Getting Started in Business: DIY
By Kathy Zucker
When you are launching a new business, the cheapest and fastest way to get started is by Doing It Yourself.
Why? Because you have no way of knowing when or if you are going to make money at your business, so there is no point in spending a lot on legal fees. And if you make a mistake in your paperwork or start making a lot of money, chances are you can hire a professional to upgrade your website or rewrite your corporate operating agreement.
Also? Doing it yourself is faster. I have thrown together websites and incorporated companies in the space of a single weekend. When you are a parent with a tight schedule, sometimes you need to just get things done or else risk never getting started.
There are three areas that you need to consider when you are launching a new business: corporate structure, trademarks/patents, and a website.
You need to register as a sole proprietor or establish a limited liability corporation if there are multiple partners. I have used MyCorporation.com to register two LLCs; for $300-$500, it’s a fast and easy way to start operating. If you sign up for their mailing list, they often offer free LLC creation sales, plus you can google for a coupon. The one caveat? Make sure you select YES when they ask you if you would like S-corporation status, or else you risk tax complications.
Why choose an LLC over an incorporation? LLCs are extremely user-friendly because you avoid double-taxation, plus you protect your personal assets. Every real estate developer establishes a new LLC for each development; technically they are starting a new company every single time. Once they sell the last unit and the profits are distributed to the partners, the LLC closes up shop. And if you change your mind about the company name? Registering a DBA is fast and easy once you have the initial LLC in place.
If you have a really great idea, you need to protect it. Right after I formed Metro Moms Network, LLC, I applied for the federal trademark on the company name. It took nine months and three resubmissions, but we finally received federal trademark registration approval. Total cost? $275
The first thing anybody is going to do after they meet you is google your business name. Make sure there is something decent-looking that says what you want it to say. There are many DIY website services out there; the one thing I recommend above all else is to pay to own your own domain name. It’s tempting to use a free domain name, but you are trapping yourself for life once you have that business.blogspot.com URL. All your links go through that name, so if you ever want to upgrade to a different host, you risk breaking all those links. Broken links = people cannot find you online and your search ranking goes down. Pay the $40 for annual domain name registration and save yourself a lot of hassle. My DIY website and blog pick? Weebly.com
Kathy Zucker, serial entrepreneur and mother of three, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. See what Kathy is up to at her blog and on Twitter.