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Professional Webmaster Business Issues Forum

Going into business for myself

 2:05 pm on Aug 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm currently working to get my portfolio online, and once that is done, if I can generate enough clients, I'd like to be able to freelance full-time, essentially working for myself.

My question is this: what hoops do I need to jump through to get this started? I definitely need to trademark/copyright my business name- that's a given. Are there forms or something I have to fill out establishing myself as a business?



 2:51 pm on Aug 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

Where are you? Most countries have government sponsored business start up websites that should offer you all the support you need.


 2:54 pm on Aug 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

I live in the USA.


 3:22 pm on Aug 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

You could try your local score.org office for advice on local rules regulations and license requirements.


 6:28 pm on Aug 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'd like to be able to freelance full-time, essentially working for myself.

Get ready for a wild ride, wait 'till you see who your competition is - remember it's a **worldwide market** filled with a large buying sector eager to exploit, with many willing to let them. Don't get discouraged though, there are gems in the sand. You just have to dig hard and deep.

Working for yourself is nowhere near as glamorous as it looks from the outside. There are days I wish I was a workin' grunt again. :-) Two good reasons, if you want medical benefits you need to pay for them yourself, and you pay very dearly. Second good reason, all the bull-puckey that someone else usually deals with - accounting, dealing with customers, marketing and selling the company, (*ahem*) managing and motivating their employees - these, and more, are now **your** job.

I definitely need to trademark/copyright my business name- that's a given.

False, and expensive. Do this only if you feel the mark or name is something someone would steal. There's no sense in investing $450+ (more, if you use a lawyer) and a year of your life (which is about what it takes) if you aren't even sure this is the thing for you.

What you **do** have to do, generally, is register your business with your state. See your state's Secretary of State web site, register your business there. Some cities require local registration.

Open a separate bank account, keep your business stuff separate from domestic. Keep very close track of **all** of it - I suggest at the very least QuickBooks SimpleStart (and may be all you need.) You'll figure out why when April 14 rolls around.


 7:00 pm on Aug 19, 2010 (gmt 0)

In addition to what Bill said, talk to a tax preparer long before April 14th. Some tax benefits can only be enjoyed if you take advantage of them before Dec. 31 (or whatever the last day of your fiscal year is).

A 3rd reason why self-employment is not as glamorous as most people think- you don't get paid time off for vacations or sick time. It's very simple: you don't work, you don't get paid.

A 4th reason- cash flow fluctuations. Even when you're working your tail off for clients, if they don't pay on time (or at all) you're left without money you were expecting. Poor cash flow is one of the major reasons companies have to close.


 10:28 pm on Aug 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

My suggestion:
Try doing as much free lancing in your spare time while also maintaining another job with stability. It takes years of successful dedication to build up a client and work flow situation that yields the money you need/want (to live on/plus more) and in getting money at regular and expected periods (cash flows).

Instead of an all-in approach, I recommend doing it gradually (if feasible) given all this advice above. Get some clients, get some work. Keep your full time job. As work picks up... drop to a part time job. As work continues to pick up even more, you can relinquish your "job" completely. If you don't follow this advice or consider it deeply, I suspect a year forward from now you'll be looking back realizing that it is a reasonable strategy.

Aside from those issues, there is a lot more. To start a business, you really need to be prepared to give it your 100% (if you want to be successful). When you run your own business, there is NO SUCH THING as "hours"... you don't go to work or get off work at set times. You don't get days off or vacations or sick days. It is a serious time commitment. Typically, most sole proprietors work 60+ hours a week minimum for the first few years of business.

As rocknbil notes... also be prepared for all the additional roles you'll take on. Running your own hosting/design/development/etc company (starting off) means the whole game is on you. You won't just be writing CSS anymore or making cool graphics in Photoshop. You'll be doing book keeping, marketing/promotion of your own business, managing/dealing with clients & potentially employees later on, and a whole lot more.

If you're very serious about putting your all towards it, I say go for it! But don't run into it blindly. Do your research (as you are by posting here) to ensure you can make sound conclusions and judgments.

I also recommend before doing anything, that you do some research on business plans. The below link should be useful (I'm hoping a Wikipedia link doesn't violate forum rules). Though typically useful for real business ventures in acquiring capital... they can also be very useful for people starting a business. It forces you to fully consider, formulate, develop, and commit to your business. (if done well/right)
[en.wikipedia.org ]


 10:35 pm on Aug 24, 2010 (gmt 0)

Self discipline.


 12:27 am on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Cash flow.


 1:59 am on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

You need to do the following to start your business:

1. feasibility studies
2. cash flow
3. patience


 3:18 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

You need to do the following to start your business:

(Added to the list)

1. feasibility studies
2. cash flow
3. patience
4. enough money to live on for at least 1-2 years backup for lean tough times when expenses strip income.


 3:32 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's very simple: you don't work, you don't get paid.

Actually that sometimes happens even when you are working!


 3:35 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

In order to have work for the whole year round, you will have to find and convert a lot of customers.

You will need to be relentlessly positive, constantly qualifying and contacting new prospects, finding clever ways to leverage whatever you have in your favour, and not being put off when clients may wait 12 or 18 months before they actually place an order.


 3:52 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am envious, it is exciting starting a new venture. I stopped doing websites a year or two ago and am back as an employee again.

If I started again today I would do much better than I did back then.

Best of luck with it.


 8:43 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

good on ya mate!....its scary and wild but life is short.. do it...my advice to you is spend a couple hundred bucks and let a good local accountant set it all up for you. you stick to what you know best (the web world) and let the cpa do what he or she does best that way you dont worry about taxes and registration for this and that they do it all. secondly try and get a few accounts (or even one good one) where you do maintenance work and/or seo and build on these as these will see you through the bad months with a bit of a "stable" income. then the rest is work harder than you ever have to give it the best possible shot...you know the saying that if you do what you love..you wont ever work a single day of your life..good luck and dont let the bad times get you..keep digging...you live in the usa where anything is possible


 6:09 pm on Aug 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

My friend ran her own web dev business for many years. She had a website, she incorporated (LLC) and she had a business bank account. She also registered with her local community business organization which eventually helped drive close to 75% of her new business referrals.

She did not use an accountant that I recall. Just used QuickBooks software.

It was definitely not the glamorous life many think it is. Dealing with clients as your sole source of income can be trying and very difficult at times. Collecting payment is not always as easy as you think.

You also will find your fair share of folks that want something for nothing, the world for cheap or you to talk on the phone with them and reply to their email questions for weeks and weeks at no charge.

My advice: Keep up on your accounts payables (invoices) and bill for ALL your time spent on a project, whether it be email or phone or actual coding/design work. Track it in 15 minute increments and document it daily. Talk for 5 minutes on the phone with a client? Did you prepare for the call? Did you take any notes or post-call actions? Bill all your time. Include summaries of your time spent on your invoices. This will help your clients realize how much you are doing for them, and take the sting out of the bill.

Good luck!

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