How to start a business in Illinois (10 Simple Steps)

Step 1: Plan Your Business Idea

Write a Business PlanTo build the best business, kick things off by building a game plan that hones in on your pitch, irons out a structured executive summary, creates initial budgeting forecasts, addresses ideal markets, and so forth.

There are too many variables to tackle in your first couple years. The most dependable way to improve your odds of success is to take serious time to get your game plan straight.

Take Action: Check out our 100% free Business Planning Guide designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible.

Business Ideas: Find the Idea That Fits You Image

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

How to Choose a Business StructureThe next step is to form your business with the state. This will protect your personal assets (house, car, etc) and secure your brand name.

Most entrepreneurs form an LLC because it has all the benefits of a corporation without the disadvantages like double taxation, boards of directors, and corporate officers.

Take Action: To get started, you can form an Illinois LLC by using our step-by-step guide or having an online service do the work for you.

Step 3: Sync With The Illinois Taxes

Small Business TaxesDepending on the type of business you’re in, your business structure, whether you’re hiring local Illinoisans, and where you set up shop, syncing with the tax code can happen as easily as hockey melded with Chicago.

If you don’t have or can’t yet afford legal help, consider reaching out the the SBDC near you with any questions.

Take Action: Do your homework on the Illinois Dept. of Revenue’s site for Businesses as well as their e-Services or Electronic Services page.

Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits

Business LicensesFor many small startups it’s just basic requirements, but it can get complex quickly if you’re opening a clothing store downtown, for example.

As you’ll see, the regulatory environment can be very startup-friendly.

  1. DYI’ers should head over to the Registration, Licenses, & Permits page on Illinois.gov to get started with this step.
  2. For help with this step, a Business License Service is a good resource too. They determine everything required on federal, state, county, and municipal levels, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.

Step 5: Separate Your Personal and Business Assets

Best Business Bank AccountUsing dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

Now that you’ve made it through registering and setting up taxes and licensing for your business, you’ll need to take steps to protect your personal assets and establish your business as an independent entity.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

You can go a long way in protecting your assets with these three steps:

  1. Open a business bank account.

A business bank account separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection. A designated business bank account also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

To open up a bank account for your business, you’ll need to obtain an EIN (Employer Identification Number). You’ll use your EIN in place of your social security number so that this account is completely separate from your personal finances. After this, start doing your research on various business bank accounts. Local options and national banks, like Chase, both have their perks.

Get $200 when you open a business checking account with Chase. Learn more

  1. Get a business credit card.

A business credit card helps you separate personal and business expenses. A business credit card will also build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise capital later on.

Learn about the best small business credit cards here.

  1. Designate an authorized representative.

Make sure all documents are signed by a representative of your LLC and not by you (or other LLC members) directly. This will help separate you from liability incurred by the LLC.

  1. Keep your accounting and bookkeeping up to date

Make sure to sync up your banking and credit card accounts with an accounting software like QuickBooks as soon as you get the chance. It’s never too soon to start organizing your business’ finances!

Step 6: Pick A Stellar Illinois Location

How to Choose a Business LocationWhere you choose to set up shop is critical, whether it's downtown Chicago, its immediate suburbs, or somewhere else in Illinois.

The idea is to find somewhere with the best resources that makes managing your business easier. For every downside of the location (and there will be some), there should be 3 upsides.

Take Action: We know picking a spot can be tough if it doesn’t somehow happen naturally through your personal/professional networks. If you’d like to brush up on everything that goes into making this decision, refer to our friendly guide on How to Choose the Perfect Location.

Step 7: Finance/Bootstrap Your Startup

How to Finance a BusinessDon’t be shy, because Illinois has every financing and funding option known to humankind both in terms of conventional loans, state/local grants and programs, CrowdFunding communities, and more.

All that matters is how strong your ambitions are and how resourceful you can be.

Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like The Windy City and snow. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.

Step 8: Design & Publish A Business Website

Build a Business WebsiteNo one’s saying your business website has to be majestic, but in order to be taken seriously you need a digital presence.

Potential customers need to be able to Google you and investigate your business. They need to have digital payment options. They need contact forms and blog-content in some cases to see what your brand is all about.

 

Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which we highly recommend checking out Wix or Weebly. Both walk you through the process of building a professional website and are very easy to use. No need for you to have any previous website building experience.

 

Step 9: Market Your Business

Social Media ChannelIf you can’t market a product or service in Illinois then you might want to re-think things a bit. Illinois is truly one of the biggest cultural melting pots in America, so it has plenty of niche consumer populations. The challenge is not getting lost and in over your budget’s head.

Take Action: We hammer down on this a lot – start marketing as close to home as possible. If you only have one or two clients/users/customers, then show them as much love as you can. Shower them with incentives in return for honest feedback or perhaps a referral.

Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired

Sign Up For Entrepreneur InterviewsAlong your path to greatness, we hope you add Startup Savant to your bag of goodies.

Around here we focus our efforts on valuable ongoing education, exploring the newest software solutions for new businesses, and sharing insight from fellow change-makers, ambitious creatives, and innovators. Sound good?

Take Action: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to tap into our daily feed filled with tips, lessons, and inspiring stories directly from entrepreneurs like you.

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Continue Learning. Stay Inspired!