Starting a new business takes a lot of time: you have to decide between forming a corporation or an LLC, you have to find the right people to employ, and you have to build a website and/or find a brick-and-mortar building to rent or buy. When you first start, it may seem like it’ll take years before you are noticed by anyone.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do while you’re still growing to make your business look like a real player. If you do a few things correctly, people will start taking notice of you sooner rather than later and you can claim your market share sooner than you might think.
So, if you want people to take your business seriously from the start, why not try a few of these things:
Get Professional Postal and Email Addresses
While it may seem perfectly acceptable to use your home address if you run a business from home, you may want to look at getting a different, more professional one. For example, you could talk to your local post office and get a P.O. Box that you can use instead. Then, when you attach your business name to it, people will instinctively see a professional organization. Similar services are also available through your local UPS store.
Equally, if you want to be taken seriously online, you should definitely look at getting a company email address. Using an email address that you’ve been using since you were a teenager is instantly going to make your company look sketchy, so avoid Gmail, Hotmail and other similar email addresses. Instead, create a business email address by signing up for a domain name. This is incredibly easy to do and you can even have these emails forwarded on to your standard account.
And while you’re at it, you should also look at getting toll free numbers for your office and customer service departments. This will help put people at ease when they need to call you for something while adding to the professional edge that you’re creating for your company.
Build a Professional Website
The Internet is running 24/7, which is why it’s imperative that your company is being showcased through a website that customers can access at any time. Sites like WordPress offer free platforms where you can create your own theme without having to learn code. They’ll also provide you with hosting and domain options, helping to create a professional-looking website in a very short period of time. Alternatively, you could hire the help of a professional web designer, which is a great option if you’re not comfortable with building your own site.
Go for an LLC
When you are just starting out, you should choose to form an LLC (Limited Liability Company) rather than keeping your business as a sole proprietorship. The benefits are immediate and will give your company a professional edge, even if you’re a sole proprietor.
The main benefit to forming an LLC is that it separates your personal assets from your business assets. This way, should your company find itself in trouble, your personal assets (e.g. your home or car) cannot be sought by your creditors.
You will also be taxed through your business rather than through your personal income. This can help you tremendously in the beginning because corporate tax rates are usually significantly lower than personal rates and you will be able to keep more money in the business. When you want to pay yourself, you’ll take a “draw” from the company, which will then be taxed as personal income.
Get Professional Business Cards
While you should have a professional website that gives your company a face for the world to see, you’ll also need professional-looking business cards for when you meet potential clients face-to-face.
There are thousands of options when it comes to creating your own business cards so choose one that reflects your company and presents it in a professional light. Avoid comic sans and other odd typefaces, instead opting for something professional. You should also refrain from putting your formal title on the card in the beginning. If you’re running this business on your own, it’s clear that you’re the big CEO, but it won’t be clear why you’re doing everything else, e.g. chasing invoices and making orders. So, until you get a number of employees behind you, keep to a generic business card with your contact details.
Mark Gordon is the president of American Voice Mail, a cloud telecommunications provider. He founded and built the business to allow small and medium business to compete and win, by giving them the most state-of-the-art communications tools, all with no equipment to buy, fix or outgrow.