As a marketing strategist, I’ve helped many businesses set up, launch and grow their own brand. It’s an exciting time, but there are many things to consider. I’ve developed a checklist below of the key things to consider when setting up your new business. Each checkpoint is then explored in more detail below.
- ABN/business registration
- Brand positioning
- Business plan
- Marketing strategy
- Choosing a business name
- Business name registration
- Domain name registration
- Website hosting purchase
- Email hosting setup
- Build a website
- Process document creation
- Marketing collateral creation
- Social media setup
- Social media strategy
- Social media content creation
- Consider bookkeeping & accounting
I understand not everyone has the luxury of time (or money to outsource) to get all this setup before you launch your business, so you can pick and choose what is a priority for you and then work on the others as time and cashflow allow.
ABN/ business registration
This is the important first step. This allows you the ability to exchange goods and/or services for money. You need an ABN before you can issue an invoice. It might suit you to chat with a legal or financial team on the best way to structure your business. For example, you can register as a sole trader, a partnership, corporation, not-for-profit or a trust, just to list a few. I decided on a sole trader structure and registered my ABN through abr.gov.au. It’s good to note that you can always change the structure if you decide to grow or change the way your business is run.
It’s really important when running a business to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is. What product or service you want to provide for them? What are your motivations for why your business is offering this product/or service and how you intend to deliver it? This helps make all the other decisions for your business such as branding, business name, the product/service offering a little easier to make as you have clarity on what your business is and who it’s intended for.
When setting up your business, it’s a good time to start reflecting on your business goals. Where do you want to be in 12 months or 5 years? What steps do you need to take along the way to get there? What investment are you going to have to make in key areas including stock/supplies, rent and staffing? It’s a good idea to calculate how many clients you need, or hours of work completed to cover your costs and then secondly to meet your goals. This plan is a great reference for you to come back to check if you are on track, ahead of the game, or need to review your ideas.
Now that you’ve set the goals and objectives of where you want your business to be, you can work out what tactics and investment you need to employ to get you there. It can seem a little chicken before the egg at times; do you have a budget you need to stick to that determines your ability to reach marketing goals, or will meeting your marketing goals define the budget? This is where you decide which social media platforms are right for you, when and how to launch, do you need a website, business cards, brochures, PR, etc…
Choosing a business name
Having helped many new businesses come up with a name, I can tell you this can be the hardest part of starting a business. It’s a very personal decision, as it needs to reflect you, your brands personality and what you do. This is coupled with the increasing issue of finding a name that is both available to register with ASIC (Australian Securities and Investment Commission) and ensuring the domain name is available for purchase. I’ve seen businesses that have chosen their name within 15 minutes and others that have spent weeks deliberating until they find the right one. For Happy Creative, I mulled over names for a few days. I came up with about 10 names that I liked before I found one that was available. In the end, I think it was meant to be, as I love my brand name.
Business name registration
Once you have decided on your business name, go to ASIC’s website to register the name. There are other third-party websites that compete with ASIC, but you end up paying much more than going to ASIC direct.
Domain name registration
If you are planning on having a website (recommended for most business types), you are now ready to purchase your domain name. There are many online domain resellers you can purchase from. I personally prefer SiteGround as I like their hosting options. I find it convenient to have my domains and hosting located in one place online. However, their website doesn’t make the domain purchasing section easy to find, as their focus is website hosting. On their website, the link to domains is in their footer. Another easy to use alternative is Crazy Domains.
When I purchased happycreative.com.au I also purchased thehappycreative.com.au as I didn’t want anyone else to launch a business with a similar name. I also wanted to secure it, as it was similar to my Instagram handle @the_happycreative. You may want to consider purchasing other domain extensions such as .com or.net if they are available or suit your needs.
This is the step where your new business comes to life. For the first time, you have something visual and tangible that shows your business personality. Branding can be as simple as creating a logo, or it can include supporting design elements such as the colours and fonts you use, icons, symbols or artwork. Engage a graphic designer and share with them your brand positioning document. It’s important at this step to think about what marketing collateral you will be needing in the future and have those things considered and even a few elements mocked up when choosing the new logo. For example, you might want to consider how the logo looks on social media profile picture (which can be quite small) or how will it look on a website, a business card, etc… Don’t purchase branding off a logo website, this is truly a case where you get what you pay for. You want your branding to be unique and a true reflection of your business.
Website hosting purchase
As mentioned earlier, I am a fan of SiteGround hosting. They give you better value for money that most of their competitors and have lots of handy tools. I find the interface a little basic when compared to competitors with easy to use interfaces like Crazy Domains, however, I’d rather have reliable hosting that never goes down, good security tools and backup options than a pretty, easy to use interface. If, however, you are new to website hosting and plan to build your website yourself, then Crazy Domains is a great place to start. Both companies offer great support – with Crazy Domains it’s over the phone, but SiteGround is online chat. I prefer the chat, as they can send you a transcript record of the conversation in case you ever need to make similar changes again, it’s also easy to copy and paste from if you need to change records.
