I recently incorporated my first company. It has one employee – me – and its only asset is this blog. But it was a great feeling to officially become a small business owner, thereby joining 15 million other Americans. The reason for incorporation was primarily driven by the taxation benefits as I detailed below, but I also think it will make me more focused on my goals and growing this blog from a hobby to a serious source of passive income. Part of moving to a small business mindset has also involved setting up a (formal) small office space in my home and undertaking all the associated organization activities that go with that. Like the majority of small business owners and especially those whose work involve sales and/or on-line related activities, my office is my home. Initially I just worked where I wanted, but have now becoming more cognizant of having a real “office space” where I can focus, avoid disturbances (i.e. the kids) and have everything I need for getting the job done.
After working from my home office for a few weeks, I have found that the two main things you should get, without blowing the bank, are a good laptop (more on this in a future post) and purchasing a 4-1 (copier, fax, printer, scanner) home office printer. I shopped around for a number of printers and the best one I found for my budget (~ $200) was the Brother MFC-790CW Color Ink jet All-in-One Wireless-Touchscreen model. For the price this printer has all the features I need, especially the fax and copier, which are so important to deal with all the paperwork, and for a non-tech person like me it was very easy to use and setup. The other cool thing was the wireless features which reduced the cables junk and allowed others in my house to print to the printer. However, the biggest long term cost with printers is ink and toner, and compared to similar HP and Cannon models, this printer provides the best value. From a furniture perspective, I bought my desk and chair from IKEA (less than $200), though recent back problems have made me consider a more expense ergonomic chair. The key thing with setting up your home office is that you make it comfortable and functional to what suits your style. Set a budget but buy good quality stuff, and best of all whatever you spend on a home office is tax deductible.
The other big challenge most new small business owners face is when it comes to Taxation and, Finances. One of the primary reasons people incorporate is for taxation purposes, because you can write off more expenses (the list is pretty big) and the IRS and State taxation agencies encourage the setup of small business (they are more likely to audit business expenses in a 1040 Schedule C personal tax return, than if these expenses are claimed via a corporation). However, setting up a company and managing the ongoing accounting does create extra administration. While you can get pretty good software like Intuit’s Quick Books to manage your payroll, taxes, income and expenses, I recommend finding a good accountant to help you through the first year. I was lucky too find one who charges me on average between $150 and $250 a month based on income, but takes care of all my paperwork, payroll and end of year taxes. One good benchmark she gave me was that if you earn more than 25% of your total income from a side-venture (or more than $2000 a month) then it will most likely make sense to incorporate.
Finally, you will spend a lot of time online when trying to find tips and ideas on navigating through all the small business setup and administrative activities. Because time is money, particularly if this business is a side venture, save your self some time and buy these two inexpensive books, which provide a ton of useful information on the small business process: The Big Book of Small Business and How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life.
Getting a good business checking account and credit card are also important, and I will cover my experience and tips with getting these in a future post. From feeling overwhelmed, I am finally getting my head around what needs to be done as a small business owner and things are really not that hard (plus the potential is enormous). Once I get my operational activities under control and build a solid base, I’ll start putting together a business plan for my future growth. It definitely feels good to be the boss!
~ Get Free Business and Finance Magazines. Really
~ The A to Z of good personal finance (Part 2: L to Z)
~ Tax Breaks in Obama’s $15 billion Small Business Plan
~ Virtual Administrative Assistants – Flexible Money Jobs