How to Set Up Your Business for Success
This post outlines my 7 “must do” steps to starting an online business?

For the purposes of this Blog, I’m assuming that you already have your business type and niche picked out, you have researched the market and you have your business structure/company type sorted.  If you are looking for online or small business ideas that suit you, there are plenty of articles and ideas you can look.  I’m focusing here on helping people who have their business ready to launch, or are wanting to know what is required, and what isn’t necessary.

I recommend reading through the entire blog for my step by step small business guide to fully understand what each of the topics are about, and why they are important.  Before you do that – grab my Business Start Up Checklist so you can make notes as you read or to keep as a handy reference guide.



Covered in this blog is:


Overview – Done is Better than Perfect Right?Step Process – What’s NOT Negotiable:

1 Business Registration and Set Up

2 Branding

3. Money Matters

4 Business Plan

5 Marketing Plan

6 Website

7 Contract Documents


Some Myths Busted – What is Negotiable

Myth 1: You Need to Spend Money to Make Money

Myth 2: Start A Business in Just 30 minutes


Overview – Done is Better than Perfect Right?


‘Done is better than perfect” is perhaps the most common phrase I have seen mentioned in Facebook groups and business networking groups when the topic of how to start a new business, or work from home business comes home.


I agree with this, but only to a point.


It can be hard to find the right balance between prelaunch requirements and just diving in.  Research, analysis, paying for courses, the perfect website, Instagram. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Tik Tok, Clubhouse and whatever else will appear next week and the week after that.  Just because you think everyone else out there is doing it or using it for their business doesn’t mean it is actually true. It also doesn’t mean that it is right for your business.  Most importantly, you do not need all the bells and whistles when you launch, and you probably will not need them three years down the track.


Whilst ‘done already’ can be better than waiting until everything is completely perfect, I believe for success in your small business, there are some non-negotiables to ensure that your business is set up for success and that you have the right tools in your toolkit to step confidently into operating an online business.


Whether you are a product based small business or a service-based business, the suggestions and recommendations contained in this article apply.  Even if you are an established business or an existing entrepreneur looking for ways to improve your small business in 2021 – this guide will help get you thinking and moving towards success.


If you are in the beginning of starting up your online business, the overwhelm can put you in a spin.  even worse, it can make you grind to a halt or want to throw in the towel because you do not know where to turn.  That’s definitely not what you want.  I have heard it so many times in various Facebook groups and other online forums.  Questions such as:

  • What do I need to start my business?
  • Do I really need a website?
  • Do I need to take a course or certification before launching my online business?
  • How do I start an online business?

And the list goes on.

 Does this sound like you?

I’m telling you that it doesn’t have to be this way.  I spent several years working in the corporate sector as a project manager and town planner here in Australia, so I know a bit about the need and benefit for having systems and procedures in place.  It might seem fun to dive right in when you have a new business venture or you are a new start up business.  Unfortunately, without a solid strategy in place you are not going to achieve the business success that you deserve.  Rather, you are going to suffer burnout and overwhelm, and that is not going to sustain you or your business.  If we learnt anything from the world that was 2020, it was to focus on what matters in life.  Taking the time to set your business foundations up right will save you time, angst and overwhelm in the short and long term.


This Blog outlines my step-by-step essential guide to starting a new online business that can be applied to many different types of business – products, services, coaching, Etsy etc.  As we kick of 2021, there is no time like the present to really understand what it takes to be successful online.


You have started a business because you are passionate.  Or you are about to start one because you want to quit the 9 to 5, traffic jam, or you have discovered the benefits of working from home and spending more time with your loved ones.  You, my friend, deserve success.   But in the process, don’t get caught up in ‘shiny object’ syndrome.  You don’t need every new app (yep that’s right, Clubhouse can wait), CRM, photography, computer equipment etc to get your business off the ground, but you do need the fundamentals.


I can speak from personal experience when I was starting out the overwhelm and confusion can be intense.  Oh, and those rabbit holes – I would literally disappear for days researching and reading from so many different resources and every aspect related to my business.  I thought I could compare them all and distil the relevant information and everything would be peachy.  This is ok for some things, but there is no one way to run a business.  No one way to find clients.  There are more than 100 strategies to follow on each social media and marketing platform, organic and paid that it can be completely overwhelming.  One of the reasons that there are so many different ways is that there is only one you.

 There is only one you.

