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      How to Start a Business: The Complete Guide


      So, you want to start a business? To strike out into the unknown, discover new opportunities, change the world, and make some money along the way?

      The road to becoming your own boss can be a long one. But we’ve got you covered.

      In this guide, you’ll learn all the steps — from creating a basic business plan to hiring your first employee — that you need to start a successful small business. You’ll learn how to:

      So, without further ado, let’s get right to it and learn how to start a business.

      The Big Idea

      Every creative endeavor has two halves: the idea and its execution.

      Many aspiring entrepreneurs can come up with some type of idea but end up struggling with the second part.

      Need proof? First, how many friends of yours have revolutionary app ideas? Now, how many have actually developed an app, released it, and built a successful business out of it? Chances are, the answer to the second question is a lot lower.

      When you start your own business, you need to have an execution plan ready from the get-go. So, let’s start things off on the right foot and make sure that you break your big idea down into small, realistic steps.

      1. Refine Your Business Idea

      Few things kill a new business like an idea that’s way too vague. How do you even start building your business if your idea is simply to “make a new type of social network?”

      The answer? You don’t. You either refine your idea into something tangible, or you put it to the side.

      But most ideas can be saved with a dash of refinement and a bit of polish. The key to doing so is asking the right questions:

      • Why are you starting this venture?
      • Who is your target demographic?
      • What product or service are you offering?
      • When will it be available, and when would someone use this product?
      • Where will your product be available?

      By answering these questions, you can turn a vague idea like “start a new social network” into “start a new social network for US-based professionals and recent college graduates to connect and find job opportunities in their alumni networks.”

      Once you get through your first round of questions, ask more questions: Why would this target demographic use this over LinkedIn? What are the features that separate it from the competition?

      Refining your idea is like making a sculpture out of a block of marble. Start by cutting away big chunks on your first pass, and then chip at the little details once you’re further along.

      But remember that sometimes, ideas simply won’t work, and it’s often more important to know when to give up on an idea than how to refine it. There’s no shame in admitting that a business idea isn’t a good one and putting it to the side so you can focus your efforts on another one.

      2. Create a Business Plan

      The next step is to start working out the nitty-gritty by working out a detailed business plan. Besides serving as a guide, your business plan can also come in handy when looking for investors or grants.

      According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a traditional business plan should have these elements:

      • Executive Summary: Sum up your business. Why will it be successful? What is your mission statement, and what are you offering? In short: Who are you as a business, and why should anyone care?
      • Company Description: Expand on some of the points in your executive summary. What problems does your business solve? What is your team like? What’s your competitive advantage? Your company description will likely overlap with your executive summary to some extent, but you need not only expand — you can include new information here as well.
      • Market Analysis: Explain how your product fits into the market. What are competitors doing? How can you do it better?
      • Service or Product Line: Describe the products or services you’re selling in detail. Include information about patents, the product’s lifecycle, and its benefits. This information will form the backbone of your business model.
      • Marketing and Sales: Explain how your marketing and sales strategies work. How will you get new customers? How will you keep them?
      • Funding Request: Include information about how much funding you’ll need over the next five years and what you plan to use that money for.
      • Financial Projections: Prove that your business is stable and ready for success by projecting what your finances will look like in the next few years.

      3. Decide on a Business Name

      Chances are that if you’ve made it this far, you already have some type of working name. But if you don’t, make sure you iron one out by this point.

      When coming up with your business name, keep these tips in mind:

      • Your name should be catchy and sound good when you say it out loud
      • You should be able to trademark your name
      • The name should be somewhat related to your product or service’s benefits or features
      • Make sure you can get a .com domain for it
      • Your name should be easy to spell

      Some entrepreneurs get backed up at this stage. While it’s definitely important to make sure your business name has some allure to it, don’t overthink it and hold your entire business plan up just because you can’t settle on the perfect name. Give yourself a reasonable amount of thinking time, and go with your favorite option after that time has elapsed, even if you’re not thrilled with it.

      4. Define Your Brand

      Businesses are like people — they have names and personalities.

