Quick Tips for Launching a Business

Over the summer I’ve coached a few friends and some new freelancers that were referred to me. The goal: launching their new business or taking their freelance practice to the next level. I love helping people in this way and learning about their unique talents and experiences.

I’ll post a link to each of their businesses at the bottom of this post if you want to check them out. First, I want to share some of the tools and recommendations I made repeatedly during these sessions to help them get them up and running.

Note 1: everything below is about setting up a business in the United States.

Note 2: some links below are affiliate links. You might save some money using these links, and I might get some cash for referring you. But I will never share something just for the referral money. I use and trust all of the products below.

Form your business.

Start simply. Chances are you don’t need an LLC or formal business structure. If you are considering it, find an accountant / CPA that knows the current tax law in your state and nationally, and work with them. It’ll be worth the up front cost to ensure you’re set up properly.

Otherwise, you’re probably good just being you, a freelancer. If you have a new brand to launch, you can set up as a sole proprietorship and file with your local county clerk as a Doing Business As (DBA).

If you have questions or need some assistance, please get in touch. I love this kind of work – helping people launch their dreams or some new venture!

I have had excellent luck with the following services to help establish legal business documents and file with your state and/or setting up a federal employee identification number (EIN) if you need one.

  • Upcounsel
    I used them for trademark work and had an excellent experience. I still use the lawyer I found through this service.
  • Rocket Lawyer
    I like them because you get a ton of stuff for free, and then can pay for what you need as add-on service. You always keep your free account and have access to the documents you created.
  • Stripe Atlas
    An awesome service from Stripe that does a lot of the work for you, incorporating a business in Delaware and filing all of your business documents for $500 (also requires annual fees associated with maintaining the business). You also get access to training and a business community.

Set up your business financials.

This is critical. You need to get paid, right? This has become a lot easier than it was when I started my business over a decade ago. Most importantly, set up a separate account for your business. If you are freelance, you can get by with a separate personal account, but I still recommend exploring business banking. You can find options that don’t require minimum deposits, or if they do, it’s only around $500. It’s also good to set up a separate business credit card – find a no-fee one to start – for easier expense reporting and tracking.

  • Wave Accounting
    Invoicing, accounting, and expense tracking all in one. For free. It’s that easy. If you grow, you can also add payroll and hire an accountant directly within WaveApps.
  • Stripe
    Set up a Stripe account for credit card processing. It’s so much easier than something like PayPal and integrates with many other services.
  • Square
    Easy storefronts, in-person card processing, and cool gadgets for sales.
  • Justworks
    Have at least two employees who need health insurance benefits? I love Justworks as a Professional Employment Organization (PEO). They provide big company benefits to small businesses at reasonable prices. Ask me more about my experience and a referral discount.
  • Track1099
    Do you hire contractors? Send and track 1099s for tax purposes easily through this service.

Establish your online presence.

Do not run your business exclusively through Facebook. Ask me why.

  • Hover
    Register your domain and set up a simple email inbox or forward. Please stay away from GoDaddy! Ask me why.
  • Fastmail
    Fast, private email.
  • WordPress
    Shameless plug for my WordPress services. Get a website, contact form, online payments, calendar, form builder, and more.
  • Fathom Analytics
    I recommend avoiding the evil Google empire. Fathom is awesome and made by friendly, cool Canadians.

Make it easy for people to work with you.

  • Calendly
    The best scheduling / booking tool out there. I’ve tried them all.
  • Uber Conference
    Free for 45 minute calls. Excellent interface and no downloads required by attendees.
  • Free Conference Call
    Free online meeting tool with video and screen share and a free conference call line.
  • Open Phone
    Great alternative to Google Voice for around $10 per month.
  • Help Scout
    The best online help desk and knowledge base builder I’ve found. Super simple to use and they’re an awesome organization.
  • Coda / Notion / Miro
    All simple, collaborative documents and workspaces.

Price your services.

I can’t tell you how to price your services, but I can recommend some resources I’ve used over the years.

  • YourRate
    An excellent calculator to determine how much you should charge based on your desired income, days off, hours per week, etc.
  • Airtable
    An excellent free database tool for all kinds of business operations. Here is a template I use to calculate retainer rates, caps, etc.

Business I’ve helped this summer:

Want some help launching your project/business? Let me know!

Terrible Website Designs: Forcepoint

A colleague recently joined this company, and I saw the notification on LinkedIn. I’d never heard of them, so I decided to check out their website. Yikes! It also scores only a 78% over at https://webaccessibility.com.

