Or expensive. With one click install of WordPress, you can be set up to customize your site in minutes. WordPress is the system used by over 75 million websites. The software is free, easy to use, gives you full control, and has hundreds of free ready-built themes and plugins. Plugins are features you can install to do specific things, like show buttons to your social media accounts. They are all mobile-responsive, meaning they still look good on a smartphone. An important factor when most people are surfing the web on their phones.
Otherwise you will be in breach of copyright. But you want to make sure that the information people need is readily available. You can add to your site over time, if you wish. Just make sure that the most important information is available to potential customers from the get-go. Like how to contact you.
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Social media is one of the best ways to connect with potential customers and get your name out there. Before signing up for any accounts, however, make sure that your chosen user name is available on all platforms. This will avoid confusion for your future customers and make it easier to tell people where to find you online. Your branding is set up with colors, logo, website, and social media profiles. But before you dive into finding customers, you have to protect yourself and avoid any trouble with Uncle Sam.
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At a job, someone else deals with the paperwork, red tape, accounting, billing, and paying taxes. There are tools to help you through it, and getting prepared ahead of time can avoid headaches down the road. For most at-home businesses owned and operated by one person, the main legal entity options are a sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Company LLC , or an S-Corp. So, what is the difference between a sole proprietorship and a limited liability company?
A sole proprietorship is the easiest business to start, you just start working. You are the business!
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It is owned and operated by you and all profits are taxed as personal income. So, that sounds easy! You have zero legal protections. Alternatively, a Limited Liability Company LLC is the midway point between a sole proprietorship and a full corporation. However, profits are still taxed as personal income just like in a sole proprietorship, which makes the accounting needs less burdensome.
The downsides to an LLC is that you have to register to do business. The paperwork is relatively easy to fill out, but you will have to pay a filing fee. In addition, to maintain the protections of an LLC, personal and business expenses need to be kept entirely separate. Many small businesses operate as sole proprietorships for years.
Or, small business owners decide to operate as a sole proprietor until they make enough to afford the costs of filing an LLC. Either is a valid option. However, you should consider your risk in facing a lawsuit. Personally, I operated this site as a sole proprietor for the first year, then formed an LLC. Just remember that if you do choose to form an LLC, you have to keep your personal and business finances entirely separate.
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As was just mentioned, if you have an LLC, you need separate business bank accounts. But even if you have an LLC, I recommend getting separate accounts. Because it makes tracking your finances significantly easier and faster. It allows you to see start-up expenses and remember to use those built up expenses to reduce your tax liability when you start earning income. If you chose to operate as a sole proprietor, you will need to register your business name with your county or state to open a business bank account.
The bank will ask for a copy of this paperwork to complete your application. Here are three no-fee small business account options to consider:. As soon as you start your business, you need a system for tracking income and expenses accurately. In other words, you record expenses when you pay for them and revenue when you get paid.
Most solopreneurs use the cash method simply because it is easier to track. And I recommend you start there. However, there are benefits to the accrual method.
In the month you do the work, under the cash method your business performance will look very weak. Expenses but no revenue. This is why you should track your project costs and income in a spreadsheet or log even if using the cash method for ease. Your transactions are few enough that a simple spreadsheet or paper log will suffice.
But if you prefer a tool that will walk you through the process, easily categorize your expenses and revenue, and allow you to invoice clients, there are some great resources available. It is a bit more user friendly than QuickBooks, a major competitor, but does have somewhat fewer accounting and tax tools. Head over for a day free trial.
It is the fastest growing small business software out there. And while it may not have all the tools or support you need as your business grows, it is an excellent starting place. It allows you to invoice clients, generate reports for tax forms, and estimate quarterly taxes. If you choose not to use an accounting software, try setting alerts in your phone or create a system for marking invoices as paid and the payment date. This makes it easier to follow up with clients or customers who are behind on payments.
You can choose to require that all your customers use a bank transfer, pay by check, or pay your transaction fees, but depending on your business that can limit your customer base.
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Obviously, you want to track all your expenses closely. But some things are important to keep a closer eye on than others. Here are six things you should keep an eye on from the start:. It will help you prepare for them and keep a close eye on the ongoing cost of running your business. In addition, if you take a client or potential client out to dinner or a round of golf for business purposes, half of that expense can also be deducted.
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But the IRS is wary of these charges being abused, so keep all receipts and make note of the business purpose of each event. However, this is another area that is closely watched so you want to keep careful records of your exact miles driven, dates, and purpose of your trips. This is even more important when your business is new, as high expenses relative to income can set off some red flags.
You want to have a clear explanation for why that expense was necessary for your business. Almost all businesses spend something on advertising. These expenses are recorded on your Schedule C at the end of the year so you want this information separately tracked. In addition, knowing this figure will help you determine your cost of customer acquisition. They are on the lookout for people masking personal travel as business. Keep records of your business activities along with the receipts. When it comes to actually tracking receipts, you have a number of options.
You can put them in an old school folder, tape them to pages in a notebook with a record of what each item was, or create a Google Drive or Dropbox folder where you upload photos or copies of receipts. A scan or smartphone photo is plenty. But especially for the hot button items above, it is a good practice to keep close track. For those using an accounting service like QuickBooks or Wave, you can attach an image of your receipt directly to recorded transactions. This requires some discipline to get used too, but can make life easier if you are ever audited.
Fingers crossed THAT never happens! Underpayment can result in serious penalties and sending in quarterly tax payments is simple. If you use an accounting software and provide it with your other income sources, it can estimate your quarterly tax payments for you and fill out the related forms. Payments are due April 17, June 15, September 17, and January 15 for the tax year. Actually making some money! You have your business all set up and ready to go.
Excuses, excuses, excuses.
You know your goals. Now all you need is some sales or clients. If you are selling a product or service, you need to spread the word about your new business.