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How to Start a Business in 15 Steps

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

1. Find the right opportunity

2. write a business plan, 3. choose a business structure, 4. get a federal tax id, 5. apply for licenses and permits, 6. open a business bank account, 7. understand your startup financing options, 8. get a business credit card, 9. choose the right accounting software, 10. prepare to pay your taxes, 11. protect yourself with business insurance, 12. establish your online presence, 13. set up a payments system, 14. hire employees, 15. get financing to grow your business.

Starting a business takes research, smarts and self-confidence — and a measure of fearlessness. You may already be asking yourself: How can I start my own business with no money? What's the right equipment? Am I getting the best advice?

Here are the essential steps on how to start a business, from choosing the right business idea, creating a solid business plan and structuring your company to opening a business bank account and choosing the right accounting software.

» MORE: 5 steps to turn your side gig into a full-fledged business

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What business should you start? It depends on your expertise, plus how much time and money you’re able to invest. Some small-business ideas can be launched from home with little overhead, and e-commerce and remote businesses have become increasingly common in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you narrow your scope, you also want to be sure that your idea can actually make money . If you’re not sure what kind of business you want to run, use these lists to get the wheels turning:

50 best small-business ideas.

The 23 most profitable business ideas .

40 startup ideas to try .

16 e-commerce business ideas.

40 home business ideas to explore .

44 online business ideas you can start now .

Looking for tools to help grow your business?

Tell us where you're at in your business journey, and we'll direct you to the experience that fits.

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A strong business plan can help you prepare for every aspect of your business. Plus, you’ll need one to present to potential investors and lenders. This document should include details of the products or services you plan to offer, how you plan to make money, who you need on your team and more.

You’ll also want to include detailed financial projections, budgets and thorough explanations of how you plan to spend investor dollars or loans. Since cash flow projections will fluctuate as you adjust projected income and expenses, it helps to think of the plan’s financials as a living, changing document.

Ultimately, your business plan will help you chart a course for your business, anticipate potential roadblocks and work out how to overcome them — and will likely go through multiple iterations before your idea comes to fruition. Industry colleagues and accountants may be able to provide valuable feedback on how realistic your projections look and point out any overlooked costs.

How to write a business plan, step by step .

How to create a business budget .

Best business budgeting software tools .

5 tips to write a successful business plan . 

How to write a successful business plan for a loan .

The legal structure of your business can affect everything from your taxes to what you're liable for. For example, there’s no legal distinction between a sole proprietorship and its owner. Limited liability companies (LLCs) and their owners, however, are considered separate entities by law, which can provide more personal asset protection.

Talking with a tax professional can help you choose the right business structure for you. And you can change your structure as your business grows.

How to choose the right business structure .

Pros and cons of a limited liability company .

LLC vs. sole proprietorship: How to choose .

Partnership vs. corporation: How to choose .

Getting an employer identification number (EIN) is necessary for most businesses to file taxes, open bank accounts and perform other essential tasks. Even if you don’t have employees, there are benefits to getting an EIN. It’s free to apply and the online application only takes a few minutes.

How to apply for an employer identification number .

Benefits of getting an EIN (even if you don’t have to) .

In general, restaurants need health inspections and liquor licenses. Hair stylists need cosmetology licenses. Your city may require you to apply for a business license regardless of what field you’re in. And if you’re renovating a space to sell products or perform services, you may need to ask local officials for a zoning change.

Set aside time early on to find out what licenses and permits you need before you can open your doors. While you don’t typically need a lawyer to apply for a business license, they can help you navigate the process and review other documents, like lease agreements or loans, before you sign them. Industry associations, city officials who work on economic development issues and local business associations, like your Chamber of Commerce, may be able to offer advice, too.

How to get a business license .

Do you need a business license to sell online?

How to find a startup lawyer . 

How much do you need?

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We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Keeping your business and personal finances separate is key to managing your business finances. It’s standard bookkeeping hygiene and makes it easier to deduct business expenses come tax time. A business bank account can help, and they’re simple to set up.

Best business bank accounts . 

Best business bank accounts for freelancers .

Best free business checking accounts .

Best business bank accounts for LLCs .

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Most businesses need a little capital to get started. However, the majority of business loans are not available to businesses that have been operating for less than six months, and most online lenders prefer at least a year in business. Startups should consider alternative financing options, or try to leverage other strengths of their business, such as strong credit or collateral. If your business does qualify for a loan, be sure to pay attention to interest rates, potential prepayment fees and personal liability terms.

Many business owners rely on their own savings to get started. You can also look into crowdfunding, personal loans, business grants and more. High-growth-potential startups may also be eligible for equity financing, which gives partial ownership, or equity, to investors in exchange for capital.

How do business loans work?

Best startup business loans.

Startup business grants .

Asset-based lending options.

Types of startup funding.

Crowdfunding for business .

Is equity financing right for your business?

Funding your business with a personal loan .

Is your to-do list overwhelming?

Business credit cards can also be used as a short-term financing solution to help you purchase necessary supplies and pay bills while cash flow is still shaky. Just be sure to spend within your limit and pay off your balance in full each month so you don’t get into a cycle of debt. Startup financing aside, business credit cards also make it easier to keep business and personal finances separate. As an added bonus, you can also earn rewards, such as cash back, on the money you spend.

Usually, you can qualify for a business credit card based on your personal credit score.

What is a business credit card?

How to get a business credit card .

Best small-business credit cards .

Best business credit cards for new businesses .

Best 0% APR business credit cards.

It’s essential that you keep records that show how much revenue you’re bringing in and how much you’re spending. Accounting software helps you track and analyze these numbers by generating reports and recording sales trends — and there are even some free options.

As your business grows, you may want to start working with a bookkeeper . This person can help ensure your records are complete and accurate, which makes it easier to file your taxes, apply for financing and more.

Best accounting software for small businesses .

Best online bookkeeping services .

Bookkeeping basics for small businesses. 

Best free accounting software .

Know these 4 business financial metrics to track performance .

You'll have some new tax responsibilities as a business owner — including, potentially, the need to pay taxes throughout the year, not just during tax season. But you'll probably discover some new tax breaks , too.

Filing taxes can be complex, especially as a small-business owner. Developing a relationship with a tax professional early on can help set you up for success, and they can be a trusted adviser to your business later on.

A tax guide for small-business owners.

Self-employment tax, explained.

Best tax software for small businesses .

How estimated quarterly taxes work .

How to find the right tax advisor for your business .

It's important to protect your business and your personal assets, and business insurance exists to do just that. NerdWallet recommends that every business carry general liability insurance in case of legal claims.

You may also need insurance to comply with a contract, like to set up a booth at an event or work as a subcontractor on a larger project.

Best small-business insurance providers .

How much does business insurance cost?

What is general liability insurance?

What is a business owner’s policy (BOP)?

An online presence is critical for almost every business — especially if you want to sell products online. Setting up a website and social media profiles early on, even if they’re simple, can help you start developing relationships with potential customers right away.

Here’s what you need to know to start your business website:

How to build an e-commerce website .

The ultimate guide to small-business marketing .

The best ways to promote your business on social media .

6 Instagram tips for small-business owners .

8 best e-commerce website builders for small businesses .

The do’s and don’ts of using Facebook to drive business sales .

5 best places to advertise your business online .

If your business takes credit and debit cards, you'll likely need a payment processor and point-of-sale (POS) system. Lots of POS system providers double as processing companies, which can make the decision-making process simple. Remember to consider upfront hardware costs for card readers or POS registers, monthly POS software fees and processing fees. Online payments typically have higher processing fees than in-person payments, so be sure to consider the full range of fees when choosing your provider.

How to accept credit card payments.

What is credit card processing and how does it work?

Cheapest credit card processing companies.

Best point-of-sale (POS) systems .

Best credit card processing companies .

Best credit card readers for small businesses .

You may not need to hire employees right away — and some small-business owners prefer to remain solopreneurs throughout the life of their business. But if you do choose to hire, you’ll probably need workers’ compensation insurance, payroll software and more. Here’s what goes into hiring your first employees.

Ready to hire your first employee? Prep with these steps .

Strategies to attract good employees.

Tips for hiring remote workers.

Strategies to help retain employees.

How to choose the right payroll software for your business .

Best payroll software for small businesses. 

What is workers’ compensation insurance?

Once you’ve been in business for six to 12 months, you may start qualifying for business loans. Financing can help your business grow and expand — by buying equipment, renovating an office or expanding your inventory, for instance — or float you through a slow season while you prepare for increased future revenue.

Here’s what you need to know about business loans, lines of credit and other financing options.

How to get a business loan .

SBA loans: What they are and how to qualify .

Equipment financing: What it is and top lenders.

Best small-business loans .

Types of business loans.

Should you grow your business? 6 questions to help you decide .

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The Importance of Market Research

Creating a business plan, legal requirements, exploring funding options, crafting a marketing strategy, managing and growing your business, how do i start a small business for beginners, how do i create a business plan, what are six ways to grow and scale a business, the bottom line.

  • Small Business
  • How to Start a Business

Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide

From market research to managing growth

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The U.S. is home to 33.2 million small businesses, which drive over 43% of GDP.   If you are looking to start a business, there are key factors to consider—from market research and creating a business plan to scaling your business. These factors are critical to your journey and can make a big difference no matter what stage of the process you are in.

Entrepreneurs who take concrete action can differentiate themselves from competitors, innovate, and grow. For successful entrepreneurs, the execution of the business is often what means the most. 

Key Takeaways

  • Starting a small business involves extensive market research of your target audience, competitors, and gaining a deep understanding of the industry.
  • It is important to build a comprehensive business plan that includes the product or service description, your target customers, financial projections, and all other key details.
  • Understanding the legal requirements of starting your business involves knowledge of business registration, permits, licensing, and other regulatory requirements.
  • There are various types of funding channels for starting a business, including financing it yourself, securing external funding from your network, and applying for government and corporate grants and loans. 

Being clear about your business goals involves doing your research. Successful entrepreneurs often do extensive research on their field. This includes understanding their prospective customers, the technical aspects of the industry, and the challenges other businesses are facing. 

Understanding how other players operate in an industry is important. Attending conferences, joining associations, and building a network of people involved in the field can help you learn how decisions are made. Often, comprehensive market research takes six months to a year. 

Understanding Your Target Audience

Knowing your target market is critical for many reasons. These are the customers who are most likely to purchase your product, recommend it to friends, and become repeat buyers. Apart from driving your bottom line, having a strong understanding of your target audience will allow you to tailor your offering more effectively, reach your customers more efficiently, and manage customer expectations.

Compiling demographic data on age, family, wealth, and other factors can give you a clearer understanding of market demand for your product and your potential market size.

It’s important to ask, “Why would someone buy this and part with their discretionary income?” or “Will someone love this enough to tell someone about it?” At the heart of these questions is understanding whether your business solves a key problem, as well as whether it delivers the “more” that connects to your audiences’ human emotions.

Assessing Market Trends and Opportunities

To find an advantage in a given market, look at key market trends in customer behavior and the business landscape. Explore the state of business conditions and consumer spending, along with the economic environment and how interest rates may affect financing and business growth.

Several resources are available to dive into market trends across industries, such as Statistics of U.S. Businesses and the U.S. Census Business Builder . To analyze the competitive landscape, and in turn, identify key opportunities, Porter's 5 Forces is a classic model to help businesses build their competitive strategy.

A business plan is a road map for achieving your business goals. It outlines the capital that you need, the personnel to make it happen, and the description of your product and prospective customers.

There are a number of models for creating a business plan. The Small Business Administration (SBA) , for instance, provides a format that includes the following nine sections:

  • Executive summary: This should be a description of your company and its potential for success. The executive summary can cover your mission statement, employees, location, and growth plan.
  • Company description: This is where you detail what your business offers, its competitive advantages, and your strengths as a business.
  • Market analysis: Lay out how your company is positioned to perform well in your industry. Describe market trends and themes and your knowledge of successful competitors.
  • Organization and management: Who is running your company, and how is your business structured? Include an organizational chart of your management team. Discuss if your business will be incorporated as a business C or S corporation, a limited partnership, a limited liability company, or a sole proprietorship. 
  • Service or product line: Here is where you describe how your business will solve a problem and why this will benefit customers. Describe how your product lifecycle would unfold.
  • Marketing and sales: Detail your marketing strategy and how this will reach your customers and drive return on investment. 
  • Funding request: If you're looking for financing, lay out the capital you’re requesting under a five-year horizon and where, in detail, it will be allocated, such as salaries, materials, or equipment. 
  • Financial projections: This section shows the five-year financial outlook for your company and ties these to your request for capital.

Having a coherent business plan is important for businesses looking to raise cash and crystallize their business goals.

Setting Goals and Strategies

Another key aspect of a business plan is setting realistic goals and having a strategy to make these a reality. Having a clear direction will help you stay on track within specified deadlines. In many ways, it allows companies to create a strategic plan that defines measurable actions and is coupled with an honest assessment of the business, taking into account its resources and competitive environment. Strategy is a top-down look at your business to achieve these targets.

Financial Projections and Budgeting

Often, entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of funding needed to start a business. Outlining financial projections shows how money will be generated, where it will come from, and whether it can sustain growth. 

This provides the basis for budgeting the costs to run a business and get it off the ground. Budgeting covers the expenses and income generated from the business, which include salaries and marketing expenses and projected revenue from sales.

Another important aspect of starting a business are the legal requirements that enable you to operate under the law. The legal structure of a business will impact your taxes, your liability, and how you operate.

Businesses may consider the following structures in which to operate:

  • Corporation
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
  • Partnership
  • Sole Proprietorship

Each has different legal consequences, from regulatory burdens to tax advantages to liability being shifted to the business instead of the business owner.

Registering Your Business

Now that you have your business structure outlined, the next step is registering your business . Your location is the second key factor in how you’ll register your business. In many cases, small businesses can register their business name with local and state government authorities. 

If your business is being conducted under your legal name, registration is not required. However, such a business structure may not benefit from liability protection, along with certain legal and tax advantages. Often, registering your businesses costs $300 or less.

Before filing, a business structured as a corporation, LLC, or partnership requires a registered agent in its state. These agents handle the legal documents and official papers on your behalf.

Businesses that are looking to trademark their product, brand, or business, can file with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Understanding Permits and Licenses

If your business conducts certain activities that are regulated by a federal agency, you’re required to get a permit or license. A list of regulated activities can be found on the SBA website, and includes activities such as agriculture, alcoholic beverages, and transportation.

There are many different ways to fund a business. One of the key mistakes entrepreneurs make is not having enough capital to get their business running . The good news is that there are several channels to help make this happen, given the vital role entrepreneurs play in creating jobs and boosting productivity in the wider economy.

Self-Funding vs. External Funding

Bootstrapping, the term commonly used to describe self-funding your business, is where companies tap into their own cash or network of family and friends for investment. While the advantage of self-funding is having greater control, the downside is that it often involves more personal risk.

External funding involves funding from bank loans, crowdfunding, or venture capital , among other sources. These may provide additional buffers and enable you to capture growth opportunities. The drawback is less freedom and more stringent requirements for paying back these funds.

Grant and Loan Opportunities

Today, there are thousands of grants designed especially for small businesses from the government, corporations, and other organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a weekly update of grants and loans available to small businesses. 

For instance, Business Warrior offers loans between $5,000 and $50,000 to small business owners. As another example, Go. Be. Elevate Fund offers $4,000 to grant recipients who are women and/or people of color business owners to help them grow their businesses.

When it comes to marketing, there is a classic quote from Milan Kundera: “Business has only two functions—marketing and innovation." In order to reach customers, a business needs a marketing strategy that attracts and retains customers and expands its customer base.

To gain an edge, small businesses can utilize social media, email marketing, and other digital channels to connect and engage with customers.

Branding Your Business

Building a successful brand goes hand in hand with building a great experience for the customer. This involves meeting the expectations of your customer. What is your brand offering? Is it convenience, luxury, or rapid access to a product? Consider how your brand meets a customer's immediate need or the type of emotional response it elicits. Customer interaction, and in turn loyalty to your brand, is influenced, for example, by how your brand may align with their values, how it shifts their perception, or if it resolves customer frustration.

Digital Marketing and Social Media

We live in a digital-first world, and utilizing social media channels can help your business reach a wider audience and connect and engage in real time. Given that a strong brand is at the heart of successful companies, it often goes without saying that cultivating a digital presence is a necessity in order to reach your customers. 

According to HubSpot’s 2023 report, The State of Consumer Trends, 41% of the 600-plus consumers surveyed discovered new products on social media and 17% bought a product there in the past three months.

Managing a business has its challenges. Finding the right personnel to run operations, manage the day-to-day, and reach your business objectives takes time. Sometimes, businesses may look to hire experts in their field who can bring in specialized knowledge to help their business grow, such as data analysts, marketing specialists, or others with niche knowledge relevant to their field.

Hiring and Training Staff

Finding the right employees involves preparing job descriptions, posting on relevant job boards such as LinkedIn, and effectively screening applicants. Careful screening may involve a supplemental test, reviewing a candidate's portfolio, and asking situational and behavioral questions in the interview. These tools will help you evaluate applicants and improve the odds that you'll find the people you are looking for.

Once you have hired a new employee, training is the next essential step. On average, it takes about 62 hours to train new employees. Effectively training employees often leads to higher retention. While on-the-job training is useful, consider having an onboarding plan in place to make the transition clear while outlining expectations for the job.

Scaling Your Business

Growing your business also requires strategy. According to Gino Chirio, executive vice president at the consultancy group Maddock Douglas, there are six ways that companies can grow their business to drive real growth and expansion:

  • New processes: Boost margins by cutting costs.
  • New experiences: Connect with customers in powerful ways to help increase retention.
  • New features: Provide advancements to your existing product or service.
  • New customers: Expand into new markets, or find markets where your product addresses a different need.
  • New offerings: Offer a new product.
  • New models: Utilize new business models, such as subscription-based services, fee-for-service, or advertising-based models.

With these six ways to grow a business, it is important to consider the risk, investment, and time involved. Improving your margins through new processes is often the most straightforward way to grow. Offering new features is also effective since it is tailored to your existing market with products you have already delivered.

By contrast, offering new products may involve higher risk since these have not been tested in the market. However, they may offer higher reward, especially if you have a first-mover advantage and release your product in the market before the competition.

A good place to start building a business is to understand the following core steps that are involved in an entrepreneur's journey : market research, creating a business plan, knowing the legal requirements, researching funding options, developing a marketing strategy, and business management.

A business plan is made up of a number of primary components that help outline your business goals and company operations in a clear, coherent way. It includes an executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management description, service or product line description, marketing and sales plan, funding requests (optional), and financial projections.

Business growth can fall into the following six categories, with each having varying degrees of risk and investment: new processes, new experiences, new features, new customers, new offerings, and new models.

Knowing how to start a small business involves the key steps of market research, setting up a business plan, understanding the legal requirements, exploring funding options, crafting a marketing strategy, and managing your business. 

For aspiring small business owners, these steps can help you successfully deliver your product or service to the market, and ultimately grow. While it can take a considerable amount of work, the payoffs are manifold: independence of work, personal fulfillment, financial reward, and following your passion.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. " The State of Small Business Now ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Market Research and Competitive Analysis ."

