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Guide to Starting Your Business

Ok, so you've decided you are ready to start your business, now what?!? Here's a 10-point checklist to ensure you are set up for maximum success.

Written By: Alexis Martin Neely

Ok, so you've decided you are ready to start your business, now what?!? Here's a 10-point checklist to ensure you are set up for maximum success.

1. Spend as much time as you possibly can dreaming about what you want your business and life to look like 5 years from now. Then, write it down! The clearer you are about your vision, the more likely it is to happen. And, don't hold back. If your dream is to sell your company for $20mm in 5 years, don't be shy - own it! And, if your dreams are more modest, that's okay too! Whatever they are, get them down on paper. If you get writer's block, get out a crayon and draw your vision.

2. Pick a name for your business that is catchy and reflects the future vision of your business. Beware! You might love your boyfriend today, but don't name your company after him. You'll be bumming if you own Jesse's Girl shoe store when Jesse's long gone.

3. Find a personal lawyer to help you choose the right entity for your business and get incorporated. Unless your business is a hobby, sole proprietorship is not the way to go! It means you are on the hook for all the liabilities of your company - you've got enough personal responsibility in life, why take on more than you have to?

4. Line up a bookkeeper, CPA or financial coach who will help you develop a financial record keeping system you can maintain. Monitoring your bank balance based on the ATM receipts from the cash machine may be okay for you personally, but your business needs a real deal record-keeping system. I tried to cheap out on this when I started my business and it bit me in the butt a few years later when I got audited. Ouch, don't make this mistake.

5. Get professional photos taken to use in your print and online marketing campaigns. Make sure to have a great hair and makeup artist do you up for the photos too. Why? Get up right now and look in the mirror, do you look like someone you'd want to buy from? Me? I've got on my fuzzy slippers and pajamas. That's not gonna cut it.

6. Get business cards made up that sell you and your service and don't just list your contact information. White space is wasted space! And, think ahead about what you are projecting with your email address. Does make you trust me? is far more professional.

7. Either hire a copywriter or write your own core copy for websites and print materials. Core copy includes a catchy headline and bullet points describing the benefits of your services. Nobody cares that I am Alexis Martin Neely, Personal Family Lawyer Extraordinaire and a headline that says it isn't going to grab much attention. But, you might want to know more about me if the headline said: Discover How You Can Get the Personal Guidance of a Trusted Lawyer Just Like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates So You Can Make the Right Legal Decisions For Your Business and Your Family Without Spending Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars.

8. Hire a web designer who can design both your logo and your website. Even a blog will do, but you've got to make it look good. Your personal blog monitoring your babies pooping schedule is not going to cut it. You want a website focused just on your business. Make it easy to navigate and full of benefits. Before the web designer gets started, you should have thought about exactly what you want someone to do and feel when they come to your website.

9. Set up a database or CRM (customer relationship management system) for keeping track of your leads, prospects, customers and referral sources and then use it to begin communicating with your "list" by email at least once a week and by mail at least once a month. Your house list is the most valuable piece of your business; start creating it now and nurture it like it was your baby. Or, you could take the cheap route by getting a big stack of index cards and a giant pencil. You choose!

10. Create a 12-month marketing campaign to bring in revenue and prepare some basic expense and revenue projections. Or, you can just wing it, hope and pray that clients come banging down your door and you don't spend more than you've got. Personally, I've done it both ways and the outcome may be the same, but the planning option sure feels a whole lot better.

About the Author
Alexis Martin Neely is a mom, author, speaker and America's Personal Family Lawyer. Alexis helps business owners make the best financial and legal decisions for their families and themselves. For more information please contact:

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