Step 1) Plan Your Business Idea
Before starting your Georgia business, you’ll need to have a game plan. A well-crafted business plan is essential for securing funding, managing cash flow, and tracking your progress as your business grows and evolves over time.
When creating your business plan, here are some important things to include:
- A pitch. A quick, one-page summary of your plan that hits all the key points below (and more).
- A Unique Selling Proposition (USP). A short phrase that defines the core mission of your business. For example, our USP at Startup Savant is “Entrepreneurship Simplified.”
- A target market. Who you’re selling to and where to find them. It’s essential that you define your target demographic and learn the most effective ways to communicate with them.
- A marketing plan. How are you going to market your business? Establish a primary marketing strategy, including the platforms you’re going to advertise on and how much you’re able to spend.
- Milestones. Where do you see your business in 6 months? 12 months? 5 years? Setting up some initial goals is a great way to stay motivated and track your business’ performance over time.
For a much more detailed resource, check out our business planning guide. We go over forming a USP, marketing plan, executive summary, sales forecast, and everything else you’ll want to include in your plan.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this step, it’s also a good idea to consider leveraging business planning software. There’s a number of reliable programs out there that can help with every aspect of your business plan. Take a look at our top 7 business planning software guide for an overview of our favorites.
Don’t know what kind of business to start?
Our friends over at howtostartanllc.com have compiled a massive list of business ideas, ranging from personal styling to axe-throwing businesses.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect business idea for you, we encourage you to check them out!
Step 2) Form Your Business
Now that you’ve got a plan of action, it’s time to choose a business structure. There are quite a few options to choose from, and each will affect your business’ leadership, liability and taxes differently. That said, the most popular structures are:
- LLC (Limited Liability Company): LLCs are the most popular business structure because they offer the protection of a corporation without all the paperwork or the double taxation. Forming an LLC offers more flexibility when it comes to federal taxes as well -- you may be taxed as a sole proprietor, partnership or corporation depending on the membership structure of your company.
- S Corporation: A much more formal structure than an LLC, with up to 100 shareholders, a board of directors, and corporate officers. There’s no corporate taxation, though, as all profit/loss goes through the shareholders’ personal tax returns.
- C Corporation: C corps are organized similarly, but there’s no limit to the number of shareholders you can have. C Corps face double taxation, meaning the business and the shareholders are both required to pay taxes on the profits. (Read our guide for more information on forming a corporation in Georgia.)
- Sole Proprietorship: This option is definitely the path of least resistance, but it comes with quite a bit of risk (in terms of liability). If you’re operating without any partners and haven’t registered a formal business structure, you’re automatically classified as a sole proprietor. No need to file formation documents, although you may benefit from filing a DBA.
If you’re unsure which structure is right for you, I highly recommend heading over to our comparison guide for a more detailed look at each.
Once you’ve made a decision, you’ll need to take care of all the legal paperwork associated with your chosen structure. This can be a pretty involved process, so if you don't have the time to handle it on your own, there are some excellent business formation services out there that can come to the rescue.
Step 3) Tackle License & Tax Obligations
Depending on the nature of your business, you may require a variety of different licenses and permits to legally operate in Georgia. Here are a few resources for you to check out to ensure your business is compliant with all federal, state and local requirements.
- Federal: You can find a ton of helpful information on federal licenses and permits on the Small Business Association website. As far as federal taxes go, head straight to the IRS business taxes page.
- State: For information on tax and license requirements at the state level, you’ll want to head over to Georgia’s state website. The SBA also has a helpful overview of Georgia state business taxes and licenses. Keep in mind that you may need to secure a state tax identification number before moving forward with this process!
- Local: For information on municipal business requirements, we advise you to contact your local chamber of commerce.
The complexity of this process varies significantly depending on your business type. If your business requires a variety of specialized permits and licenses, you might look into using a business license service. These companies will tackle all of the research on a federal, state, and local level, so you can feel confident about fulfilling all legal requirements.
Step 4) Create Financial Foundation
Too many entrepreneurs have made the mistake of running their businesses out of personal bank accounts. In order to start out on solid financial footing, it’s critical that you keep your personal and professional expenses completely separate.
