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Woman Happy about Launching her own Small Business

Launching a Business? Start Here

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BRANDING+ MARKETING + WORKFLOW + MINDSET

BUSINESS STARTUP CHECKLIST

  1. Choose a business name. Before you get attached to your new name, check to make sure the name and URL are available.
  2. Apply for an LLC, Sole Proprietor, C Corp, Partnership, or S Corp.
  3. Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  4. Apply for a sales permit.
  5. Decide on the business location: home or studio.
  6. Check zoning ordinances if working from home (unless you’re 100% online).
  7. Prepare a preliminary business plan and business model.
  8. Write out your goals—long-term and short-term. Then break down your goals into a step-by-step plan by writing out the necessary small milestones you need to achieve in order to reach your goals.
  9. Create your pricing structure. Be sure to sit down and really work on this. Take the time to do the math to figure in all of your business expenses, what you want your annual salary to be, how many hours per week you want to work, how many sessions you can feasibly fit into your schedule—all of this will help to determine how much your average per session price should be.
  10. Meet with an accountant to ensure you have a good understating of sales, state, and federal tax.
  11. Create an accounting worksheet for tracking sales, expenditures, mileage, taxable purchases, donations, set up an electronic accounting system like Quickbooks, or hire your accountant to do your bookkeeping for you. Not one of these systems is better than the other, stay within your budget.
  12. Hire an attorney to write up contracts: model release, copyright notice, print release, portrait and/or wedding agreement, and independent contractor agreement. Refer to thelawtog.com for more information.
  13. Open a business checking account. Keep business finances separate from personal finances.
  14. Apply for a business credit card.
  15. Sign up for a merchant account to accept credit cards: Stripe, Square, Paypal, Samcart.
  16. Arrange for business insurance: equipment, general liability, and property insurance (if renting or purchasing studio or office space).
  17. Arrange for health, life, and disability insurance.
  18. Set up a retirement account.
  19. Meet with other entrepreneurs for moral support and to ask questions, and/or create an accountability group and meet once per month.
  20. Consider hiring a coach or joining a mastermind. This will help you to move forward A LOT faster.
  21. If you decide not to hire a coach, consider taking a business class: Marie Forleo’s B-School is like getting an M.B.A. in eight weeks.
  22. For photographers: There’s no need to spend a ton of money on equipment right away. You basically need one camera body, two lenses, and an off-camera flash unit to get started. I recommend using only these four pieces for a few months, and rent different lenses to try out, so you have a good understanding of what lenses you use the most, and which ones you need to achieve your desired look/style.
  23. Decide on your niche. For the multi-passionates, I see you and I know how hard it is to pick one thing to showcase. This doesn’t mean you have to give up everything else, you’re just making it easy for your clients to understand what you do. You can add more stuff later. Trust me on this. If I could go back and change one thing about launching my business 10 years ago, it would be this. I would have had only one offering.
  24. Design your logo. Hire a graphic designer, or utilize one of the amazing online options: Creative Market, Design Crowd, Logo Perfecto, Vector Stock, and Fiverr.
  25. Select your company colors. If you hire a designer for your logo, he or she will assist you through this process. For more tips on this, please sign up for my newsletter where you’ll receive a downloadable guide with branding tips.
  1. Purchase web hosting package: DreamHost (for WordPress websites), SquareSpace, Wix, Showit, SmugMug, Photoshelter, ShootProof.
  2. If you’re going with WordPress, I highly recommend Astra theme and Elementor Pro for a fast, easy-to-design website.
  3. Purchase a URL—some hosting companies include one URL.
  4. Create a professional email address. For example info@yourcompany.com
  5. Create social media business accounts: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin Snapchat, TikTok, Clubhouse, etc. Select two or three social media outlets to start with so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Do some research on your competition to see what they’re using—this is where your ideal clients are hanging out too.
  6. Create an email signature with your name, logo, email, links to your website, and social media.
  7. Order business cards: Moo, Vistaprint. This seems old school, but people still ask for business cards. Be prepared. Yes, of course, direct them to your most liked and used social media platforms such as Instagram or TikTok, but keep in mind that they’re already following hundreds of accounts and only 3% of your followers actually see your posts. You could get lost in the crowd.
  8. For photographers: Select a print lab that you’re happy with.
  9. For photographers: If you’re going to sell prints, order sample products from said print lab.
  10. For photographers: If you’re going to sell digital images, set up an online gallery: Photoshelter, SmugMug, PixieSet, ShootProof, ZenFolio.
  11. Create a list of services and/or session types and design a price list that you can send to your clients.
  12. Develop business policies and procedures: cancellation fee, digital image policy, down payment, email templates, digital file backup, scheduling, print lab, product delivery, referral program, high school senior rep program, testimonial campaign, and service/session reschedule due to unforeseen incidents.
  13. For photographers: Purchase Lightroom and/or Photoshop and learn how to use these software systems.
  14. For photographers: Develop your editing style and keep it consistent so your clients know what they’re getting as an end result.
  15. For photographers: Develop an editing workflow process.
  16. For photographers: Purchase an external hard drive or go big and get the ThunderBay 24 TB, 4-bay external hard drive.
  17. Purchase a CRM—Customer Relationship Management—software system to keep your workflow as streamlined as possible. I personally use Dubsado and love it. You can create time-saving templates and workflows to send out proposals, contracts, forms, and create client project folders so everything is in one place and easy to find.
  18. Set up email marketing: ConvertKit, Flodesk, Mailchimp, Constant Contact.
  19. If you’re going to sell online courses, choose a digital course and membership site: Kajabi, Kartra, Teach:able, Mighty Networks. Kartra and Teach:able to include email marketing so there’s no need to sign up for ConvertKit, Mailchimp, etc.
  20. Develop a plan to grow your email list. Decide how many newsletters you’re going to send to your audience; weekly, bi-weekly, monthly.
  21. Develop yearly campaigns and specials ahead of time for launches, holidays, and milestones.
  22. Learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to get your website ranking as high on Google as possible.
  23. Develop a marketing plan and budget for the year. Go where your ideal client is. If they’re on Facebook, learn about Facebook Ads. If they’re on LinkedIn, learn about LinkedIn ads. If they’re on Pinterest, learn about Pinterest Ads. Work on one platform at a time.
  24. Send out a press release.
  25. Tell all your friends and family members about your business.
  26. Join a networking group (or two, or three).
  27. Network online. This is going to take some work. join Facebook groups. Private message people—don’t try to sell them something right away, just get to know them and build a relationship.
  28. Join your local Chamber of Commerce.
  29. Connect with local businesses where your ideal client shops and develop a marketing partnership. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer you could partner with a florist, a boutique wedding gown shop, or a bakery.
  30. If you’re going to blog, which I highly recommend that you do for SEO, develop a schedule that you know you can stick to. There are no rules as to how many days per week you should blog, just be consistent. Figure out how many articles you can feasibly write per week based on your schedule—quality and consistency are more important than quantity.

**NOTE** All products listed above are systems and tools that I personally use and love. Each one of them has helped me grow my business in one way or another. I would NEVER list something here that I do not stand behind 100%. That being said, when you click through these links to purchase any of these products, I will receive a small referral bonus; there is absolutely no extra cost to you. Thank you!

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