U.S. Small Business Administration." Write Your Business Plan ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Choose a Business Structure ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Register Your Business ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Apply for Licenses and Permits ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Fund Your Business ."

U.S. Chamber of Commerce. " 52 Grants, Loans and Programs to Benefit Your Small Business ."

Ogilvy. " Behind Every Brand Is a Great Experience, and Vice Versa—Why Today's Customer Expects Synergy ."

HubSpot. " The State of Consumer Trends in 2023 ."

Training Magazine. " 2022 Training Industry Report ."

Harvard Business Review. " The Six Ways to Grow a Company ."

  • How to Start a Business: A Comprehensive Guide and Essential Steps 1 of 25
  • How to Do Market Research, Types, and Example 2 of 25
  • Marketing Strategy: What It Is, How It Works, and How to Create One 3 of 25
  • Marketing in Business: Strategies and Types Explained 4 of 25
  • What Is a Marketing Plan? Types and How to Write One 5 of 25
  • Business Development: Definition, Strategies, Steps & Skills 6 of 25
  • Business Plan: What It Is, What's Included, and How to Write One 7 of 25
  • Small Business Development Center (SBDC): Meaning, Types, Impact 8 of 25
  • How to Write a Business Plan for a Loan 9 of 25
  • Business Startup Costs: It’s in the Details 10 of 25
  • Startup Capital Definition, Types, and Risks 11 of 25
  • Bootstrapping Definition, Strategies, and Pros/Cons 12 of 25
  • Crowdfunding: What It Is, How It Works, and Popular Websites 13 of 25
  • Starting a Business with No Money: How to Begin 14 of 25
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Establishing Business Credit 15 of 25
  • Equity Financing: What It Is, How It Works, Pros and Cons 16 of 25
  • Best Startup Business Loans 17 of 25
  • Sole Proprietorship: What It Is, Pros & Cons, and Differences From an LLC 18 of 25
  • Partnership: Definition, How It Works, Taxation, and Types 19 of 25
  • What is an LLC? Limited Liability Company Structure and Benefits Defined 20 of 25
  • Corporation: What It Is and How to Form One 21 of 25
  • Starting a Small Business: Your Complete How-to Guide 22 of 25
  • Starting an Online Business: A Step-by-Step Guide 23 of 25
  • How to Start Your Own Bookkeeping Business: Essential Tips 24 of 25
  • How to Start a Successful Dropshipping Business: A Comprehensive Guide 25 of 25

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How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Table of contents.

i am planning to start/open a small business on

  • You should prepare thoroughly before starting a business, but realize that things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations.
  • Learning how to start your own business involves conducting in-depth market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan.
  • In addition to selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are interested in what your business offers.
  • This article is for anyone who wants to learn how to start a business.

Starting a business can be hard work, but if you break down the process of launching your new company into individual steps you can make it easier. Rather than spinning your wheels and guessing where to start, you can follow the tried and true methods of entrepreneurs who’ve done it successfully. If you want to learn how to start your own business, follow this 10-step checklist to transform your business from a lightbulb above your head into a real entity.

Starting a business is a lot of work, but we’re here to help! Check out our useful resources for everything you need to successfully build your business from the ground up.

  • 11 Things To Do Before Starting A Business
  • Tax and Business Forms You’ll Need To Start A Business
  • Startup Costs: How Much Cash Will You Need?
  • 20 Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Business

How to start a business

1. refine your idea..

refine your business idea

If you’re thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell online , or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, only faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan. 

Define your “why?”

“In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘always start with why,’” Glenn Gutek, CEO of Awake Consulting and Coaching, told Business News Daily. “It is good to know why you are launching your business. In this process, it may be wise to differentiate between [whether] the business serves a personal why or a marketplace why. When your why is focused on meeting a need in the marketplace, the scope of your business will always be larger than a business that is designed to serve a personal need.” 

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Consider franchising.

Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following and business model are already in place; you only need a good location and the means to fund your operation.

Brainstorm your business name.

Regardless of which option you choose, it’s vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea. Stephanie Desaulniers, owner of Business by Dezign and former director of operations and women’s business programs at Covation Center, cautions entrepreneurs against writing a business plan or brainstorming a business name before nailing down the idea’s value.

Editor’s note: Looking for a small business loan? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Clarify your target customers.

Desaulniers said too often, people jump into launching their business without spending time to think about who their customers will be and why those customers would want to buy from them or hire them.

“You need to clarify why you want to work with these customers — do you have a passion for making people’s lives easier?” Desaulniers said. “Or enjoy creating art to bring color to their world? Identifying these answers helps clarify your mission. Third, you want to define how you will provide this value to your customers and how to communicate that value in a way that they are willing to pay.” 

During the ideation phase, you need to iron out the major details. If the idea isn’t something you’re passionate about or if there’s no market for your creation, it might be time to brainstorm other ideas.

Tip: To refine your business idea, identify your “why,” your target customers and your business name.

2. Write a business plan.

graphic of two people standing in front of a graph

Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan . 

Fledgling business owners can make a lot of mistakes by rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? What would be the point if you can’t find evidence of a demand for your idea? 

This business plan template can help you launch and grow your business the right way.

Conduct market research.

Conducting thorough market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data. 

Market research helps you understand your target customer — their needs, preferences and behavior — as well as your industry and competitors. Many small business professionals recommend gathering demographic information and conducting a competitive analysis to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market. 

The best small businesses have differentiated products or services from the competition. This significantly impacts your competitive landscape and allows you to convey unique value to potential customers.

Consider an exit strategy.

It’s also a good idea to consider an exit strategy as you compile your business plan. Generating some idea of how you’ll eventually exit the business forces you to look to the future. 

“Too often, new entrepreneurs are so excited about their business and so sure everyone everywhere will be a customer that they give very little, if any, time to show the plan on leaving the business,” said Josh Tolley, CEO of both Shyft Capital and Kavana. 

“When you board an airplane, what is the first thing they show you? How to get off of it. When you go to a movie, what do they point out before the feature begins to play? Where the exits are. During your first week of kindergarten, they line up all the kids and teach them fire drills to exit the building. Too many times I have witnessed business leaders that don’t have three or four predetermined exit routes. This has led to lower company value and even destroyed family relationships.” 

A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties, and what you need to sustain it. When you’re ready to put pen to paper, use a free template to help.

3. Assess your finances.

graphic of a businessperson standing in front of graphs

Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you will cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you’re planning to leave your current job to focus on your business, do you have savings to support yourself until you make a profit? Find out how much your startup costs will be. 

Many startups fail because they run out of money before turning a profit. It’s never a bad idea to overestimate the amount of startup capital you need, as it can take time before the business begins to bring in sustainable revenue. 

Perform a break-even analysis.

One way you can determine how much money you need is to perform a break-even analysis. This essential element of financial planning helps business owners determine when their company, product or service will be profitable. 

The formula is simple:

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  • Fixed Costs ÷ (Average Price Per Unit – Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point

Every entrepreneur should use this formula as a tool because it tells you the minimum performance your business must achieve to avoid losing money. Furthermore, it helps you understand exactly where your profits come from, so you can set production goals accordingly. 

Here are the three most common reasons to conduct a break-even analysis: 

Ask yourself: How much revenue do I need to generate to cover all my expenses? Which products or services turn a profit, and which ones are sold at a loss?

Ask yourself: What are the fixed rates, what are the variable costs, and what is the total cost? What is the cost of any physical goods? What is the cost of labor?

Ask yourself: How can I reduce my overall fixed costs? How can I reduce the variable costs per unit? How can I improve sales? 

Watch your expenses.

Don’t overspend when starting a business. Understand the types of purchases that make sense for your business and avoid overspending on fancy new equipment that won’t help you reach your business goals. Monitor your business expenses to ensure you are staying on track.

“A lot of startups tend to spend money on unnecessary things,” said Jean Paldan, founder and CEO of Rare Form New Media. “We worked with a startup with two employees but spent a huge amount on office space that would fit 20 people. They also leased a professional high-end printer that was more suited for a team of 100; it had key cards to track who was printing what and when. Spend as little as possible when you start, and only on the things essential for the business to grow and succeed. Luxuries can come when you’re established.”  

Using accounting software can streamline your expense tracking. Read our reviews of the best accounting software to learn more and find the right platform for your needs. Try starting with our Intuit QuickBooks Online review — this vendor is our top pick for small businesses.

Consider your funding options.

Startup capital for your business can come from various means. The best way to acquire funding for your business depends on several factors, including creditworthiness, the amount needed and available options.

  • Business loans. If you need financial assistance, a commercial loan through a bank is a good starting point, although these are often difficult to secure. If you cannot take out a bank loan, apply for a small business loan through the S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or an alternative lender. [Read related article: Best Business Loans ]
  • Business grants. Business grants are similar to loans, but do not need to be paid back. Business grants are typically very competitive and come with stipulations that the business must meet to be considered. When securing a small business grant , look for ones specific to your situation. Options include minority-owned business grants, grants for women-owned businesses and government grants .
  • Startups that require significant funding up front may want to bring on an angel investor . Investors can provide several million dollars or more to a fledgling company in exchange for a hands-on role in running your business.
  • Alternatively, you can launch an equity crowdfunding campaign to raise smaller amounts of money from multiple backers. Crowdfunding has helped numerous companies in recent years, and dozens of reliable crowdfunding platforms are designed for different types of businesses. 

You can learn more about each of these capital sources and more in our guide to startup finance options . 

Choose the right business bank.

When you’re choosing a business bank , size matters. Marcus Anwar, co-founder of OhMy Canada, recommends smaller community banks because they are in tune with the local market conditions and will work with you based on your overall business profile and character. 

“They’re unlike big banks that look at your credit score and will be more selective to loan money to small businesses,” Anwar said. “Not only that, but small banks want to build a personal relationship with you and ultimately help you if you run into problems and miss a payment. Another good thing about smaller banks is that decisions are made at the branch level, which can be much quicker than big banks, where decisions are made at a higher level.” 

Anwar believes that you should ask yourself these questions when choosing a bank for your business: 

  • What is important to me?
  • Do I want to build a close relationship with a bank that’s willing to help me in any way possible?
  • Do I want to be just another bank account, like big banks will view me as? 

choose your vendors

Ultimately, the right bank for your business comes down to your needs. Writing down your banking needs can help narrow your focus to what you should be looking for. Schedule meetings with various banks and ask questions about how they work with small businesses to find the best bank for your business. [Read related article: Business Bank Account Checklist: Documents You’ll Need ]

Financially, you should perform a break-even analysis, consider your expenses and funding options, and choose the right bank for your business.

4. Determine your legal business structure.

graphic of a businessperson sitting at a laptop near signs

Before registering your company, you need to decide what kind of entity it is. Your business structure legally affects everything from how you file your taxes to your personal liability if something goes wrong. 

  • Sole proprietorship: You can register for a sole proprietorship if you own the business independently and plan to be responsible for all debts and obligations. Be warned that this route can directly affect your personal credit.
  • Partnership: Alternatively, as its name implies, a business partnership means that two or more people are held personally liable as business owners. You don’t have to go it alone if you can find a business partner with complementary skills to your own. It’s usually a good idea to add someone into the mix to help your business flourish.
  • Corporation: If you want to separate your personal liability from your company’s liability, consider the pros and cons of corporations (e.g., an S corporation or C corporation ). Although each type of corporation is subject to different guidelines, this legal structure generally makes a business a separate entity from its owners. Therefore, corporations can own property, assume liability, pay taxes, enter contracts, sue and be sued like any other individual. “Corporations, especially C corporations, are especially suitable for new businesses that plan on ‘going public’ or seeking funding from venture capitalists in the near future,” said Deryck Jordan, managing attorney at Jordan Counsel.
  • Limited liability company: One of the most common structures for small businesses is the limited liability company (LLC). This hybrid structure has the legal protections of a corporation while allowing for the tax benefits of a partnership. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to determine which type of entity is best for your current needs and future business goals. It’s important to learn about the various legal business structures available. If you’re struggling to make up your mind, discussing the decision with a business or legal advisor is a great idea.

Did you know? You need to choose a legal structure for your business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or LLC .

5. Register with the government and IRS.

graphic of a person sitting at a laptop in front of an eagle crest

You will need to acquire business licenses before you can legally operate your business. For example, you must register your business with federal, state and local governments. There are several documents you must prepare before registering.

Articles of incorporation and operating agreements

To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations need an articles of incorporation document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Similarly, some LLCs will need to create an operating agreement.

Doing business as (DBA)

If you don’t have articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, you will need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you’ve come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection. 

Most states require you to get a DBA. You may need to apply for a DBA certificate if you’re in a general partnership or a sole proprietorship operating under a fictitious name. Contact or visit your local county clerk’s office to ask about specific requirements and fees. Generally, there is a registration fee involved. 

Employer identification number (EIN)

After you register your business, you may need to get an employer identification number from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or to save yourself the trouble if you decide to hire someone later on. The IRS has provided a checklist to determine whether you will require an EIN to run your business. If you do need an EIN, you can register online for free. 

Income tax forms

You must file certain forms to fulfill your federal and state income tax obligations . Your business structure determines the forms you need. You will need to check your state’s website for information on state-specific and local tax obligations. Once you set this all up, the best online tax software can help you file and pay your taxes quarterly and annually.

“You might be tempted to wing it with a PayPal account and social media platform, but if you start with a proper foundation, your business will have fewer hiccups to worry about in the long run,” said Natalie Pierre-Louis, licensed attorney and owner of NPL Consulting. 

Federal, state, and local licenses and permits

Some businesses may also require federal, state or local licenses and permits to operate. Your local city hall is the best place to obtain a business license. You can then use the SBA’s database to search for state and business type licensing requirements. 

Businesses and independent contractors in certain trades are required to carry professional licenses. A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is one example of a professional business license. Individuals with a CDL can operate certain types of vehicles, such as buses, tank trucks and tractor-trailers. A CDL is divided into three classes: Class A, Class B and Class C. 

You should also check with your city and state to find out if you need a seller’s permit that authorizes your business to collect sales tax from your customers. A seller’s permit goes by numerous names, including resale permit, resell permit, permit license, reseller permit, resale ID, state tax ID number, reseller number, reseller license permit or certificate of authority. 

It’s important to note that these requirements and names vary from state to state. You can register for a seller’s permit through the state government website of the state(s) you’re doing business in. 

Jordan says that not all businesses need to collect sales tax (or obtain a seller’s permit).

“For example, New York sales tax generally is not required for the sale of most services (such as professional services, education, and capital improvements to real estate), medicine or food for home consumption,” Jordan said. “So, for example, if your business only sells medicine, you do not need a New York seller’s permit. But New York sales tax must be collected in conjunction with the sale of new tangible personal goods, utilities, telephone service, hotel stays, and food and beverages (in restaurants).”

Register key documents like articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, a DBA, an EIN, income tax forms, and other applicable licenses and permits.

6. Purchase an insurance policy.

graphic of a businessperson in a suit in front of a large insurance form

It might slip your mind as something you intend to get around to eventually, but purchasing the right insurance for your business is an important step to take before you officially launch. Dealing with incidents such as property damage, theft or even a customer lawsuit can be costly, and you need to be sure that you’re properly protected. 

Although you should consider several types of business insurance , there are a few basic insurance plans that most small businesses can benefit from. For example, if your business will have employees, you will at least need to purchase workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.

You may also need other types of coverage, depending on your location and industry, but most small businesses are advised to purchase general liability (GL) insurance, or a business owner’s policy. GL covers property damage, bodily injury, and personal injury to yourself or a third party.

If your business provides a service, you may also want professional liability insurance. It covers you if you do something wrong or neglect to do something you should have done while operating your business.

7. Build your team.

graphic of a group of businesspeople gathered around a table

Unless you’re planning to be your only employee, you’ll need to recruit and hire a great team to get your company off the ground. Joe Zawadzki, general partner at AperiamVentures, said entrepreneurs need to give the “people” element of their businesses the same attention they give their products. 

“People build your product,” Zawadzki said. “ Identifying your founding team , understanding what gaps exist, and [determining] how and when you will address them should be top priority. Figuring out how the team will work together … is equally important. Defining roles and responsibilities, division of labor, how to give feedback, or how to work together when not everyone is in the same room will save you a lot of headaches down the line.”

8. Choose your vendors.

graphic of a businessman in front of business profile cards

Running a business can be overwhelming, and you and your team probably aren’t going to be able to do it all on your own. That’s where third-party vendors come in. Companies in every industry, whether that’s HR or business phone systems , exist to partner with you and help you run your business better. For example, with a business phone system, you can design an IVR system to automatically route your callers to the right representatives.

When you’re searching for B2B partners, choose carefully. These companies will have access to your most vital and potentially sensitive business data, so finding someone you can trust is critical. In our guide to choosing business partners , our expert sources recommended asking potential vendors about their experience in your industry, their track record with existing clients, and what kind of growth they’ve helped other clients achieve. 

Not every business will need the same type of vendors, but there are common products and services that almost every business will need. Consider the following functions that are a necessity for any type of business.

  • Enabling multiple customer payment types: Offering multiple payment options will ensure you can make a sale in whatever format is easiest for the target customer. Compare options to find the best credit card processing provider to ensure you’re getting the best rate for your business. That’s because small business credit card processing is often a direct route to more revenue and a larger customer base.
  • Taking customer payments: Set up a point-of-sale (POS) system so that you have a state-of-the-art interface for making sales. The best POS systems couple this payment technology — which largely overlaps with credit card processing — with inventory management and customer management features. As such, POS systems are especially important if you plan to sell products instead of offering services.
  • Managing finances: Many business owners manage their own accounting functions when starting their business, but as your business grows, you can save time by hiring an accountant , or by choosing the right accounting software provider .

9. Brand yourself and advertise.

businessperson at a computer in front of a large lightbulb icon

Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are ready to jump when you open your literal or figurative doors for business.

  • Company website: Take your reputation online and build a company website . Many customers turn to the internet to learn about a business, and a website is a digital proof that your small business exists. It is also a great way to interact with current and potential customers.
  • Social media: Use social media to spread the word about your new business, perhaps as a promotional tool to offer coupons and discounts to followers once you launch. The best social media platforms to use will depend on your target audience.
  • CRM: The best CRM platforms allow you to store customer data to improve how you market to them. A well-thought-out email marketing campaign can do wonders for reaching customers and communicating with your audience. To be successful, you will want to strategically build your email marketing contact list .
  • Logo: Create a logo to help people easily identify your brand, and use it across all of your platforms.

Keep your digital assets up to date with relevant, interesting content about your business and industry. According to Ruthann Bowen, chief marketing officer at EastCamp Creative, too many startups have the wrong mindset about their websites. 

“The issue is they see their website as a cost, not an investment,” Bowen said. “In today’s digital age, that’s a huge mistake. The small business owners who understand how critical it is to have a great online presence will have a leg up on starting out strong.” 

Creating a marketing plan that goes beyond your launch is essential to building a clientele because it should continually get the word out about your business. This process is just as important as providing a quality product or service, especially in the beginning. 

Ask customers to opt into your marketing communications.