Oy. There’s a lot happening here. Are y’all as tired of popup text bots as I am? There is no reason for all of this clutter here. Don’t do this, people!

A screenshot of the Forcepoint website, with callouts pointing out bad design elements like too many popups overlaid onto of an image of a human and needlessly scrolling text.

Mobile is much better. Why make it worse for desktop users?

Screenshot of Forcepoint's mobile site, with simple text stacked and a closed chatbot icon.

Design for mobile first; yes! But don’t add crap to your site for larger screens! Whitespace is okay!

Avoid design mistakes like this. I can help.

World Backup Day 2020

It’s that time of year again: where I remind everyone to back up their shit and one or two of you listen to my beautiful, unsolicited advice.

Millions of photos (mostly terrible selfies)… Those old MP3s you ripped (or STOLE) twenty years ago… tax returns… files you don’t even want to know about but have to keep anyway for reasons you’ll never reveal (until whiskey)… that one epic rugby action photo you want to put in a shadow box but never will get around to…

It’s World Backup Day, and it’s important. So take the pledge, secure your files and memories. Ensure your business has a continuity and disaster recovery plan.

Because tech breaks. Phones die. Computer hard drives fail (yeah, even SSDs) and kids spill sodas and adults spill beer and coffee on devices ALL. THE. TIME. But mostly, tech just breaks because it is designed to. And you need to be prepared.

If you want some help, let me know!

This Week in Browsing #012

Hyperbolic discounting

“Hyperbolic discounting is the human tendency to choose “smaller-sooner” rewards over “larger-later” rewards because of a lack of patience to wait for the larger reward.”

“When you procrastinate, you opt for the instant gratification of enjoying yourself rather than the future reward of accomplishing the things you set out to do.”

“Hyperbolic discounting: Why you make terrible life choices” – Lakshmi Mani

Good news! We can help ourselves overcome this cognitive bias by acknowledging it. Understand this is part of being a human being. Account for it in your planning and thinking. And, cut yourself a break every once in a while.

The Book Board Project: If I Couldn’t Fail

Baron Fig took some blank notebooks to the city and asked people, “what would you do if you couldn’t fail?” Most responses are wonderful. Humans have so much potential if we could just break free of the expectations and societal constraints.

https://www.baronfig.com/pages/book-board-project (link opens in new window)

I have been thinking a lot about this lately as I consider corporate employment vs. entrepreneurship and what that means for the freedoms I enjoy now, commutes, etc. I truly think we have can seize opportunity in any situation, but we stay in bad situations too often and for far too long. Comparing perceived risk(s) to actual risk(s) is an important activity. If you’re considering something risky, I’d love to chat about it with you, so please contact me.

Accessibility From The Beginning

“The longer you wait to incorporate accessibility, the greater the chance that your product will be inaccessible (or at least expensive and time-consuming to retrofit). When you start immediately, you can iterate, test, learn, and end up with a stronger—and more accessible—product.”

Derek Featherstone – How to get started on accessibility before you even have a product

Meeting Culture Drives Corporate Culture

“Meeting culture is highly toxic. Think of it as a gateway drug for employee apathy. One bad experience leads to another. And another. A single unproductive meeting results in unestablished aims, objectives, and outputs – wasted time and money. But they also inflict another, deeper wound: a cultural one.”

Thomas Sugar – Forget Fancy Perks. Change Your Meeting Culture To Keep Talent

Happy Friday

I hope you’re all doing okay out there. Be kind. Love one another. Stay home.

Hire Me To Help You Establish or Improve a Remote Working Program

There are plenty of quick hit articles out there about moving to remote work in the current situation. Most of them are decent. Some of them are ridiculous. I’m not here to review those articles or drop a bunch of keywords in here with top ten lists for remote working.

I am here to help.

As a long-time remote worker (20+ years) and a designer/tester/evaluator of a remote working program for a mid-size organization, and the founder and CTO of a fully distributed small business. I have the experience to help guide you through this process if you want some help.

If your company culture and hiring practices are solid, you’ll be fine. You simply need to add some infrastructure and support channels to ensure both you and your employees feel comfortable and supported. If you are worried about your employees doing work or want to lock them down or track them in some way, don’t call me.

If you truly want to empower your teams to continue to do excellent work, no matter where they are, or you have some positions that you’re not sure are possible for remote work, let’s chat. I can help.

If you have remote employees, but you think you could be doing more for them and with them, let’s chat.

Stay safe out there. Stay home if you can. Listen to the experts.