      Once you’ve settled on a name for your business entity, start to consider what other features you want people to recognize your brand by.

      At this point, you’ll want to design a logo and set some brand guidelines. What tone will your business take in its communications? What colors represent it?

      Oatly, for example, has defined itself through its playful and irreverent copywriting, its logo, and the colors blue, brown, black, and white.

      Ideally, your branding should be recognizable enough that even if you release a new product, customers will immediately realize that it’s a new addition to your product line.

      Secure Your Space on the Web

      With COVID-19 still raging across the world and society showing no signs of retiring social distancing restrictions anytime soon, maintaining a strong digital presence has become more important than ever.

      Luckily, starting a website and building a social presence is easier than ever before. Here’s how.

      1. Register a Domain

      Your domain is the address that people will type in when they want to visit your website. It’s essentially your online calling card.

      For example, our domain is dreamhost.com. If your business were called Doug’s Donuts, your domain might be dougsdonuts.com.

      The vast majority of businesses will want to get a .com name. However, other domain extensions, like .ai, .inc, and .net, may be worth consideration in certain cases.

      Purchasing and registering a domain is a simple process. All you need to do is search for your desired domain on a reputable domain registrar’s website and purchase it. Most registrars will guide you through the process.

      Once you’ve got a domain, you’ll need to connect it to your website. Most website building platforms offer instructions on how to do this.

      Overall, the hardest part about registering a domain is finding one that isn’t already taken. In some cases, you may need to get a bit creative by adding words, i.e., Doug’s Delicious Donuts, or change your name entirely so you can get a better domain name.

      2. Secure Social Media Accounts

      It’s estimated that there are 3.6 billion social media users in 2020. To ensure your business’s survival in the modern business climate, you need to be where your potential customers are — on social media.

      But don’t be intimidated — you don’t need to actually develop your social media presence just yet; you just need to get your usernames. Like domain names, usernames on major social network sites are hot commodities and go fast, so you want to lock them down ASAP.

      Unfortunately, it’s fairly unlikely that you’ll end up finding that the same username is available across all social media platforms. Most businesses will need to edit their handles slightly or have different accounts per platform (i.e., @dougsdonuts on Twitter and @dougsdeliciousdonuts on Instagram).

      3. Create a Website

      What use would your domain name be if you had no website to go along with it? Once you have a domain ready to go, it’s time to start building your website.

      These days, there are tons of online website builders that make it easy to get a site up and running quickly.

      But if you want your website to run on a powerful, tried-and-true platform, building a WordPress site is one of your best options. WordPress powers approximately 38.4% of all websites, so there’s no lack of support, powerful features, and communities to get involved in.

      DreamHost offers a drag-and-drop WordPress website builder with shared hosting that combines the ease of a website building tool with the raw power of WordPress. This gives the business owner the best of both worlds.

      We’ll Support Your Dream

      Whatever your business goals, we’ll be right there with you, making sure your site is fast, secure, and always up. Plans start at $2.59/mo.

      Deal with Laws and Finances

      Starting a business can sometimes mean navigating a lot of red tape. Between registering your business, structuring it, and opening a bank account, many entrepreneurs quickly find themselves with their hands full.

      Here’s what you need to know to get started.

      1. Find an Accountant and an Attorney

      If you’re serious about your business’s success, it’s a good idea to start things off on the right foot and hire an accountant and an attorney. Starting a business is a complex process with lots of legal requirements, and this team will be able to guide you through it and answer the many questions you’re sure to have along the way.

      If you’re on a very tight budget or starting your business as a side hustle, you may be able to hold off on this step. But keep in mind that you’re running a risk when you don’t have a professional helping you with complex tax, financial, and legal issues.

      Plus, an attorney and accountant will help you figure out how to choose a business structure — the next step in your journey.

      2. Decide on a Business Structure

      Choosing a business structure is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. The legal structure you choose will determine how you pay taxes and how your business is viewed by government entities.