As you build your brand, ask your customers and potential customers for permission to communicate with them. The easiest way to do this is by using opt-in forms of consent. These forms allow you to contact them with further information about your business, according to Dan Edmonson, founder and CEO of Dronegenuity. 

“These types of forms usually pertain to email communication and are often used in e-commerce to request permission to send newsletters, marketing material, product sales, etc. to customers,” Edmonson said. “Folks get so many throwaway emails and other messages these days that, by getting them to opt in to your services transparently, you begin to build trust with your customers.” 

Opt-in forms are a great starting point for building trust and respect with potential customers. Even more importantly, these forms are required by law. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 sets requirements for commercial email by the Federal Trade Commission. This law doesn’t just apply to bulk email; it covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” Each email violating this law is subject to fines of more than $40,000.

Tip: Create a strategic marketing campaign that combines various marketing channels, like a company website, social media, email newsletters and opt-in forms.

10. Grow your business.

graphic of a businessperson in a suit flying hear up arrows and graphs

Your launch and first sales are only the beginning of your task as an entrepreneur. To make a profit and stay afloat, you always need to be growing your business. That takes time and effort, but you’ll get out of your business what you put into it. 

Collaborating with more established brands in your industry is a great way to achieve growth. Reach out to other companies and ask for some promotion in exchange for a free product sample or service. Partner with a charity organization, and volunteer some of your time or products to get your name out there. 

While these tips will help launch your business and get you set to grow, there’s never a perfect plan. You want to ensure you prepare thoroughly for starting a business, but things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations. 

FAQs about starting a business

What are the four basics for starting a business.

The four basics for starting a business are your business name, business structure, business registration certificate and all your other licenses. You must take the proper legal and regulatory steps in each of these four areas before you launch your business. Obtaining external funding and putting together a business plan are also smart moves, but they aren’t legal prerequisites.

How can I start my own business with no money?

You can launch a successful business without any startup funds. Work on a business idea that builds on your skill set to offer something new and innovative to the market. While developing a new business, keep working in your current position to reduce the financial risk.

Once you’ve developed your business idea and are ready to start on a business plan, you’ll need to get creative with funding. You can raise money through investments by pitching your idea to financial backers. You could also gather funding through crowdsourcing platforms like Kickstarter, or set aside a certain amount of money from your weekly earnings to put toward a new business. Finally, you can seek loan options from banks and other financial institutions to get your company up and running.

Check out our list of low-cost business ideas for inspiration on how to start a new company when you’re on a tight budget.

What is the easiest business to start?

The easiest business to start is one that requires little to no financial investment upfront, and no extensive training to learn the business. A dropshipping company, for example, is one of the easiest types of new business to launch. Dropshipping requires no inventory management, which saves you the hassle of buying, storing and tracking stock. 

Instead, another company fulfills your customer orders at your behest. This company manages the inventory, packages goods, and ships out your business orders. To start, create an online store by selecting curated products from the catalog available through partners.

Check out our list of businesses you can start quickly for ideas on how to launch your next business with ease.

Which types of businesses can I start from home?

In today’s world of remote work, you may be thinking of an online business idea . Any online-only business that doesn’t require inventory should be easy to start from home. Ideas that fall within this category include but aren’t limited to copywriting businesses, online tutoring operations and dropshipping businesses. Anything you’re good at or passionate about that you can do from home, and for which demand exists, can make for a great home business. 

When is the best time to start a business?

Each person’s ideal timeline for starting a new business will be different. Start a business only when you have enough time to devote your attention to the launch. If you have a seasonal product or service, then you should start your business one quarter before your predicted busy time of the year. Spring and fall are popular times of year to launch for nonseasonal companies. Winter is the least popular launch season because many new owners prefer to have their LLC or corporation approved for a new fiscal year.

Max Freedman and Skye Schooley also contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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How to start and fund your own business

Learn from the Small Business Administration (SBA) how to start and fund a small business, from researching the market to launching your new business.

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The SBA's Business Guide covers other important aspects of running a business. These include:

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  • Hiring and managing employees

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Learn from the SBA about sources for funding your business . They include:

  • Self-funding

Funding resources for specific groups

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  • Women-owned businesses
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Start » startup, the step-by-step startup guide: how to start a business.

If you're thinking about starting a business, here's a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.

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Starting and growing a business is difficult under the best of circumstances. Those who are brave enough to launch their own company amidst a global pandemic will face all the usual challenges — conducting research, figuring out funding, registering with the government, building a brand and more — on top of the new obstacles presented by social distancing and state-by-state restrictions.

Before you start a business, you'll need to research, plan and execute some important pre-launch activities if you want to set yourself up for success. You'll also need to think carefully about your business plan and model to determine how it will fare today and in the post-COVID world.

In this guide, we'll walk you through every step to getting your business off the ground, from the initial planning phases to your launch date and beyond.

Planning your business

1. conduct market research.

Every business needs to know who its customers are. Conduct some market research to understand typical consumer behavior, pain points and market trends in your chosen industry, so you can see where your potential startup might fit in. This is especially important right now, given the current economic climate and how typical consumer activities and lifestyles have changed in light of COVID-19.

Your research should answer each of these questions:

  • Demand. What, if any, are some desired products or services in your given market?
  • Market size. How many clients or consumers would make up your target audience?
  • Market saturation. How many competitors are in your market with a similar concept?
  • Pricing. What is the typical amount customers are willing to pay for products and services in your market?
  • Consumer engagement. How have similar product- or service-based businesses pivoted during the pandemic to engage consumers virtually? Have they moved their sales process online or entered the e-commerce space, and can you replicate that or do it better?

While there are plenty of online articles and resources you can use as a starting point, you’ll gain the best insights by speaking with consumers themselves. You can do this in the form of surveys, questionnaires, focus groups and one-on-one interviews.

[For more information, refer to our Guide to Conducting Market Research .]

2. Write a business plan

Your business plan is essentially a roadmap for your startup, keeping you on track and guiding you throughout your journey. This document can be as simple or in-depth as you'd like, but most include the following elements:

  • Executive summary. A brief background on your company – what it is, what it does and why.
  • Mission statement. A short statement describing your business’s purpose.
  • Market analysis. An extensive analysis derived from your market research.
  • Company description. A section addressing what problem your company solves and why it is unique.
  • Organization and management. A list of the owners and executives, as well as key staff members.
  • Marketing and sales. An overview of your strategy for targeting consumers based on your market research.
  • Service or product line. Descriptions of your products and services, and how they will be delivered to customers.
  • Funding request. How much funding you need and why, and how you plan to pay back any borrowed money.
  • Financial information. Projections including cash flow statements, income statements, balance sheets, collateral and current costs.

[For more information, check out our guide on writing a business plan .]

3. Run a trademark and business name search

You don't want to face legal issues simply because you failed to do your homework. By visiting the United States Patent and Trademark Office , you can conduct a trademark search to ensure your potential business or product name isn't already registered as someone else's intellectual property. You should also search your home state's database of registered businesses. Be sure to search for similar names (not just your exact name) to avoid confusion in your market.

Registering your business

4. choose and register your business name.

Once you choose a name that represents your business (and isn't in use by someone else), you can protect it by registering it. There are a few way to do this :

  • Entity name. This is how your home state identifies your business. It protects your business name at the state level: Once you register, no one else in your state can use that exact business name. We'll explain more on registering your entity name below.
  • Trademark. Registering a trademark prevents others in similar industries from using the same name. This can protect your name and goods or services on a federal level.
  • Doing Business As (DBA). If you want to conduct business under any other name besides your own personal name or your formal business entity name, you may be required to register a DBA with the state, county or city where you do business. Check your local laws to understand what your home state requires.
  • Domain name. Securing an appropriate URL for your business's website will ensure brand recognition for your future customers. You may also want to create social media accounts at this point – even if you don't actively use them yet – to ensure you get the username or handle you want.

[Read: How to Register Your Business With the Federal Government ]

You don't want to face legal issues simply because you failed to do your homework.

5. Choose your legal structure

When you officially register your business, you’ll also need to choose a legal structure. There are various types to consider, and the option you choose will impact how you operate, how you are taxed and even how business decisions are made.

The most common structures include:

  • Sole proprietorship. One owner runs the business without a strict structure. Owners are held personally liable for the business and their assets may be at risk if the business goes into debt.
  • Partnership. Two or more owners operate the business together. Each partner is personally liable for business debts.
  • C corporation. A C corp is considered its own entity and is taxed separately from the shareholders who own it. This structure provides "limited liability," meaning your personal assets are protected from business debts.
  • S corporation. S corps enjoy many of the benefits of C corps, but business income is taxed through owners’ personal taxes, not as a separate entity.
  • Limited liability company (LLC). LLCs are also taxed as a "pass-through" entity. They are managed by their members, who each own a percentage of the business.

[For more information and details on each of these options, check out our article on choosing the right business structure .]

6. Register your business with the proper local authorities

To register your business , you’ll have to first consider your structure and location. Sole proprietors who do business under their own names are not required to register. Additionally, most small businesses only have to register their business names with state and local authorities, but be sure to understand your home state's requirements before proceeding with your business operations.

  • Registering with the federal government. You can register your business with the federal government to protect your trademarkor achieve tax-exempt status . However, if you have an S corp, you must file a 2553 form with the IRS .
  • Registering with the state. Some states allow you to register your business online, while others require you to fill out and mail or physically hand in paperwork. You should register through the Secretary of State’s office, a business bureau or a business agency.

7. Get an employer identification number from the IRS

If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need to apply for an employer identification number (EIN), which is essentially a Social Security number for your business. This can be done for free through the IRS . Even if you are not going to hire employees, you may want an EIN anyway – unless you're a sole proprietor, you will need one to open a business bank account or credit card.

8. Research and apply for any applicable licenses and permits

Small businesses in certain industries need licenses and/or permits from federal and/or state agencies.

  • Federal licenses or permits. Some operations that might require federal licenses or permits include selling alcoholic beverages, engaging in wildlife-related activity, or broadcasting information radio, TV, cable, etc.
  • State licenses or permits. State licenses or permits exist for businesses doing construction, dry cleaning, food service and similar activities.
  • Sales tax licenses. Sales tax on items sold by e-commerce retailers has been a hot topic since the 2019 Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair, which granted states the ability to collect sales tax from out-of-state online sellers with a certain volume of sales. As traditional brick-and-mortar retail moves into the online realm, e-commerce retailers selling to a national consumer base must investigate the sales tax license laws in the states where their buyers reside, especially as they grow.

Unsure of whether your business needs a license or permit? The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a wealth of information about the legal requirements for specific types of businesses.

Funding your business

9. determine how you will fund your business.

Many business owners apply for a loan to fund their startup. Before doing so, you’ll want to decide which loan, if any, is right for you and your business. Here are some popular types you might consider:

  • Line of credit loans. Short-term loans provided as a specific amount of cash to draw from when needed for inventory, operating costs, etc.
  • Term loans. Short- or long-term loans with monthly repayments, usually with low interest rates.
  • Specialty financing. Loans for specific purchases, like equipment loans and real estate loans, repaid over a longer period of time.
  • Invoice financing. Using unpaid invoices as collateral for a cash advance, repaid once invoice is paid, plus fee.
  • Merchant cash advances. Using future credit card sales as collateral for cash advances, generally repaid daily.
  • Personal loans. Assuming you have a good credit score, taking out your own loan for business expenses.

Some alternative funding methods include:

  • Venture capital. High-risk, high-return private equity for startups projected to have strong growth. Venture capitalists typically want to see a return on their investment within a certain time frame.
  • Angel investor. An individual who provides capital in exchange for debt or ownership equity.
  • Crowdfunding campaign. A campaign created to raise money for business from multiple individuals or supporters. Peer-to-peer platforms like Kickstarter allow you to offer "rewards" of your choosing to your backers for their support. Equity crowdfunding platforms allow investors to own an equity share of your business.

10. Open a business bank account

You’ll want to have a separate bank account for your business to ensure compliance and protection. While looking for the right account for your business, choose one with low fees and good benefits.Consider incentives like introductory offers, as well as interest rates for checking, savings and lines of credit. You'll also want to look at transaction, early termination and minimum account balance fees.

According to the SBA, the documentation you'll need to open your bank account are your EIN (SSN for sole proprietors), your business's formation or registration documents, and any ownership agreements and business licenses you have.

11. Choose and set up your accounting software

Managing your business's finances and books is essential, especially when it comes time to file taxes. Using the proper accounting software for your business can save you both time and money. There are various options to consider before making a decision, and they all depend on your business’s needs. Our guide for choosing accounting software can help you determine the best one for you.

Building your team

12. choose your advisers and vendors.

At minimum, your business should have a trusted attorney and financial professional to consult with on legal and tax matters. You may also consider partnering with third-party vendors or suppliers that offer the goods and services you need to run your business. Finally, formal and informal mentors provide emotional support, guidance and accountability.

13. Decide if you want to hire employees

If you decide to hire, make sure you understand your obligations as an employer , both from a legal and a tax standpoint. If you just want to hire freelancers or independent contractors, keep excellent financial records and be sure to issue a 1099-MISC form at the end of the tax year. Also, it's important to understand the difference between a W2 employee and a contractor so you don't get in trouble with the IRS for worker misclassification.

Since many businesses intend to stay fully or partially remote even after the pandemic, you may wish to consider hiring remote employees outside of your local geographic area. This can be a great way to diversify your team and get access to a wider pool of talent; however, you'll need to ensure you're complying with the specific income tax laws in any state where an employee resides.

Marketing and launching your business

14. create a marketing strategy.

Gain attention for your soon-to-launch business by advertising your goods and services through word-of-mouth, formal marketing campaigns or both. In today's virtual-first world, your top priorities should be building a great business website with strong SEO ( search engine optimization ) and developing a robust online presence through social media channels, email newsletters, blogs and more.

To perfect your marketing strategy without breaking the bank, check out our low-cost marketing ideas .

15. Launch and grow your business

Your work doesn't end on launch day – you need to continue to market your business, assess finances and adjust your strategy along the way. Stay connected to the entrepreneurial community and learn from others to help you refine your approach.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here .

Next Event: Tax Filing Tips!

Join us on Thursday, February 22, at 12 pm ET for the first episode of our expert series, Ready. Set. Scale.: Smart Tax Tips for a Stress-Free Filing. We will have seasoned leaders offering actionable tips to help minimize the stressors of tax time for small businesses.

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Home > Business > Business Startup

How to Start a Small Business: Must-Have Checklist to Spark Success

Nicolle Okoren

We are committed to sharing unbiased reviews. Some of the links on our site are from our partners who compensate us. Read our editorial guidelines and advertising disclosure .

If you’re reading this page, you’ve probably got an idea of what you want your business to be. Whatever your great business idea is, you can improve your chances of success if you take the time to map out its creation step by step. Here you’ll find resources and articles to help walk you through building your business—from the idea phase to hiring employees and filing taxes.

1. Identify a business idea

So many people have great ideas. But, they never take the time to find out if these ideas have the potential to become businesses.

  • Most Successful Small Business Ideas
  • 6 Tips to Turn Your Hobby Into Income
  • Launch a Business on a Budget: 10 Small Business Ideas Under $1,000
  • The Complete Guide To Starting An Online Business
  • How to Start a Dropshipping Business
  • How to Start a Consulting Business: Paula Zamarra Shares 8 Tips

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2. Conduct market research

Before you get invested in your idea financially and emotionally, you must find out if there are buyers for your product. Are you providing a service that is in demand? Is this service viable financially? Do you have a way of accessing your customers?

  • Breaking Down Business Startup Costs
  • 5 Essentials to Know Before Marketing Your Startup
  • What You Need to Know to Start Selling Products
  • What is the 4P Marketing Matrix?
  • 4Cs Marketing Model & Why It’s Good for Business

3. Write a business plan/pitch

Most experts recommend that new entrepreneurs create a business plan—but what is a business plan, exactly? And do you really need one?

Although writing a business plan isn’t a surefire path to success, studies show that people who create business plans tend to also become successful entrepreneurs, so it can’t hurt. 

Our advice? Whether you write a formal business plan, construct a mental plan, or discuss a plan with a partner, make an effort to create a business plan.

How To Write a Business Plan

  • 5 Best Business Plan Software and Tools for Your Small Business
  • Best Business Name Generators

4. Choose a business structure

Every entrepreneur must decide how to structure their business for several reasons. What you choose affects your liability and taxes, as well as which laws and regulations you’re subject to.

There are many business legal structures. But which one is right for you? That depends on how many employees you have, how comfortable you are with taking on personal liability for business operations, and how you want to pay taxes on money earned by the business.

  • How to Make an Organizational Chart
  • How to Incorporate a Business: Everything You Need to Know

5. Choose a location

While conducting market research, you will notice that there are locations where your business is in high demand and other locations that just don't need your product or service. For instance, ski equipment would be hard to sell in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it barely snows and the nearest mountain is two states away. In Utah, the demand is high but the market might be oversaturated.

In addition to demand, there are also states and cities that make it easier to launch a company. Lower taxes, lower labor costs, and less traffic make some cities more attractive than others. These are the best small cities for small businesses  in each state, according to Verizon. 

Best Bank for Small Businesses in Your State

Business Loan Amounts by State, Industry, and More: How Much Do You Need?

How Many Jobs Do Small Businesses Create in Your State?

6. Get a federal tax id

You’ll likely need a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) to do business no matter where you’re located. The IRS says to get an EIN if any of the following apply:

  • You have employees.
  • You operate as a corporation or partnership.
  • You file tax returns for employment; excise; or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.
  • You withhold non-wage taxes on income you pay to a “non-resident alien” (IRS definition).
  • You have a Keogh plan, which is a retirement plan for some small businesses and self-employed people.
  • Your business has relationships with certain organizations like estates, farmers’ cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, plan administrators, real estate and mortgage organizations, or trusts.

To get an EIN, complete and submit an application with the IRS. You’re eligible for an EIN as long as the person who applies has a valid Social Security number (SSN) or other Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).

  • How to Get a Business Tax ID

7. Open a bank account

First, you need a place to put the money your business earns. Although it’s not always required to open a separate bank account for business income, we recommend doing so for several reasons. These include (but are not limited to) credit and capital, liability protection, professional services and taxes.

  • Small-Business Bank Accounts: Your Ultimate Guide
  • Types of Business Bank Accounts
  • How to Open a Business Bank Account

Set your business up for success with a checking account that has no monthly or overdraft fees and earns you up to $5,000 in interest each year.

8. Secure financing

Capital is the money you need to roll out your entrepreneurial goal. But how do you get your hands on it? If your brilliant business idea needs tons of cash to start up, you may need to ask investors to pitch in for your fledgling organization. But that’s not your only option. You can fund your business yourself, ask family and friends, get a loan, contact capital investors, try crowdsourcing or go to the government.

  • Best Small Business Funding Options
  • How to Get a Small Business Loan in 7 Simple Steps
  • Guide to Startup Business Grants: Get Free Money for Your Business

Best Small Business Loans

  • Best Crowdfunding for Startups: How to Fund Your Small Business
  • Best Startup Business Line of Credit

Lendio partners with over 75 lenders, which improves your odds and efficiency to get the funding you need.

