Starting a small business is exhilarating. Not only do you get to be your own boss, but you also get to bring something to life that’s entirely yours – the success lies entirely on your own shoulders.
Of course, that means that the success lies entirely on your own shoulders. And, as you might have noticed, there’s quite a lot to be done to really flourish as a small business. It’s not impossible, but it will require you to roll up your sleeves and get everything sorted yourself.
That’s where we come in. UENI was founded to help small businesses successfully find a way to get online – increasing their visibility and their reach to local, national, and international customers. Our goal is to be a one-stop-shop for small businesses, and we’re always working on making sure you have all the tools available to you to make your business a success.
Whether we offer it ourselves or through one of our partners, we’d like to walk you through all the steps on how to grow your business properly.
1. Choosing a business name
Sometimes, you know what your business name is going to be. Most of the time, it’s not so easy. You want something catchy that represents your services and products. You don’t want to make it too difficult to spell, and you definitely don’t want to settle on one only to find that it’s already been taken.
Remember, your business name is the first point of contact most people are going to have with your business. Picking a memorable name that’s also effective is the key here.
Stuck? Check out The Balance SMB Name Generator for help. It’s a useful tool that can help kickstart a brainstorm.
2. Choose an appropriate business structure
Feel free to skip this step if you already have one, but one of the key elements of any successful business is an appropriate business structure. Are you a sole-trader (known as a sole proprietorship, in the US), or does forming a Limited Company make more sense?
There’s a lot to learn about these things, but a good starting point comes from Crunch in their article about choosing the right company structure (UK) or MyCompanyWork’s Business Plan (US).
3. Obtain all business license and permits
If you’re going to do this properly, you need to make sure that you dot your I’s and cross your T’s – legally speaking, this means you’ll have to have whatever licenses and permits your business will require, as well as being a properly registered company.
If you’re one of our clients based in the US, you can learn quite a bit about how to register your company from our partner SumUp’s excellent guide on the subject.
For our customers based in Britain, we recommend first reading Tide’s blog post on whether to register as a limited company or a sole trader. If you’re interested in setting up a limited company, Crunch has an easy guide for that.
4. Obtain the required business insurances
“Does my business need insurance?”
If you’re asking this question, the answer is almost certainly “yes”. There’s a lot to cover here – from making sure you have coverage for your employees and making sure any tools or equipment are covered to liability to deciding whether or not you’d be better off with a bundled package – and it can get a little overwhelming.
That’s why we recommend this CoverWallet guide for our US clients. They’ve also got a great read about insuring an inactive business which you’ll want to check out if your business has been affected by COVID-19.
For our UK-based clients, GoSuperScript has a nice primer on the sorts of insurance you can expect to be required to have. You’ll find that article here.
You can get a great deal on GoSuperScript’s business insurance when you sign up for their services through your UENI Hub.
Getting Your Business Online
5. Set Up Your Website
When you’re setting up your website, you’ll have three main options: You can Do It Yourself, You can go through an agency, or you can go through UENI.
We’ve made a comparison of the pros and cons of the three approaches (DIY, hiring an agency, or working with UENI) in this article, but regardless of what you go for, you’ll need to remember two main things:
If you are a service provider – your business provides a service, rather than physical products or goods – you’ll need to be sure your website allows customers to make a booking with you.
If your business provides products, you’ll have to make sure your website supports sales. Customers who can’t buy your products directly from your website won’t be very pleased when they visit your page.
Not sure if you’ve got a good website? Check out our guide here.
6. Choosing a domain name
Choosing the right domain name is nearly as important as choosing your business name. Why?
Domain names can benefit your business by helping you to:
- Reach your target market
- Maintain brand ownership
- Be memorable
- Build an online presence
- Set expectations
- Boost your SEO
- Compete with other businesses
- Grow and expand
All of these help build brand credibility, user experience, and make it easier for your customers to find you.
When you sign up for a Plus or Reputation Plan with UENI, one of the perks is a custom website domain, absolutely free.
7. Set up your professional email address
A professional email address is one of the cornerstones of any public-facing business. For starters: it boosts your credibility, is easily identified by customers, and allows you to keep your personal email separate from your business life. There’s a whole host of other benefits, too.
Many companies offer professional emails, but a lot of times they’re bundled with things you really don’t need. You can get a professional email with a Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite) account, but even on their cheapest plan, you’re probably paying for features you’re never going to use.
Of course, all of UENI’s paid plans come with up to four bespoke professional email addresses linked to your custom domain.
8. Ensure you’re visible online
Having a website is all well and good, but if no one can find it, how much is it really doing for you?
Once your website is up and running just how you like it, you’ll want to start looking at ways to drive traffic to your page. There are a number of different strategies that you can employ to help achieve this goal, but for locally-focused businesses, one of the biggest is Google My Business.
Having an optimised Google My Business can help you show off your business to people in your local area: in other words, your most likely customers!
Thanks to our partnership with Google, UENI can create and verify a Google My Business listing for your business. We’ve also got a great guide to optimising your GMB.
9. Manage your online reputation
Do you know how your business is perceived online? Do you know how to make it better? These might sound like simple questions, but you might be surprised by how many business owners struggle to answer them.
The fact is, while most people can intuit what a high-quality online reputation is, very few people can quickly and effectively translate that into steps towards improving their own.
In other words: it’s easy to see what someone else is doing wrong. It’s more difficult to fix your own issues.