      Importantly, your business structure will determine whether your profits are taxed on a pass-through basis or not. Owners of pass-through businesses include their share of profits as individual, self-employed, taxable income. Owners of non-pass-through businesses pay themselves a salary and report their income and the business’s profits separately.

      The most common business structures in the US are:

      • Sole Proprietorship: This structure can be used by businesses without any employees. All businesses that do not formally register are automatically considered sole proprietor operations.
      • Partnership: Have a business partner? Partnerships are a simple structure for businesses with two or more owners. Profits are taxed on a pass-through basis.
      • Limited Liability Company (LLC): LLCs are among the most popular pass-through structures for small businesses. This structure separates personal and business assets so that you can’t lose your house or car if your business goes bankrupt.
      • Corporation: A corporation is a standalone legal entity. Profits are not taxed on a pass-through basis, so owners need to pay themselves a salary. There are several types, including S Corp, C Corp, and non-profits.
      • Cooperative: A cooperative is a business owned and operated by a group of people who use its products or services. These people typically own shares in the company, and profits are distributed amongst them.

      3. Register with the Government and the IRS

      Most business registration is conducted at a state level, so you’ll need to look into your local laws to see what’s required to legally form your business. An attorney can be a great help here.

      Once your business is registered, you might need to file to get a federal tax ID called an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can think of an EIN as a Social Security Number for your business. According to the Small Business Administration, you’ll need an EIN if your business does any of the following:

      • Pays employees
      • Operates as a corporation of partnership
      • Files tax returns for employment, excise, or alcohol, tobacco, and firearms
      • Withholds taxes on income, other than wages, paid to a non-resident alien
      • Uses a Keogh Plan (a tax-deferred pension plan)
      • Works with certain types of organizations

      If you’re running a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, you don’t need a separate tax ID — your profits are taxed as personal income.

      4. Open a Business Bank Account

      Having a bank account for your business can help you keep your personal and business finances separate, making accounting and filing taxes much easier. It also offers an extra layer of protection for your personal assets, maintains a professional image, and allows you to open a business credit card.

      You’ll need to have all your business’s formation and tax documents, along with a business license and ownership agreements to open a bank account. Your accountant will be able to help you here — especially if you’re considering applying for a business loan.

      5. Purchase Insurance

      Many business owners forget this step or simply don’t realize how important it is.

      Don’t be one of them. Purchasing liability insurance can sometimes be the only wall that protects you against bankruptcy if you get sued for some reason. Plus, if you hire employees, you’ll legally need to have worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.

      Set Up Your Daily Operations

      A business is like a machine. To keep it running smoothly, you need to make sure all the parts fit together and stay well oiled.

      1. Accounting

      Your accounting system is the backbone of your business’s financial operations. Without a good system in place, you won’t be able to process invoices, make payments, etc.

      Your best bet here is to speak with an accountant who can help you find a solution that works for your specific needs.

      2. Project Management

      A robust project management system ensures that projects reach completion in a timely and organized way. Project managers communicate with different team members, contractors, and other external businesses to keep everyone on the same page.

      Whether you’re going to be your sole proprietorship’s own project manager or you’re hiring one for your corporation, it can be a good idea to invest in project management software like Asana or Trello.

      3. Payroll

      If you plan to hire employees, you’ll need some type of payroll system. Gusto, Intuit Payroll, and Bill.com are all good options.

      If you’re hiring contractors, a payroll platform can also help, but it’s not entirely necessary.

      4. Communications

      If you’re hiring employees or contractors, you’ll need a way to communicate with each other. While email works fine in most cases, many businesses prefer platforms like Slack, which speed up communication and are more convenient than email.

      5. Shipping

      Businesses that have an e-commerce component will need to set up a shipping system. To figure this out, you’ll need to compare options like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL to see which one best fits your needs.

      Build Your Team

      A business is nothing without its team members. When building your team, you’ll have to mix and match three types of members.

      1. Employees

      Employees are full-time or part-time workers. Hiring employees comes with a slew of legal and tax responsibilities, such as paying payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, etc. If things don’t work out with an employee, you can’t just fire them so easily.

