Notes from Podcast Episode 4. These are the essential tools you can use to start your business cheaply and have all the tools you need to operate right off the bat.
Step 1: Generate your idea
Step 2: Name your business and buy your domain.
Here is my method for searching domains and naming your company.
I love Bluehost as a hosting service and have used them many times. Don’t check availability on GoDaddy.com because there is a rumor they buy up domains based on searches. Install wordpress on your website in your hosting control panel. I wrote all of my content and then hired someone on Upwork for $100 to build this website. I would recommend spending a little more if possible.
Visit tends.google.com to analyze traffic and determine what keywords you want to target in your area. You can use this tool to see the relative size of your competitors and also predict slow and busy seasons.
Step 3: Incorporate your LLC or do business as a sole proprietor.
If you would like to avoid personal financial risk or liability set up the LLC and elect to be taxed as an S Corp (pass through). I recommend a sole proprietor if not up until the point you are ready to hire employees or your concept is proven. I like to name my LLC something very generic so that if I shift gears or go after another service I can change my “doing business as” name without any admin headache. A service like betterlegal.com is a great option to get everything you need to go set up your bank account. I’m friends with the owner so they can do a free LLC registration if you click that link. (They make their money through monthly services so check those out too!)
Step 4: Setup your bank account
Put $500+ in the account or less if you are strapped or more if you want to move quickly. Get a debit card or a credit card or both. Only use this account for business purposes. No meals. No entertainment.
Step 5: Get a logo and some media
Hire someone on a freelance site (like Fiverr or UpWork) to create a logo. 99 Designs is great as well because people compete to win the job. Tell them you want it very simple (they tend to over do it) and get them to create a flyer and some other media as well. Canva is a good free option as well.
Step 6: Get a uniform
Use a polo you like in your closet or get some apparel at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. Get a local embroider to put the logo on your apparel.
When it comes time to order polos for employees on a larger scale you can use Thet-shirtland.com. Its the best value out there in my opinion and I order from them every year to outfit my entire business..
Step 7: Get a headshot wearing your apparel
Do a photo shoot with a local photographer to get some media for your flyers, graphics and website. A studio is great but if you can’t afford that give a college student $100 to get something here.
Step 8: Customize website
Build all of your pages and personalize your website with your media and logos. The About us page should have a picture of your and your family and should be a very personalized page. Person who looks at it roots for you, knows your story and who you are. Customize the rest of your website and model it off a competitors website you love in another city on the other side of the country.
If you don’t feel comfortable building a website or you want a more professional and SEO optimized website reach out to Justin over at Sparrow Websites. He is a sweaty startup follower and has done some work for me. He is extremely professional. For less than $1,500 you get an insanely good website ready for you to scale up.
Step 9: Set up your Google Account
9A: Gmail. Set up a gmail account. Create a professional email address on your host like this: email@example.com.
Set up a forward from your hosting email to your Gmail address so anyone who sends an email to your domain email address gets forwarded to your Gmail. Then go in Gmail and set up “send mail as” in settings > accounts so you can send mail through gmail but it will come from firstname.lastname@example.org. Your host will have the login credentials to set this up in gmail settings.
Read about email etiquette here. Set it up on your phone and build your signature using the recommendations at that link.
9B: Set up a Google Voice number in your Google account at voice.google.com. Select your business phone number with a local area code. Forward this to your phone and set up the voicemail, hours and everything else. Be extremely cheerful and professional in the voice message. You can use this to text customers as well and forward to multiple phones. Get the app on your phone as well. Can also be done from your desktop computer.
9C: Google My Business is critical. Send a postcard to your location or get a PO box to set up the location. This will be the main way customers find you. Build this and nourish it and get reviews early on. Post on here often and answer every review.
9D: Google calendar is amazing for organizing your schedule.
9E: Google drive is the best way to store everything and stay very organized. Create folders for your different branches and tasks. Go paperless by using this scanner and printer: Brother MFC-L2700. Keep your expense logs/receipts scanned in one folder and your cashflow projections in another. Track your mileage very accurately using Google spreadsheets.
9F: Google Analytics. Get all the data on traffic to your site by setting up Google analytics and installing the analytics code in your WordPress header. This is incredibly valuable if you set up conversion tracking and use adwords with it.
9G: Youtube. Make an account for video and record a video of yourself in your polo talking about your business. Include the town name and other keywords you are targeting. This will be big for you SEO. This video we made a long time ago is still on the front page when you Google “Indiana University student storage”.
9F: Google Adwords. Use this to manage your paid search. Do a lot of research here or outsource this.
Step 10: Quickbooks Online
Link your bank account to this and track and categorize all of your expenses here. Hire a book keeper if necessary but make sure you take the time to understand this even if you do outsource it.
Step 11: Taking payment
Accept only credit and debit cards off the bat using a third party payment processor like Stripe. Don’t take cash ever unless absolutely necessary. Your employees steal it. Its just another task at the end of the day to deposit or count it.
Step 12: Insurance
Get liability, auto, workers compensation, disability and unemployment insurance. There may be additional requirements for your industry (like cargo insurance for moving companies). Remember that workers compensation and payroll taxes adds 20% or more to your overall liability on payroll.
Step 13: Customer Relationship Management software
Consider using an out of the box software to get started. I have used and love Jobber. This will help you communicate with customers, invoice and just generally run a very professional ship with little investment. Its easy to learn and very valuable. This gives you the ability to send customers very professional notification text messages when you are on the way to the job as well as invoice emails after the service is complete.
Step 14: Payroll software
Consider using a company that handles your payroll but also allows you to onboard your employees without paper. Gusto is a great option. Get I-9s and W2s done on the internet. It is much much easier than running payroll yourself through quickbooks or something similar.
Step 15: Mobile time tracking software
Use a time tracking software. Jobber has this feature. Tracks the location and time logged for each employee using their mobile phones. They can clock in and clock out as well as add notes and geo location stamps as they work. Its great and it Syncs with Gusto.
Step 16: Slack
Slack is better than calling and texting and is a great way to communicate among employees.
Step 17: Asana
A great to do list app and collaboration tool for companies. My wife and I even use this to keep track of our obligations within our household. You can assign tasks, track deadlines and assign tasks to others.
Step 18: Purchasing
Craigslist is the place to purchase your vehicles and equipment but keep a look out on Facebook marketplace and other specialty sites within your industry. If you are going to buy a van or truck use this checklist.
Step 19: Mobile office setup
Make sure you have a secondary screen that runs on usb power for working on the road. I like the ASUS MB168B 15.6″ WXGA 1366×768 USB Portable Monitor.
Get an adapter that plugs into your car cig lighter and then creates an outlet for plugging in your computer so you can work in your vehicle.
Airpods are amazing for customer service and just generally working with.
I love my Autonomous adjustable desk that lets me sit or stand up in my home office.
Step 20: Compliance
Make sure to stay very organized with your filing deadlines for all of the administrative work required. Withholding taxes, payroll reporting, workers comp audits, renewals for your permitting etc. Use Google Calendar to mark important dates.
You will get a ton of mail once you start registering for permission to do business and to run payroll. If you are in college or you rent a place and might move in the near term consider hiring a registered agent to accept your mail and scan it up to you and email it to you as it comes in. These services are very nice.
You’re ready to operate and to start selling. Get out there and mix it up and learn the service!
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