When I started doing research on how to start my home organizing and event planning business, I could not find exactly what I was looking for – I wanted a checklist, a step-by-step guide on what one would need to do to start a business. The websites I visited had lots of suggestions, but no checklists. If you know me, I eat, sleep and breathe checklists! The information I found was overwhelming. In today’s society, we are accustomed to getting immediate answers to our questions through internet or e-mail. However, when starting a business, one must resign to also getting information the old-fashioned way–talking to a live person on the telephone! Both are a necessity. So, here is your step-by-step guideline on how to start a home-based business in GA:
1. Write a business plan (at least get an outline together). It is a must to have a business plan if you are going to apply for capital. A good website to learn about business plans is SBA.gov. I remember my Business Management college professor mentioning that a great business plan takes about 6 months to write. This is also a good time to decide on your services and what you will charge for those services.
2. Make a list of business names (about 10). The name should describe the type of business you are starting–be distinct and memorable and it should suggest the products/services being offered.
3. Decide the business structure. Seek counsel and/or take a business law class. I decided to form a LLC, which means according to GA law, one must incorporate/organize.
4. Simultaneously, do a corporation search and a website URL search. If you find both are available, file a name reservation through the Secretary of State. Filing a name reservation is $25.00 and it is good for 30 days. Filing is optional, however filing for the name reservation first will save you time and money and could reduce the application processing time. You should receive a confirmation email 24-48 hours after you file with your name reservation.
5. Once you have your name reservation number, you can incorporate online through the Secretary of State. The online process walks you through each step and is a user-friendly process. The fee is $100 and you will receive a confirmation email within 24 hours.
6. When you incorporate, you are asked for the name of a registered agent. The registered agent is the person or entity (usually the name of a lawyer’s office) designated by the corporation to receive any lawsuit paperwork or official communication. It must be a physical address, not a P.O. Box. The registered agent may be the owner of the company.
7. File your business license with the county or the city in which the business will reside. This is when picking up the phone and talking to a live person is critical. If your home business resides in the city, it supersedes the county, so make sure you know where to file, so you aren’t spending a ton of money. Talking to someone about this is very important. Once filed, it takes about 5-7 business days to receive your license. You will need a code(s) to describe your business when completing the business license. The codes can be found at NAICS.com.
8. Once you have incorporated/organized, GA law states you need to file an EIN. The EIN (Employer Identification Number), also known as the Federal Tax Identification Number is used to identify the business. It is the social security number for your business. You may apply online. This is a free service, so be careful of those companies demanding a fee to file this for you.
Congratulations! If you have followed this guideline, you are now an official business owner!
9. Now that you are official, you need to set up a business account (you will need your articles of incorporation and EIN number).
10. Apply for a business credit card. Usually, the bank that sets up your business account will also offer to you the option of applying for a credit card. I highly suggest this because all expenditures of the business will be in one place and you can easily access it all online (you’ll then be able to transfer money from your checking account to pay the credit card).
11. Depending upon the type of business you are establishing, I suggest setting up a merchant account. Research to find the best option and always read the fine print. If you will not need to swipe a card, then I suggest using PayPal.
12. Put all of your business related information (articles of incorporation, business license, EIN number, etc.) into a binder. It will be all together in one place where you can easily access it in the future.
13. Tell everyone about your business. Create a marketing and advertising plan. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
The information I used in the above guidelines can be found in the following:
- Secretary of State frequently asked questions
- First Stop Business Information
- Business Structure
- Business Structures
- Home Based Business
Disclaimer: The information stated above is based on my personal experience and may not apply to every person. It is wise to always seek counsel from an attorney and a certified public accountant (CPA).
Again, congratulation on your new business. I wish you great success!