 You are unique and your business should be too.  So how do you move forward in the right direction?  That, my friend, is where planning and strategy comes into effect.



7 Step Business Launch

So here is my checklist of 7 steps for your business start-up or business audit if you are already lucky enough to have been in business for a little while.  In my view – these are not negotiable if you want to have a professional business and be ready for success and a streamlined process. Grab the downloadable PDF here so you have an easy reference guide.


1 Business Registration and Set up

2 Branding

3 Money Matters

4 Business Plan

5 Marketing Plan

6 Website

7 Contract Documents


1 Business Registration and Set Up


Legitimising your business in my opinion is the first step on your success pathway.  On more than a few occasions I have read about people asking for help as their business name is already taken as they did not register the name or the domain name first.

For Australian businesses, you need to register your business name and apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN) regardless of whether or not you need to pay GST immediately.  If you use this website you can also check whether a business name already exists.  Regardless of the results, I highly recommend before you do this that you do a domain name (website name) search and secure the domain you want.  Even if you decide that you won’t start off with a website (more on why I think you should later) if you secure your domain name you will have the peace of mind that your business name and matching domain name are available.  There are many places to buy and search for domain names and there is no one particular company that I recommend (I have used both Crazy Domains and Go Daddy for Domain names previously, but feel free to shop around – please note that this is for your domain name purchase only, I recommend being more choosy for web hosting).

A professional email is a must.  Businesses with gmail addresses or similar raise suspicions about the legitimacy of the business to an outsider, and do not necessarily convey that you are committed.  You also want to keep your private and business emails separate.  If you are having a website (which is all of you right?), a good hosting provider such as SiteGround will include email as part of the package.

In terms of business insurance and other legal matters, you are best to refer to in Australia, or the equivalent Government regulations in your area.


2 Branding


With your business name locked in, you can now start your branding package.  If you are new and not quite sure why branding is important, even for small businesses, you can catch up with my Branding Matters Blog here (Business Branding Matters | K Digital Design)

There is a whole other blog post or two in the making about developing your brand colours, logos and the like, but in this blog I am focusing on the ‘what’, more than the ‘how’.   To get you started you should have:


  • A logo – this can be a font or text-based logo, or it can be one that includes a graphic image. Just know that you can change it later, and the simpler you keep it, often the more effective it is, as well as being easy to replicate across your marketing and business material.  It is important to have, but not so important that you need to spend thousands of dollars or weeks of time delaying the start of your business.


  • Brand Colours – have a couple of colours (plus a black and a white tone) to be part of your brand recognition. A light and a darker shade will give you contrast options for your website and marketing material.


  • Client Avatar – ideal client – target audience – these all mean who are the people that you are going to aim your business towards. It doesn’t mean that you cannot help others but giving yourself a client focus will actually help you drill down to the details of what your business is all about, who you are serving, and how you can solve their needs or address their pain points.  I have one client with a client avatar so detailed it is a few pages long and I honestly feel that person exists when I read it.  I also have clients with avatars that are one or two paragraphs – but they still cover what they need to.


When writing your client avatar or client profile, focus on one person.  Who are they? Gender? Age bracket? Income bracket? Spending or other habits?  Where do they hang out online and offline?  This profile will help you refine your product offerings, services and your marketing plan.


Do you see how planning and strategy are starting to link together?


3 Money Matters


Know Your Price before you pitch to your clients.  There are whole strategies that some business coaches teach for working out how to price your services or products.  For product-based businesses, it involves knowing your market, comparing other prices and a general gut feel.


I see a lot of serviced based business owners who struggle with the concept of what to charge and how to charge.  I favour avoiding hourly rate charges as much as possible, and I am often advising virtual assistants to do the same.  Hourly rates mean you are tied to tracking minutes and hours for different clients which adds another layer of administration time and cost to your business.


Instead, value your time and the skills you bring to the table, and the value that you add to your client’s business or the products that you are selling.  This doesn’t mean charge a ridiculously high price  – there still needs to be a market willing to pay the price you are asking, but be sure to cover at least:


– the time equivalent that you would spend on the tasks,

– the expenses you need to cover,

– administration time for your business

– the unique value or service that you provide to your customers.


So that you are making a profit – after all that is how your business is going to be able to afford to keep going, and to grow.