      However, there are benefits to hiring employees, such as having reliable team members always available at set times. You also get more control over the work produced.

      2. Contractors

      Contractors are typically independent businesses themselves, so you won’t have any legal responsibilities as their employer (outside of what’s covered in your contract). You can hire them at will without a long-term commitment.

      However, contractors are independent and not full team members, so you won’t have the same level of control over the work they produce. Plus, they may not be available when you need them — they have their own schedules and businesses to run, after all.

      Contractors are useful for businesses that need specific deliverables, like graphic design, writing, web development, etc. But businesses that need operations run around the clock, like customer service, management, etc., will likely want to hire employees.

      3. Vendors

      Some businesses choose to outsource some of their work to third-party vendors. For example, you may choose to hire a third-party call center to field all your customer service requests or for on-site security. However, this is typically only required for larger businesses, so it’s something to keep in mind as you grow.

      Grow Your Business

      Once you’ve planted your business’s seed, you’ll need to water it so that it grows into a successful startup.

      1. Develop a Marketing Strategy

      Marketing is essential. Without it, no one will even know your business exists.

      Marketing comes in many forms, from content marketing and PPC ads to email marketing. If you’re not familiar with these terms already, it’s a good idea to read up on them a bit.

      However, to really get your marketing going in the right direction, you’ll likely want to hire a professional.

      2. Set Goals and Create a Growth Plan

      Businesses rarely grow without goals. To ensure your business continues to evolve over time, it’s a good idea to set SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.

      What does that mean? Instead of setting a goal like “grow my business,” write something like “increase sales by 25% by January.” Now, your goal fulfills the smart criteria.

      To build a growth plan, you simply outline a series of these sorts of goals for a period of one or two years. Typically, businesses divide this period into quarters, so you’ll ideally have eight goals for a two-year period.

      Ready to Grow Your Business?

      Whether you need help finding a target audience, crafting the ideal digital marketing strategy, or outlining your brand values, we can help! Subscribe to our monthly digest so you never miss an article.

      How to Start Your Own Business: Key Takeaways

      Starting a business is a long and arduous endeavor.

      But it’s also incredibly rewarding! Few things are as satisfying as seeing others enjoy your hard work and benefit from your products and services.

      Really, what could be better than running your own business?

      If you’re ready to become a small business owner, DreamHost shared hosting is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get your idea off the ground. For just $2.59/month, we give you everything — a free domain, SSL certificate, professional email address, and privacy protection — you need to thrive online.

      While there are no certainties in business, there is one guarantee: Whatever happens, you’ll learn a lot and grow as an entrepreneur. That much is certain.



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      Hacktoberfest Contributor’s Guide: How To Find and Contribute to Open-Source Projects


      Introduction

      Contributing to open source software is not only a way to share your skill in a particular language or tech stack, it can be a rewarding practice to share your engineering knowledge and collaborate with the developer community. Although there’s a wide range of open source projects out there waiting for your expertise, knowing where to find them and how to contribute in a way that is meaningful to the project can sometimes prove to be a barrier for interested contributors.

      In this Hacktoberfest-flavored guide, we’ll share some tips and information that will aid in finding and contributing meaningfully to open source projects.

      Find a Project

      If you are new to engaging with the open source community, finding a new project to contribute to may feel daunting. Here’s a few resources and ideas to help you find a project you’d love to help thrive.

      What is Open Source?

      Open source software is software that’s freely available to use and modify, typically shared via a public repository hosting service like Github. Projects that follow the open source model usually thrive through contributions from the developer community, and may allow for redistribution depending on which open source license they have adopted.

      Most successful open source projects have transparent, well-delineated processes for maintenance and improvement, which helps to build a community around them. As a result, they benefit from regular contributions from end-users, who bring with them diverse perspectives to solutions that may otherwise be overlooked.

      To learn more in detail about open source, visit our tutorial series, An Introduction to Open Source.

