Step 1: Plan Your Business Idea
Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, after naming and developing your product or service, the first giant step to success is etching out a game plan – including pitch/executive summary, objectives, financial forecasts, budgeting and cash flow, etc. Without this you’re winging it and that won’t cut it in the Evergreen State.
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. We'll guide you step-by-step through the process and help refine all your core fundamentals: marketing, budgeting, milestones, pitch, etc. into a presentation-ready plan.
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 Business Structure & Register
Washington recognizes all kinds of business structures, from LLCs to corporations and partnerships. Each comes with its own give and take, so don’t dawdle on your homework here. This is your choice, make it and move on to registration.
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: Tackle Washington Tax Obligations
As of 2016, Washington ranked #12, just outside the Top 10, on the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. To the south Oregon is #11. Overall the PNW has tons to offer in terms of tax breaks, incentives and credits. The next step is getting your business tax situation sorted.
Take Action: Don’t worry, first there’s a free PDF published online by Washington State called New Business Tax Basics that will get you started. After that bookmark the Department of Revenue’s Find Taxes & Rates page to find specific answers.
Step 4: Obtain Licensing & Permits
Washington reached statehood about 130 years ago so there’s a fair amount of licensing and permits needed to do business wherever you go, from Spokane east of the mountains, or especially in smaller suburbs like Lynnwood or Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island. You’ve got two options:
- For the DIY’ers head to the State of Washington Business Licensing Service page and determine which you’ll need depending on your situation.
- For help finding the licenses you’ll need, a Business License Service is what we highly recommend looking into. 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
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 Washington Area
Are you going straight for a bigger city like Seattle, Tacoma or Bellingham? Maybe something calmer like Ellensburg, a small college town? Or maybe you’ve got high-end Bellevue in your sights? Whether you’re a tech-startup or the newest food trend, it’s all about location. Be smart about this. Do some research!
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 Your Business
Washington is booming. It has been for quite some time now thanks to a large variety of reasons (improving weather, great economy, big companies like Amazon coming to the area, etc.). And thanks to the internet, funding is everywhere! Question is, how do you intend on grabbing a slice to bring your business to life?
Take Action: You can browse our guide on How to Finance a Business to start generating ideas. Plus, the email course we mentioned in Step 1 really comes in handy here because planning and finances go together like cups and breakfast.
Step 8: Build A Business Website
Washington is a good mix of progressiveness and liberalism. Some areas are very reserved, while others are incredibly culturally diverse. Regardless though, without a professional business website your company won’t be taken near as seriously.
Take Action: The first step is finding the right platform, which thankfully there are some great options out there. Head on over to our reviews of the top two in our book (Wix and Weebly) to get a head start if you don’t already have this in the bag.
Step 9: Market Your Business
With steps 1-8 in the rear view mirror it’s nothing but sales and brand expansion to the promise land. Sure, tackle digital marketing with zeal, but don’t forget to get out there are really connect with your ideal market.
Take Action: Make it a point every single business day to really connect with at least one current or potential client/customer. Where are they? What activities are they interested in? What’s their commute like? There’s no marketing like understanding and talking to your prospects.
Step 10: Continue Learning & Stay Inspired
It’s easy to continue learning. Staying inspired on the other hand can be rough when you’re grinding it out during the rainy season in Washington. That’s what we’re here for!
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. We'll keep your social media channels positive with daily doses of wisdom and inspiration.