Qualifications:

$50k in revenue

6 mos. in business

560 credit score

9. Build a website

Websites have become more and more important in marketing and brand awareness. From WordPress to Squarespace, there are a ton of options in how to stamp your brand into the world wide web.

  • Best Website Builders for Small Businesses
  • Best Domain Registrars for Small Businesses
  • Best Free Website Builders for Small Business
  • How to Design a Website for Your Business
  • Best Ecommerce Website Builders for Small Businesses
  • How to Secure a Website

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10. Financial software

It is critical to be able to streamline your systems in how you track finances, pay employees, invoice vendors, bill customers, and secure tax records.

  • What is Payroll Software?
  • 12 Surprising Benefits Business Owners Found Using Payroll Software
  • Best Small Business Management Software
  • Best Payroll Software for Small Business
  • The 9 Best Small-Business Accounting Software
  • The 7 Best Free Accounting Software
  • The Best Bookkeeping Software for Small Business

SurePayroll is an affordable and straightforward payroll software that offers automatic payroll runs, tax filing, and exceptional customer service.

11. Hire employees

As your business grows, your employees will as well. You need software to both manage your employees and help them grow.

  • What Is Human Resource Software?
  • 10 Best Workforce Management Software 2022
  • 10 Best Human Resource Software for Small Business 2022
  • 9 Best Scheduling Software for Small Business 2022
  • Best Small Business Management Software 2022

12. File your taxes

There is nothing more stressful than filling out government forms without confidence about what you are supposed to write. Filing taxes is no joke, but there are systems and software that can help ease this annual burden.

  • How to File Taxes If You’re Self-Employed
  • How to File Small-Business Taxes
  • How to File Taxes as an Independent Contractor
  • How to Calculate Payroll Taxes

The takeaway

Whether you are at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey or somewhere in the middle, solutions can seem difficult to find. There are systems and software that are made to simplify this kind of stuff for you.

Bottom line: you are not alone and we are here to help find you the solutions that fit best for your problems.

Want some ideas for your HR software pick? Check out our favorite human resource software for small businesses .

Related reading

  • Startup Costs Calculator for Small Business Owners
  • Types of Startup Business Loans

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You have a winning idea plus the passion and skills to make it a success. But the process of actually getting your business off the ground can be overwhelming. Trust us, you’re not alone.

In partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Upnetic (an online services platform for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs), ADP® has created an e-book that provides a roadmap to business ownership. We also collaborated on a webinar offering advice for those who are launching or relaunching a business in the wake of the pandemic . As you continue to perfect your business idea, here are a few things to keep in mind to help you get off to a smart start.

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What do you need to start a small business?

Every successful business started from the ground up. No matter how eager you are to get a product into market, taking the time to create a solid foundation now will help increase the chances of your business surviving long-term. Some of the basic things you may need to start a small business include:

  • Idea backed by market research
  • Business plan
  • Funding and bank account
  • Business structure (corporation, LLC, etc.)
  • Doing business as (DBA) name
  • Employer identification number (EIN)
  • Business location
  • Licenses and permits
  • Insurance policies

What is a good business to start?

A good business to start is usually one that fills an unmet consumer need. Think of any everyday problem that’s yet to be solved or ways to improve an existing solution by making it faster, cheaper or easier to use. Preferably, your idea should be something that you’re passionate about or have some existing level of expertise.

Choosing the entrepreneurship that’s right for you will also depend on your financial situation. Some businesses, such as dog walking, have low start-up costs, while others, like a restaurant, may require considerable investment. And if you’re looking for a get rich quick scheme, you may be disappointed. Most small businesses take considerable time and effort before turning a profit.

Starting a business from home

Many entrepreneurs start a small business because they like the idea of working from the comfort of their home and setting their own hours. And while this is a great perk, it also limits the type of business you can create. Manufacturing products, for example, might not be feasible from your living room. Additionally, you may need to consider the zoning and legal restrictions in your particular neighborhood, and how your business will affect your neighbors and those who live with you.

How to start your own small business

Taking an idea to market or making a dream become reality typically takes a series of carefully planned business decisions. While not every business follows the same path, most take some of these steps:

Step 1: Perform market research around your idea

Market research can help you mitigate risk because it lets you know how much of a demand there is for your product or service and the level of existing competition. It also provides demographic information on your target customers, such as their income and where they live.

You generally have two options when it comes to research – review existing sources or conduct your own analysis. Relying on previously gathered data can save you time and money, but it might not be current or specific enough to your target clientele. If you start your research from scratch, you have the advantage of engaging with customers directly through focus groups, one-on-one interviews and surveys.

Step 2: Create a business plan

A business plan explains your goals and how you hope to achieve them. If you need funding for start-up costs, many investors will want to see your plan so they can assess your potential profitability. Business plans can also help you attract partners and employees.

Business Plan

When creating a business plan, you can take a traditional approach or create something lean. Traditional plans have comprehensive details and are often required to achieve a business loan. Lean plans, on the other hand, are shorter and may use more charts than written copy. They’re often ideal for simple business models that plan to start up fast.

Whichever plan you choose for your new business, most include at minimum:

  • A description of your product, it’s value proposition and how you plan to market it
  • How much investment you require and the amount of revenue you expect to make
  • Your target audience and the customer experience

Step 3: Finance your business

Start-up costs are one of the obstacles that sometimes prevent people from ultimately pursuing their dream. The good news, however, is that even if you don’t have much money at your disposal, there are several ways to fund your business, including:

  • Bootstrapping Self-funding is advantageous because you maintain complete control of your business. On the downside, it sometimes comes with the highest personal financial risk.
  • Venture capital investments Venture capitalists or “angel investors” may be willing to fund your business, but they usually expect membership on your board of directors or some stake in the company. You may need a detailed business plan to secure a capital investment.
  • Small business loans If you don’t have enough money, but still want to keep full ownership of your business, a loan might be advantageous. Be prepared to show banks and credit unions a comprehensive business plan, as well as your estimated expenses and financial projections.
  • Crowdfunding Some people invest in a business in exchange for perks, as opposed to a share of the profits or company ownership. Because these perks are usually merchandise or name recognition, your business may need to be in the general consumer product or creative industries to take advantage of crowdfunding.

Step 4: Choose your business structure

How you plan to structure your business – sole proprietor, corporation or something in between – will typically have legal and tax implications for the foreseeable future. That makes this decision a critical one. Some of the more popular business structures are:

  • Sole proprietorship This is the most common structure for solo entrepreneurs or “solopreneurs.”
  • Partnership If you are starting a business with one or more individuals, then a partnership structure might be right for you.
  • Limited liability company An LLC blends the limited liability features of a corporation with the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a partnership.
  • Cooperative A cooperative is a business or organization owned and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Companies in health care, retail, agriculture, art and restaurant industries fall in this category.
  • Corporation Corporations are more complex from a legal and tax standpoint and are therefore more common among larger companies.
  • S corporation Eligible domestic corporations can sometimes avoid double taxation (one tax for the corporation and another for the shareholders) by electing to be treated as an S corporation.

Step 5: Choose your business name

After you’ve determined your structure, it’s time to decide how your business will be recognizable to the public. Your business name should:

  • Reflect your brand and values
  • Convey the services you provide or products you sell
  • Work as a logo and resonate on social media and other marketing platforms

You’ll also want to make sure your business name isn’t already taken. Contact your state filing office or search your state’s online database to verify availability. Even if the name isn’t in use, it may still be protected under trademark, so you may also want to check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) .

Once you’ve settled on a name that suits your organization and confirmed its availability, you should trademark it and purchase a recognizable version of it as a domain name. Then, create a presence on social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) by opening accounts with your business name.

Additionally, some business structures require a doing business as (DBA) name, which is a fictitious or assumed name that’s different from your business entity name. A DBA may sometimes be necessary to open a business bank account.

Step 6: File registration documents

Registering your small business with the government may not always be necessary, but it might avail you to personal liability protection and legal and tax benefits.

Federal registration Other than a tax ID number, you usually don’t need to register your business with the federal government unless you’re applying for tax exempt status or trademark protection.

State registration You may be required to register in the state where your business was formed and any other states that you operate in, also known as foreign qualification. Registration documents vary by state and business structure, but most typically ask for:

  • Business name
  • Owner or management structure
  • Name of registered agent
  • Total number and value of shares, if applicable

Local registration Most local governments don’t mandate that businesses register with them, but certain business structures may need to apply for licenses or permits.

Step 7: Apply for EIN or Tax ID

As soon as your business is registered, you might want to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. This number is necessary so you can file your federal taxes, hire employees and in some cases, open a business bank account. You can apply for an EIN on the IRS website .

In addition, some states have their own tax ID numbers, which you may need to pay state income tax and unemployment tax. Check with your state for the specific application process, or try ADP’s payroll tax registration services .

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Need a stress-free way to get your state or local tax IDs?

Try ADP’s payroll tax registration services.

Step 8: Open a small business bank account

You’re going to need somewhere to deposit all those hard-earned dollars, but what type of account best fits your current requirements and future goals? Given that you’re just starting out, you may need:

  • A simple checking account with no or low monthly fees
  • A bank that offers convenient locations and hours of operation
  • Online banking and mobile apps to help you manage your money on the go
  • Loan products should you need some growth capital now or in the future

How to open a bank account

After you’ve found a bank that suits your needs, gather the necessary paperwork to open a business account:

  • Official business formation documents
  • EIN or tax ID numbers
  • Business name and location
  • Date the business was established
  • Business owner’s Social Security number, address and date of birth

How to apply for financing

Particularly at the start, you may need to apply for a business line of credit to keep things moving. These short-term loans are useful for bridging temporary working capital needs, such as inventory purchases or operating expenses.

To apply for a line of credit you usually need to provide the bank with proof of revenue. If approved, they may set a limit, which like a credit card, allows for continuous borrowing and repayment within the agreed duration of the loan.

Step 9: Obtain any necessary licenses or permits

Before you open for business, take a moment to make sure that you have all the correct licenses, permits and insurance policies to operate legally. The last thing you want at this stage is to be shut down by a government agency.

Which licenses and permits do you need?

If your business operates in certain industries, such as agriculture and broadcasting, you might need a federal license. Other industries, like health care, typically require professional licenses. Even if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you may need some form of permission to conduct business. Freelancers and consultants, for example, sometimes have to have a home occupation permit.

Which insurance do you need?

Your insurance needs will depend on what type of business you have, but there are also requirements that vary from state to state. Examples of types of insurance you may need to consider include:

  • Workers’ compensation Mandatory in most states, workers’ compensation provides coverage for on-the-job injuries or illness. Employees typically receive wage replacement and medical benefits in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of their right to sue for negligence.
  • General liability insurance This insurance usually covers accidents, injuries and claims of negligence.
  • Product liability insurance Often essential for businesses in manufacturing or distribution, product liability helps protect against financial loss due to a defective product that causes injury or bodily harm.
  • Professional liability insurance If you provide a service, professional liability, or errors and omissions insurance, helps safeguard you from malpractice and negligence lawsuits.
  • Commercial property insurance Property damage and loss caused by fire, smoke, storms, vandalism and other events are usually covered by commercial property insurance.
  • Business owner policy Designed for small and medium-sized businesses, BOP combines general liability insurance and property insurance into a single, more cost-effective policy.

Step 10: Choose your accounting and payroll system

Before you make an initial sale or hire your first employee , you most likely need a method of managing your finances and paying the people  who work for you. You can tackle these important tasks yourself using spreadsheets, hire an accountant or work with a payroll provider .

If you’re a solo operation or only have a few employees, a manual approach to payroll may save you money . It is, however, time consuming and comes with the most risk because you could be fined for mistakes . Hiring an accountant might give you more peace of mind, but they’re usually expensive and you may lose some control of the process. A payroll provider , on the other hand, is often the best of both worlds, giving you control and risk reduction, while also saving you time.

Payroll providers like ADP offer products that in most cases, can automatically pay your employees, file taxes on your behalf and help you comply with applicable government regulations. Our payroll  also seamlessly integrates with many types of accounting software  so you can manage your finances from one place.  A provider like ADP serves business of all sizes so whether you need payroll for a small business  or something larger, we can help. 

Step 11: Create a web presence

Since most customers use the internet to search for goods and services, a helpful and attractive website can be an integral piece of your marketing strategy. The ideal web presence should:

  • Engage your target audience
  • Include key terms for search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Display your business logo
  • Have creative content
  • Integrate social media channels

Although there are some platforms that allow you to build a site with little or no development knowledge, it may be worth hiring a professional if you want to present a truly polished image of your business. Look for digital agencies who specialize in helping small businesses because they’re usually more likely to understand your needs and meet your budget requirements.

Starting an online business

A website is even more critical if your business will be conducted entirely online. You have several options in this regard:

  • Ecommerce store Sell your own inventory of products directly to customers.
  • Drop shipping Work with a third party distributor to fulfill your sales orders.
  • Affiliate marketing Drive traffic to ecommerce sites and make commission on sales.
  • Blogging Create engaging content that generates revenue from advertisements.

Step 12: Choose retirement and health insurance plans

You might want to review your health insurance and retirement plan options as soon as possible because they can help you attract employees. Even if you don’t or won’t have employees, you may still want to consider benefits for yourself as the business owner.

How to choose a health insurance plan

When shopping for health insurance, look for a plan that:

  • Meets your desired level of coverage (medical discount, limited or full-feature plan)
  • Compiles with the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
  • Offers access to all the services you need (specialists, mental health, etc.)
  • Has co-pays, deductibles or out-of-network expenses within your budget

How to choose a retirement plan

When considering retirement plans, small businesses generally have three options:

  • Simplified employee pension plan (SEP-IRA)
  • Solo 401(k)

Each of these retirement plans has different contribution limits. To determine which makes sense for you, consider your savings goals, the time scale and if you anticipate needing access to the money before retirement. Consult with a small business banker or financial advisor or visit the IRS website for more help making an informed choice.

How to start payroll for a small business

To get started with payroll , whether you’ve chosen to do it yourself  or work with a payroll provider , you may need to:

  • Apply for tax ID numbers
  • Gather employee information (Forms W-4, I-9, etc.)
  • Create a payroll calendar
  • Have a method of tracking employee hours
  • Open a separate bank account for payroll

How to pay employees

You can compensate your employees using paper checks, direct deposit and alternative methods, like paycards . But how do you get from the first day of a pay cycle to the all-important pay day? Following these basic steps may help:

  • Determine employee hourly wage
  • Track hours worked
  • Calculate gross pay
  • Withhold pre-tax voluntary deductions, such as health benefits
  • Deduct mandatory payroll taxes
  • Withhold post-tax deductions, such as garnishments
  • Distribute payment and paystub
  • Keep detailed payroll records

This process may sound simple, but it often becomes complex as you hire more employees. Working with a payroll provider may save you time and prevent costly mistakes.

How to do payroll for self-employed

If you’re a solopreneur or independent contractor, you can usually pay yourself directly from your profits. Depending on your total earnings, however, you may have to pay income tax and self-employment tax, which is a combination of Medicare and Social Security taxes. These taxes are, in most cases, filed quarterly using IRS Form 1040-ES .

Starting a small business FAQs

See what other entrepreneurs ask about starting a small business:

Can you start a business with no money?

As long as you’re willing to put in the effort, it may be possible to start a business with limited or no funds. Service-based businesses are sometimes a good option for cash-strapped entrepreneurs, especially if you have expertise in a specific area or already own the tools needed to perform the job. Product-based businesses usually require more capital, but you can still pursue them in some cases by starting a service business and using the profits to launch a product. Along the way, you typically need to do all the work yourself and may have to keep your existing job to avoid financial hardship.

What is the easiest business to start?

Businesses where you perform a service – landscaping, graphic design, consulting, etc. – are usually the easiest to start because they require the least initial investment. They also tend to be more profitable compared to product-based businesses that have overheard expenses. And if you choose a service  that suits your existing skill set, you can sometimes be up and running fairly quickly. Another advantage to service-based businesses is that many of them can be done as a side job, so there may be less financial risk.

How much does it cost to open a business?

Startup costs generally vary greatly depending on the type of business you plan to open. Some businesses need office space, others require specialized equipment and most today need a website. As an entrepreneur, you need to carefully estimate these expenses ahead of time. This will help determine how you’ll finance your business and may reduce your chances of running out of money before you turn a profit.

This article provides practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal advice or other professional services. It is recommended that you consult with a professional advisor for your particular business needs.

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Home >> #realtalk Blog >> Grow with Homebase >> How to Start a Small…

How to Start a Small Business in 2024 in 7 Actionable Steps

By Shannon Mulligan

Small business packaging

If you’ve considered opening a small business, we’ve got a good feeling that 2024 is your year. Despite worries over inflation and high-interest rates, the U.S. economy continues to grow .  

And while entrepreneurs are concerned with inflation (78%), interest rates (65%), and commodities prices (63%), there’s still good news to be had. Sixty-six per cent of small businesses in the U.S. are currently profitable, and 76% feel that they’ll continue to stay open and profitable through the current socio-economic situation. If that’s the inspiration you’ve been looking for, well, you’ve come to the right place.

Starting a successful business in 2024 is about starting on the right foot. With the seven steps we’re sharing, you’ll have everything you need to get your business off the ground and on its way to becoming profitable. 

What’s a good small business to start in 2024?

When you’re thinking about what kind of business to start, you need to consider about two main factors:

  • Does your business fill an unmet consumer need in your area?
  • Are you passionate about your business and do you have a level of expertise in your business?

If you can solve a problem for people while doing something that you enjoy, you’ve found the perfect recipe for a successful business. Of course, having a great idea and passion for your business is the ideal place to start—but where do you go from there?

What do you need to start a small business?

Whether you’re opening a brick-and-mortar retail store or a service-based business, all businesses need to start at the same place. Taking time at the beginning to get all of your ducks in a row is the best way to build a solid foundation and will help you ensure your business will survive long term. 

No matter what kind of business you’re thinking of, when you’re starting out, there are some basic things you’ll need to get started.

Important things to think about:

  • Market, competitor, and location research
  • A business plan
  • A bank account
  • Employer identification number (EIN)
  • Business location
  • Business structure (will you function as a corporation, LLC, sole proprietor, etc.?)
  • Business insurance
  • Licenses and permits as they apply to your business

How to start your small business in 7 steps

Every business is different, that’s for sure. But there are some things that every business will need to do to get started. These seven actionable steps will help you start your next small business.

Step 1: Clarify your business idea

If you’ve decided you want to start a new business, but you still need to figure out what that business should be, brainstorming business ideas is the best place to start. 

As mentioned above, finding something you’re passionate about that also fills a need in the market is a great starting point for any business. The final element is something that you can monetize. You may be passionate about books but aren’t a great writer. So, you pivot to opening a bookstore… One problem: your small town already has two independent bookstores. The solution? You decide to open a bookstore in another town. Now, you’ve found something you’re passionate about that fills a need and is profitable. 

If you don’t have a set idea of what kind of small business you want to open, try answering a few of these questions:

  • What do you love doing?
  • What would you rather not spend your time doing?
  • What are you good at?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • When friends and family ask you for advice, what questions are they asking?
  • If you had to talk about a topic for five minutes on the spot with no preparation time, what would it be?

