This is Part 3 of a mysteriously-lengthed series about starting a business while in college. Part 1 covers the concept development, Part 2 gets those concepts out on paper, and Part 3 makes it all official. Ready or not, here it comes.
How to Start a Business in College
Get your LLC
This is something you’re going to register for as soon as you’ve decided on a name for your company. Hopefully you were able to do that at the end of Part 2. Check your local government websites for a link to find the right place to purchase and register your LLC. An LLC is a limited liability corporation. When in place, think of it as an umbrella that protects your personal assets in case any legal trouble comes your way. An LLC makes it so that you can only lose what resides under that name and business. So, worst case scenario, you’d just lose your company and everything attached to it were things to go south.
One way to keep yourself safe is to make sure you always have a separate account for your business. Don’t go about mingling your business funds and your personal funds, even if they’re technically both yours. If you need to pay yourself some money, write a company check to yourself so that you have a real record of your financial dealings.
Another thing to remember is to register your LLC for all activities legal in the state in which you plan to do business. You can select a specific business activity, but if you keep it general, you will be covered in everything you do under that company name. Plan to have the occasional situation where you might handle something with your company name that doesn’t necessarily fall under what you have developed as a brand and company. Giving yourself a broad LLC registration gives you freedom to move about all legal activities within your state without being worried about jeopardizing your status.
Open a Business Account at your Bank
Keep your personal funds separate from your business funds. I said it before, but remember to do it. We want all you courageous entrepreneurs to be nice and safe and legal.
Register your Domain
If you’ve decided on a name and purchased your LLC, get a website. You don’t want some other dude stepping on your toes and stealing your domain out from under you. You can check to see if your domain has been taken already. I suggest sticking with a .com domain and only using a .net if you have to. Anything after that is for sure questionable. Nothing says “shady” like a .biz domain.
Select a template/design/color scheme
Congratulations on your recent purchase of a domain! Now you just need to do something with it. I’m going to bring this up a few times during this post, so get used to it: Don’t publish anything for public view until you’ve got some serious content on your page. Nobody wants to follow a testing ground (unless it’s this). They want the meat. Make sure you’ve got some serious meat on your new business sandwich before you go galavanting about with it.
Add/Register Social Media Accounts
Don’t get too excited here. You don’t want to PUBLISH anything yet. Nobody wants to support a page that wants to be cool. You have to be cool first. So hold off. Just get your accounts, your profiles, and your pages. Make sure they’re all pretty. Go to Mashable, TechCrunch, and others to get tips about how you can make your social media awesome. Then all you should do is prepare. You want to look like you’ve been there for months by the time you actually launch for public view.
Begin Uploading/Adding Content
Hey look, I’m talking about it again. Put your content up. Load up your pages with as much media and product as you can. But make sure it looks good. Here are some ideas:
Don’t stray too far from standard navigation. You might be tempted to add some awesome template that only shows products or menu items when the mouse hovers over, but no matter how cool that might look, it’s not very user-friendly. Pick something a little more standard.
Tiled backgrounds are always a bad idea. Always. Have a nice, clean, calm color as your background. It shouldn’t be difficult to read or see what’s on your page. If it is going to be a challenge for the user to read, change it. Even a solid black background can be tough on the eyes, especially if they’ve got a lot of text to read.
Make sure there’s plenty of spacing between objects on your site. Clean is the best. Don’t forget that.
Look at you. You are one step closer to bringing in the bills. Don’t skip these early steps, I know you’re excited. And don’t worry. Next round will be oh so much fun.