For those who prefer to test the waters before diving in head first, it's best to launch a business that can start off small. Ventures with low overhead and flexible work hours are always great options for first-time entrepreneurs. A business that can be nurtured on the side—while keeping your day job—warrants a closer look. Once you've honed in on the right concept, it's time to kick things into high gear.
Here are five simple steps to make your business idea a reality on paper:
1. Build a website. You don't need to hire a Web developer to make a website. You can do it yourself. Whether you decide to create a simple Tumblr blog or use a service like Weebly, customizing your website can be free and actually pretty enjoyable. Make sure to add any relevant information about your business—like contact details and founder information—as well as some photos and video clips to add dimension. If you prefer to hire an expert, Elance.com is a great tool for discovering quality talent at a reasonable price.
2. Carry business cards. Yes, you still need them. It may sound old-fashioned, but the exchange of business cards is still expected when it comes to both planned and chance in-person meetings. Those small little rectangles (and sometimes squares or circles these days) can pack a punch if you let them. Modern business cards that verge on minimalist and convey only the necessary contact information are well-received. Upgrade to stiff card stock to bump your image up a notch. Make sure to avoid anything too cute if you want to be taken seriously. And whatever you do, don't be that guy who always announces he just gave away his last card—replenish your stash.
3. Establish a social media presence. Create a Facebook page and Twitter account for your start-up. When presented with the option in the sign up process, make sure to choose a custom URL on Facebook—you’ll need to easily communicate this Web address to others. On Twitter, use the search tool to find others in your particular niche to keep an eye on trends and participate in industry discussions. While social media is great for self-promotion, make sure you are engaging in a dialogue with clients and peers as well.
4. Keep it legal. Decide what type of business structure suits your company and file the necessary paperwork. Whether your venture is going to be an LLC, S Corp, or C Corp or if you've decided to register a simple DBA—"Doing Business As" a company name, which you can do as a sole proprietorship—you'll need to fill out some forms. A great place to start is your Secretary of State's website. DBAs, however, are often dealt with on a county level. Costs range widely based on what type of entity you set up, and different tax breaks (or lack thereof) apply to each as well, so do your research and choose wisely.
5. Get a bank account. The best way to keep track of business and personal expenses is to open a separate business account. This may not be something you need to do for legal reasons, but it will make your life a lot less complicated. And as a fabulous bonus, all your affairs will be in order should, heaven forbid, the IRS come a-knocking.
Amanda Congdon (www.amandacongdon.com) is a California based on-camera personality, new media pioneer and healthy food entrepreneur. She has produced and hosted many web and mobile TV projects: Amanda Across America, Rocketboom, and Sometimesdaily. Her show, AC on ABC, made Amanda the first video blogger for a major network, ABC News. Amanda's career has been documented in The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, PBS, The CBS Evening News, The Washington Post, The LA Times, The Hollywood Reporter, WIRED, People Magazine, Interview Magazine, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and on countless blogs. She is currently Co-founder and Director of Operations at Vegan Mario’s™ Organic Kitchen.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC leads #FixYoungAmerica, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment and put young Americans back to work.