Business Basics: The Business Plan

A business plan is much more than an arduous document you put together if you are looking for investors. It helps set a clear path for you and your company going forward, establishes financial and growth goals, and makes your business strategy transparent. While it might be nice to finish your business plan and put it away for eternity, it is a document that should be updated, edited, and polished as often as you see fit. Goals and plans change, you know!   The Business Plan: Essential Sections While it is a relatively straightforward document with required sections, there is quite a lot to the business plan as a whole. It starts with the executive summary, which is a one … Read More

Business Basics: Business Finances

While some rare people have been able to simple transition from a hobby into a small business and not worry about money or income, most of us start a business to make money. It all seems simple enough: offer a product or a service, get clients, make money, right? To some degree, yes it is that easy, especially when you are your only employee, but when you start adding employees, offering different salaries or hourly pay, renting or leasing an office space, or adding assets to your company things get much more tricky.   Business Finances, a Brief Overview The first step to business finances is to get the help of a CPA or hire an in house financial manager, … Read More

Business Basics: Teams

We’ve discussed the important things to think about when you are making your first hire, but what about when you are creating teams of individuals to work on a project. Maybe you have hired the individuals who work for you with this in mind, but you might also be working with contractors and vendors – figuring out all the pieces to the puzzle can be tricky.   Who Works Well Together? An old adage is that you don’t have to like the people you work with; you just have to work with them. While this is certainly true, it really helps to like the people you work with. There are some people that might never work well together, but it … Read More

Ethics: How You Conduct your Business Matters

Setting up contracts with your customers, negotiating fair prices, and following through on your commitments are all part of doing sound business. They help you and your business become successful. Outwardly, you set up boundaries for your business regarding how you will act and how you expect your clients to act. But what about guidelines for how your competitors, employees, and others?  Ethics are another important part of how you do business that can really make a difference.   Ethics: Small Business Basics Ethics have been described as how you conduct yourself when no one is watching. They are a kind of code of conduct that you hold yourself to. In effect, they are the building blocks for character. Character … Read More

Contractual Relationships: Small Business Basics

One of the most important things that you can do as a small business owner is communicate clearly with your customers. One of the best, legally backed, ways to communicate on the goods and services that you will be providing a customer is through a contract. For those in the creative industry, this can be a process of negotiations, rewriting, and coming up with a final agreeable solution. For other small businesses, it is as simple as a customer selecting the services they require and signing the contract. Regardless of the amount of flexibility your services come with, you should incorporate a contract into your business relationships.   Contractual Relationships While it might seem like an impersonal way to do … Read More

Trademarks: Small Business Basics

Last week, we spoke about trademarks in a rough overview and left you with a bit of a confusing end: you don’t really need a trademark, but it can be extremely beneficial if you have one. That isn’t the most helpful idea in the world, but we wanted to break it down and explain when you need and don’t really a trademark.   Trademarks: You Should Really File Basically, if you own a business that has interaction with the public, you should think very strongly about having a trademark for your logo and any wording that you want to be property of your company. Creative, legal, medical, and consulting firms that do work on behalf of their clients ought to … Read More

3 Types of Defamation: Small Business Basics

  Your Good Name and Defamation You have worked hard to start a small business: you’ve worked tirelessly for your clients and customers, you’ve spent a ton of time and energy creating an image and brand, and you have invested your own money to make it work. It would be awful if someone tried to drag your name or image through the mud in an effort to hurt you or your business. Knowing a bit about defamation can help you and your company in the long run.   Defamation Defamation is when there is intent to communicate a false statement to a third party via slander or libel. Slander is an oral assertion of a falsehood whereas libel is when … Read More

You Best Protect Ya Neck: Trademarks

You probably spent a lot of time thinking of a name for your small business even if it ended up being your name and what you do – Mike’s Landscaping, for instance. You had to make sure that there were no other companies in your immediate vicinity with that name or something similar doing what you do or something similar. After you figured out what to call yourself, you may have spent time creating a logo or having someone create a logo for you. Turns out, you don’t have to register any of these things as trademarks, but doing so can have massive impacts on the future of your business.   Why Register Trademarks? Turns out, having a registered trademark … Read More

