By Rachel Brenke, The Law Tog www.thelawtog.com
You’re at the mercy of the military or other life situations that keep you from a full-time out-of-house career. You are also at the mercy of a government that doesn’t know how to run itself and keep its own doors open. That doesn’t mean you can’t pursue something just for you.
Deciding to be a small business owner is scary, yet full of promise and opportunity thanks to the Internet and the vast majority of resources at your fingertips. The danger in researching whether to open a small business and how to open this small business, once you’ve made the decision, is sorting through tons of information out there. Never fear.
Here are some common questions aspiring or new business owners have about owning their own business. The information below will help you determine if you’re ready and what the next steps are to take.
Am I ready to own a business?
Starting a business can be extremely overwhelming and exciting, or just one or the other. Each business owners chooses to start-up a business for a variety of reasons. For military spouses it is often because the moving around in the military leaves little room for a steady career or due to the ever-changing schedules with which the spouses work and children to care for. Key questions to ask yourself when considering whether a small business is meant for you include:
- What is my reason for this?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- Do I have a clear vision? If yes, good! If not, then I need some more brainstorming time.
- Am I experienced enough in the product/service I want to deliver?
- Do I have the support of my family?
No matter the reasons that have inspired this entrepreneurial pursuit, it is important to have a clear vision of what type of product or service that you want to provide. Having this specific purpose will readily help you to funnel energy and investments without spreading yourself too thin. Many small businesses fail due to failure to have a specific vision and execute a plan with that vision in mind. Once that vision is, for the most part, specific, and you’re ready to put in the hasrd work – then you’re ready to get set up.
How do I get set up?
Awesome! You’ve made the choice to move forward! Get your head around these basics of obtaining all the appropriate legalities to ensure your business is official and legitimate. Legalities require a plethora of aspects including business structures, paying taxes, acquiring proper permits, and legal documents (if applicable).
First, every business needs a structure, even if you plan on working on “for hire” basis with other businesses (also known as an independent contractor), a business structure is still needed. Choices include sole proprietorship, limited liability companies, and corporations. For help on forming a business check with your local government or a business transactions attorney.
In a nut shell the formation is the actual creation of the business, then it is followed up by the government taxes upon businesses. For the most part every single business must remit taxes. The types, rates and methods depend on location. Keep in mind there are three major types of taxes to be knowledgeable of, federal income tax, state income tax and state sales tax.
Note: Not every state has income or sales. It is best practice to get off line and physically inquire to the local taxing agency for information the type, method, rate and whether you’ve liable for it. Don’t go off what someone else says – they won’t be the ones paying the fine in the end!
So your structure and taxes are set up, one of the final basic steps to business formation is ensuring you have acquired all the proper licenses and permits in your area. The local governing agency for businesses can provide some assistance in determining whether these are required. Many times this is directly impacted by whether you will be working out of your residence, or obtaining a brick-and-mortar set up separate from your residence. Military spouses should always keep in mind that rules vary on military installations and should always seek out permissions that are required of on-installation businesses.
Lastly, some businesses, especially those offering a service, demand the use of legal contracts to define the business relationship. At the very least a contract needs to include two capable parties, both in agreement, a legal purpose (can’t be doing something illegal!), offer and acceptance, and consideration (each party has to promise or provide something of value to the other). Careful finding examples online and blindly downloading – you don’t know whether the drafter has any legal expertise and don’t want to be lead astray.
What do I do now?
Deciding to start your business, having a clear vision and the formal legalities satisfied, are seriously the hardest (and possibly most boring) parts of the battle. Now is the fun part! To actually start marketing, networking and getting business. Always keep your clear vision of the product/service you want to provide, stay on top of the legalities and share who you are/what you do with all of your networks.
Rachel Brenke is a business consultant and lawyer for aspiring business owners. With a bar card, Masters of Business Administration and experience of running multiple successful businesses she provides step-by-step help to entrepreneurs – specially military spouses and mothers. Through the site, The Law Tog, the focus is on creative industry professionals such as photographers, videographers, and graphic designers. Near the end of 2013 will bring a new site, The Law Mom, as a resource for non-creative industry professionals to seek out Rachel’s free advice via blog and acquire one-to-one consulting help.