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The Ultimate Checklist for Starting Your Creative Business

No matter what you create, you will need to build the business structure of your creative business before you can begin selling anything. Here is a checklist to help you get started!


First Steps:

⃞     Write a business plan:

Research other businesses, and write (at least) a simple business plan. This will be your road map and help you get all of your thoughts organized. Need help? Check out my Business Planning Guide.

⃞     Choose a Location:

Choose a physical location for your business. Even if you are not going to have a storefront, you will still need a physical location (even if it is just your home!) Your location will impact permits, etc. in the future...

⃞     Decide on your legal structure

  • Will you be a Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, Corporation, B Corporation, etc?

  • Have legal documents drawn up if necessary (usually for a Partnership Agreement)

⃞     Choose a business name

  • Brainstorm names that help tell the story of your business. Involve friends, family, and others in the brainstorming process, but know when to follow your gut!

  • Make sure you won't be forced to change your name later by checking to see if anyone else in the same industry is using that name. Make sure your name (or a close version of your name) is available on all of the platforms you intend to use (web address, social media, online stores, etc.)

⃞     File your Fictitious Business Name Statement

If your business name does not include your legal name in it, then you will need to file a Fictitious Business Name Statement (depending on the County/State you live in). This is often required before you can open a business bank account. Google the process for the County you live in.

⃞     Get your Business License

A business license is required when you conduct business, and must be obtained through the City/County where you will be located. Depending on where you live, this may be required as soon as you start making sales, or after you sell a certain amount. Most likely this will need to be renewed each year. Contact your City/County to learn about the process.


Second Steps:

⃞     Open a business bank account

Once you have filed your Fictitious Business Name Statement and obtained your Business License, you are ready to open a business bank account.

  • Run ALL  of your business expenses through this account to keep it separate from your personal bank accounts.

  • You can also set up a separate “not my money” account, for sales taxes, self employment taxes, payroll taxes, etc.

⃞     Set up your bookkeeping methods

Choose a bookkeeper, or learn how to manage your books yourself

⃞     Set up basic bookkeeping procedures and obtain necessary accounting software (Quickbooks, etc.)

⃞     If processing invoices, choose invoicing method/software (Quickbooks, Square, etc.)

⃞     If processing in-person sales, choose the processing method (Square, etc.)

⃞     Learn more about federal + state taxes: www.irs.gov, www.taxes.ca.gov

⃞     Seek additional funding

If needed, seek additional funding to help launch your business - small business loans, crowdfunding, etc. However, the less money you use to launch your business, the less stress you'll have as you're getting started. I recommend starting small and growing slowly!

⃞     Obtain your Retail Sellers Permit

If you are going to sell products directly to customers, or plan to buy goods wholesale, you must obtain a Retail Seller’s Permit from your state. This is how you will pay your sales tax to the state. 

⃞     Business insurance?

Decide what insurance you need for your business - comprehensive liability, property coverage for inventory and assets, auto, workers compensation, umbrella, etc. Ask your insurance agent for guidance!


Third Steps:

⃞     Create your logo + brand

Design your logo yourself, or hire someone to help. Think about the feel you want your business to have, colors that help tell your story, and images that will help customers understand your brand. A consistent logo and brand will help your business stand apart!

⃞     Order business cards

If you are going to do craft fairs and other in-person events, business cards are helpful! As you get started, business cards can also stand-in for other materials (like including one in each online order, etc.) Decide on what information to include on your business cards, and order a (small) first run.

⃞     Develop your products + serviced

Spend time developing your products, or clarifying your services. Decide on initial offerings/products, and things you will offer down the line. If you are offering physical products (like jewelry, illustrated products, etc.) choose 3-5 products to focus on developing first. You can (and will!) expand your offerings down the line, you just need a few things to get started.

⃞     Set your prices

Pricing is one of the hardest parts of having a creative business. Putting a literal price tag on your hard work is tricky. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Review your production costs, do market research to see how much similar products are selling for, and decide on your prices. There are lots of pricing calculators available online as well, based on what you are creating.

  • I recommend offering free shipping (sales channels like Etsy reward shops that offer free shipping). Adjust your prices accordingly in order to provide "free" shipping (because nothing is actually free, is it?)

  • You can (and will!) adjust your prices as your business grows and changes, so don't let this stop your momentum.

⃞     Start your social media accounts

⃞     Choose Accounts:

Decide what social media accounts you want to maintain with your business (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.). To get started, I recommend just Instagram and Facebook, then start other accounts once you feel ready.

⃞     Register:

Register your accounts, connect them as needed (connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts for easy cross-posting). Ensure all of your accounts have the same or similar names.

⃞     Set them up:

Add your logo across all platforms to ensure your brand is consistent.

⃞     Create your website

⃞     Plan: 

Think about what your website will provide: information, online store, contact forms, etc. Look at websites for other businesses in your field.

⃞     Web hosting:

Choose a web hosting service (such as Wix, Squarespace, etc.) or choose a graphic designer to help set up your website.

⃞     Domain name: 

Register your domain name

  • Keep it simple and easy to remember

  • Look for a package deal where you can register your name and web hosting together

⃞     Design your site: 

Think about what you want your site to include, and how you want it to look. Your website can be changed, so don’t stress over making it perfect right away.

⃞     Start Your Online Shop

⃞     Choose platforms: 

Decide which online sales platforms you would like to use (Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, etc.) I'd recommend starting with Etsy, and adding more platforms down the line. Etsy is super user friendly, is the go-to shopping site for people looking for handmade goods, and collects and pays sales tax for you (there are some cons, like higher fees, but they are worth it for the perks when you are just starting out).

⃞     Add your products: 

Choose your launch products, and add them to your sales platforms. Look at other product descriptions to help you learn what information and details to include in yours, and how to make yours stand out.

⃞     Develop policies: 

Begin drafting a privacy statement, return policy, terms and conditions, shipping policy, etc. that fit your business. Check some of your favorite websites for examples of these policies.

⃞     Photograph products: 

Make sure to have plenty of natural light, and embrace photos that help tell the story of your brand while showing off your products. Include photos of the products in use, flatlays, and more!

⃞     Managing sales

How much inventory will you need to have on hand? How long will it take to fill orders? Are any items made to order? Ensure that you have products available to ship as soon as the order is received, or make sure that the customer knows how long it will take to set their expectations accordingly. 

⃞     Shipping

  • Decide on how you will ship your products. The most common shippers are USPS, UPS and FedEx. I like to use USPS!

  • Will you have items picked up at your home, or will you drop them off? Do you need to track shipments? Do you need additional shipping insurance?

  • You can always use the easiest method now, and reassess later once you start making more online sales (when I started, I hand wrote the addresses on each package and took them in to the post office to pay for postage. Now I have a postage scale and label printer and I do it all in my studio).


Someday Steps:

⃞     Think about diversifying your income streams

What other products, services, or sales channels will you offer?

  • Wholesale, Retail (craft shows, pop-ups, etc.), Art Shows (galleries, Arts Alive, etc.), Teaching/Workshops. Custom Orders, etc.


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