Step 1: Truly Plan Your Business Idea
No one’s asking you for a collegiate-level business plan right out the gate, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking that route. It’s really about structuring your approach, goals, cash flow, and setting yourself up for a prosperous future. It’s about getting to solid management practices, especially for those without prior business experience.
Take Action: Check out our 100% free Business Planning Guide designed to get you from A-to-Z as pleasantly as possible. Plus, we provide access to tons of other great tools along the way.
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: Choose A Structure & Incorporate
The next step is to come to terms with the type business structure you intend on forming. Once you’ve made your decision get the ball rolling on registration so that you can 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, board of directors or corporate officers. However if you're trying to take your company public or raise substantial outside capital, you should probably form a Corporation.
Take Action: Since this step is so important and expensive if it's not done correctly, we highly recommend investing 10 minutes to go over your options through our business structure comparison guide. You'll get a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each while building a solid legal foundation for your business.
Step 3: Sync With The Maryland Tax Code
We’re talking about one of thee most iconic American states. Washington D.C. is literally surrounded by its colonial landscapes so rest assured the regulatory environment runs smoothly. Just make sure you've covered everything involved before opening shop to avoid costly fines, extra (unnecessary) fees, or even time in court.
Take Action: The Comptroller of Maryland website has pretty much everything you’ll need, or at least more than enough to get you started. Bookmark their Information for Business Taxpayers page. And if you jump over to the Maryland Department of Commerce you can feast your eyes on all the Programs and Tax Credits for Businesses.
Step 4: Obtain Proper Licensing/Permits
Here’s the gist in Maryland’s own words for DIY’ers, “State business licenses can be obtained from the Clerks of the Circuit Court in the county where the business is located. First-time license applicants must register with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation before contacting the local Clerk of the Court. The State License Bureau is responsible for monitoring and enforcing the use of business licenses in Maryland.”
Another option to consider is a Business License Package which determines everything required on Federal, State, County and Municipal levels for you, get the forms, and provide step-by-step filing instructions.
Step 5: Separate Your Personal and Business Assets
Using 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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Maryland Location
Along with all four seasons in great pronouncement and ambience, you’ve got the entire gambit of geography as well – mountains, picturesque farmland, bustling/quaint cities and secluded/tourist beaches. Delaware to the east, West Virginia and Ohio to the west. What a great state to start a business!
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 Platform
It’s hard to get across in this tiny paragraph just how much access to funding and financing you have as a member of the Maryland business community, not to mention an entrepreneur in general thanks to the internet and new options like Social Lending and CrowdFunding. Do your research and find out exactly how much your business needs to get started - and go from there.
Take Action: The email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like Camden Yards and Natty Boh’s. You can also browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas.
Step 8: Design & Publish A Business Website
Very few customers are going to take your brand seriously without a website. Who can argue with that? You might be able to come up with one or two decent reasons to put a professional site off for a little while, but we could bombard you with as many reasons to have one from the beginning as there are blue crabs along the Maryland coast.
Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are a handful of great options. Head on over to our reviews of Wix and Weebly to get a head start. They’re both very reliable, affordable and easy to use. Plus they offer free trials so you can test the waters!
Step 9: Market Your Business
As one of the hubs of the American northeast, wow, you’ve got a million ways to reach just about any niche you could think of. The key’s to pick your battles wisely and not stretch your forces (resources) too thin. Leverage both the local communities around your base of operations as well as effective digital marketing methods.
Take Action: Don’t underestimate the power of localized internet searches. Is it competitive in Maryland online? Yes, just as much as offline, but that’s not a bad thing. Map out your target markets, financial forecasts, and cost-per-acquisition costs.
Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired
Not a single day will pass in business that doesn’t provide both lessons and opportunities. Often, they occur simultaneously. From where we’re sitting though the #1 place to turn for incredible insight and edge-grabbing-info are other change makers. They’re endless reservoirs that can help you push past the hard times.