… part 1. This is not an all-inclusive list simply because, like previously stated, I don’t have all the answers. Here are six things that you definitely need to know – we’ll add onto this later.
1. You have to report your income, and you have to save your receipts.
I can feel you rolling your eyes at me, like what the heck kind of number one is this? Well. It’s really important because you can’t go back and fix it… or at least, not easily. I’ll do an entire post on accounting for businesses, but from day 1 – whenever you make your first business-related purchase or earn your first dime – you need to keep a record of that. In business, expenses offset income to arrive at profit, and the profit is what you pay taxes on. I know you want your profit to be as large as possible, and believe me, I do too, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t report every single (legitimate) expense against your income.
You need to save your receipts in case you’re ever audited – either by the IRS or before you go big time. A tip here is that it doesn’t have to be the original receipt, but a spreadsheet with amounts and dates won’t cut it. Since receipts fade anyway, a popular system now is to make a copy of them and then file the copy, physically or electronically. I would suggest not keeping shoeboxes of receipts lying around.
2. Everyone is new at some point.
You probably won’t know everything when you start, and that’s okay. If you’re using Etsy, do some research, sure, but you’ll really start learning things when you open a shop*, list an item, and start dealing with things in a non-hypothetical manner. (I’ll have a post about Etsy in particular soon, but feel free to leave a comment with questions if you have them right now.) I didn’t know anything about shipping until I sent my first item, and even then, it took me a few months before I really got the hang of it.
*This is an affiliate link. If you open a shop with my link, you’ll get 40 free listings and so will I. You can have an Etsy account already as long as you’ve never opened a shop.
If you’re offering client services, or setting up a blog or a podcast, or even doing Amazon FBA, the process is the same. Research enough to know what a good starting point is and find an affiliate link that will help you get started… and then get started.
3. A blog or podcast is not a business (technically).
…I have issues with this one, quite frankly, because I know people who make money from both things. That’s the thing, though. A thing that only costs money is an expense, not a business. Your argument to this is probably something along the lines of, well yeah, but don’t all businesses just cost money when they’re first starting out? The answer is, yeah, kind of… but a business has a defined way that it’s going to make money – generally selling something. If you’re selling something, you need to provide value. Can a blog or podcast do that? Of course! But until you’re earning money from them (probably through sponsors or advertising), a blog and podcast are considered hobbies if they’re your only thing, and a marketing channel if you have an additional business. We’ll talk about that later.
4. You don’t need to be “on” everything, especially right away.
I bet you’ve heard some well-meaning expert say, “oh, if you’re not on [insert social media platform here], you need to be!” and thought, well shoot. Same here. Like, this morning. It brings a crush of stress and frantically trying to figure out that new social media channel, and then w a i t i n g for it to work, and then trying to keep up with it (and everything else), and probably before it has the magical effect on your business that someone said it would, you’ve heard about something else you need a presence on. I’m not saying to never join instagram or that snapchat is too complicated so don’t bother… I’m just giving you permission to not jump into everything at once. At the time I’m writing this, I don’t have any social media for this site. (My hope is that one day, someone reading this will look at it and thing, no way, really? If that’s you, thank you.) Some people grow their social media platforms and then release content, but my brain doesn’t work that way. Once you get established, you can slowly add marketing channels and see what works, what doesn’t, and – most importantly – what you like.
5. Be consistent, but don’t overcommit.
I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve started something with the mindset of I’m going to do this twice a week! or I’ll post something every Monday. Y’all, it just doesn’t always work. You get writer’s block, something comes up, something doesn’t post… and boom, you’re off schedule. Once or twice isn’t a huge deal, but when you’re trying to make things happen, it’ll throw you off track.
If you don’t want to set a posting schedule (currently, I don’t. I write a few times a week and post when the writing is done. This will change with time, I’m sure), then set a writing schedule. It’ll help you get in the mindset of writing, even if it’s only a small chunk of time every time you sit down. Figure out how you work best, and what works best with your schedule, and take advantage of that.
6. Don’t quit your day job just yet.
I know it’s tempting. I know you want more time and energy to put into something of your own. I know you think that if you give yourself no other option but to succeed in your business, that you will.
The problem is, maybe you won’t.
Maybe you’ll do what I did during my break between grad school and a real job, which was a lot of thinking I’d do something and very little doing of anything. I had so much time and I kept putting it off… and then the time ran out and I had nothing to show for it. Additionally, if you need the money now, you might cut corners, take on things that don’t move your business in the direction you want it to go, or put things out sooner than you should because you literally can’t afford to wait until you’re satisfied with it. That, my friends, is not the way to set up your business.
The flip side to this is that you might never start your own business if you stay at your regular job. A normal 9-5 gives you lots of excuses for not branching out… which means that you have to be super motivated. Think about it, though. If you’re reading this, you probably want your own business, so you’re halfway there already. If you can do both at the same time for a while, you’ll be so much better equipped for managing your life, time, and business after you make the jump to working for yourself.
What are your tips for starting a business? Nuggets of knowledge you’ve come across or wish you’d known when you started? Advice someone gave you and you want to share? Leave it in the comments!