Whether you expect to add employees in the future or plan to stay solo, the following tips will make it easier to run your one-person business right.
Choose the right form of business.
As a one-person business, if you do nothing else you will be treated as a sole proprietorship for legal and tax purposes. However, you can enjoy some important legal and tax advantages by choosing a different form of business. Many one-person entrepreneurs find that a limited liability corporation (LLC) is a good solution. An LLC protects your personal assets from liability in case of any lawsuits or claims against your business. An LLC also allows you to claim business profits and losses on your personal tax returns, eliminating much of the paperwork and headaches involved with forming a regular corporation.
Write a business plan.
Just because there’s only one of you doesn't mean you can dispense with creating a roadmap for your business in the form of a business plan. In fact, since your time and energy are so precious, it's vitally important that you clearly plan out your goals and how you will get there. Taking some time in the beginning to draft a business plan will save you time making decisions down the road. It will also help you foresee problems that might occur and plan how you will avoid or deal with them.
Create a business website.
A website is the face of every business, and especially for a one-person business, it's essential to present the right professional image. If you want to create the illusion that you're not just a one-person startup but a thriving, successful business, a business website can really help. For example, you can include contact information for different departments within your business, such as customer service, sales, and accounting, to give the impression that you have multiple employees and build confidence among prospective customers.
Set up a business bank account.
Yes, there's only one of you, but paying your business expenses from your personal bank accounts is a recipe for trouble at tax time and can even cause legal problems with your LLC. Instead, open a separate business bank account, order business checks, and obtain at least one business credit card to pay your expenses. This makes record-keeping easier and helps prevent problems with the IRS.
Manage your time effectively.
There is only one of you, and there are only 24 hours in a day—so make the most of them! Your business plan can be a good guide here. Break down the goals in your business plan into a series of small steps you must take to achieve them. By focusing on smaller tasks, your to-do list won't seem so overwhelming, and you'll make steady progress. If you still find yourself struggling to keep up, spend a week or so tracking how you actually spend your time each day. You'll probably find at least a few hours of wasted time that could be spent on more productive tasks. Also, try to identify when you're naturally most and least energetic— for example, are you a morning person or a night owl? — and, when possible, schedule your most important tasks for the hours when you're at peak performance.
Tap into technology.
Take advantage of the myriad small-business apps out there to help your one-person business run smoothly and fit more into your day. For example, putting your business documents in the cloud means you can access them anywhere, any time instead of rushing back to the office. There are apps to help you do everything from tracking business expenses and generating invoices to signing documents and accepting payments from customers on your mobile device. Ask other entrepreneurs which tech tools they rely on, and set up systems to streamline your daily duties.
As soon as you can possibly afford it (and maybe even from the start of your business), enlist outside help to handle some of the tasks involved in your business. Which duties should you delegate? Two types: those that are low-value relative to time spent (such as sorting through email to find the important ones, scheduling meetings with prospects, or scanning and organizing documents), and those that you just aren't good at (such as bookkeeping, designing a logo or managing SEO). When deciding what to delegate and how much to pay for it, you'll need to have some idea of what your time is worth. For example, if you're starting an IT business billing $100 an hour, it's worth your time to pay someone $20 an hour to do bookkeeping, because that frees up more of your hours to do billable work.
Operating a one-person business is challenging, but these strategies will help make it more rewarding.
For more than 100 years, Deluxe Corporation has sought to create the tools that help shape our economy. Since 1915, Deluxe has recognized the vital role that small business plays in our communities, from job creation to business development. For these reasons, the Deluxe Corporation Foundation provides financial support to nonprofits that help entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed. Our grants to SCORE have totaled more than $1.5M in recent years, with the majority of these funds supporting the creation and updates of online training and certification for SCORE mentors.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.