Assume that you’ve already done the study and learned what it takes to be successful at owning your own business, talked to other small business owners or independent contractors, determined that you have the necessary knowledge and personality to be successful on your own, and can live without the certainty of a steady income.
With those crucial steps out of the way, let’s jump right into some of the basic financial issues of owning your own business and the financial advice that every business owner should have.
1. Separate Your Personal and Business Banking Accounts
Though at first this piece of small business financial advice may seem elementary, you would be surprised how many business owners started not just out of someone’s garage or basement, but out of a personal bank account. Even before your business really gets going, set up a separate business banking account. Just don’t mix your business and personal accounts.
2. Get a CPA
Maybe up until now you’ve always filed your own tax returns. That may have been fine and simple enough before, but being a business owner comes with what can feel like an infinite number of tax implications and benefits. It is a guarantee that your taxes will never be as simple as they once were, so it is best to consult a professional.
Find an accountant to prepare your annual tax returns, give you tax planning advice, and other business advice. You will also want to familiarize yourself with estimated taxes. You’ll likely have to file quarterly estimated income taxes and self-employment taxes to avoid penalties at the end of the year.
In addition to consulting your accountant, you can contact the IRS and your State Income Tax Department for forms and instructions.
While you still might be able to prepare your tax returns yourself using a program like Turbo Tax (depending on what kind of business you’re running), you could save yourself lots of money by having at least a preliminary consultation with an accountant regarding how to benefit the most from your business and avoid tax pitfalls.
3. Consult an Insurance Agent
You likely already have car insurance and homeowners or renters insurance to protect some of your largest personal assets. Once you also have a business, it’s prudent to protect the business assets as well. The easiest thing to do if you already have a good working relationship with an insurance agent is to simply let them know your new situation. If you’re running a business from your home, for instance, at the very least you may need a rider to cover computer equipment used in your business. If your business involves inventory, you’ll probably want it covered by insurance paid by the business. If you have employees, you’ll also need workers compensation insurance and liability insurance.
4. Contact Your State Government
Once you’ve decided to start your business, you should contact your Secretary of State’s office to find out if there are forms you need to file.
If you’re selling a product, you may need a vendor’s license and you’ll also need to register to collect and submit sales tax. If you have employees, you’ll need to register to withhold and submit income taxes to the state and federal government. You may also need licenses from the state or your city or town.
5. Determine If You Need a Federal ID Number
If you’re a sole proprietor (no employees) and are not incorporated, you probably don’t need a separate Federal ID Number (FEIN). But if you’re incorporated or have any employees, you will. The application process is fairly simple and you can download the form from the IRS website.
6. Familiarize Yourself with Applicable Laws
You’ll need to educate yourself about laws that you’ll be required to follow as business owner, which may include OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health) regulations, Workers Compensation laws, Unemployment Insurance, employment laws, etc.
Don’t jeopardize your business and your personal assets by being ignorant of laws governing hiring and firing, hours worked, employing minors, overtime, safety regulations, tax filings, etc. In order to get your facts straight from the beginning, it might even be worth a consultation with a business attorney.
7. Automate Your Business Accounting
No matter how small your business, you can benefit from automating your accounting. QuickBooks and Peachtree are great systems for small businesses as they are user-friendly even for non-accountants and easy to use. You’ll be in a better position to manage your business better with the reports generated by these software programs – and your accountant will thank you!
Give your business a fighting chance by building a good foundation with these basics for getting started in your own business.