We’re walking through four basic steps on how to start a service based business online – getting up and running doesn’t have to be hard!
Getting started with a service based business doesn’t have to be this complicated or arduous process. If you ask yourself the question, “Where do I even start?” Well, here it is, my friends. Four steps to starting your new business as a service provider. Four steps to making it legal, making it official.
Yes, it’s easy to overthink everything or assume there are too many steps to begin. But here’s the deal – starting an online business is easier than ever thanks to technology. So, if you’re straddling that line of whether or not to put yourself out there, just take the next right step. And thankfully, there are four clearly outlined below to get you started!
Select a Business Name
Choosing a business name can come with a lot of pressure. So, what’s the path of least resistance? From my perspective, I see two common options as a service provider.
Option one is to go the personal brand route and having your business name be your personal name. You can go with your first and last name, your first and middle name, your middle and last name – really anything. If this is the direction you go, my recommendation would be to add a descriptive word or tagline to offer further explanation of what you do, i.e. Kelly Wittman Creative or Kelly Wittman Design.
As an alternate option, you can select a name that is completely independent from your personal name. The benefit of going this route is that you’re not tying your business directly to you as a person. This option would be a good fit if you are not planning on being the face of your brand/business or if you want to have a separate personal brand that’s independent from your services. For example, I have a client with a financial planning agency that offers financial planning services and then a personal brand used to promote his speaking/education services. Two separate names, two separate businesses.
Now, let’s talk taglines. My general rule of thumb is if the business name doesn’t describe what you do, bring in a tagline that does. Witt and Company is the perfect example of this. The name alone doesn’t describe what we do – it could literally be anything. So, I brought in the tagline ‘brand strategy and design studio’ to further explain what we do.
On the flip side, if the business name explains what you do, feel free to make your tagline a little more catchy, cutesy and/or creative. To use a past client’s example, their business name is Sphera Travel and the tagline is ‘Discovering the World Together’. They had the freedom to be a little less descriptive and a little more creative with the tagline because ‘travel’ is in their business name, giving clarity to what they offer.
Purchase a Domain
Okay, so you’ve selected your name (yay!) but before you make it official, I always recommend making sure the domain is actually available. As a service provider, your website is your home base – it’s the vehicle you’ll utilize to build your business. So, making sure the name you want is available is kind of important.
Simply putting the domain into your search engine is the first option. Otherwise, you can see its availability in a domain purchasing tool like GoDaddy.
Another common question is whether to choose a .com, .net, .co or something else entirely. Just an FYI, this ending is called your Top Level Domain (TLD).
Having a dot-com is ideal. However, let’s say the name you want isn’t available in a dot-com but the owner of that domain isn’t actively using it. You can decide to take the chance and purchase a different TLD variation like net, .co or .creative. The downside is that you’re relying on the visitor to actively type in the correct domain.
Another factor is whether or not the owner of the domain you want is a direct competitor – if yes, I’d recommend picking a different name entirely. You don’t want people looking for you and winding up on their website because the name is so similar.
Snag Social Media Handles
Because social media is a prominent marketing strategy for your business, once you find your domain, I’d also recommend doing a quick check on social media handle availability, and then taking the leap and signing up for an account.
Now, as a business owner who isn’t too active on social, I don’t think it’s imperative to have the exact name, however, if you’re just getting started, why not make it easier on yourself (and your customers) by ensuring your handles are consistent?
The popular channels to check availability/sign up for include:
Let me be clear: this doesn’t mean you’re going to be (or have to be) active on all these channels. All you’re doing is checking to make sure the business name is available and potentially, signing up for an account.
Again, we’re all about the path of least resistance. So, if you know where your audience is spending time and/or you have no desire to be on a certain channel, don’t register for it. As an example, TikTok is not my jam, nor do I want it to be. Which means Witt and Company is not registered (and probably never will be) on that platform.
Make it Legal and Register Your Business
Now that you have your business name and have ensured it’s availability as a domain and on social, it’s time to register and make it a legal entity – yay!
The not-so-great news is that the process isn’t a one-size-fits-all. How and where to register is dependent on your location and business structure.
As a service provider, you will most likely just need to register with your state and get a federal tax-id number. For state registration, you do so with the Secretary of State’s office.
The Small Business Administration has a very, very helpful article on registering with links to the right places and definitions – I know, it can be very confusing so check out the article for support!
Congratulations, you made it! By completing these four steps, you’re setting up a solid foundation for your new service business. Next week, we’re diving into the brand basics, so be sure to stop back in for part two of this series!
All my best,
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