      Consider Familiar Open Source Software

      After deciding to commit your time and talent to an open source project, it’s important to take a moment to consider your passions and the type of project that resonates with you. Considering that you may spend a number of hours contributing to a specific project, you want to select a project that is not only something you’d personally use, but have a deeper interest in beyond contributing for Hacktoberfest. Think about the software you use today and consider the following:

      • In what tech stack and language is the software written?
      • What are some things that could be improved when using the software?
      • Are there any bugs or visible errors that you have the technical proficiency to address?
      • Would you be willing to contribute to this software on an ongoing basis?

      These beginning considerations may lead you to discover that your favorite software is open source and waiting for your contribution. If that’s the case, be sure to dive into the CONTRIBUTING.MD file that typically delineates how to contribute before starting. This resource will usually introduce you to the codebase, conventions, and ways to gain support when contributing to the software.

      Beginner-Friendly Open Source Projects to Try

      If you’re just starting out, the idea of committing large amounts of code to an unfamiliar codebase could bring out the imposter syndrome that lies dormant in many of us. Luckily, each developer was a beginner once, and to foster appreciation and adoption of open source, there’s a wealth of publicly-available repositories shared by fellow developers that are beginner-friendly. Here’s a few that we suggest to browse:

      • Awesome For Beginners- A list of projects by programming language that are noted to be beginner-friendly.
      • Awesome for Non-Programmers- if you’re new to programming, here’s a list of projects that are language-agnostic and help foster learning.
      • Up For Grabs- A resource that lists projects with tasks curated for new contributors.
      • First Timers Only- A resource for beginning contributors that includes links to open source learning resources and links to beginner-friendly projects.
      • Habitica- A habit-forming app that gamifies life. This open source project has detailed documentation and many ways for programmers and non-programmers alike to contribute to the project.

      More resources for open source projects to try can be found on our Hacktoberfest Resources Page.

      Make a Contribution

      Identifying Meaningful Solutions for Open Source Projects

      After identifying an open source project to contribute to and diving into the resource material that the codebase offers, you may be wondering exactly what to contribute. While the way in which you contribute may vary by project, here’s some general ideas of contributions that are impactful and meaningful to the codebase and software you’re working on.

      Fix a Bug

      Bugs are small errors in code that may cause an annoyance, a blocker, or be debilitating to software. Bugs often produce unexpected results that cause incorrect responses or actions — for the sake of a software user’s experience, it’s imperative and important that a codebase is maintained to be bug-free (or as bug-free as possible).

      You can contribute your knowledge and expertise to ‘squash’ or solve the issue surrounding a bug. By working on bugs of varying priorities, your ability to strengthen a codebase by solving errors will grow, and you’ll have a meaningful contribution to add.

      Propose a Feature

      Open source projects benefit from a diversity of thought. Although software may have been developed by one or more engineers with an opinion of how their product can solve an existing problem, your personal experience and outlook on how to improve a project can be invaluable. Once you’re comfortable with a project’s codebase and understand how it works for end users, try to think of a new feature that could be useful or improve the user’s experience and create an issue to propose it to the project maintainers. It is important to have this conversation before investing time in writing code, since sometimes your idea might not coincide with the project’s roadmap. With a positive response, it’s time to implement your idea and bring that feature to production.

      Write Some Documentation

      While there may be a wealth of technical contributions that can be made to a codebase, writing good documentation is a contribution that is often overlooked. If you’re linguistically-inclined or speak a language other than the one reflected in the initial documentation, consider making a contribution. Contributions in documentation can revolve around providing editing help to an existing doc or authoring new pages within the documentation. Refer to your project’s contribution guidelines to learn more about how to contribute this and other non-technical help.

      Submit Your PR

      Submitting Your Pull Request via Github

      After you’ve made a meaningful contribution to an open source project’s codebase, it’s time to submit your pull request. We’ve created a helpful video that walks you through this process via Github, that can be found here.

      Video: How to Submit Your First PR

      Sharing your expertise with an open source project is a rewarding experience that allows you to practice your talent, collaborate with and learn from others, and give back to the developer community. While it may initially seem daunting to find your place within the open source community, finding a project that speaks to your passions and contributing meaningfully to its codebase is a great way to start.