That’s why we developed the Reputation Plan. We wanted to make it easy for businesses to do everything necessary to create and maintain a great online image in one place. If you want to know more, check out this article.
Getting The Paperwork Sorted
10. Choose An Accounting System
Being on top of your books is essential to running your business correctly. Even if you can get away with a pen and paper (or some smart Excel skills) at first, a full-fledged accounting system is key to making sure you’re tracking all your expenses and revenue correctly.
Not sure where to start? We recommend taking a look at this’s guide to some great accounting software to choose from.
If you’re based in the UK, we suggest this Crunch’s guide to accounting software.
11. Setting Up Contracts
Another easily-overlooked but essential element to starting your business correctly is to make sure you have solid contracts in place, even if they’re simple.
Of course, it’s important to get some legal advice when creating a contract, but for our UK customers, this guide from the Small Business Commissioner is a good start.
For our US-based clients, we recommend this guide about essential contracts for small businesses from Rocket Lawyer.
12. Get A Business Bank Account
Depending on your country and your business structure, you may or may not be legally required to create a separate business account, but when you want to avail yourself of loans or other assistance, many banks require it.
Not to mention it’s just good business sense. The small amount of savings that you might garner from using your personal account won’t compare to the benefits you can gain from it. If you’re in the UK, we recommend reading this guide about the different sorts of bank accounts on offer.
UK Customers: Sign up for a business bank account with Tide through your UENI Hub and get £50 cashback! Check it out here.
13. Register for Taxes
Filing your taxes as a small business is a bit different than filing your taxes as an individual. There’s a different tax rate, you’re eligible for a host of different cuts and rebates, and you’ll also have to be on top of how and when you’ll have to pay taxes on your business.
There’s a lot to cover, and you’ll definitely want to get in touch with a professional: especially if you’re based in North America where there are so many different state laws.
To help our UK clients get started, though, here’s a great primer from Crunch about filing self-assessment taxes.
14. Issue Invoices
Successfully issuing invoices another cornerstone of successfully starting a small business, because that’s ultimately how you’re going to ensure that you’re being paid a fair amount for your work.
For our US clients looking for more information about when you should issue an invoice, check out this article from SumUp. (If you’re outside the US the website may ask you to change to an alternate site).
For our UK clients, you can a similar article from SumUp is available here.
If you’re looking for a software alternative for generating an invoice, rather than doing it from scratch, Freshbooks has you covered. You can learn more about Freshbooks through your UENI Hub.
Finally, don’t forget that you’ll need to market your page.
Marketing Your Page
15. Set Up & Maintain Your Social Media
Contrary to what some people might think, creating social media for your business does not mean you’re destined to shout into the void with offers, promotions, and more.
You can definitely engage with your audience, but another vital part of making sure your social media exists and is up to date is to help build legitimacy.
In other words, when people are looking up your business, they often expect to find a couple of social media accounts linked to your company. It’s not just enough to set them up, though: an abandoned social media page could even look worse than not having one at all.
That’s why maintaining your social media presence is so important. We would say that having a well-kept Facebook account is a bigger win than having five or six different social media accounts that you never use.
On UENI’s Reputation Plan, we provide a great tool for managing your business page over key platforms like Facebook, Google My Business, and more.
16. Link your website with Key Business platforms:
Similar to social media, key business platforms allow you to reach a wider audience by making sure your business appears where your customers are searching for it.
When you’ve linked your page correctly, customers can buy things from your business without having to land on your page at all. This positive user experience often leads to an increase in sales, because making it easy for the user is the name of the game when it comes to conversions.
At UENI, we allow businesses to link their products with the Facebook Marketplace, Instagram Shopping, and Google Shopping – if someone finds your shop through a Search or on a social media feed, they can purchase one of your products directly where they’ve found it, without having to head to a different website and navigate a different checkout process.
Remember: immediate satisfaction is the name of the game. If someone can buy something now, it’s almost always better than forcing them to buy something later.
17. Run Email Marketing Campaigns
Email marketing is sometimes seen as passé, and while it’s true that it’s not a shiny new platform, it still has many advantages when it comes to helping your business succeed.
We discovered some interesting findings a little while ago when we looked at our own email marketing engagement, and the truth is, nearly every small business should be doing more on the email front.
It’s a great place to put promotional offers and start stoking the Fear of Missing Out.
18. Run Paid Ad Campaigns
Right off the bat, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Paid Advertising is really only worthwhile if you honestly have the budget for it.
If you want to get into Paid advertising but don’t want to spend more than $10 or £10, you’re going to have a bad time, especially for competitive keywords and search terms.
Because we want small businesses to have the chance to compete, our Plus and Reputation Plans come with the opportunity to get a significant discount on credits for Google AdWords.
We’ve written a whole guide on the best ways to use AdWords, but if you feel comfortable with your keywords and with your spend, it can be a powerful tool to help boost your business.
Still not convinced? Take a look at this article from Main Street ROI for some more reasons why Google Ads can be a smart investment.
19. SMS Your Customers
The last thing we’ll recommend to you as far as marketing your page is to communicate with your customers via SMS. We’re big fans of using texting as a way to do live chat via WhatsApp, but you can also use text messages to send clients and customers promotions, deals, and other updates.
Now, of course, you have to be very careful when you market by SMS. No one likes getting a bunch of spam directly to their phone.
If you want to get it right, we recommend this guide on SMS marketing from EZTexting.