The answers to these questions can show you where to focus your business. And if you already have a business idea, these answers can help you expand on that idea. Whatever idea you have, always ask yourself if it’s something that’s needed and if you’re good at it. 

Step 2: Conduct market research

A critical step in starting any business is market research. 

Market research shows whether your idea can become a profitable, successful business. It gives you insights into how your business will perform and can help mitigate some risks associated with starting a new small business.

Market research is made up of two types of research, primary and secondary information:

  • Primary information is any information you gather directly from consumers. This could take the form of focus groups, surveys, telephone interviews, and questionnaires that you administer to your target market. 
  • Secondary information is any information you gather from external sources. This could take the form of government census data, research reports, polling results, and research conducted by other businesses in your industry or location.

While gathering primary information is more time-consuming and expensive than secondary information, the best market research uses both primary and secondary information. 

Market research helps your business in a variety of ways:

  • Validate your business idea: Market research helps you determine if your business idea is profitable.
  • Get a better understanding of your customers: For demographics like age, location, and education level, market research can deliver important information about your would-be customers. 
  • Find your unique value proposition: When you look closely at your competitors and their actions, you can find what sets your business apart and makes you stand out in your industry.
  • Learn the best ways to market your business: Because market research helps you learn more about your customers, you can find the best ways to sell to them. Are they on social media, or more likely to consume traditional print media? Are billboards more likely to bring in new customers, or should you invest your marketing budget into email? Learning about your potential customers will help you answer these questions.

Step 3: Create a business plan

Now that you’ve tested your idea through market research, it’s time to take everything you’ve learned and create a business plan . 

A business plan is a written document that defines your business and outlines your business strategy, future goals, and how you plan to reach those goals. Think of your business plan as the map that’ll get you from Day 1 to Day 1,438 as a business owner. 

Every business should have a business plan. A lot of people assume that business plans are only for those looking for outside funding from investors or a bank. But every business can benefit from a business plan—it can help you expand on your business idea and uncover any potential issues you may have overlooked. Even if you’re not starting out, but say, looking at a second location , a business plan is an important step to validate your decisions.

Business plan essentials

Every business plan is different, but you can feel confident that you’ve created a well-rounded business plan if you include the following sections:

  • Executive summary: Think of this as a paragraph or two that condenses everything you’ve written in your business plan. While this should be the first part of your business plan, most people leave it as the last thing they write.
  • Company description: What is your business? What problem are you solving? Why is your solution to this problem the best on the market? These are the questions you should be answering in your company description.
  • Market analysis: Here’s where your market research comes into play. This section is where you position your business against competitors. It should include your target market, market size, growth rate, trends, etc. 
  • Mission and goals: It’s time to start thinking about your business’s mission. Include a brief mission statement and outline what you hope to achieve as a business. Make sure the goals you include are SMART goals .
  • Products or services. This section outlines how your business operates. Are you selling a product or offering a service? Get into the details and include what you’ll offer, how much it costs, who creates the product/provides the service, and how much overhead you have.
  • Background summary: Here’s where you’ll include all the historical data, research, and articles you’ve  collected. Summarize this information and outline how your findings will positively or negatively affect your business or industry.
  • Marketing plan: How will you promote your business? This section of your business plan should outline your unique value proposition, marketing campaign plans , and the expected cost for all marketing efforts.
  • Financial plan: Arguably the most important part of any business plan. Afterall, without money, it’s unlikely you’ll have much of a business. This section often includes a proposed budget and projected financial statements for five years, like a balance sheet, cash flow report, and income statement. This is where you outline any funding requests you’re seeking.

Step 4: Finance your small business

Now that all your ideas are on paper, it’s time to think about how you’ll finance your small business. Depending on the type of business you’re opening, you may be looking at anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few hundred thousand dollars to get started. The average cost for a small business to start and run for their first full year is $40,000 . 

No matter what your start-up costs are projected to be, don’t let this stop you yet. There are lots of funding options available to small businesses, including:

  • Self-funding or bootstrapping: A lot of small businesses start off using their personal funds. But if your financial needs are high, there’s a lot of financial risk that comes with bootstrapping your business.
  • Small business loans or lines of credit: There are a lot of great small business loans and lines of credit that you can use to get your business off the ground. You’ll need your business plan along with personal financial statements when you apply.
  • Small business grants: Small business grants provide funding you don’t have to pay back. It can take some time to research and apply for grants, but it can be worthwhile if you can secure a grant. Check out some of the grants offered by the Small Business Administration here .

Step 5: Decide on your business structure

Choosing a business structure isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. How you structure your business will affect the tax you owe, your daily operations, and the personal risk you assume, and may have other legal implications down the road.

Here’s a rundown of the most common business structures:

Sole proprietorship is the most common business structure for solo entrepreneurs. In this business structure, the company and the owner are considered the same. Therefore, if the business fails, the owner is personally responsible for all business debts. 

Partnerships are used when starting a business with more than one individual. A partnership requires a partnership agreement, and partners have limited liability for the debts of the LLP.

Limited liability companies or LLCs can be owned by one or more people/companies and limit your personal liability for business debts. They’re one of the easiest business structures to establish.

Cooperatives are businesses or organizations that run to benefit those using the services. Industries that fall into this category include, but aren’t limited to, health care, retail, restaurants, and agriculture.

Corporations are more complex from a legal and tax point of view. Because of this, they’re more common in larger companies but can still be used by small businesses. 

Consider speaking with a lawyer or accountant before deciding to ensure you’re making the best decision for your business.

Step 6: Dig into the legal must-haves

It’s important to dot your i’s and cross your t’s when it comes to the legal ins and outs of a small business. And there are a lot of i’s and t’s to keep track of. When you’re starting a new small business, make sure you have the following in order before you begin operating:

  • Register your small business : While it’s not always necessary to register your small business at a federal, state, or local level, doing so may help with your personal liability protection, and it may have some legal and tax benefits. 
  • Apply for an employer identification or tax I.D. number: Your employer identification number (EIN) is issued by the IRS. You need one so you can file federal taxes, hire employees, and open a business bank account. You can apply for an EIN on the IRS website . Some states also require a state-level tax I.D. number, so check if one is needed in your state.
  • Insure your small business: Even if you’re a home-based business or don’t have any employees, you need to have insurance for your small business. The kind of insurance you need depends on your business model and what risks you—and your customers—may face. Reach out to an insurance agent to get the full scoop on what kind of insurance is best for your business. 
  • Open a business bank account: When you start a business, you need a separate bank account to accept payments, pay employees, and make business purchases. What kind of bank account is best depends on your business needs. Start exploring the banks in your area to find one that meets your needs.  

Step 7: Get the right tools to run your small business

Finding the right tools to run your small business is key to helping your business run smoothly. The right business tools will save you time and money and make you a desirable employer. The tools you need will depend on your small business, but looking for tools that automate repetitive tasks and lessen your workload is a great place to start. 

With Homebase , you get everything you need to take control of your business. Designed for hourly work, Homebase will help you schedule your team , track their hours , and run payroll seamlessly. You’ll also have a team communication app that keeps you and your employees on the same page. Homebase even has expert H.R. guidance to help you comply with government regulations without an in-house H.R. team.

Homebase is the all-in-one management app that simplifies running your small business. Get started now for free .

How to start a small business FAQs

How much does it cost to open a small business.

It costs the average small business $40,000 to start and run for an entire year. This number depends on many factors, including what kind of business it is, if you need real estate to operate, and if you have employees. Some home-based businesses can start with just a few hundred dollars, whereas starting a restaurant can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What’s the best business structure for a small business?

The best business structure for your small business depends on various factors. What kind of business are you forming? What industry are you in? Are you the only owner? A successful business structure protects you and your employees and allows you to set realistic goals and follow through on your plan to reach those goals.

Do I need a license to start a small business?

Whether or not you need a license to start your small business depends on the type of business you’re starting and where you’re located. For example, to open a daycare, you’ll need to get a license, but the requirements vary depending on your state. Spend some time researching your business and the licenses required to run a business in that industry in your state.

Remember:  This is not legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, please consult a lawyer, CPA, or other appropriate professional advisor or agency.

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70 Small Business Ideas for Anyone Who Wants to Run Their Own Business

Meg Prater (she/her)

Published: July 31, 2023

A good business idea may seem hard to come by, but with some planning and preparation, you can easily launch a small business to supplement your income — or become your own full-time boss.

Small business ideas symbolically showing the spirit of a small business

Maybe you already have an idea of the business you’d like to start. But while you might feel ready for a new venture and passionate about your idea, you might be looking for some direction.

Get HubSpot's Free CRM to Start Your Business

To help get you started, here's a list of small business ideas separated into a few sections:

Best Small Business Ideas

Best businesses to start with little money, home business ideas, easy businesses to start, how to start a small business at home.

The first step to becoming a successful entrepreneur is finding a business idea that works for you. In this article, you’ll find dozens of small business ideas you can start from home and scale up as your clientele grows. Let’s get started.

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Fill out this form to build your business plan today., what makes a good small business idea.

Not all small business ideas are made equal: Some require more effort and funding than others, while some can be launched with few resources — or resources you already have. As a potential small business owner, you’ll want to save as much money as possible on training, rent, supplies, and other necessities.

Let’s go over what makes a good business idea:

  • Requires little to no training . A good small business idea will ideally leverage your existing field of expertise and require little to no training. That will not only shorten your time-to-launch, but also lessen your expenses, since training courses can cost a significant amount of money. Plus, you’ll be more confident offering services that you feel prepared to deliver.
  • Requires low setup costs. Your business should be cheap to start. Maybe you only need to purchase a website domain or buy a desk for your garage.
  • Requires little hands-on inventory or supply management . A great business idea needs few supplies and little inventory management. If you want to sell physical goods, you can either try drop-shipping and manually make goods in small batches.
  • Is based online . The best small business ideas are based online and can be carried out from your personal computer. This will automatically lower your commuting costs and give you greater flexibility over your personal and work life.
  • Can sustainably be managed by few people . As a small business owner, you won’t have the funds to hire other people to help you run your business — at least not at first. A good business idea should give you the ability to run your business on your own.

Airbnb Co-founder, Brian Chesky, said, "If we tried to think of a good idea, we wouldn’t have been able to think of a good idea. You just have to find the solution for a problem in your own life."

If you’re like Brian and you’ve already thought about a solution for a problem you encounter in your life — or you’re on the path to doing so — then starting a small business may be in your future. It may also be for you if you dream of clocking out of your nine-to-five job for the last time and becoming your own boss.

Below, we include the absolute best ideas for you to start your small business — with resources and examples to help you get started.

1. Handyman

small business idea example: handyman

Image Source

Are you always fixing things around the house? Often on-call when friends need small projects completed? Create a website , conduct a competitive analysis to determine what your time and expertise are worth, and turn to the friends you’ve helped before for referrals.

A handyman business is a good idea if you’ve already built a robust set of skills to help others fix up their homes. Consider specializing in what you feel well-prepared to do — for instance, if you know your way underneath a sink and water system, then you might provide sink fixing services to start, then expand your offerings once you earn more skills.

No certifications are needed to become a handyman, and there are no special education requirements. You might need, however, a license if you’re planning to undertake jobs worth more than a certain dollar amount. Some states might not require this license.

To start your handyman business, we recommend the following resources:

  • Handyman License Requirements by State
  • The Most Requested Handyman Services
  • Association of Certified Handyman Professionals

2. Woodworker

Similarly, if you have a passion for crafting beautiful furniture or other home goods out of wood, that could be a small business niche for you. Get started by listing a few of your pieces on sites like Etsy . Once you build a following, consider starting a website, accepting custom orders, or expanding to refinishing work and upholstery.

A woodworker small business is ideal if you already have a passion for woodworking, as well as the tools to begin fulfilling orders as they begin to come in. Since delivering a well-made product is key to keeping your customers happy, you don’t want to be “training” as you create a custom shelf or a custom storage box. It’s recommended to have at least one year of experience as a woodworking apprentice.

To start a woodworking business, there are no special education requirements, but there are a wide range of woodworking training certifications online, so we suggest starting with a certification. The Woodwork Institute , YesTomorrow , and The School of Fine Woodworking are potential places to start.

3. Online Dating Consultant

Dating consultants usually charge for their time. They help people create successful online dating profiles, source possible matches from outside the typical online channels, and offer a level of personalization that a site like Tinder can’t. Think you’ve got a knack for the match? This might be the business for you.

Online dating consultants need to have strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as heightened levels of empathy. The good news is that there are no special education or licensure requirements, though we recommend getting a certification such as IAP College’s relationship coach certification or Hart Academy’s online dating coach certificate .

To start an online dating consultant business, you’ll need a website that shares all about you and offers free dating resources your customers might benefit from. Once they download a resource, you can loop them in for a free consultation.

4. Sewing and Alteration Specialist

small business idea example: sewing and alterations

People will always need clothing hemmed and buttons mended — and you could be the person to do it. If you love sewing and have a sewing machine at home, start by offering simple services like those mentioned above and expand your repertoire to dressmaking and design as you build a customer base and demand.

You don’t need a special license or degree to begin a sewing and alterations business, but it’s essential to build your skills so you can take on more complicated projects. High-value clients will want to customize complicated items of clothing such as suits, pants, gowns, and dresses. That’s where you’ll see the highest potential for profits.

Altering these items require special skills, however. A few courses you might consider include:

  • International Open Academy's Tailoring Course for Beginners
  • Jackson Sewing Academy’s Basic Alterations Course
  • American Bespoke Tailoring Academy’s Programs

You’ll also need to shop for sewing supplies of all colors to accommodate your clients.

5. Freelance Developer

From building websites for other small businesses to providing technical support for certain projects, quality web development is in high demand right now. As a web developer, you'll naturally have a technical skill set. Distill your knowledge and expertise so customers who don't have your experience are able to understand what it is you'll be helping them achieve.

To help with this, test your messaging on friends and family who don’t have a firm understanding of the work you do. If they’re able to summarize what you do, your messaging is likely effective among people outside of your industry. You can start finding your first freelance contracts by visiting different freelance websites .

Unlike a few other options in this list, a freelance developer does need some training to launch a successful business and start taking on projects, but if you’re a beginner, don’t worry. There are plenty of boot camps to get you up to speed with either full-stack or front-end web development. Some of these boot camps are even offered through accredited tech schools.

Some boot camps you might consider include:

  • Coding Dojo
  • Fullstack Academy
  • Georgia Institute of Technology Coding Boot Camp

These vary in price, so be sure to do extensive research to find one that fits you and your budget.

6. Personal Trainer

Offer in-home consultations, personalized nutrition and exercise regimens, and community boot camps to get the word out. Don’t forget to populate an Instagram feed with inspirational quotes, free exercise videos, and yummy snack ideas as well — it’s a common way for fitness gurus to build their brands in our digital world.

If you choose to go this route, it’s OK to start small at first, then scale up. For instance, MOURfit is a personal training business in Indianapolis that started in a shared gym, then grew to a private gym that offers group fitness, personal training, and nutrition services.

To start a personal training business, you’ll need a certification. If you already earned a degree in an unrelated discipline, we recommend starting with the NASM-CPT certification , which is nationally accredited and only requires a high school diploma or GED. You can also get a Bachelor’s degree in physical and exercise science — here’s one example from Emory & Henry College .

7. Freelance Graphic Designer

Set your own hours, choose your projects, and build a portfolio and business you’re proud of. From website design to blog graphics and more, many companies seek out experienced graphic designers for support on a variety of projects.

The good news? There are no special education requirements for becoming a freelance graphic designer, though we recommend seeking a credential (like SAIC’s graphic design certificate or RISD’s graphic design certificate ) or an Associate’s degree in design so you can confidently present your portfolio and complete your first few projects.

If you’re just starting out with graphic design, try these tips and tricks that are ideal for beginners. If you’re more experienced but need to build your portfolio to attract clients, these prompts will get your creativity flowing in no time. We also recommend reviewing other people’s work on portfolio websites to get a feel for what is “trendy” and receive feedback as you grow your small business.

Free Download: How to Hire and Work with Freelancers

8. Life/ Career Coach

If you have experience navigating career, personal, and social transitions successfully, put it to good use as a life or career coach. Many of us are looking for guidance in our careers — and finding someone with the time to mentor us can be tough.

Life/career coaches don’t come cheap, but they are able to offer clients the intense and hands-on training and advice they need to make serious moves in their personal and professional lives. After all, everyone needs some uplifting advice from time to time.

To start your life/career coaching business with confidence, you can look for a certification program (like the Life Coach School’s or Diane Hudson’s ), then apply your skills as you acquire new clients.

small business idea example: Career Coach Nariah Broadus

A resume writing business is economical, has few overhead costs, and has few educational requirements. We still recommend having an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree and a few resume samples on hand. If you still feel that you need to brush up on your resume writing skills, you can take a course like Coursera’s or LinkedIn Learning’s .

Once you’ve gotten resume writing down, you can expand your business to include cover letter writing, and even offer career coaching services in conjunction with these services.

10. Freelance Writer

If you have writing skills , there’s someone out there willing to pay you for them. Write blog posts, magazine articles, and website copy galore — just make sure you have a body of work built up to share with potential clients. Even if you create a few sample pieces to have on hand, they’ll help exhibit your work and attract new business.

To become a freelance writer, it’s essential to choose a specialty. For instance, you might choose to only write for publications in the healthcare industry (maybe because you were previously a healthcare worker), or focus on lifestyle publications. Whatever the case, specializing will help you find your niche market and gain confidence as a new freelancer writer.

There are no educational requirements to freelance writing, but you do need strong writing skills. It also helps to enjoy writing. While a certification may beneficial, getting practice and writing every day is more important. Try these writing prompts to start.

11. Landscaper

Mowing, tree-trimming, and seasonal decor are all neighborhood needs. If you have or can acquire the equipment, a landscaping business can be a lucrative affair. It’s also a great choice if you enjoy doing it for your own home and have a good eye for landscape design.

The good news is that you can start small. For instance, you could offer your neighbors seasonal planting services and start with a few perennial plants, or simply offer mulching services.

To grow your landscaping business, you should consider taking some formal training. The following organizations offer courses:

  • New York Botanical Gardens

After completing a course and getting enough experience, you can apply for a certificate from a landscaping organization. While a certificate isn’t necessary to work in the field, it can build your credentials and help you make industry connections to take your landscaping business to the next level. The Association of Professional Landscape Designers offers one potential certificate you could pursue.

Some states require licensure, especially if you’ll be using pesticides and fertilizers. Be sure to review the requirements for your state.

Learn some of the basics now with this video on landscape design from Lowe’s:

12. Videographer

Video production requires you to have invested in the equipment up front, which can be quite expensive. But that’s also what makes your services so valuable. Make sure you have a reel of your work to share or create a website with several selections of your work available for interested viewers.

There are no educational or licensure requirements for starting a video production business. As with writing and other creative arts, though, it pays to specialize. Real estate videos differ radically from wedding videos, and wedding videos differ radically from in-studio interviews and testimonials. By specializing, you target a highly specific customer who’ll benefit the most from your services, and you can also skill-up more effectively in one shooting style.