      For Hacktoberfest, while making four (4) meaningful contributions to open source projects will qualify you for prizes, we hope that you’ll continue to enjoy the benefits of contributing to the open source community well beyond the event. For more information or to learn more about open source, Git, or Github, you can visit the Hacktoberfest resources page. Happy hacking!



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      Practical Guide to Using CSS Position Relative & Absolute


      While this tutorial has content that we believe is of great benefit to our community, we have not yet tested or
      edited it to ensure you have an error-free learning experience. It’s on our list, and we’re working on it!
      You can help us out by using the “report an issue” button at the bottom of the tutorial.

      Introduction

      In this article, you’ll learn how to use CSS position: relative and position: absolute through ample amounts of demos, and learning aids.

      CSS position is sometimes considered an advanced topic because it can do things that are somewhat unexpected. Well, don’t let “the experts” intimidate you from pursuing excellence in your CSS competence! It’s a very accessible topic once you’re equipped with some of the underlying ideas.

      Render Flow

      An important concept to understanding relative/absolute positioning is render flow.

      The general idea is that HTML elements all take up some space. Your browser’s rendering engine always renders everything in a grid-like fashion, starting at the top-left corner and moving successively towards the bottom-right until it’s done placing all of your HTML content.

      If you’ve ever had a slow internet connection, and watched as large stuff on the webpage would push everything rightward and downward, that is essentially “render flow” in action.

      You can change this default behavior using CSS position.

      CSS Position

      CSS position is sometimes considered an advanced skill because it’s not as intuitive as font-size or margin, etc., since it changes the natural “render flow” of the browser.

      These are the possible values for CSS position:

      .foo {
        position: static;
        /* position: relative;
        position: absolute;
        position: sticky;
        position: fixed; */
      }
      

      Today we’re just going to look at position: absolute and position: relative since they’re perhaps the most versatile ones that will get you a lot of mileage once you feel confident with them.

      Relative Positioning

      When you make an HTML element position: relative, it’ll remain “in the flow” of the layout but you can move it around!

      .green-square {
        position: relative;
        top: 25px;
        left: 25px;
        /* ... */
      }
      

      Along with position: relative you’ll usually want to define the top, right, bottom, or left offset.

      You can think of “relative” position as being: “relative to where it was initially positioned.” In this case, the green square is now 25px from the left, and 25px from the top of where it was initially going to be.

      What’s also worth noting is that its width and height is preserved in the square grid. That means it’s still considered “in the flow” of the layout… it just got kinda nudged.

      Absolute Positioning

      Absolute positioning is a very powerful CSS rule for moving HTML elements around. Sometimes yielding unexpected results:

      .orange-square {
        position: absolute;
        top: 0px;
        left: 0px;
        /* ... */
      }
      

      The orange square is actually the 13th of these 25 squares (the one in the middle of the grid), but it looks like it’s the last square! Weird. Using position: absolute takes elements “out of flow” so its grid space gets collapsed.

      Yea but why’s it all the way up there?!

      Originating coordinates

      The orange square gets placed at the 0x, 0y coordinates (eg.: the top-left corner). Just how browser rendering always begins at the top-left corner, position: absolute elements use that as their rendering origin too. You can use top/right/bottom/left properties to offset it from there.

      But, you can also give it different originating coordinates…

      .grid {
        position: relative;
      }
      .orange-square {
        position: absolute;
        top: 0px;
        left: 0px;
        /* ... */
      }
      

      In the example above, the parent element (div.grid) has the position: relative rule which causes the orange square to take that as its rendering origin.

      While this may seem unintuitive behavior, it’s actually intentional! Allowing for this gives you a lot of control over where/how you arrange HTML elements…

      Conclusion

      When you start using position: relative and position: absolute it opens a new world of design possibilities. You can create layered visual elements, and feel a deep sense of confidence about how browsers will render, and thus place the visual elements that you’ve so meticulously designed.

      Learn more about CSS position at the Mozilla Developer Network



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