Email hosting setup
Email is one of the most difficult parts to get right. You can set up your own emails using the domain name you just purchased through the hosting company using their free webmail programs or move your email hosting to Microsoft 365 or GSuite (This is recommended). Then connect it to an email client such as Outlook or Gmail. Sometimes this works seamlessly and other times it doesn’t. I must confess, I didn’t have a seamless time linking my Happy Creative email accounts to Outlook until I moved the hosting to Gsuite, but Microsoft 365 would have worked just as well.
Think about the email account names. Often your firstname@yourdomainname is a good place to start, but you might want to do something different. Do you need to set up generic emails such as admin@, accounts@, hello@, etc…?
Build a website
There are endless videos and adverts telling us that it’s so simple to build your own website. “It’s just three clicks and you’re done!” However, many of my clients come from businesses that have started building their own, and they get stuck, or they don’t have time. If they do manage to succeed, it’s often lacking that extra ‘Je ne sais quoi’ and is certainly not optimised for SEO.
I know I am biased, but I highly recommend outsourcing the website build, or at least engaging someone to train you on building the site correctly. Ensure that you are thinking about SEO throughout the entire build process. Your structure, the content you include on your website, the links you include and the connections you make with search engine tools, all contribute to how easily your website can be found in a Google or BING Search.
When choosing a CMS/platform to build your website on, I can highly recommend two. I have used many over the years WordPress, Shopify, Wix, Square Space, Joomla and Craft. Personally, I love WordPress and Shopify. WordPress is good for every type of business including eCommerce. Shopify specialises in just eCommerce. Every platform has its own pros and cons, but with a 60% market share worldwide, WordPress is popular for a reason.
Process document creation
Setting good habits early is fundamental for business success. Make sure you have new client forms, branded invoices or receipts, non-disclosure agreements or whatever documents your business might need to get the ball rolling. If there are processes that multiple people will have to replicate, make sure it’s well documented so that every customer/client receives the same customer service experience with your brand. Are there internal documents you need such as policies for OH&S, IT, dress code and leave applications?
Marketing collateral creation
Put your best foot forward by looking professional from the start. Branded business cards, brochures and email signatures are key components for most new businesses. Consider what else you need? Presentation folders, branded uniforms, merchandise for giveaways, signage or decals for your car. The list can be long, and it can be expensive to get all this set up before you launch, so work out what is business-critical and what can wait until you have more cashflow.
Systems and software
I love a good system or tool that can make my job easier. For example, many businesses use MailChimp for emailing their database. Do you need a tool for marketing automation or an online program from project management and time tracking? There are many systems and tools out there promising the world. Often, it’s a bit of trial and error before you find the right system for your needs. Keep an eye out for my top system picks in a future blog post.
Social media setup
Decide which social media platforms are best for your business. You can spread the love over many platforms, but this can become hard work to maintain. I recommend starting with two-three platforms. It depends on your business and your target audience as to which are the most suitable for your brand. Once you know who you want to target, find out which social media platforms they use, and then make sure the platform allows you to reach them in an effective way.
Social media strategy & content creation
As a Girl Guide of yonder years, I still trust the old motto ‘Be prepared’. With successful social media accounts being correlated with the frequency of posting (to a point), having regular content to share can be time-consuming. I see too often, businesses starting strong on social media and then it falls to the way-side. Working on your own business can seem like the last priority when there is client work piling up. So, be prepared early by investing in a social media strategy that you can refer to at times when you can’t think of anything to post. Give yourself a gold star by being super organised and having one to two months’ worth of content already created and scheduled, so that when the phone starts ringing and clients become your priority, you can relax knowing that your social marketing is already working nicely in the background.
Consider bookkeeping & accounting
Are you outsourcing to a bookkeeper or using a software program such as Xero to manage expenses and invoices yourself? Or maybe both? I got in touch with an accountant who was happy to share some advice up front. My business is small enough, for now, to manage most things myself with Xero and she will charge me an hourly rate should I need further advice or when things get on top of me. It’s a good idea when starting your business to get some advice on your accounting structure, how to keep records and on topics like GST, BAS and other lodgements you may need to make.
You’ve made it! Now you’re ready to shout out about your new business. Make sure you have a strategy for how you want to launch. Are you going to have an event? Launch with a competition to grow your social media following? Maybe your plan is to network like crazy amongst your target audience or advertise with Google Ads and a letterbox drop in your local area? Ideally, it’s a mix of these. Don’t just launch your new website and hope that they come, you need to be proactive, let your target audience know that you exist and give them a reason to come to you.
If you’re in the process of, or about to launch your own business, I wish you all the best and hope that you’ve learnt a few handy tips. At Happy Creative, I am always happy to answer questions and catch-up with like-minded businesses over coffee, so feel free to get in touch.
Stacey – The Happy Creativ