Looking to start your own business? Below you can choose from over 200 free how-to guides within numerous industries. You’ll also learn the answers to common business planning questions, key steps to take to launch your business, and marketing tips to get your business off the ground.
No matter the type of business, the key to a successful business is planning. A business plan helps you lay out what your new business is about, the direction it will take, and it will show potential investors or lenders that you are serious about making your endeavor work. Plus, a business plan provides the framework for day-to-day operations as you start, grow, and manage your company.
Use this simple business plan template to help you get started:
On this Page:
- How to Start a Business By Category
- How to Start a Business By State
- Answers to Common How to Start a Business Questions
How to Start a Business By Category
Whether you’re considering starting a home-based business, prefer to work for yourself, or want to own your own company, there’s never been a better time.
Find out how to start a business with the following how-to-start guides.
Select a type of business to view:
Agriculture & Farming
Clothing & Fashion
Construction & Home Improvement
Consumer Goods & Services
Fitness & Beauty
Food & Beverage
Medical & Health
Music, Events & Entertainment
Retail & Ecommerce
Travel & Lodging
How to Start a Business by State
To start a business in an individual state, you will need to follow the guidelines for that particular state. This section will outline the process of starting up your new company in different states.
- How to Start a Business in California
- How to Start a Business in Florida
- How to Start a Business in Georgia
- How to Start a Business in Illinois
- How to Start a Business in Maryland
- How to Start a Business in Michigan
- How to Start a Business in New Jersey
- How to Start a Business in New York
- How to Start a Business in North Carolina
- How to Start a Business in Texas
Answers to Common “How to Start a Business” Questions
What are the Key Steps to Start a Business?
- Develop Your Business Idea: You’ll need to ask yourself what type of business you want to start. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing or are good at, and come up with small business ideas that combine your interests and skills.
- Choose a Business Structure: This step involves choosing the right business structure for your company. Not all businesses need to be set up as corporations, so you can opt for a limited liability company, business partner, or sole proprietorship if you’d like. Each of these business structures has its pros and cons, so it’s best to conduct research and determine what legal structure would best fit your business.
- Conduct Market Research: Conducting thorough market research is one of the most important steps in starting a business. Learn about your target market’s wants, needs, and spending habits so you can come up with the best way to meet their needs.
- Choose a Business Name: This is the fun part of the process, as you get to come up with an original name for your own business. However, coming up with the right name isn’t always easy. If you need help, online business tools can be used to brainstorm or find the perfect business name.
- Write a Business Plan: A good business plan should touch upon everything from business location to financial projections, marketing, and even what you’ll be offering potential customers. It’s also helpful to develop a marketing plan and create a SWOT analysis for your business.
- Secure Startup Funding: You’ll need to get enough money together to launch and run your own business. Options include getting an investor involved, using a business credit card, or opting for a small business administration loan.
- Choose Business Location: This is another important consideration that can have a big impact on the success of your business. Your location needs to be easily accessible for target customers, have plenty of space, and give off a good impression for potential clients.
- Register for Necessary Licenses and/or Permits: Every business needs to follow local and state laws, such as registering your business with the city or town you operate in as well as registering for an employer identification number (EIN) with the federal government.
- Hire Employees: Depending on your business, you may need to hire more employees to help you run the day-to-day operations. Good employees will make your business run smoothly, so it’s important to do what you can to find the best people for the job.
- Develop a Marketing Plan: The key to successfully starting a business is having enough motivation and dedication to promoting your business and its services. Ensure that you’re able to differentiate yourself from any competitors in your area or industry by promoting how your services are superior to others. Consider your target market and engage in marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, posting on social media accounts, and/or paid advertising.
- Obtain Appropriate Business Insurance: Although it can be a drain on finances, having the appropriate insurance for your business is a must. Business insurance needs to cover things like property damage, personal liability, and injuries that could occur in the workspace.
- Launch Your Business: Once you’ve successfully secured funding, found a location for your business, and hired employees to work with, you’ll be ready to launch. This will be your first real test to see if your business is something people are willing to pay for.
- Keep Good Records of Sales & Expenses: Proper documentation is key in the business world, so it’s important to keep good records of income and expenses. You’ll need to save receipts for all purchases or expenditures for long-term tax purposes.
