My advice is to run the business as if your clientele can’t tell if you are a brick-and-mortar store or a home-based business. Things you can do to act more like a storefront business are as follows:
- Don’t just have the entity of sole proprietor. It’s not that expensive to create an LLC or an S Corp. Those are the two common ones if someone wants to raise the status of their business from sole proprietorship to a corporation, or a more legal entity. That means applying for a FEI, a Federal Employer Identification Number. If you are a sole proprietorship, your social security number is used to represent your business instead. When someone runs their business as a sole proprietor, they are leaving open to be sued for their personal assets. If someone sues you for damages and you are a sole proprietorship, you can lose your house, car, retirement savings, because it is not protected under the veil of the corporation. It doesn’t keep your business from getting sued, but it protects your personal assets. Depending on what state you live in, it’s important to renew your commercial name.
- Consider having a separate P.O. box or modifying your address to include something that makes it sound like you have an office. For example, you could have your same street address, but then put down “Suite A” or “Suite 100.” It doesn’t matter to the post office as they’re going to deliver it to your home, but it gives people the impression that you work at office.
- Answer the phone in a professional manner and have a professional voicemail greeting. You may decide to have a second line dedicated to the business.
- Accept all forms of payment, including credit cards.
- Offer frequent buyer programs to reward loyalty.
- Have professional-looking invoices. You can generate those using QuickBooks or whatever accounting software you have.
- Keep accurate books and records. If you become an LLC or an S Corp., then you will have to file at least quarterly income tax returns. Once you learn how to do it, it’s easy to do.
- Check in with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which are located all across the United States. There, you can work with a counselor that will give a checklist of requirements for the type of business you are registered as.
- A way to position yourself as a viable business is to develop a logo, a tagline, a web presence, a social media presence, and advertise professionally. If you are going to advertise or have promotions, then do it in a professional matter, whether that is through email, like Constant Contact, or through Facebook ads.
—Vince DiCecco, Your Personal Business Trainer