1. Choose business name
Get creative with it. Think of where you want your business to be in 5,10,20 years. Do you want people working under you? Do you want to expand your services and become a more “one-stop-shop” for all things creative?
*Tip: go through the followers/following of a brand designer you admire and search for “brand” or “designer” to get inspiration from other entrepreneurs/small businesses. (We all tend to have “brand/designer” in our Instagram titles)
2. Set up your LLC
Go to your state’s secretary of state website and they will have all the info needed on how to set up your LLC. This will cost you anywhere between $40-$500, depending on your state, and will protect you and your personal assets if a client ever tries to take legal action.
3. Obtain/Change social media account names
Once you’re set on your name, create accounts (or change your existing account names) for your new business. Make sure to stay consistent across all platforms so people can easily find you. (AKA, don’t use “@boldsideco” on IG, and use “@theboldside” on Tiktok. Choose a name that’s available across all platforms.
4. Set up a business bank account
This will benefit you BIG TIME when tax season approaches in terms of organizing all your biz receipts. Make sure to get a debit and credit card! I personally use Chase Business Unlimited because I’m obsessed with their travel rewards program (here’s my referral link 🙂)
5. Sign up with QuickBooks Self-Employed
Use QuickBooks to track all of your business expenses (synced with your business bank accounts, of course). This will make tax season super easy. You can access this platform as an app on your phone, or on your computer. (here’s my referral link for 50% off 🙂)
*Tip: when itemizing expenses, don’t put something in an “other” category. QuickBooks Self-Employed has categories you can choose from, and knowing which categories to choose can be a bit confusing at first. However, if you put anything in “other”, you’ll have to go back and redo them.
6. Buy your domain
It doesn’t matter where you buy your domain from, however, namecheap.com is very popular. I personally have website hosting, domain registration, and professional email all under one roof with the hosting company I use. But, if you’re not ready to start paying for an all-in-one package at first, I’d recommend just using namecheap. (here’s my referral link for 50% off 🙂)
*Tip: use domainchecker.com to check for domain availability.
7. Choose your professional email addresses
It’s around $6/mo if you want to do this through Gmail. I personally have website hosting, domain registration, and professional email all under one roof with the hosting company I use. But, if you’re not ready to start paying for a website hosting account at first, I’d recommend just using Google.
8. Start building and planning your social feeds using Later
Later is an app (also available on desktop) where you can plan out your posts, schedule them, etc. Try taking a day to plan out your feed for a week or two. It’ll save you SO much time. Your following won’t grow unless you consistently post and engage.
9. Get a Google Voice number for clients
DO NOTTTTTT give out your personal number to clients. Trust me, out of the many boundaries you need to set between your work and personal life, this one takes priority. Google Voice numbers are completely free to use.
10. Choose a payment processor
Out of all payment platforms, Square is my favorite. Unfortunately, you’re never going to be able to escape transaction fees with any payment processors but definitely shop around to find one suitable for you.
(here’s my referral link for free processing on up to $1,000 in sales over the next 180 days 🙂)
11. Manage your clients through Dubsado
When I tell you Dubsado has been my saving grace, I am not exaggerating. Dubsado is a client management system and takes care of nearly everything in regards to your clients – inquiry forms, proposals, contracts, invoicing, client portals, questionnaires, scheduling calls, creating automated project workflows… IT. IS. AMAZING. It’s truly the only reason I’m able to onboard multiple clients at a time. You can also set up recurring invoices with payment reminders so you don’t have to worry about it; the best part? All the money goes into your business account! AAAND it syncs with QuickBooks. There’s definitely a learning curve in the beginning, but it’s so worth it. If you want help, I offer “full Dubsado set up” as a project add-on!
(here’s my referral link for 20% off 🙂)
12. Work with your clients with Trello
Trello is my FAVORITE when it comes to project management on the client-facing side. (Obviously, Dubsado is still my queen for the back-end project management). I create a board for each of my clients that is broken down into phases for our project. It’s essentially a way to keep our entire project organized under one roof – all deliverables, feedback, due dates, quick links – you name it – live inside Dubsado.
13. Build an email list
When it comes to email marketing, you don’t want to feel like you’re spamming all of the nice people who joined your email list. With that said, you’re going to want to email them strategically and make the emails look aesthetically pleasing. I’d recommend signing up with either Mailchimp (a very popular, free platform) OR go the extra mile and sign up with Flodesk ($38/mo). Flodesk has really nice templates and is very user-friendly to the point where it makes non-designers feel like they can create really gorgeous emails.
*Tip: offer your pricing list as an opt-in to see potential leads and grow your list