometimes I’d wonder if people are still in business. Social media is not an “easy” marketing strategy. It’s just like any other form of marketing – it takes work.
Q: What is the best advice you can give to someone starting a business?
A. I always stress 3 main things. One is be patient, not all businesses boom overnight. In my opinion, lots of the businesses that have overnight success sometimes are short-lived and don’t have long-term business success. Two is find your niche. No matter who you are and what you do, the best thing is to narrow your market to an ideal client. You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Third, work hard and believe in your product. It starts with you first. If you believe in what you have to offer, then others will believe in it too.