Below you’ll find a checklist I've developed over the past few months as I set up Marion Street Strategies and became my own Operations Manager. My hope is that following these recommendations will make setting up your new business a breeze.
Before you start your business:
1. Talk to lots of friends and family about your next step and ask for advice! These initial conversations pointed me in the direction of many of the resources on this list.
2. Use a Lawyer or LegalZoom to set up a legal entity (such as an LLC). To find a lawyer, you can submit a ticket on UpCounsel.com or fill out the paperwork on LegalZoom.com. If you use LegalZoom, it can take up to 30 days, and you may need to fill out your local (e.g. city or county) paperwork as they’ll only do state filing.
- Some things to know if you're hesitating as you fill in the bubbles with your new LLC (or whichever entity you go with): lots of the fine print is changeable such as the name and address. Your LLC is forever. And this is a big, necessary legal protection, so just do it.
Once you have an LLC:
3. You can open a bank account and get a credit card! I use Bank of America where I signed up online for extra perks. If you want to dig in further, check out the Points Guy or Nerd Wallet's recommendations. At this point, separate your business and personal expenses as soon as you have a bank account.
4. You can now sign contracts as your business, say with clients or an office lease, as your business -- Congrats!
- Speaking of documents – these two apps will make it so you can scan and sign documents from anywhere: TurboScan ($4.99-one time) and AdobeFill&Sign (free).
Getting up and running:
5. Once you're official - tell the world! I found it very easy to build one on Squarespace.com ($20/month – website template only). You can also purchase a domain and get an email address through Squarespace.
- Alternatively, you can get an email through GoDaddy ($20/month – URL and email hosting services), instead of registering your domain with Squarespace.
- If you prefer, you can also build and host your website with WordPress. I thought SquareSpace was very straightforward and easy, but to each, their own.
6. To kick off your early communication, you'll also want an email service. I’d recommend using Gmail Professional suite ($5/month) which you can link with your newly purchased email.
- This purchase includes the google professional suite where most of my business documents live.
7. Snag a logo on Fiverr which you can use on your invoices, letterhead, website, etc. Mr. Transedence has been very good to me ($10 for 2 designs).
- Once you have a logo, upload it to a website like ImageColorPicker to determine the HTML # code. Then take this code to find some color complements on ColorHexa. (My design expertise ends about here.)
8. I’d recommend using a password manager like 1Password ($3.99/month) or LastPass ($2.42/month) to keep track of all your new logins and accounts. Both have small monthly fees, but I think the data security is worth it.
Free tools for an extra boost:
9. To manage and share my calendar, I use Calendly (free version) which I send to folks frequently, rather than playing scheduling jenga.
10. I also use Asana (free version) to self-manage big projects and longer term ideas.
11. To share passwords and other short high security information, I use OneTimeSecret. Think: Snapchat but for nerds.
12. For multi-person calls, or in my case – calls without cell phone access, I’ve set up an Uberconference line where someone can log in on the web or call in (free) and Google Voice for me to call into a phone line (also free).
13. To manage my email – like scheduling emails for a later time, flagging no replies or re-upping emails for a later date, I use Boomerang (free version).
14. And to write a very broad business plan, I downloaded 100Startup’s one page worksheet.
Tackling a few more big rocks:
15. You’ll need to get General Liability Business Insurance and for me, as a data consultant, errors and omissions Insurance. I used Hiscox (price varies per business type) – they’re fine. I hope to not have to get to know their services in the future.
16. You’ll also want to track your spending, collect payments online and send invoices. All this is feasible from QuickBooks ($10/month). (I also tried FreshBooks but found their services to be limited.)
17. Finally, I did an official launch day – Tuesday at 12pm – the day and time I found the most people were reading online in a previous role researching media trends. I sent an email with Mailchimp, posted on my personal social accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and sent out the first tweets from my professional Twitter account. All these services, including Mailchimp, were free.
18. Develop some early routines about how and where you’ll spend your time. For me, Monday is outreach day, Friday is operations day and the time in between is for client work. I also WFH with a dedicated desk that I “close down” at the end of the day by turning off the lights, shutting my desk and lowering the blinds – not an exaggeration – and a helpful work : life balance routine.
Something you might notice: I do not include a recommended CRM here. I’ve tried 3 so far: Prosperworks, Insightly and most recently, HubSpot. I’ve found with a few spreadsheets and Boomerang, I’m able to keep track of my emails, contacts and outreach. At some point, I’ll likely scale beyond this, but this much simpler, easy to maintain approach has been done the trick so far.
As a data and analytics consultant, I also use a few data-specific tools like R Shiny, Tableau, and even EasyMapMaker from time to time. I’ll save these tools – free and definitely not close to free – for another day.
If you’re just getting started, hope this list makes you fee ready to go! If you’re already chugging along, what did you do differently? Please comment below! And feel free to reach out to me directly about your journey and any questions you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org.