You’ve made the decision to start an online business.  Congratulations!  Starting a new business is exciting, but once the initial celebration wears off, the list of items on your to-do list can be overwhelming.  What you need is a step-by-step breakdown of manageable steps to get your business up and running. 

This article will provide you with a checklist of tasks to complete for a successful business startup.  We’ll break them down into things you need to do immediately and the things you can put off until later.

Business Startup Checklist

Task You Need to Complete Now

These tasks should be completed before you launch your online business or early on in your business startup.

1. Determining Viability

Your online business startup needs to have the capability of turning a profit. So take a brutally honest look and analyze your data.  Are you offering something that people will pay for?  Will you make enough for your business to receive a profit?

2. Develop a Business Plan

Creating a business plan will force you to think through the small details of running your business. Then, it gives you goals and steps to take to gradually increase your profit margins over time.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when creating your business plan:

  • What’s your business model (how are you going to make money)?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What’s your target market?
  • What do you want to accomplish?  What are your business goals?
  • Mission statement. This will determine the tone for your business and where you focus your attention.
  • What is your marketing strategy or plan?  How are you going to achieve your goals?

3. Financial Planning

Often it takes more time to get your business fully operational than you think. First, make sure you know where your money is coming from.  Where are your living expenses being paid from?  This could be your savings, your partners’ income, another job, whatever.  Just make sure you don’t put so much into your startup that you can’t pay your mortgage or put food on the table.

4. Get Your Family On Board

Starting a new business takes a lot of time.  Make sure your spouse and family are on board before you start.

5. Choose Your Business Name

You’ll want to choose a name that sticks in customer’s heads and is hard to forget.  Make sure it’s not already taken by another company.

6. Register Your Domain Name

Ideally, your domain name will match your business name, so do your research ahead of time and make sure it does not take.  Domains with .com, .net, and .org are usually the most successful, as they are easier to remember than domain names like mywebsite.wordpress.org.

7. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business

Do your homework and figure out how you want your business structured.  Most online businesses are structured as sole proprietorships or partnerships, but there are some circumstances where it is wise to incorporate or register an LLC.  Discuss your options with your small business lawyer or your accountant to determine what’s best for you.

8. Bank Accounts

Whether you need a separate business bank account will be determined by the legal structure you decided on in step 7. However, if you do need one, open it before you start.

9. Apply for Any Necessary Business Licenses

This may or may not be applicable depending on the nature of your online business.  If you are selling physical products, determine what business licenses you may need to apply for before starting operations.

10. Set Up Your Website

Your website needs to be up and running at total capacity as soon as possible.  This is, after all, how you are going to be generating customers. So, it’s reasonable to have your website up before you start selling to generate interest.

When setting up your website, you have two options.  You can set it up yourself, or you can hire someone to do it.  Hiring someone is more expensive but will get your website running smoothly without requiring extensive tech knowledge.

If you choose to set up your website yourself, you’ll need to set up a hosting account and install the software.  Set aside a chunk of time to devote to your site setup, as it’s crucial.

Some things to include in your website:

  • Theme, colors, logo
  • Tagline
  • Banners
  • Pages with a navigation bar could include Home, About, Contact, Blog, Cart, etc.
  • Social Media Integration and Links to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.
  • Plugins to provide the functionality to your website

If you plan on running a subscription service or email marketing campaign, this is the time to set this up.

Business Startup Checklist

11. Set Up Your Payment Processing System

This step won’t apply to all online business models, but you need some sort of secure payment system if you are selling any product or service directly from your website.  PayPal and Stripe are common choices as they are trusted by consumers to keep their information protected.  This is important to retain repeat customers.

12. Try and Break Your Website

This step sounds a little odd, but once you get your website set up, try and get it to crash.  What you’re doing is identifying any bugs that need to be fixed before having a website that doesn’t perform for customers.  Add different quantities to carts, remove things, put them back, reload pages, click-through links frequently. Any bugs you can find and fix now will mean less inconvenience for your site visitors in the future.

13. Start Social Media Profiles

Determine which social media channels you want to use and get your profiles set up.  This will make things easier for you to start marketing later on.  It will also help you to reserve your brand name as your profile name.

You don’t have to maintain profiles on every social media platform, but you should choose more than one.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are examples of popular ones. 

Don’t feel like you have to spend all your time tracking your social accounts.  This is mentioned later on in the list, but research social media management tools to help you schedule posts and run analytics for you.

14. Start Earning Revenue

In the early stages of running your online business, you want to start generating some income as soon as possible.  Don’t wait until you’re done with everything.  If you plan to generate revenue through Google AdSense or an affiliate program (even if only temporarily), get those programs set up.

15. Set Up an Accounting System

Whether you’re hiring a professional accountant or doing it yourself with at-home accounting software, get your program set up.  You’ll need to start tracking expenses and revenue right away so you don’t get caught at tax time.

16. Confirm Any Ordering or Fulfillment Systems Are Functioning

If you are running a drop-shipping or e-commerce business, make sure to test out your order fulfillment system before your website goes live.  If you’re using a third party, try placing an order and see what happens.  Then tweak anything you need to before receiving customer orders.

Tasks That Can Wait Until After Startup

The tasks in this portion of the list are essential for your online business setup, but they don’t have to be done immediately.

17. Determine Productivity Apps That Could Be Helpful

Whether it’s a time tracker, a scheduler, or a client organizer, many apps are available to help your business run smoothly.  Good business apps can help you avoid time-wasting, non-productive activities so you can spend more time on the things you need to.  It’s also a good idea to set up a social media management tool if you plan on running ad accounts on multiple social accounts.

18. Refine Your Website and Content

Spend some time creating volumes of quality content for your site, mainly if your site contains a blog. However, be careful not to focus on quantity over quality. If your content doesn’t provide value to your audience, you will lose them.

19. Refine Your Marketing and Sales Approach

Gather data and customer feedback surrounding your business. Which hashtags and keywords are getting attention?  Are your affiliate ads being clicked on?  Are your social ad campaigns creating turnover?  If not, reassess your approach or which products you’re promoting.  If you already see success, add to your marketing for more profits.

20. Address IT Security

If you’re running an online business, it’s safe to say that you have sensitive data on your computer and website that you don’t want to be stolen. So, ensure you have an up-to-date internet security suite on board and regularly back up your data.

Final Thoughts

When you’re starting a business, there are many things to do.  Getting organized can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.  Your individual business startup checklist could be shorter or longer than this one, but hopefully, it helps you prioritize your tasks to start seeing success.

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