Happy new year! As we move into 2023 I’ve been thinking about ways to set my business up for success. I started thinking about goals back in the last quarter of 2022. Now, in January, I want to get started! The four goals I’ve identified are not especially sexy. They ARE especially basic. But they’re also necessary to build a solid foundation for my business.
Are you a solopreneur — an entrepreneur running a business with one employee (yourself)? Then these four business goals might also be helpful for getting YOUR 2023 off to a stellar start.
1. Set up an LLC
When I published my novel How to Talk to Rockstars in 2015, I set up a DBA (“Doing Business As”) for selling books, freelance writing, and business expenses that came from being an author and financing a book tour and publicity campaign. By setting up a DBA, I was assigned an Employee Identification Number from the IRS that I could use instead of my Social Security Number, and I was also able to establish a business banking account and line of credit.
LegalZoom.com describes a DBA as “a trade name, assumed name, or fictitious name. You may want to file a DBA name for your new business instead of using your own personal name or your legal business name. Think of a DBA as an alias.”
A DBA is easy and inexpensive to set up. However, a DBA isn’t a business structure or a legal entity. And it doesn’t protect your personal assets, “so in the event of a lawsuit against your business, your personal bank accounts, car, or home could be at risk,” LegalZoom cautions.
An LLC (Limited Liability Company), on the other hand, “a structure that establishes your business as its own legal entity and that carries a lot of credibility. The main advantage of this structure is liability protection. If your company goes bankrupt or someone sues your business, you’re not held financially responsible for your company’s debts or liabilities.”
Setting up an LLC requires a number of steps: Selecting a distinguishable name (can’t be the name of any other business in your state), designating an agent to handle legal documents (probably you), filing Articles of Organization, obtaining an EIN from the IRS, filing annual reports, registering with your state’s Department of Revenue, and obtaining business licenses and permits.
In North Carolina, where I live, the filing fee is $125, but that amount varies by state.
2. Get bookkeeping help
Since creating and launching my company, AM/FM Broadcast, I’ve been doing my own bookkeeping in a super low-key way. I use Google docs to track income and expense. Income is organized by client name and the services I provide; expenses are organized by categories such as subscriptions, tool, memberships, utilities, education, etc.
It’s worked pretty well. My business model is simple: I am the owner and sole employee. I work with my clients directly. I only occasionally hire a freelancer or contractor for services. I’m paid monthly. My expenses are low, and the majority are monthly service fees such as WIFI, phone, and subscriptions.
But I’m aware that there’s so much I don’t know about accounting and bookkeeping — and even more that I don’t know that I don’t know. Because I’d rather focus on growing my business and providing excellent serve than learning about accounting, I plan to hire someone who DOES know the ins and outs or bookkeeping.
Here’s an important point in favor of outsourcing bookkeeping from Entrepreneur.com: “Although you may believe you have a good idea about the state of your startup during the development phase, it helps to have another pair of eyes on this.
“Your bookkeeper can put the financials in order and run reports showing how you are doing each month, where the funds are going and how your efforts are paying off (or might need improving upon). He or she will give you that ‘big picture’ through the numbers being crunched.
For me, another important part of this decision is to insure my tax filings are correct. I’m juggling 1099s for contractor filings as well as estimated tax payments. I’d like to make the most of deductions. And I want to protect my business while maximizing my earnings. For all of these reasons, I’ve decided it’s worth the cost to hire a bookkeeper this year.
3. Price your product or service correctly
I’m borrowing this section from the blogpost Self-care for Creatives, part 2, which I wrote for ArtHero, an excellent company that helps artists and neurodivergent creatives find success in business.
Setting competitive prices can be a major challenge for entrepreneurs who are just starting out (and sometimes for those who’ve been in business for years). And it’s not just because you don’t know what price you should charge — though that can be tricky, too (something Art Hero’s ABC Biz Course addresses). Competitive pricing has to do with your competitors charge, but also what you need to pay your bills and grow your business.
Beyond understanding the direct costs or your product or service as well as the indirect expenses of your business, you also have to understand YOUR OWN WORTH. Setting pricing for products or services is vulnerable. It’s telling potential clients that your time and talent has value, and for some of us that feels incredibly awkward. If you do under value yourself, you will end up working harder for less- which is the OPPOSITE of building a life of freedom and flow.
But knowing what price you need to charge and sticking to it helps to set up clear communication from the start. Some clients may not hire you or buy your products due to your rates, but that’s OK. Those were not the clients for you and weeding them out opens you up to focusing on the clients who are right for you and value your products or services.
And pricing your work competitively sets you up for success in your business. Profit provides ongoing funds for purchasing assets, hiring staff, research, development, and other elements of scaling your company.
3. Build Your Brand
There’s so much to building a brand. It’s about having a clear message to communicate — and how you communicate it. It’s about developing a logo, brand colors, fonts, and imagery to present a consistent overview of who you are in business. It’s about language as well as key topics. Niche. Look. Vibe.
I admit, I changed by brand colors twice last year. Major no-no. (I don’t care. I also accidentally destroyed my website while trying to install a new theme, and then I rebuilt it by myself. It has some glitches. I don’t love my blog layout. There are things.
Even though I’d probably caution a client against taking branding liberties like I have, I also understand how these trials and errors are helping me to hone my brand. My boss likes my enthusiasm and spirit of discovery.
But for a more pointed, less round-about method of building a brand, here are seven actionable steps provided by Shopify:
- Research your target audience and your competitors.
- Pick your focus and personality.
- Choose your business name.
- Write your slogan.
- Choose the look of your brand (colors and font).
- Design your brand logo.
- Apply your branding across your business.
Learn more about each step here.