If you’ve already slipped up on this, don’t panic. There’s still time to separate your finances, simplify your taxes, and take advantage of all the benefits of having a business bank account!
Here’s a couple things to consider when choosing a business bank account:
- Shop around Georgia-based banks and credit unions (like Fidelity Bank and Georgia Credit Union) and find out what they have to offer. Local banks often have excellent customer service and additional perks for small businesses, so it’s worth it to do a little research and engage with local options.
- Don’t disregard the big banks. Look critically at the features national banks have to offer and see how they stack up against your local options. Remember to consider online banking opportunities, national ATM accessibility, branch locations, or whatever features are your top priorities when making this decision.
To jumpstart your research, take a peek at our top business bank accounts guide for in-depth reviews of our favorite national business bank accounts!
While separating your personal and business expenses is an important first step, managing your finances going forward is just as important. Investing in a reliable accounting software program is a key step toward effectively monitoring your finances -- especially if you haven’t gotten around to bringing in an accountant yet.
Step 5) Finance Your New Business
With a bit of research, you’ll find that there are a ton of funding options out there. From angel investors to microloans to crowdfunding, there are a number of ways to bankroll your new Georgia business -- however, depending on the specific circumstances of your business, you’ll want to consider some options before others.
That said, here are a few resources to check out:
- Georgia’s state website has done a terrific job of pulling together resources for new businesses looking for financing opportunities. You’ll find everything from the State Small Business Credit Initiative to local options like the City of Atlanta Loan programs. I highly recommend looking through all of resources they’ve got posted.
- The SBA releases a small-business resource guide every year for all 50 states. The Georgia edition features an entire section on financing and gaining capital, including information on the loan options the SBA has available.
In addition to the state-specific resources above, we encourage you to head over to our guide on how to finance a business. We outline all of the major funding strategies and when to choose them!
Step 6) Build A Brand
Now that you’ve taken care of all of the compulsory steps above, it’s time to work on building your brand!
There are tons of factors that play into your brand image, but two of the major ones are your business logo and website. When you're ready to create your business logo, keep the following in mind:
- Capture the essence of your business. When crafting your logo, aim for a graphic that reflects the mission of your company, or the nature of your business activity.
- Differentiate yourself. Scope out your direct competitors’ logos and consider heading a different direction to help you stand out in the market.
- Make it memorable. Select a sleek, bold design that will leave a lasting impression in people’s minds.
- Hire a professional. This is a very important step for your business, so it’s worth investing a few bucks to get your logo professionally done. (Sites like Fiverr can be great for this.)
For a more in-depth look at business logo design, check out our guide to choosing the perfect logo!
Again, another hugely important aspect of your brand image is your business website -- but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build a site from the ground up. A simple way to craft a professional, inviting website is to use an existing web-building platform. These services can save you the time and money involved in building a website from scratch.
Step 7) Market Your Business
This final step is one that never really ends: marketing your business. There’s so much to be said on this topic, but here are a few key things to get you started on the right foot:
- Identify and locate your target market. To effectively market your business, you need to know who you’re selling to (specifically) and where to find them (specifically). For example, some social media platforms are more popular than others for certain demographics. So, if you’re planning on doing social media marketing, you’ll need to identify which platforms your target market is most active on.
- Quality over quantity. There are countless marketing strategies out there, and too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying too many different tactics at once. Instead of trying to succeed at content marketing, social media, SEO and email campaigning simultaneously, pick one or two and put your full effort behind them.
- Be willing to evolve. Once you’ve established a solid marketing strategy, stick with it long enough to see if your efforts pan out. But, if they don’t, be willing to make whatever changes necessary to successfully engage with your target market.
- Don’t get distracted by vanity metrics. Sure, it’s encouraging to get clicks, likes and views, but if your efforts aren’t generating any sales, it’s time to adjust your strategy.
- Leverage software. Luckily there are dozens of free/inexpensive programs designed to aid busy entrepreneurs like you. From scheduling social media activity to calculating ROI, there’s a variety of ways to use software to your advantage. Marketing a business is a huge undertaking, so keep an eye out for ways to lighten your load. (Specific resources listed in our guide below!)
Again, there’s so much more to say on this subject, but we won’t get into it here. We encourage you to read our definitive guide for a more detailed look at the art of marketing!