Small Business Basics: Insurance

Insurance is there for you and your small business if the worst happens. Theft? Natural Disaster? Long or short-term disability? Unemployment? The things that happened to Jurassic Park? All of that stuff is covered by some sort of insurance – maybe not Jurassic Park, that was pretty much a given that the dinosaurs would break out and run rampant. You and your small business typically pay a monthly fee to ensure that if or when the worst happens, you have some sort of safety net.   Personal Insurance This is your typical health insurance (medical, vision, dental) that covers employees if they get sick or need glasses. Businesses can pay all of the premium or some of the premium and … Read More

Small Business: Bookkeeping Basics

Your small business is making money, clients are paying you, and you are starting to build a bit of savings. How do you keep track of it all? Careful bookkeeping, that’s how! This might not be the most fun aspect of owning a business, but diligent bookkeeping can can save your skin if the going gets tough. Besides, if you know how to balance a checkbook, then you are pretty well set to keep track of your small business’ books.   Bookkeeping Basics Keep careful track of your business records, systems and procedures, and internal controls. Business records include invoices, bank accounts, receipts, tax returns, time keeping, and assets. Systems and procedures include billing, deposits from clients, relationships with vendors … Read More

Small Business: The Elevator Pitch

You have more than likely heard that an elevator pitch is essential to forging partnerships and sales. Turns out, it is also really helpful to describe your business to your friends and family. More importantly, an elevator pitch helps you figure out your small business’s positioning and that allows you to market effectively.   The Elevator Pitch and Positioning It can be pretty tough to distill what you do into a 15 second sentence or two, but by figuring out how to talk about your company in such a compact way you can communicate with pretty much anyone. A typical elevator pitch goes like this: “[Your Business] is a [type of company] that helps [type of customers] by [service you … Read More

Small Business Taxes: Filing

For many small business owners, the move from independent hobbyist to actual business owner can be a tricky maze of business jargon, tax law, and unqualified advice. Yes, there are some tricky bits depending on how you file small business taxes with your state, but for the most part, you won’t need a legal team backing you in order to become a small business.   Sole Ownership This is the most basic form of small business entity. More or less, you file your papers and then you are considered a small business. Oftentimes, you have to also file a DBA (doing business as) if you want to operate your small business under a different name than your own. As a … Read More

Small Business: How to Hire Creative

Congratulations! You have grown your small business enough to hire a creative person for your design/artwork/marketing!The only problem: how do you hire the right person for the job? That can be tricky especially if you do not have experience with design – which is probably why you are hiring someone. One major questions to answer: are you hiring someone to do full-time work for your clients, or can you afford to hire a contractor for the time being?   Design Tools This interview is going to take some research on your part, as well. Design tools have changed dramatically over the last two decades and especially over the last decade. A designer with Adobe Flash experience would have great even … Read More

Small Business: The Right Clients

If only we could be so selective as to bring on clients who not only provide income, but also help promote our small business by providing us with leads and new clients. Turns out, you can. You don’t have to settle for any old client in order to make a living. Certainly, it can be tough to wait for a good client to come around when things are tight, but it is worth it.   The Right Clients for Recommendations Word of mouth will never go out of business practice. Even places like Amazon and Google recommend getting recommendations from your customers as we – as the human race – still rely heavily on peer reviews before we make a … Read More

Small Business: Creative Firm Billing

Over 90% of businesses in the US (closer to and over 95% in most states) are considered small businesses. Design, creative, and professional art firms and individuals strike out on their own as a small business at a rate of about 30% (compared to typical 10% for all other industries) of all businesses in the creative scope are small businesses with 5 or fewer employees.   If you own or work in a creative agency, chances are that you went to school and took art and design classes, not small business law or tax classes. This poses a huge challenge to setting up your own small business and making it successful. Luckily, there are plenty of other folks that have … Read More