While you can find general classes on videography, you should consider taking a class in the type of videography you’d like to do. For instance, you could take The Complete Wedding Videography Course , if that’s the route you’d like to take.

Hot tip: If you’re interested in specializing in video marketing, check out The Ultimate Guide to Video Marketing and download our starter pack below.

→ Access Now: Video Marketing Starter Pack [Free Kit]

13. Photographer

Start by conducting photo shoots for your family and friends. As you build a body of work, ask for referrals and reviews. Photography businesses often grow by word of mouth, so create a Facebook page where you can tag recent clients. Photos where you tag those clients will show up in their friends’ newsfeeds, where they can view your work. You can also ask them to leave reviews on your Facebook business page.

Like with a video production small business, you’ll want to specialize. Will you do product shoots or portraits? How about wedding or fashion photo shoots? Once you specialize, you’ll be able to create a body of work that most accurately represents your strengths.

There are no educational or licensure requirements for starting a small photography business, but we recommend investing in a few photography courses, especially if you haven’t used your camera in a while. Some courses you might start with include:

  • Cornell’s Digital Photography Certificate Program
  • New York Institute of Photography’s Course

From there, seek courses that help you build skills in your chosen specialty.

If you’re not sure where to start with freelance photography, take a look at Erica Clayton’s journey into the business below. Her advice? Give yourself a firm deadline to turn a profit.

14. Bed and Breakfast Owner

small business idea example: bed and breakfast

This is another business venture that will require you to research the correct licensure from your state, but it will be well worth it to see your dreams come true. Consider what guests will be traveling to your area and create special packages and themed stays that coincide with their interests in your locale.

To start a bed and breakfast business, you’ll need a physical business location and a small staff for maintenance, customer service, and upkeep. For that reason, we recommend it if you have startup funds to start your business. (Don’t have any? Here’s how to start crowdfunding to launch your new business .)

A successful bed and breakfast business will also need an SEO-optimized website with a hotel booking system. If you create your website on the WordPress platform, you can easily create a B&B website using a hotel booking plugin — so there’s no need to code the booking form from scratch.

With Airbnb and hotels stealing market share, the competition is tough in the bed and breakfast space, so we recommend providing a unique angle to the stay. As mentioned, the stays can be themed — maybe your B&B is a vintage home with all original furniture, or maybe you offer traditional fare from your homeland.

15. Clothing Boutique Owner

If you dream of building your own fashion empire, why not start with a local boutique? Build buzz with impressive clothing styles, inspiring social media accounts, and heavy community involvement. While you can open a physical store, you can easily start online — and if that proves profitable, you can open up a local shop.

There are a few ways you can start a clothing boutique. First, you can make the clothes yourself if you already have experience in fashion design or know how to sew, knit, and curate colors and patterns.

Alternatively, you can design certain aspects of the clothing — such as a graphic or a logo — then send it to be printed on-demand at a local print shop when orders come in.

Lastly, you can dropship the items from a warehouse you’ve partnered with. This method is less reliable because there’s less quality assurance for each item, especially if you never visit the warehouses yourself. Regardless of the method you choose, starting a clothing boutique is highly doable, and you don’t need to have a fashion degree (though it certainly helps).

Take some inspiration from Sleep Ova , a luxury loungewear boutique based in Los Angeles, CA.

small business idea example: sleep ova

16. Specialty Food Store Owner

small business idea example: specialty food store

Gourmet foods, cheeses, sake, wine — you name a food, there’s a specialty food store out there for it. Put your passion for exotic olive oils to good use and open a store like American Provisions where you offer the kind of expertise and selection your audience couldn’t dream of getting from their local grocer.

To start your specialty food store, you’ll want to curate and source the items from makers that you love and trust. Ask around your community to find local makers of the food you want to sell, and the makers will likely be open to a partnership, especially if they get a cut of the profits.

When it’s time to sell, you’ll want to find a physical location, but if that investment is too high, you can start by setting up stalls at food festivals and local markets. Or you can go the ecommerce route and sell the products through your website, taking care to carefully pack perishable items.

17. Food Truck Owner

Always dreamt of owning a restaurant but not quite ready to take the plunge? Test out your concepts with a food truck. It’s a great way to become familiar with food and restaurant licensing in your state, see what people like and don’t like, and build a ravenous following before ever opening or investing in a brick-and-mortar location.

Food trucks will require a larger investment, but thankfully, you can rent the truck itself — the Food Truck Group and Roaming Hunger are two potential leasers you could look at. The cost will be high, so we recommend renting one in preparation for an event such as a food festival or concert. There, you’ll get to test out the popularity of your cuisine and see if the food truck business is right for you.

Taco Nganas , a taco truck in Memphis, TN, started with one food truck and expanded to three, building a loyal customer base along the way.

18. Car-detailing Specialist

small business idea example: car detailing

The devil is in the details, and you can be too. Car-detailing services that travel to the client are convenient for busy people who can’t find the time to run through the car wash. With this business, your clients only have to pay and the service will be done for them before they know it. Just make sure you have the flexibility, transportation, and equipment to take your business on the road.

There are no educational requirements for car detailing, but you should still take a course such as Auto Finesse’s detailing training to learn core concepts and brush up on your skills.

To get your car detailing business off the ground, you’ll need an SEO-optimized website and a way for customers to book online with you. Before you take that step, however, consider listing your services on websites like Angi , Thumbtack , and even Nextdoor.com so you can get your first local clients.

Don’t have a lot of money to start your business? Check out the ideas below.

1. Translator

Speak a foreign language? Start a translation service. Consider specializing in a specific genre of translation, like medical or financial translation, as you might be able to fill a niche need in your community.

small business ideas: translator

To become a translator, you should have a rock-solid grasp of two languages — ideally, you’ll be near native level for both. You don’t need special credentials to become a translator, but a certification (such as from the American Translators Association ) will legitimize your business and help you get clients.

Prior to gaining a certification, you can also pursue an online certificate, which will teach you the basics of translation. Some providers include:

  • University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • The University of Arizona
  • University of Georgia

2. Garden Designer

Many people have the willingness to do the dirty work in their backyards, but few have the know-how to complete the first part of this process — designing and planning the backyard space. Draw up the designs for your clients’ outdoor spaces and let them do the actual digging.

But you can also offer installation services, or hire your own contractors to fulfill the design.

small business ideas: garden designer

To become a garden designer, you should seek at least one credential so you’re well-versed in the basics and prevent damage to a client’s landscape. The American Academy of Garden Design offers courses and certificates that start at $450. A cheaper option is New Skills Academy’s Garden Design Certification ($120).

Remember, the goal is to start a business for cheap, and a certification can have a high ROI after you book your first few clients for garden design.

3. Travel Planner

The time of the travel agent might be passing, but people are still looking for those with a knack for more nontraditional travel coordination. If you always plan the perfect vacations complete with beautiful hotels, the ideal location, and a bevy of delicious restaurants lined up for every evening, consider advertising your services as a more modern approach to travel planning.

You don’t have to only plan trips for individuals, either. If you’re experienced enough, you can even start a group travel company, like Art N Soul Escapes .

You can become a travel planner by first volunteering to plan a few trips for your family and friends. Try it and see if you like it. Once you feel like you’ve gotten a good taste, attend a travel planner program and get certified. Some options include:

  • The Travel Institute Training & Certification Program
  • Penn Foster Travel and Tourism Specialist Diploma

You can also seek employment at a travel agency first, then strike out on your own once you’ve learned the basics.

4. Home Inspector

A home inspector examines a house’s drywall, electrical wiring, energy efficiency, and structural integrity to find potential issues on behalf of a home buyer. Home inspectors work in the field. They visit homes in person and provide a written inspection report. Alternatively, some home inspectors offer virtual inspections, which may be a good fit if you’d prefer to work from home.

small business ideas: home inspector

Working as a home inspector requires certification and a great deal of expertise, but it can offer a flexible work schedule and stable income. Confirm the licensing requirements in your state before getting started with this type of small business. You’ll want to make sure you’re providing the best service to your clients by having all of your credentials in order.

To become a home inspector, you should invest in a certification program, such as:

  • International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
  • ATI Home Inspector Academy

Be sure to check local authorities and universities for a course.

5. Personal Chef

We all love to eat, but few of us have the time or energy to cook healthy, delicious meals. Advertise your services to local families and businesses alike. To save on start-up costs, consider scheduling certain groups of clients together — say, vegetarians — so you can cook larger quantities of the same dish.

You can also begin by selling food in batches at local farmer’s markets or via a food truck. Once you’ve generated some awareness, you can begin taking on clients. Alternatively, you can start a delivery meal prep service by cooking 5-7 days’ worth of meals for clients.

small business idea example: personal chef

Chef Paul’s mouth-watering dishes are available to clients across the country. His clientele niche consists of athletes, corporate businesses, and local gyms.

6. Property Manager

Many people maintain properties they don’t live in — often based in different cities or states. As a property manager, you can help a property owner ensure their home is well taken care of, handle small fixes as they arise, and serve as a liaison to renters. It’s helpful if you have a background in real estate.

This option is a great fit if you have stupendous organizational, administrative, and customer service skills. As a property manager, you’ll be handling everything from screening potential tenants to collecting rent.

To become a property manager, you must first complete coursework in your desired state. We recommend working at an existing property management company to get your foot in the door. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can then start your own property management business.

7. Massage Therapist

Soothe aching muscles and promote peace for your clients as a massage therapist. As a massage therapist, you’ll offer targeted, personalized care that’s an edge above in-shop or mall massage services. To start this small business, you should invest in customer service courses, as well as a massage therapy certification.

small business idea example: massage therapist

Be sure to look into training and certification courses in your city and state, and to invest in a portable bed to take on client visits.

8. Interior Designer

Similar to landscape design — there are many people who have the ability to buy the furniture and home decor they need to fill their rooms, but few who know where to start. It might take some time to build a portfolio, but documenting your projects and sharing them online can build a fanbase beyond your wildest dreams.

To start an interior design business, we first recommend trying your hand at decorating your friends’ homes and working with their vision and specifications. One big aspect of interior design is providing fantastic customer service and knowing how to fulfill a client’s design vision while employing your interior design expertise.

You can then take an interior design course to round out your knowledge, such as the one offered by The New York Institute of Art and Design .

Need inspiration? Check out Sandra Cavallo’s interior design Instagram account.

small business idea example: interior designer

9. Nonprofit Owner

If you dream of devoting your life to a cause you believe in, it might be time to start a nonprofit. You’ll need to incorporate your business and file for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status — and then you’ll be required to meet ongoing standards of compliance, but the payoff is making a meaningful impact on a cause you believe in.

The best thing is that you can begin a nonprofit easily from your home, even before filing for 501(c)(3) status. First, create a non-profit website (ideally with a .org top-level-domain). Define your mission and goals, and figure out how you’ll execute your non-profit activities. For instance, if you’re raising money to buy books for local schools, who will deliver them? Which retailer will you use? Start small, then expand.

Thereafter, apply for exempt status so that you’re not taxed like a regular business. The profit margins may be smaller, but the job is endlessly rewarding.

Whether you’re a math whiz, piano master, or Shakespeare aficionado, there’s someone out there who needs a little help in your area of expertise and is willing to pay for it. Advertise your services through local schools, community colleges, community centers, and even social media to get the word out and build a customer base.

To start a tutoring business, you should first gain experience educating others by either volunteering or even teaching friends and family. But you can begin straight away by listing your services locally and online and launching a tutoring website.

Be sure to define your niche. Will you be tutoring students in their homes? Or opening a local tutoring location? Which subject will you teach? Create handouts, use textbooks, and know which online resources will be best for your tutee’s learning style.

11. Consultant

If you have significant experience in or knowledge of a specific subject, consider becoming a consultant. Perhaps you’re an expert at hiring practices, have a knack for SEO , or have led multiple sales teams to six-figure success. Identify your expertise and market yourself as a consultant and charge the going rate.

Download Now: Free Consultant's Success Kit

Some consulting industries are more competitive than others, so be sure to complete your research prior to starting a small consulting business. One way to find out how competitive a consulting niche is by doing keyword search . If your target niche is highly searched or already is dominated by big companies, you may have a harder time breaking in. You can use keyword research tools to uncover keyword volume and local demand.

12. Event Planner

An event planning business is an excellent choice if you have great organizational and interpersonal skills, and it’s relatively cheap to start. You might choose to specialize in a specific type of event — like weddings or company meetings — or set yourself up as an event planner of all trades.

The good news is that event planners are always in demand. It’s not a job that can be easily automated, so this small business idea is set to thrive regardless of the digital landscape. To start, you’ll want to look for a platform that will easily allow you to advertise your availability, such as event planner directories like Eventective and WeddingWire .

If you’re highly organized, are detail-oriented, and have experience planning large events, it might be time for others to benefit from your skills.

13. Personal Assistant

Personal assistants help business owners and executives take care of administrative tasks. To launch a freelance personal assistant business, you should leverage networking opportunities on LinkedIn and attend small business events at local chambers of commerce. Most local business owners might not even know they need a personal assistant until you market your services to them.

If you’re an organized, highly-detailed person, the life of a personal assistant might be for you. Don’t want to be tied to one office or person all day, every day? Consider becoming a virtual assistant, which allows you a more flexible work environment.

To become an assistant, choose a niche — will you be helping women business owners specifically? Do you have a specific field of expertise, like bookkeeping? A website can also go a long way, and be sure to print business cards for you to hand out during networking events.

14. Consignment Shop Owner

If you have an eye for style but don’t want to invest in the inventory of a brand-new boutique, consider starting a consignment shop. It will allow you to curate a collection of clothing that matches your goals and aesthetic, without the overhead of a boutique selling entirely new garments.

The beauty of a small consignment business is that you can now start one online. You can sign up on a platform such as Poshmark , Depop , and even Etsy , then easily start selling your own used fashion from home.

Once you’ve defined your niche — such as vintage clothing, unique locally made art, or colorful shoes — you can begin sourcing new products from your local stores and thrift shops.

15. Caterer

If the personal chef gig is too restrictive for your schedule, consider catering instead. Pick your projects, work on fewer but larger events, and hone in on your time management skills.

Becoming a caterer is a natural step for those who are used to cooking for large events — for instance, you may have already catered your friend’s wedding, or brought a 20-person meal to a potluck (that counts, too!).

It’s essential that you have enough temperature-regulated storage for the meals prior to each event, and that you arrange for reliable, temperature-controlled transportation to and from your home kitchen. Alternatively, you can lower your costs by inviting customers to pick up their order at your home.

16. Gym Owner

Kickboxing gyms, yoga studios, CrossFit, oh my! Turn your passion for fitness into a community for others by creating your own gym — start one from the ground up, become an affiliate, or open a franchise location.

Available franchise opportunities include Anytime Fitness, Orangetheory Fitness, Pure Barre, Planet Fitness, Crunch Fitness, and more. Be prepared to take out a loan to finance your franchise — most agreements start with fees upward of $20,000. But the payoff can be tremendous due to brand recognition. You’ll have no trouble recruiting new members as long as you use local marketing strategies .

Alternatively, you can create a local studio, but ideally, it should be for a specific activity instead of general fitness. Yoga, pilates, bootcamp-style gyms, and martial arts perform well as independent fitness studios.

17. Boutique Agency Owner

What’s your specialty? Whether it’s marketing, social media, or PR, it might be time to start your own agency. Many other small businesses need this type of help but don’t have the resources or volume to necessitate a full-time position.

To start an agency, you would ideally have worked in your specialty for a number of years. You should also be prepared to interface directly with clients, fulfill their requirements, and temper their expectations (if they want results in an unreasonably short amount of time).

Consider building a small team and learn from other entrepreneurs who’ve successfully started their own agencies, like Duane Brown of Take Some Risk .

18. Coffee Shop Owner

Turn your caffeine addiction into something a little more lucrative. Opening a franchise or buying an existing shop are lower-risk entry points to the coffee game, but they usually require a little more cash upfront. Starting a shop from scratch requires more planning and work — but it also maximizes your earning potential in the future.

A coffee shop is an excellent fit if you already have a full-time remote job and wish to supplement your income with a small business. You can manage the coffee shop as you work at one of the tables, but be sure to have the budget to hire an experienced barista who can pick up the slack.

If you would like to open a coffee shop and run it full-time on your own, you’ll need to undertake barista training, understand worldwide coffee sources, and have excellent customer service skills.

19. Moving Company

A truck, moving equipment, manpower, and the correct permits and insurance are the building blocks of starting your own moving company . Before you buy your first fleet of trucks, however, start small with a moving van and keep your costs low.

Still sound like too much of an initial investment? Consider offering packing services only, which have a much lower financial barrier to entry. You can partner with moving companies and offer to do their packing, or have them refer clients to you.

You could even take a niche approach to the industry as Astro International has by offering international moving services.

small business idea example: moving company

20. Home Staging

If you have a flair for interior design, a staging service might serve as your creative outlet and professional calling. You can build a portfolio with little initial investment by staging homes using the owner’s existing furnishings and decor. Most stagers eventually build up an inventory of furniture as they become more established and network with area realtors.

To get your first home staging clients, you should first rely exclusively on networking. Find your local realtors’ association and attend their events with business cards handy. Once you’ve gotten your first clients and built your portfolio, you can begin posting your designs on your home staging website.

small business ideas: home staging

If you don’t yet have enough experience, be sure to pursue an interior design course before opening this small business.

These home business ideas give you a few more business options that are either based at home or online.

Frontend, backend, and every type of code in between, this skill requires no in-person interaction with your clients. But one skill you’ll want to carry over from the in-person world for this type of business is active listening. It can be easy to zone out while building a product, but developing a connection with the client is just as important as developing the code for their website.

If you keep the client top of mind when you can’t be around physically, you can ensure that you’re meeting their development needs with your coding work.

Download Now: 25 Free HTML & CSS Hacks

2. Vending Machine Owner

Since 2015, the growth rate for vending machine businesses has increased 1.4%. Even as social distancing restrictions are still in place, this business can still be lucrative if you choose the right locations. High-traffic is key — places like hospitals, schools, and community centers are smart places to start placing your machines to generate enough revenue to cover cost and turn a profit.

small business idea example: vending machine owner

3. Social Media Manager

Do you have a knack for social media? As a social media manager, you can use your skills to manage the social media accounts for companies and even individual people. Influencer marketing has become more common and many influencers rely on marketing agencies or employees to help them run their social channels.

→ Free Download: Social Media Calendar Template [Access Now]

4. Data Entry Clerk

Many businesses seek data entry clerks to help them enter information into their computer systems and spreadsheets. If you have strong computer and typing skills, this might be the business for you.

5. Audio or Video Editor

As of March 2021, there are 1.75 million podcasts available to listeners. For this reason, brands are turning to audio and visual content to connect with consumers. The catch is that many don't have the time to invest in the production of this content, or they don't have the skills to do it. Audio and video editors are in demand when it comes to producing quality content for hungry audiences.

