Is the thought of getting your business off the ground may be overwhelming? I know it was for me. There are several items to tackle along the way that can feel intimidating and nearly impossible to complete. Or maybe you take a look at those checklists and decide that you can cut out a few steps. After all, you want to meet your goal of turning on your imaginary “open for business” sign sooner than later. Whatever the case may be, I’m here to tell you that yes, launching your business is possible, and no, the shortcuts just won’t be worth it in the end.
You may ask, “Is there a way to make sure I check off the necessary boxes in a timely manner?” I put together my “Ready to Launch” checklist specifically for online service-based businesses for that very reason. If you want to learn how to accomplish all of the items on the checklist, just keep reading.
*Pro tip: To better follow along with the rest of this post, download the “Ready to Launch” guide first.
Identify the components of your brand
Let’s kick the process off by looking at the key components of your brand. This is the stage where you define (with room to adjust along the way) your business mission and vision statements. For the mission statement, you’ll want to think about who you are as a brand, who you want to help and how you plan to help them. Your vision statement will explain your long-term aspirations for your business.
Next is the fun part. What will be your business colors and fonts? If you’re not well-versed in color palettes and fonts beyond Times New Roman, try searching for inspiration on Pinterest. Think about the mood you want to exude to your target audience. Also, use this time to narrow down your ideal client. Who do you aim to serve? What do they do for a living? Really narrow down the demographic of your target audience. Then think about who else is serving this audience in a similar way. That is your competition. Thinking through this stage will give you an idea of how to stand out from others working in your space.
Framing your business
This stage is where we get to the formality of things. You’ll want to begin by crafting a unique name for your business. Simple is better as you’ll want your audience to remember how to spell it when searching for you online. I would suggest searching online and social media channels to see if the name is already being used by another business. Don’t get discouraged if your name is taken. Something even better will come to you right on time.
Now that you have a name locked in, you’re ready to register your business. Each state has its own associated fees for this. A quick Google search will reveal the necessary steps for registering your business like creating an operating agreement and applying for an EIN #. There are also filing services that will do the work for you and ensure you don’t miss any steps.
Once registered, you’ll be ready to open a business account and a way to take client payments, such as a PayPal account. It may be helpful to estimate your start-up business costs, or at least keep track of them as you go in a simple spreadsheet. Accounting software may be worth exploring as well, but you can wait until you get things going for that. Lastly, go ahead and set up your business email. You can start with a free Gmail account, but a professional one such as firstname.lastname@example.org may look a little more put together.
Developing your service
You’ll want to put on your creative hat for this stage. Think about a specific problem your target audience needs help with when developing a service. Now you can draft a project proposal that you can customize as needed based on each client. Next, create a brand questionnaire in a form format to bring on new clients. Some type of close-out questionnaire is also good to give your clients a chance to share some feedback and a testimonial at the end of a project.
If you plan to offer consultation calls to talk through projects with clients, you’ll need to set up calendar booking with a service such as Calendly. This is an excellent time to think about your office and meeting hours.
Project management systems are important as they keep you on track and accountable. I personally love using Trello, but if you have more than one person on your team a system like Asana may work better for you.
Now that you’re on track, keep your clients on track by creating an onboarding email sequence through an email platform like Mailchimp or Mailerlite. I would suggest setting up three to six email templates that walk your client through the project process. Don’t forget to set up contract/invoice templates yourself or through platforms like HoneyBook.
As a final step, take on a test client at no charge in exchange for a chance to work out the kinks of your business. Ask them to provide a testimonial at the end of the project to add to your portfolio website, social media channels and promotional materials.
Launch your website & social media channels
Alright, now you’re almost at the finish line! You’ll need to set up your social media accounts on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, depending on where you’ll have the most reach with your audience. You’ll also need to lock in your website domain and set up the key pages of your website through a platform like WordPress or Squarespace.
Pro tip: My “Perfect Your Site” copywriting package is all you need to develop the key pages of your website.
Make sure to take a few brand photos to use on your website and social media channels. You can take your own photos at home with good lighting, an iPhone and a tripod. Or a professional photographer or friend can assist.
It’s also a good idea to create a lead magnet such as a checklist, guide or course that you can offer to pull in and help your audience. The lead magnet can be posted on the homepage of your website and your social media channels.
You can do this! Keep in mind that there may be a few additional steps to take that are specific to your business. However, this guide and the free downloadable checklist I’ve provided will help you get things off to an excellent start.