- Focus on Quality Customer Service: Always put your customers first, even if they’re always demanding more. Exceed their expectations by providing them with the best customer service possible.
- Update Your Business Plan: To take your business from the startup phase to a steady income stream, you need to update your business plan regularly. As your business grows, study how your competition operates, try to boost profits, and take steps to make sure you’re not getting complacent with what you’re doing.
- Develop a Long-Term and/or Exit Strategy: Whether you want to run the business for five years or pass it on to family members, having a plan in place will help ensure that your business runs smoothly.
How Much Money Does It Take to Start a Business?
The total startup cost for a new business can vary greatly, depending on the nature of your business and where you decide to operate it.
This includes the cost of licenses and permits, paying employees for a few months, renting or buying workspace, and marketing your business.
What are the Key Costs to Starting a Business?
If you are starting a business from scratch, the following are some of the expenses that you should expect when launching your business.
- Business Licenses and Permits: These business costs vary widely depending on the business you choose to run and the location of your business.
- Staffing Costs: You may need to hire employees if your startup business requires them, such as for a restaurant or retail store. When you’re just starting, consider hiring family members who can work for you at a reduced rate to get your business off the ground.
- Office and Workplace Costs: You’ll need to find a space for your new business. If you opt for shared space, such as with an incubator program or co-working location, expect this cost will be much lower than if you were to set up your own space.
- Promotion and Marketing Costs: Promoting your business is a must if you want to be successful. You may have to pay for advertising through print or online outlets, design flyers and other promotional materials, or even hire a public relations specialist to help get the word out there about your new business.
- Inventory Costs: If you’re selling products, you’ll need to purchase them first. When starting, try offering discounts on bulk purchases of your inventory.
- Other Startup Costs: Depending on licensing requirements and whether you choose to hire employees, other startup costs may include the following:
- Insurance Costs Lease or Purchase Fees
- Utility Connection Fees
- Rental or Mortgage Payments and Deposits
- Accounting and Tax Preparation Costs
What are the Key Startup Costs for Buying an Existing Business?
If you already own a business, your startup costs will be different than they would be for new businesses. Instead of focusing on the costs associated with starting a business, you’ll need to focus on the following:
- Purchasing Inventory: Think about making a large purchase of inventory to have on hand, such as for a restaurant or retail store.
- Renovating the Business Location: If you’re moving your business to a new location, renovations may be required. For example, if you’ve been leasing your space and are now ready to buy your building, you’ll need to secure the funds for this type of renovation.
- Finding Funding to Purchase Business Assets: For many business owners, buying assets is part of doing business. You may need to purchase new equipment or furniture for your office space. If you don’t have enough money saved up on your own, you can always request financing from a lender. You can even try to secure a small business loan from your local business bank or credit union, or ask friends and family members for an investment to get the capital you need.
- Renting Equipment: If you don’t already own certain types of equipment, such as an oven for a restaurant or a workstation for an office space, you may need to rent these items for a certain period.
- Carrying Over Licenses and Permits: Many licenses and permits that you carry over from the previous season will automatically renew, but not all of them. Be sure you know which ones have to be renewed on your own before the deadline approaches.
What are the Keys to Starting a Successful Business?
When you’re looking to start a business, there are several keys that will help ensure your business success. These include the following:
- Attention to Detail: Make sure you know everything about your industry inside and out. Do thorough market research on best practices in the field. This is especially important if you’re entering an industry where you don’t have experience already.
- Network, Network, Network: As small business owners, it’s important to make connections in your industry and with potential customers or clients. This will help you become a known entity in the field and gain support for your new business.
- Don’t Underestimate Costs: It can be easy to underestimate how much your startup costs will be. Factor in all costs such as licensing fees, equipment rentals, insurance premiums, and promotional efforts before you launch your business.
- Patience: Forming a new company isn’t an overnight process that happens in just a few short weeks or months. If possible, begin the process at least six months before you’re ready to open your doors to the public.
- Never Stop Marketing: No matter how great your new business is, it won’t be able to run without customers. Think about different ways you can market your company and make people aware of its existence in the industry.