Getting Started in the “Working from Home World” Part II

Alright, you’ve looked at your savings account, chosen your business name, and hopefully at least outlined your business plan. A new chapter is beginning in your life. You should feel powerful and ready to take on the world..

Sole Proprietorship or LLC?

The next step is to decide your tax entity. Figure out whether you want to operate as a sole proprietorship or a corporation. Sole proprietorships are easier to set up and a little more inexpensive to operate. You use your own Social Security Number for all business transactions and tax materials. LLCs (Limited Liability Corporations) require more work to set up and typically need the help of a professional. The fees and taxes are a little higher, however; an LLC separates your personal assets from your business assets. That means if someone sues your business, your home and personal assets are, for the most part, protected.

Another benefit of a LLC entity? A government contract work requires one. So, if you know that you will be bidding for government contract jobs, a LLC entity is a “no brainer”. There are positives and negatives to both types of businesses. Some entrepreneurs start as a sole proprietorship, and then once they have significant revenue, decide to switch to a LLC. This can be cumbersome in the long run. You will want research both options and contact a tax professional to decide which is best for you.

Becoming an Official Business Owner

You’ve developed your business plan and you have the perfect business name picked out.

After you decide on a name and tax entity, register it with your state. Depending on which state you reside in, you many need to register it in both your city and county. Don’t worry; your state revenue department will help you with that. Just go to your state’s revenue website. They will have instructions, locations and common questions and answers.

Once you’ve filled out the necessary forms and paid the necessary fees, it’s time to start working (and making some money).

Developing a Website

If you haven’t already, purchase a domain name to use for your company website. Your website will be essential to your success. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling products strictly on the Internet or if you’re a dog walker. Your online presence is extremely important. People will look for your services or skills online. If they can’t find you, they will give their business to a competitor that they can find. Once you have a domain name, you will need to set up your actual website with a hosting company.

I’ve heard that other business owners have had success with WIX. You can build a website with one of their many templates for free and then use your completed template with any hosting company you wish, or WIX will host it for a small fee. They even have free resources, such as: blog posts ranging from website planning to local marketing and a SEO tool to help choose words to make your website stand out. (Please note that I don’t use WIX for my blog-so I’m not getting paid for referrals).

Now What Do You Do? Start Working and Marketing

Alright, you’ve named your business, the state recognizes you as business owner and you have a website. Develop your portfolio, craft your products or bake your goods, and then spread the news. Market yourself until you can’t market anymore. Get on social media and attend local meetings. Marketing is essential. If people don’t know that you exist, you will never get their business.

Marketing is a whole other beast, so we will save that topic for another discussion. By now you should have a pretty broad idea of what this business venture entails. Are you ready to take on the “Working from Home World”? I hope you are, because the rewards of entrepreneurship are amazing.

Getting Started in the “Working from Home World” Part I

You’ve figured out your passion (and possibly found your niche).

Now what?

You’ve got to make sure you can make money with it. Just because you like to bake doesn’t mean that you would enjoy (or be successful at) owning a bakery. Research, and then research some more. A business owner has many hats to wear. You’ve got to manage and market your business, all while taking care of customer service, sales and invoices. After you get started, it will be easier to hire people to help you, but you’ve got to be able to afford to pay yourself before you hire other people.

I would suggest that you save enough money for 6 months’ living expenses. That might take a little sacrifice, but it will help keep your sanity in check later. It will take some time for your business to generate revenue, and you don’t want to have to quit right when your business is ready to soar.

Your business is not a hobby.  The US government considers your venture a hobby if you are not actively trying to make money or if your profits are $400 or less. You want to make more than $400 a year.

So, let’s turn your idea into a business.

Developing a Business Plan

You know what you want to do and you’ve got some great ideas. Now you need to make sure you get those ideas down on paper. If you need a loan, a well-developed business plan is essential. Many ideas that I’ve written about don’t require many, if any, start-up costs. Eventually you may want to expand, but you probably want to start a business now, without having to raise or borrow capital. Even if you don’t need a loan, a business plan will help keep you and your business on track. Without a business plan, you will wander around aimlessly, doing whatever sounds good at the moment. You can visit score.org (more about them later) for great information on how to write one. Have a plan for your business. Set it up for success and you will be successful.

Naming Your Business

Think of a name for your business. This may be a little harder than you first imagine. You have to make sure no one else has the same name that you do, otherwise getting a website for your business will be a little harder than it should be. A quick Google search will let you know if your perfect business name is already someone else’s perfect business name.

If you want to appear higher in search results, try incorporating what your business does into your business name. For instance, a copywriter might want a name like, “Quality Writing,” instead of using just their first and last name. People will search the Internet for “quality writing,” but until you’re well known, people aren’t going to be searching for you by your first and last name. If you’re only marketing your local area, this isn’t quite as important because you won’t have as much competition as an online store. However, if you plan to conduct all business on the Internet, a search engine-friendly name will help people find you.

Break Time

I’ve given you quite a bit of material to digest. You might want to take some time to think about your savings account, your business name, and your business plan. The first steps are very important and shouldn’t be rushed or hurried. A successful business begins with a strong foundation.

Continue reading Part II of this blog for the final steps of becoming a business owner.

Discovering Your Niche

You’ve figured out a business that you’re passionate about and you know what you hope to accomplish. Sometimes, in order to be considered an expert, or even to get higher-paying clients, you need to narrow it down a bit.

Take a writer for instance. There are technical writers, poets, novelists, content writers, etc, and then there are groups within groups. A sci-fi novelist isn’t going to author a historical romance. A bank’s technical writer isn’t going to produce a computer manual.

Finding your niche may take a while. You may have to work and experiment before you can narrow your passion.  If you’re just getting started in a field, you may not even know what niches exist.

Some Lucky People May Instantly Know

Jocelyn and Allison both wanted to be professional photographers. Jocelyn knew that she wanted to be a wedding photographer. She was in a small town that already had a few photographers, but she knew capturing that special day for people would make her happy. She took time developing a great portfolio of wedding shots, even driving to nearby cities to capture weddings. Jocelyn became the “go-to” wedding photographer after just a short time, because people saw her work and viewed her as an expert. Because she could offer her clients a unique experience, she could command higher prices.

Allison didn’t really have anything in particular she wanted to market for. She just knew she wanted to get paid for taking photos. She would take family pictures, senior portraits, and really, anything that her customers asked for. She had a wide range of shots in her portfolio, so she got a wide range of clients, but customers never really sought her out for a particular life moment. She made a good living, but she worked longer hours (for less pay) than Jocelyn.

 

How to Discover Your Niche

Now, I know, there are extenuating circumstances for those photographers that I’m probably not accounting for, but I hope you understand what I’m trying to say. There is not a right or wrong way, but if you feel pulled to a certain aspect of your passion, examine it and pray about it. That little pull may be want you need to excel.

Finding your niche may be something as personal as an intuitive “gut” feeling, or your experience and time in the field may lead you a certain way. When you can offer something that few other people can offer, it makes you stand out. You become an expert quicker when you narrow your field down a bit. Marketing comes easier, because it’s more direct. It’s hard to market to the whole world; it’s a lot easier to market to women between the ages of 30-40.  A niche isn’t needed to be successful, but it often helps.