6. Voiceover Artist

Speaking of podcasts and videos, many content creators recognize the value and level of professionalism that great voice talent can bring to a project. There are gigs out there for podcast intros/outros, narration for explainer videos, or even voice work for audiobooks. Learn how to get started with no experience from Kat Theo below:

7. Dog Walker, Groomer, or Trainer

Licensing and insurance will be the two most important factors in opening a dog walking, grooming, or training business, but your canine colleagues will surely make up for the initial red tape. To test the waters before jumping in, consider walking dogs through companies like Rover. Ready to run your own show? Consider a franchise like Dogtopia .

8. Candy Seller

If you grew up in a close-knit, southern neighborhood, you're probably familiar with the " Candy Lady ". This home business can be started by anyone who's trustworthy in the community. Aside from selling the most popular snacks, a candy seller can provide the neighborhood with fresh fruit and produce that may be harder to find if you live in a food desert.

Online Business Ideas

If you want a business idea that you can run entirely online, check out the ones below. These ideas are ideal for those looking for a passive income stream. In other words, you shouldn’t need to do too much manual work to launch these businesses from your home or preferred business location.

1. Become an online reseller.

To become an online reseller, all you need is some business savvy and some funds to invest in product stock from manufacturers — or, of course,the willingness to sell your own used items. Generally, this is a low-touch but high-performance way of creating a passive income online business.

Online resellers usually use a platform, such as Facebook Marketplace or Amazon Sellers, to sell either their own or manufacturers’ stock. The benefit of using Facebook Marketplace is that you can begin today with your own Facebook account, and simply list items that you already own.

Interested buyers typically drive directly to your home for pick-up — but if you’re not interested in human interaction, you can leave it outside and have the buyer pay via an online platform.

online business ideas: amazon seller

Amazon Sellers requires a little more up-front investment, but the yield is usually higher and you can turn your Amazon reselling business into a more passive income stream. Amazon allows you to buy stock from various manufacturers, which they then keep in their warehouses. When an Amazon user buys from you, Amazon will fulfill that order and then give you a substantial cut.

2. Try affiliate marketing.

An affiliate marketing business is a great fit if you already own a website or a blog you wish to monetize. We’ve already shared how blogging is a great business to start — if you’ve already bought a domain name and begun writing content, then using it to start your affiliate marketing business is a great option.

Affiliate marketers create blog posts and content that contain affiliate links. When a user clicks on that link, a cookie is added to their browser that tracks their activity for a specified period of time. If they make a purchase at the affiliate website, then you get a commission — usually recurring, if you’re selling subscription products.

There are countless affiliate marketing programs for you to start your online business. These programs come with many benefits, such as pre-made advertisements and lazy copy for you to use.

To create a viable affiliate marketing online business, you should choose the right blog niche , such as technology, household decor and organization, or fitness, and then find affiliate marketing programs that offer products your readership would be genuinely interested in.

3. Become a content creator or influencer.

Instagrammers, YouTubers, podcasters, and TikTokkers with more than ten thousand followers can eventually turn their accounts into a small online business that generates passive income.

As a content creator or influencer on social media, you can not only earn money from sponsored partnerships, but you can monetize your audience in other ways, such as creating Subscriptions on Instagram , allowing companies to advertise on your YouTube channel, or creating a paid-only newsletter.

online business ideas: content creator

Becoming an influencer or content creator takes hard work, but it can be a fun way to create a small online business, assuming you’re posting content that you enjoy creating. First, you should choose a niche, such as thrifted fashion, work-from-home hacks, or even industry tips. Then, you should learn how to become a social media influencer and digital creator , then create a social media content calendar .

Most importantly, have fun with this online business idea as you give it a try. The good news is that it has little overhead — all you need is a willingness to spend time on social media content creation.

4. Open a dropshipping store.

We’ve mentioned dropshipping a few times already, but this is such a great online business idea that it’s absolutely worth mentioning again. Dropshipping businesses don’t manufacture what they sell, or even buy stock from manufacturers in advance. Instead, wholesalers fulfill the order directly after a buyer places an order through your website.

Opening an ecommerce store can be forbidding for those who don’t want to deal with inventory management or supply chain logistics . Dropshipping is the best alternative.

The only thing you need is the willingness to invest in an ecommerce website builder and the ability to manage relationships with local or international manufacturers. From there, you need to only publish your site and advertise your brand via ecommerce marketing .

Learn how to start a dropshipping business here , with examples.

5. Sell print-on-demand products.

Print-on-demand (POD) is another way to start a dropshipping business, except it’s a little more frictionless because most POD services allow you to create a storefront right on their website, instead of you needing to look for a separate ecommerce site builder.

With a POD online business, you design unique artwork. The print-on-demand provider will allow you to place that design on t-shirts, hats, tote bags, phone cases, and more. You do not keep any inventory; instead, the POD provider will print it only after a buyer makes an order, then ships it directly to them.

online business ideas: print on demand shop

The only thing you need to start this small online business is a penchant for design and the budget to pay for a print-on-demand subscription (although most providers are free, and they simply take a cut of the sale). Get acquainted with design principles and color theory , and you can get started with this business in no time.

6. Become an independent author.

Think becoming an author is only for those who are extremely lucky? Think again. Whether you write historical epics or self-help guides, chances are that there’s a market to read your work, and you can now easily publish it online .

We recommend editing and proofreading your book, or hiring someone to do it, before self-publishing it. Then, it’s as simple as signing up on a self-publishing platform such as Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble Press , uploading your file and cover, and pushing it live. You’ll enjoy benefits such as large royalties (up to 70%) and the ability to unpublish the book at any time, in case you find a typo or another change you’d like to make.

To get this online business idea off to a strong start, invest in an author website , spend some time doing social media marketing , and learn the basics of book marketing .

7. Sell downloadable digital products.

Downloadable journals, templates, art prints, designs… Some people would simply prefer to print these at home, instead of paying for the full price of the paper and the design. Downloadable digital products can be a profitable small business idea for those who are already design-savvy or who are willing to learn how to use an online design tool .

online business ideas: digital products

But if you’re not too crafty, you don’t need to create full-on journals or beautiful art prints, either; you can create templates for marketplaces such as Canva’s . There, people are able to customize a base design to their specifications, so you don’t have to worry too much about creating something specially beautiful — it’s more about functionality and customizability.

If you plan to create digital products that buyers can print at home, think about printing specifications, such as recommended paper size, paper weight, PPI (pixels per inch; a higher PPI results in better print quality), and so on. It’s essential to create a positive customer experience, even if users are ultimately responsible for what the final result looks like.

8. Publish a subscription-based newsletter.

We’ve already discussed becoming an independent author, but if long-form writing, such as novels, seems out of reach, you can always go for something much shorter and simpler: Newsletters. And the best part about paid newsletters is that you typically don’t need to have a separate website and blog; instead, you can sign up on a platform and begin publishing right away.

A website can, of course, benefit you, but the core of your revenue will come from the newsletter itself.

online business ideas: paid newsletter

With newsletter monetization platforms such as Substack or even Patreon , you can publish shorter content that features your opinion, experience, and expertise. We recommend pairing this small business idea with a robust social media marketing strategy , where your followers can learn more about you and be swayed to subscribe to a gated newsletter.

Choose a niche you’re passionate about, and this online business idea can feel less like work and more like a profitable hobby.

9. Create an online course.

If you want to monetize your expertise a little further for your online business, then creating an online course is the best choice.

To create a course, you’ll need to sign up on an online course platform such as WordPress or Teachable , sketch out a curriculum, film your lectures, and create worksheets and guides. You can be as hands-on or as hands-off as you’d like, but to make this online business as passive as possible, you’d ideally record all your lectures at once and allow users to access them by paying a premium fee.

If you’d like to try your hand at it first, you can try publishing a course on a platform such as Udemy and see if it feels viable to you. To become an online course teacher, you don’t need a specific level of education, but you should have a strong grasp on the material you’re teaching and a strong set of customer service skills to handle inquiries or course refunds.

10. Transcript videos, shows, and podcasts.

A freelance transcription business is an excellent idea for those who speak only one language and are passionate about improving communication. Transcribers listen to speech, write it out — usually verbatim — and deliver it to the original publisher in an organized document.

This small online business is a good fit for those who are looking for a part-time side business. You should be able to type quickly and have a good listening ear. Indeed has listed the top transcription companies where you can get your foot in the door.

Once you understand how the industry works, you can consider opening your own small transcription business and offering services on freelancer marketplaces such as Fiverr or Upwork .

Whether you’re looking to start your venture today or you simply don’t want to jump through the normal hoops of launching a small business, the below ideas are extremely easy to start — so easy, all you’ll need to do is sign up on a website or tell your friends about your services.

1. Vacation Host

Have you ever used a home-sharing service instead of a hotel? You could make a living by hosting visitors in your own home or renting out a room. Consider becoming a host with companies like Airbnb .

To become a vacation host, you don’t need any special skills except friendliness, courteousness, and agility (in case of guest emergencies or language barriers). A customer service course will prepare you to welcome guests and give them a pleasant stay.

You’ll need to invest in supplies and toiletries, such as new bedding and one-time soaps and toothbrushes, but the overhead is relatively small, and you can stop at any time.

2. Pet Sitter

Do you have a passion for pets? Consider becoming a pet sitter. While the pet's owners are away on vacation, either host their pet at your home or make visits to their home. Join a pet sitting service like Wag to get started.

small business idea example: pet sitter

If you start a pet sitting business, be sure to have some experience with dogs, cats, and other household pets. You should also choose a niche based on timing. For instance, do you prefer long-term arrangements? You can market yourself as an excellent vacation pet sitter. Do you only do single afternoons, or only on weekends? You can pull in clients by telling them you’ll take care of their pets during their dates or weekend trips.

3. Daycare Owner

Childcare continues to be in high demand. While nannies and nanny shares are popular right now, a good daycare is hard to find. Fill a need in your neighborhood by opening your own. And, as always, make sure you’re complying with your city and state’s zoning, licensure, insurance, and inspection requirements.

Home daycares are especially a good fit if you’re an experienced parent and have all supplies ready at home. But be warned that you’ll also need to buy more supplies to accommodate the additional children you’ll need to take care of.

We recommend getting a soft start with this business by advertising it first to your friends, families, and close neighbors. That way, you can better gauge whether it’s a good fit for you and whether you want to make the full investment.

If there’s a topic you have a heavy interest in, then there’s an audience out there with a heavy interest in it too. A blog can be used to build an online community whose engagement can be monetized. Affiliate marketing , sponsored content , and co-marketing are some ways to make money once your blog develops a following.

→ Download Now: 6 Free Blog Post Templates

Blogging is one of the most accessible small businesses to start, and there are countless niches to choose from. That said, because there are many blogs online, you’ll need to learn blog SEO and keyword research to ensure your audience finds you. That way, you actually make money out of your blogging efforts.

The great news is that a small blogging business has a ridiculously low overhead. All you need is a custom domain and your time for writing blog posts.

5. Home-Baked Goods Seller

Warehouse-made, store-bought chocolate chip cookies will never compare to a batch made with love in someone’s home. Simple desserts can be easily baked and packaged to sell at local events or around your neighborhood. Use custom labels and watch the word spread about your goods!

You can begin a baked goods business easily by opening a Facebook and Instagram profile. Facebook and Instagram are both excellent platforms to market your goods, show pictures of your previous baked products, and even showcase happy clients.

Build a loyal following slowly, and save on costs by asking clients to drive to your home to pick up their order. Choosing a niche can be helpful here, or baking in a specific style that can’t be found at grocery store bakeries. The overhead can be especially low if you already have most essential baking supplies.

6. Ecommerce Store Owner

Do you create, collect, or curate anything special? Consider starting an ecommerce store and turning your hobby into a full-time job. Whether you need somewhere to sell all that pottery you’ve been making, or an excuse to search for the sports memorabilia you love tracking down, an ecommerce store can make it financially viable for you to pursue your passion.

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Starting an ecommerce store is simple and easy. You can set up a shop using an ecommerce website builder , all of which start at a minimal monthly subscription (some even start at free). Be sure to take good photos of your products and write descriptive product pages .

If you don’t have inventory, you can always own an ecommerce store by using dropshipping . Instead of creating and shipping your products yourself, you’ll instead partner with a dropshipping website and have them mail out the orders directly to your client.

7. House Cleaner

With a low barrier to entry, house cleaning can be a great way to start doing what you love — soon. Consider advertising to homes in your neighborhood and get more bang for your buck by earning a few small businesses as clients as well. They’ll usually bring in a higher paycheck for a similar amount of work.

To become a house cleaner, you should be prepared to invest in cleaning supplies and accessories, or be willing to use your own. If you plan to serve small businesses, you should buy industrial janitorial supplies so you can get work done more effectively.

Need some inspiration? This small business cleaning service grew virtually overnight on Instagram after their content went viral during the pandemic.

small business idea example: go clean co

8. Packing Services Facilitator

Moving is always a pain, and many people hire the entire packing process out. As a packing services facilitator, you’ll be going to people’s homes and packing up their smaller items into organized boxes. To start this business, you must be comfortable with face-to-face contact and with manual labor.

small business ideas: packing services facilitator

You can begin this business by advertising in your own neighborhood. Once you’re ready to expand, consider partnering with a local moving service that will refer new clients to you. That way, you’ll have a steady stream of clients, and you won’t have to invest in a moving truck (the moving service will take care of that for you).

Business Ideas for Students

1. etsy shop owner.

Creating novelties by hand is a fun and unique way to start a small business, and you can easily sell them via Etsy . Whether you make jewelry, knitted comfort items, or even custom wigs , there’s probably a market for your products and an Etsy buyer who’s ready to purchase.

small business ideas: etsy shop owner

This idea is excellent if you’re already an expert in the craft you aim to sell. That way, you don’t need to pursue additional education or certification courses. Once you set up your Etsy store, which is free, tap into your audience with creative marketing on social media and optimize your website using keywords that describe the products you make.

2. Tour Guide

Love the local history of your city or state? Consider becoming a tour guide. Sure, you’ll need to conduct plenty of research to be able to do the job well, but that’s half the fun. Set yourself apart by offering tours that speak to a specific niche of your community’s history.

You can start a tour guide business easily. First, decide what your specialty will be. Some tour guides, like the ones at Freedom Trail in Boston , offer historical walking tours of their town’s most haunted spots while others curate guided foodie tours for guests to get a true taste of the city.

small business idea example: tour guide

Maybe you love the outdoors and are an experienced backpacker — you can then offer hiking tours. To begin, use a platform such as TripAdvisor or Airbnb, where you can sign up as a tour guide provider. Remember to launch a website, and to file for sole proprietorship status .

3. Online Class Instructor

Tutoring is often done in person and with one client at a time. Remotely teaching an online class offers more flexibility because you can teach multiple students from home. English is a common subject for online classes because of how many people want to learn it. But anything that you have a mastery over could be translated to a virtual class.

4. Small-Batch Goods Seller

Using organic, all-natural ingredients is more expensive, but worth it. There are many products you can learn how to make at home without any preservatives, chemicals, or toxins. Candles, soaps, shampoos, and moisturizers are some examples of goods you can create and tailor with custom scents. Try starting out making soap with this complete beginner’s guide to soapmaking:

5. Makeup Artist

Many people prefer to have a professional do their makeup because they may lack the proper products or just the skills. It may be for a special occasion, photoshoot, or video shoot, or another event. Being able to do a variety of different looks will make your business more attractive to more customers.

To run a successful makeup artist business, you’ll need to be social media savvy . Instagram in particular is an excellent platform to advertise your services and get new clients.

You should also consider honing in on a specific niche. For instance, you might do wedding makeup exclusively.

6. Professional Organizer

A lot of people struggle with clutter or disorganization in their homes and offices. It can be a large undertaking to create organized systems and habits. Grab a lot of storage bins and a label maker and get started!

To become an organizer, you’ll first need to have the chops: Is your own home organized? Do you enjoy making order out of chaos? Then, launch a website to market your services locally. Be sure to create local listings to ensure people find your business, including listings on Angi, Houzz, and Thumbtack.

Meg Golightly, founder at Gosimplified , has made this small business idea into a successful career.

Is your head buzzing with small business ideas yet? After all that brainstorming, you’ll need a practical plan to get started with your new small business.

  • Identify your small business idea.
  • Start as a side business or hobby.
  • Decide on your software.
  • Create a business plan.
  • Decide whether you'll be an LLC or sole proprietorship.
  • Create a business bank account.
  • Determine if your business idea works well from home.
  • Set up an office.
  • Get to work!

1. Identify your small business idea.

Whether you choose an option from the list above or have another idea up your sleeve, it’s important to have the experience, training, or skills necessary to be successful. Want to run a daycare but have never even visited a successful daycare center? Spend time conducting research to learn whether this is really the right fit for your experience, interests, and target audience.

2. Start as a side business or hobby.

Can you get your business off the ground as something you do in the evenings or on the weekends (a.k.a. a side job)? This allows you to make some mistakes, test the market, and understand whether your idea has legs before you quit your nine-to-five job and lose your primary income.

3. Decide on your software.

You’ve got a lot of things on your plate when first starting up. But one step that’s critical (and often forgotten by first-time entrepreneurs) is deciding on the software that can help you be more efficient as your business grows.

Every business is different — but almost all companies can use software to help with analytics, project management , accounting, bookkeeping, email marketing, and other basic day-to-day tasks.

One of the most important software tools every small business should utilize is a free all-in-one CRM platform to keep track of important customer information in one central database. It will help align your team and make sure you stay organized as your business grows.

4. Create a business plan.

No business plan? No business. Particularly if your small business idea requires investors, you'll need to draft up a business plan to provide an overview of your market positioning, your financial projections, and your unique competitive advantages. You can download HubSpot's free business plan templates for free to get started.

One-Page Business Plan Template

Download Free Business Plan Templates

Your business plan should include the following elements:

  • Executive summary — A high-level overview of your company and market placement.
  • Business model — Outline what your business does, who your business serves, and how your business is structured. You should include a description of what products and services you offer, and how they meet the needs of your customers.
  • Market condition — A summary of pertinent competitor information. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of your closest competitors.
  • Products and services — Use this section to describe your products and services in detail, and outline what differentiates your product from others in the market.
  • Operations and management — Outline your business’ organizational structure, key roles, and responsibilities.
  • Marketing and sales strategy — This section should describe how you will market and sell your product. Include information on your ideal customer, how you plan to position your offering, and your sales strategy.
  • Financial plan — Create a detailed outline of your business financials. Include your start-up costs, your initial financial productions, and how you anticipate generating funding.
  • Appendix — Once the above pieces are complete, end the document with an appendix summarizing your business plan.

Every business is different — but almost all companies can use software to help with analytics, project management, accounting, bookkeeping, email marketing, and other basic day-to-day tasks.

5. Decide whether you’ll be an LLC or sole proprietorship.

Two common legal structures for small businesses are limited liability corporations (LLCs) and sole proprietorships.

An LLC is a more complex business structure than a sole proprietorship and can include individuals, corporations, and other LLCs as members. Additionally, LLCs are not subject to a separate level of tax and offer the business owner liability protection and tax advantages. LLCs are formed on a state-by-state basis.

Sole proprietorships are businesses owned and operated by one person and are not identified as a separate entity from the owner by the government. While a sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure, sole proprietors are personally liable for their business.

