The Steps I Took To Start a Business

First off, please let me make a disclaimer that I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant, and the following article is meant as a general guideline for starting a business.  If you are serious about starting your own business (and I hope that you are) I strongly advise you to speak to both an attorney and an accountant that specialize in business before you get too far.

That being said, starting a business really isn’t that painful of a process – or at least it wasn’t for me.  I am currently the proud owner of Carr Online Media, LLC and co-owner of Shirley Online Media, LLC.   While the process of putting together these businesses has been relatively tedious – you’ll notice there’s a lot of paperwork to be filed in order for you to start your own business – I still, to use a cliche, wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  Well… I’m sure I could figure out a price.

Anyway, what I wanted to do in this post was outline the steps that I took in order to get my businesses up and running.  I figured that it would probably be a good starting point for people who have been kicking around the idea of starting their own business, but really have no idea where to begin.

Corporate Structure:

When I put together my businesses, from the beginning I was fairly certain I was going to go with a Limited Liability Company (LLC).  This is because I liked the flexibility of the LLC – the fact that it’s taxed like a sole proprietorship or partnership (meaning no double taxation), you don’t need to have annual shareholder meetings, they’re relatively easy to dissolve – as well as the protection it provides – as long as I stay current with my paperwork and don’t make any heinous mistakes, none of my personal assets will be liable.

Anyway, you can choose from several different structures: sole propreitor, partnership, limited partnership, LLC, and Corporation (C-Corp or S-Corp).  Each has their benefits and disadvantages; it just so happened that an LLC best fit what I wanted my businesses to become.

Filing the Corporation’s Paperwork:

Now that I had selected what my businesses’ structures, I needed to make everything ok with my state.  So, I called the State Corporation Commission in order to check and make sure the two names that I wanted for my businesses – Carr Online Media, LLC and Shirley Online Media, LLC – were both available.  Thankfully they were, so once that was squared away, I was able to go ahead and start filling out my paperwork.

Depending on where you live and the corporate structure you choose, there will be varying amounts of paperwork.  Luckily for me, all I had to do was fill out one simple form for each business, giving the desired business name, my name and address and a $100 check for each business.  Simple enough.

After filling out the forms I went ahead and sent them to the State Corporation Commission and about a week later I received documentation that everything was accepted and I was registered with the state.  I actually have the documents framed and they hang on either side of my college diploma.  How cute.

Federal ID Number:

After getting the OK from the State Corporation Commission, I was free to go ahead and apply for Federal ID Numbers, which is the number I will use when reporting my companies’ tax figures.

There were two things in particular that I liked about getting my Federal ID number- 1) it was probably the only free thing I was able to get when putting together the businesses and 2) I did it online at the IRS’ website.

After I filled out the applicable forms, about a week later I received the official documentation in the mail.  Turns out the IRS actually can work quickly.  Thanks to that little quip I’m probably now on their audit list.

Local Licenses:

Now that I had the two big things out of the way, I was able to go ahead and finalize all of my local paperwork.  This consisted of applying for my local business licenses, applying for a license to conduct business out of my home (which wasn’t an issue because everything I do is online) and, finally, a list of assets owned by the businesses.  This last one was easy because I have yet to buy anything for the businesses.  Wait, I mean, the businesses has yet to buy anything for themselves. 

Gotta make sure you keep personal money separate from business money.

Bank Accounts:

The final step I took when starting my businesses was to go ahead and open business checking accounts.

In most cases, you will need to provide the following items when opening a business banking account: state registration, Federal ID number and your business license(s).

There are literally hundreds of business banking options out there, so depending on the type of business you plan to run, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs.

I ended up going with Free Business Checking from BB&T because it allows me 150 monthly transactions before they charge me fees (I won’t exceed that, at least not initially), there’s no account minimum and I get a Visa Business Check Card.  Those were the three things that were important to me, and they were the one bank that had them.

Like I said in the beginning, this certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all of how to start a business.  I’m sure I left plenty of holes, so make sure you talk to a lawyer and an accountant before you begin the process of starting your own business. 

That being said, if you’ve got the desire to own your own business, don’t let anything hold you back.  It certainly is a very rewarding experience.