Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. –2 Corinthians 3:17
We’re fortunate to still live in a country in which we can dream. Maybe your dream is to work for yourself or just earn a little income on the side. My husband and I have successfully run two small businesses on the side. It takes financial savvy but isn’t as hard as you might think.
After you’ve set up your business and have a revenue and expense flow, you’ll have to set up a budget. You may already have charts for projected Return on Investment. You may even have Projected Profit and Loss for 5 years out. Dream as big as you wish on paper but make sure the numbers add up.
Here are some things to consider before starting the business.
Start with a business statement in which you state what you intend to do. Be specific as possible, and don’t worry about money at this point. Include your short and long term goals. State your dream. For example: I plan to provide a full range of plumbing services for the residents of Smithville. I project a profit of $10,000 the first year. After taking some tech school courses and hiring a helper, I project a profit of $20K-25K within five years.
That’s simple, but you get the idea.
Research your competitors, your customers, your resources. Figure up the return on investment for equipment, employees, independent contractors, and advertising. You don’t need a business degree, but do study the industry. Many times you can find the answers by asking those in the know. In the example above, you’d talk to other independent plumbers. How did they start out? What problems did they encounter? Don’t give the impression you want to take their customers away. It takes some business sense which often means just doing unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
You’ll need start-up funds, then double what you think you’ll need. Unless you have a really big project, I don’t recommend borrowing. Save up for this purpose like you’d save up for the down payment on a house. Usually, the amount needed is similar. Depending on your business, you may solicit investors, however, this will complicate and limit the freedom you have to run your business. The government may have grants in the area of science, education, or agriculture. Investigate the options if this applies to your business.
How much you’ll have to invest depends on the business. In the plumber example, a truck will be needed, tools, equipment, and insurance, but the office can be run out of the plumber’s home.
From all this information, you can project your earnings for short term and long term goals.
Get Professional Help
Before setting up your books, consult with a professional accountant, preferably one who is experienced in small business. Do this even if you want to start a small, home-based business. You don’t have to keep the accountant on retainer, but getting off to a good start is essential. There are all sorts of laws and regulations–federal, state, and local–you probably don’t even know about. You’ll not only have to set up books, you’ll also have to file periodic forms and reports. Discuss these requirements with the accountant. Make sure you understand the forms required and the filing requirements for taxes as well as regulatory requirements.
Yes, this advice will be expensive, but well worth it. Once you have your books set up, you can maintain them yourself. If the books are set up right, you can prepare your own taxes, so you’ll save money in the long run. As you collect checks and receipts, make it a habit to RECORD THEM DAILY, as well as cash transactions.
Don’t Comingle Funds
Set up a separate bank account. Depending on your state requirements, you may need a business number as well. But those are things the accountant will help you accomplish. Even if you work a cash and carry method, keep your business funds separate from your personal funds. Pay yourself a salary if you need to. Just be aware, most new businesses don’t earn much in the beginning. In fact, you may run a loss the first few years. What you do earn in those early years will probably have to be plowed back into the business.
In business as in all things, your patience will be rewarded.
After the first month, you’ll have enough data to set up a budget. And guess what, it’s done exactly like the household budget. You’ll have different expenses, and income may fluctuate wildly, but the process is the same. Go into my archives to review budgeting tips. The object is the same—keep the expenses as low as possible while maximizing income.
Since tomorrow is Independence Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those Americans who dream and have the determination and patience to build their vision, thereby providing the income for us all to pursue happiness. Thanks also to those who defend our freedom to carry out our dreams. And thanks to God, the author of our liberty.