Besides an LLC or sole proprietorship, there are a few other options for you to consider.

Sean Flannigan, Sendle's Content Manager, says, "While many small businesses might be best served by choosing an LLC or sole proprietorship, there are a few other options."

"Partnerships are great for businesses operated by several individuals. It hews most closely to a sole proprietorship in that the individuals take on the business liability and pay taxes on a personal level."

He adds, "To completely avoid personal liability, small businesses might choose to incorporate as a corporation, S corporation, or B Corp. S corporations avoid corporate taxation whereas B Corps must meet a threshold for public benefit and accountability."

Additionally, Flannigan says, "There are tons of great reasons to become a B Corp beyond just doing good business. All that said, many small businesses that aren't aimed at super-fast growth choose to go with an LLC to keep things simple while shielding owners from too much liability."

Learn more about choosing the right structure for your business from the Small Business Administration.

6. Create a business bank account.

Once you have a legally formed business and have been issued an Employer Identification Number (EIN), open a bank account specifically for your business. Having a business bank account is essential for keeping your personal and business finances separate which can help you gain an accurate picture of your business’s cash flow and financial health.

Additionally, keeping your personal and business finances separate makes bookkeeping and tax preparation easier.

Many banks offer business checking and savings accounts. Business checking accounts typically do not have a limit on the number of transactions that can take place, and issue a debit card that can be used for making business purchases. However, these checking accounts do not accrue interest.

Business savings accounts typically earn interest over time but have a limited number of transactions that can occur each month. When you’re just starting out, look for a business bank account that does not have a minimum balance requirement so you are not penalized for having low funds as you work to build your business.

7. Determine if your business idea works well from home.

Ask yourself whether your business idea will work well from home. Some businesses simply aren’t suited to be based from home. If you want to run a dog boarding center but live in an apartment without a backyard, you might want to consider a dog walking business instead.

8. Set up an office.

If your business idea is well-suited for being run from home, it’s still important you have a designated workspace. While a home office might not be possible, consider setting aside a corner in your living room or putting a desk in your bedroom for a space that inspires you and creates the conditions for success.

Need a more professional space? If you conduct client-facing work requiring you to be on video calls, no one wants to see your rumpled sheets in the background. Check out local coworking spaces for memberships that earn you access to conference rooms, desk space, and more.

9. Get to work!

You’ve put in the hard work and I’ve got good news — it’s only going to get harder. But most entrepreneurs will agree that the payoff of being your own boss, making your own hours, and working on projects that you’re passionate about will pay dividends for the rest of your life.

Starting a Small Business: FAQ

What are the types of small businesses.

The types of small business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and corporations.

Which business type is best?

The best business type is a limited liability company (LLC). Operating as an LLC means that your personal assets are separate from your business assets. If your business goes bankrupt, your personal holdings won’t be affected. That said, it’s also one of the costlier types, requiring a fee paid to the state.

The easiest business type to start is a sole proprietorship. The main downside is that there’s no differentiation between you and your business.

How do I create a business idea?

To create a business idea, determine your skill set, work preferences, startup budget, and available resources. It’s important to strike the right balance between what you can feasibly offer and what you can feasibly afford in the short and long term.

We recommend starting with your skill set so that you can easily determine the niche in which you can effectively compete. For instance, if you have ample experience as a writer, you might consider starting a freelance writing business. But if you know you’d prefer to work with clients face-to-face, you might choose to start a ghostwriting business instead. That’s why it’s so important to take your work preferences into account, as well.

After that, take a look at your budget and determine the type of business you can start based on the resources at your disposal. For instance, you might not be able to afford a physical office or location, so a location-based business will likely not be a good fit. In that case, starting an online business is your best option.

What are some of the most successful small businesses?

Every small business has the potential to be successful and profitable, provided it’s backed by a strong product-market fit and a robust business plan . These two elements are essential. Maybe post-natal services are one of the most successful small businesses to launch, but if you live in an area with declining population or a large elderly population, then that small business idea won’t yield a high return on investment.

Think carefully about the market where you’re launching your business, and you’ll be more than likely to see lasting success.

What are the top growing small businesses?

top growing small businesses as reported by the bureau of labor statistics

The top growing industries are healthcare support, technology, personal care, food preparation, and community and social service. As such, launching a small business in any of these fields is bound to yield a high return on investment, but remember to take your target market into account.

Here are some small business ideas for each of those industries:

Healthcare Support

  • In-home care assistant
  • In-home elderly care provider
  • Psychological care provider
  • Pre-natal and post-natal support specialist
  • Freelance programmer or web developer
  • Freelance IT support specialist
  • Freelance cybersecurity expert

Personal Care

  • Hair stylist
  • Nail technician

Food Preparation

  • Personal chef
  • Food truck owner
  • Food delivery

Community and Social Services

  • Non-profit owner
  • Education specialist

Brainstorm Your Next Small Business Venture

Selecting a small business idea to work on is a personal decision. Money is important, but you’ll need more motivation than that to keep going. Bounce ideas off your friends and family until you reach the perfect idea that works for your schedule, fulfills your life’s passion, and makes financial sense. Don’t be afraid to ask for help throughout this process — and remember to have a little fun while you’re putting in the work.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Apply for a job, keep track of important information, and prepare for an  interview with the help of this free job seekers kit.

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How to start a small business at home in 2024

Blair Travers

Sierra Campbell

Sierra Campbell

“Verified by an expert” means that this article has been thoroughly reviewed and evaluated for accuracy.

Published 8:07 a.m. UTC Feb. 16, 2024

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Featured Image

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Starting a small business at home can help you turn your passions, skills or ideas into financial prosperity. There are some unique perks and challenges to consider when deciding to start a home-based business. 

You’ll also want to have a solid plan and follow some key steps to get your business off on the right foot. It’s helpful to know where you can find ideas, answers to your questions and other resources you need to run an at-home business successfully.

Should you start a business at home?

There are many factors to consider when deciding to start a small business at home. On the one hand, it’s important to make sure there is demand for your business. On the other hand, you want to be able to handle the amount of business you receive. Gauging things like demand, profit margins and the ability to scale your business early on can help you avoid trouble down the road.

Across the country, at-home businesses make up a large portion of small businesses. C.E. “Tee” Rowe is the president and CEO of America’s Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), which provides free or low-cost support for small businesses in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Here at America’s SBDC, we have seen an uptick in home-based businesses that started during the pandemic but continues to date,” said Rowe. 

Pros of a home business

Here are some key benefits to starting a business at home:

  • Increased flexibility: Set your own hours, freeing you up for other commitments as needed.
  • Less commuting: Save time and money by skipping the drive to work.
  • Comfortable work environment: Design your workspace how you want it. After all, it is your home.
  • Money-saving perks: Pay lower startup costs compared to larger businesses by avoiding costs like renting retail or office space. Take advantage of tax breaks for at-home businesses.
  • Reduce risk: Protect yourself by limiting your liability and avoiding the cost and risk of maintaining commercial space.
  • Rewards for your hard work: Work hard for your business, and your business reaps the benefits instead of some other employer.

Cons of a home business

These are some of the disadvantages of starting a business at home:

  • Limited space: You give up part of your home, and even then, you may still need more space for your business.
  • Distracting work environment: Crying babies, barking dogs and loud neighbors can all be distracting when running a business at home.
  • Professional boundaries: Some people may feel awkward about meeting to discuss business at your home or a public location.
  • Increased mental health risks: Running a home business can feel isolating for some. A lack of social interaction, time outside, work-life balance or effective time management can also threaten mental health.
  • Growth restrictive: If your home-based business scales too rapidly, you may outgrow your workspace quickly. In this situation, success creates a problem for home businesses to solve.
  • Increased costs: Whether you’re paying new employee salaries or wages or forking over more money for higher utility bills, you may feel the financial squeeze.

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7 steps to start a home business

After considering the pros and cons, does the idea of taking the reins and starting a home business appeal to you? You’re not alone. 

“When we work with individuals seeking to start a home-based business, it is frequently based on a desire to control their own circumstance and success, which are great reasons, but it always needs to be thought out carefully,” Rowe explained.

Planning is key. From creating a business plan and determining your business structure to securing funding and setting your marketing strategy, there’s a lot to think through. Follow the steps below to get on the right track to starting a small business at home.

1. Find your niche

Plenty of successful at-home businesses arise from emotion: a passion to do what you love, a frustration with the status quo or excitement to seize on a timely opportunity.

If you’re struggling to find your niche, ask yourself:

  • What do you love to do that others may find challenging?
  • What is a need that no business currently has the right solution for?
  • What are you good at? What do people ask for your help with?
  • What high-demand skills or services do you have to offer?

2. Draft a business plan

Having a business plan is essential for running your business effectively. As Rowe pointed out, “Every business needs a solid, comprehensive plan to guide them to success. That plan needs to focus on skills, finance, revenue and marketing.”

A business plan outlines the direction of the business — its goals, strategies, structure, ways of measuring success and plans for dealing with things like change and risk. Simply put, it’s the roadmap to success for your business.

When creating your business plan, include key sections such as an executive summary, a business description, market analysis and financial projections. For more on what to cover, check out this step-by-step guide to drafting a business plan .

3. Select a business structure

According to the IRS, the most common business structures are sole proprietorships, partnerships , corporations and limited liability companies (LLC) . Each business structure comes with its own set of operational, legal, financial and tax considerations. 

A sole proprietorship is a business owned and operated by a single individual, while a partnership is jointly owned by two or more individuals who share responsibilities. 

In contrast, corporations — like C corporations and S corporations — are independent legal entities. C corporations limit shareholder liability but are highly complex. S corporations feature pass-through taxation, distributing income (and losses) to shareholders.

While sole proprietorship is a common structure for just starting out, LLC is another popular option for at-home businesses. It combines elements of a corporation and a partnership, offering limited liability to its members and the flexibility of pass-through taxation. Members of an LLC can choose to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C corporation or S corporation.

4. Register your business and get an EIN

After you choose a business structure, you’ll need to register your business with state and federal governments. Select a business name , pay fees and provide required documents, which vary by state.

After getting registered with your state, you can then apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. Once you’re approved, you’ll receive this unique nine-digit number that is essential for all sorts of business purposes, from filing your taxes to hiring employees. 

Not all businesses need an EIN, such as sole proprietors and single-member LLCs with no employees.

5. Get any required licenses and permits

Depending on your industry and federal, state and local requirements, you may also need to obtain licenses and permits for your business. 

Here are some examples of licenses and permits you may need, depending on your business:

  • Occupational, professional or trade licenses.
  • Online business permits.
  • Sales tax permits.
  • Health department permits.
  • Safety permits.
  • Home-based child care licenses.
  • Zoning, signage, environmental and other permits to operate an at-home business, as required by local government, HOA or deed restrictions.

6. Obtain funding for your business

Many owners fund their businesses using their own savings. Self-funding is a viable choice if you can get up and running without much money, can come up with the needed funding from your own accounts or can ask for help from family or friends. 

You can also apply for a business loan . Banks will likely want to see a rock-solid business plan, strong financial projections, good personal and/or business credit history and any collateral you’ll use for your loan. If you are a good candidate for lending, make sure that shows in your application so that you can get the best funding and terms for your business.

If you don’t have much personal or business credit history, it may be easier to get a business credit card . This gives you benefits like payment flexibility, credit card rewards and essential early or emergency spending power. It will also help your business establish or strengthen its credit so you can get favorable terms on future loans and other credit.

7. Launch and market your business

You’ve planned out your business, defined its structure and gotten your business registered, licensed, permitted and even paid for. Now it’s showtime. For many who seek to start a small business at home, the launch is the most exciting part of the journey. You are now ready to conduct business.

It’s also important to get others excited about your small business — and keep them engaged. Here are some of the most common marketing strategies for small home-based businesses:

  • Social media marketing: Reach potential customers on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) by sharing engaging content and updates.
  • Business website: More than just a place to sell your products or services online, your business website should help users find what they want to meet their needs. It should also help achieve business objectives by offering features like payment services or e-commerce functionality .
  • Advertising: Platforms such as search engines and social media can help you reach your target audience.
  • Content marketing: Write blog posts, produce videos or create helpful graphics to explain what your business offers and to establish trust and authority.
  • Email marketing: To keep business coming back, build an email list to communicate using promotions, newsletters and updates.
  • Word of mouth: In the early stages, many small home-based businesses rely on word of mouth. You can also ask for customer reviews on platforms like Google and Yelp.

Weigh the costs and benefits when deciding on your marketing plan, so you choose what’s best for your business.

Top home business ideas

Check out these home business ideas to find the right fit for you:

  • Retail: Sell products you make — including crafts and customized gifts — or resell products you get for less than what you pay for them.
  • Case-based services: Open up an in-home daycare, provide home-based care for adults or even take care of pets by offering pet sitting and mobile grooming.
  • Events: Plan weddings and events. Create the perfect look as a makeup artist or stylist. Play music in a band or take your place on the 1s and 2s as a DJ.
  • Art and creative services: Capture the moment as a photographer, or maybe you’d rather bring your vision to life as an artist. More of a words person? Write, edit or translate content. 
  • Education: Teach the next generation how to do math, play an instrument or learn a new language. Provide adults with specialized training in arts and crafts, life coaching or test preparation.
  • Health and wellness: Become a personal trainer to get people in the best shape of their lives or a mental health counselor to help them find their inner peace.
  • Home and real estate: Transform homes by organizing, decorating or even staging. Produce virtual home tours for real estate agents, or become a realtor yourself.

Resources to start a business

For more resources and guidance on how to start a small business at home, check out these guides and articles:

  • Follow our step-by-step guide on how to start a business from the ground up.
  • Learn how to start an LLC if that’s your chosen business structure.
  • Discover how to start a business with no money so funding doesn’t hold you back.
  • Skip the overhead that comes with brick-and-mortar stores and find out how to start an online business .
  • Explore options to accept payments online and start making money in your sleep.
  • Find the cheapest payroll services to pay your employees and contractors.
  • Build a successful business by attracting loyal, repeat customers. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The cost of starting a business at home varies widely and depends on several factors. Some businesses, including sole proprietorships, can get away with paying little to no money to start their business. Other home-based businesses, including those with manufacturing or inventory expenses, could have considerably higher startup costs.

Yes, you can use your home address to register a business. However, you’ll want to make sure that usage does not go against local laws, HOA bylaws or property covenants. It’s also a good idea to check with your mortgage and homeowners insurance companies to make sure that running a business out of your home does not introduce unforeseen headaches.

Blueprint is an independent publisher and comparison service, not an investment advisor. The information provided is for educational purposes only and we encourage you to seek personalized advice from qualified professionals regarding specific financial decisions. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Blueprint has an advertiser disclosure policy . The opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Blueprint editorial staff alone. Blueprint adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. The information is accurate as of the publish date, but always check the provider’s website for the most current information.

Blair Travers

Blair Travers is a business writer and content strategist with over a decade of experience breaking down complex problems to help businesses move forward with confidence. He brings a wide range of technology, banking and retail expertise. Blair enjoys helping businesses figure out complex processes and make choices that are right for them. His work has been published in U.S. News & World Report and Carfax.

Sierra Campbell is a small business editor for USA Today Blueprint. She specializes in writing, editing and fact-checking content centered around helping businesses. She has worked as a digital content and show producer for several local TV stations, an editor for U.S. News & World Report and a freelance writer and editor for many companies. Sierra prides herself in delivering accurate and up-to-date information to readers. Her expertise includes credit card processing companies, e-commerce platforms, payroll software, accounting software and virtual private networks (VPNs). She also owns Editing by Sierra, where she offers editing services to writers of all backgrounds, including self-published and traditionally published authors.

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

How to start a small business: A step-by-step guide

Business Eric Rosenberg

I'm a financial planner — I have 4 tips for my business owner clients looking to open a business bank account

Our experts choose the best products and services to help make smart decisions with your money ( here's how ). In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners ; however, our opinions are our own. Terms apply to offers listed on this page.

  • Legally protecting yourself in case of an audit is the No. 1 reason to use a business bank account.
  • Different banks will offer different levels of convenience, and they'll come with different fees.
  • Fraud detection and other security features are especially important for protecting your business.

Insider Today

When starting a business, it can be overwhelming thinking about all the things you need to do and consider. However, it is essential that you do not overlook the value of opening a business bank account — usually both a business checking account and a high-yield business savings account .

As a CPA and financial planner, one of the first things I tell all my business owner clients to do is to keep their personal and business transactions separate. While there are a multitude of reasons you should have a separate bank account for your business, legal protection is certainly the most important.

If you experience an audit, it is important to have an easy way to track your business expenses and income. When business finances are commingled with personal finances, it becomes nearly impossible to provide a clear financial trail.

When choosing a business bank account, there are several important factors to consider. Here are four things I tell my business owner clients to consider when choosing a business bank account.

1. Access to banking services and customer service

When it comes to running a business, a variety of banking services can help you effectively manage your business finances. Beyond just opening a business bank account, you want to ensure that the financial institution you choose can provide access to services such as a checking account, savings account, business loans , wire transfers, fraud prevention services, a notary, checkbooks, business credit cards , online and mobile banking, and bill payment services.

If you want more one-on-one attention from a banker, consider opening an account with your local bank or credit union. You may also prefer a physical branch if you plan to make daily deposits or withdrawals of cash or checks.

This may be more challenging to do with an online bank. Many online banks may offer deposits and withdrawals, but their ATM network may not be as large as a well-known brick-and-mortar bank. For this reason, some small business owners open an account at their local bank where they have their personal accounts and know the level of customer service they will receive.

Consider opening your business checking and savings accounts at different financial institutions so that you can have access to both better banking services at a physical branch and higher interest rates at an online bank.

2. Terms and fees (including minimum balance)

The fees associated with business bank accounts can vary widely depending on the financial institution. Some of the most common fees to be aware of include monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees , wire transfer fees, minimum balance fees, and ATM fees.

You may find that online banks charge fewer fees than brick-and-mortar banks, but you must consider this in conjunction with the other features.

Seek an account with reasonable fees that can accommodate your business.

3. Ease of paying contractors

Some business bank accounts, especially online accounts, offer free invoicing and bookkeeping software/features.

If you use accounting software (such as QuickBooks) to manage your business finances, accessing a business bank account that offers integration features may be desirable. Trust me, this will make your or your accountant's life much easier.

In addition, some accounts allow integrations with payroll and tax preparation software. This will help to make the process of paying contractors with 1099s more seamless.

4. The bank's security offerings

One of the most important things you should consider when choosing a business bank account is security. There are certain features that you want to look for to make sure your account is protected.

First, you want to make sure that the bank you choose is FDIC-insured (or NCUA-insured if a credit union). In addition, you want to make sure that the institution has additional layers of security such as multi-factor authentication and fraud detection services, which include account monitoring and alerts for suspicious activity.

Ensure that whatever bank you choose offers the best security features to protect your business from fraud.

When choosing a bank account, consider all the various banking features offered by different financial institutions to find the one that best suits your business's financial needs. Also, remember that your decision is not permanent. It is easy to switch banks if necessary.

Watch: The 3 most important things you need to know about starting a business

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