The next step is to stick to your pricing.  Be firm and know that there are clients in every budget and there are also service providers and products in every budget category as well.  A few years ago, I remember Susan Mershon from the Techie Mentor ( saying in a course: “Don’t shop with other people’s wallets”.  This is so true.  You need to set your own prices based on your unique business and your target client.  Charge what you and your services or product is worth to you and what you need to earn to make your business both viable and profitable.  If a client cannot afford you for what you are offering, they are not your ideal client.


Payments and Invoicing

 Getting paid is clearly a must have.  You don’t need anything fancy, nor do you need to engage an accountant.   It really is as simple as choosing a means by which someone can pay you.  Shop based enterprises can set up payment gateways on their website such as through Shopify or WooCommerce on WordPress.  If you are providing a service (one off or ongoing monthly packages) you can use payment processors such as PayPal which are secure and can be setup in a matter of minutes.


There are other options, and they all have fees, but it is part of the cost of doing business and provides a secure payment system for you and your business.   Alternatively, you could do bank transfers, particularly if you are conducting business within the same country.


For service-based businesses you also need to be able to draw up an invoice which outlines the details of the goods or services you are providing, and how much your client will pay you.  PayPal includes the ability to set up invoicing and invoice templates that you can copy and reuse each time for each client.


I also recommend the use of Xero accounting software to keep track of your accounts and payments, but this is something that you can add down the track as there is a monthly cost involved and it is not essential to your business launch phase.


Whatever you do, please remember to set up a separate business bank account from the beginning and keep your business and private accounts separate.



4 Business Plan


The purpose of your Business Plan is to set out what you need to do to achieve the financial and other goals for your business.  As such it will help you prioritise what is important and give you the means to achieve profits.

Having a Business Plan in place means that you can set your business goals for the short, medium, and long term.  Think about what you want to achieve in the first quarter of business, the first 12 months and even a 3 or 5 year plan.    What do you need to do to meet your goals?  Plan the resources that you will need to use in your business.


Your business plan can be one page, or it can be multiple pages.  As long as you have a plan in place to help keep you focused, and it is something you can measure your business growth against.  If some aspects of your business are not working as well as you like, revise or tweak elements of your business to meet your goals.  Perhaps it is your goals that need tweaking to make sure they are attainable in the timeframe that you set.


Keep your business goals SMART.







5 Marketing Plan


Your marketing plan also does not need to be detailed for a new start up.  As long as it is clear to you, relevant for your business, and follows the SMART principles you are on the right track.


My biggest advice would be to choose one main marketing platform to start off with.  Don’t try to do it all, otherwise you will no doubt be spending 80 or 90% of your time on marketing your business and have no time left for the actual work which brings in the money.


Naturally, there is more to do in the beginning stages as you want to network and post in social media to let people know about your new venture.  Choose one main platform to market on – eg Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest, and then use one or more of the others as complementary marketing platforms. Work out which platforms your ideal customer is likely to spend more time on, and the platform that best suits your business. Develop a content plan for a month or so in advance so that you are clear about how you want to engage with your audience.  Repurpose content between different platforms.  Build relationships and add value – its not all about the sales pitch.




For me a website is a must have, not negotiable.  BUT I do recognise that not everyone shares the view that it is essential for a business startup.  I would encourage you to consider at least having a landing page style website where people can get a feel for your business and the face behind the brand.


When I am talking with people about the pros and cons I often ask people to put themselves in the visitor seat.  If you were searching the internet, or reading in a business group and wanted to find out more about a business – how would you feel if that business did not have a website? I am the first to admit that I will walk away and move onto the next business, because I want to explore the business vibe and offerings, without having to send an email or discuss it all by phone.  It is the same as pricing – include this on your website so you can focus your time and energy in engaging with your ideal customer who is on board with your pricing and service offerings.


By having at a one page website, you have the foundations to build upon in the future, and you also have the ability to showcase your portfolio, include your service offerings and provide a means by which people can contact you.  You can also share your social links so people can follow you and keep in touch, even if they do not purchase straight away, they have the opportunity to come back.  Something to remember is that you own and control your website and its content, so I find it’s a worthwhile investment to be able to lead your customers to your domain.


 7 Contract Documents


My final step in the business set up process for service-based businesses is having a contract or service agreement in place – BEFORE you go on the hunt for clients.  This document becomes the basis on which you agree to a scope of work, the amount to be paid, and when payment is to be made.  There is no one contract template that suits all businesses, and it is a personal preference whether you purchase one relevant to your business and your location, or whether you adapt one from others that you have seen.  My checklist contains some more details on what you can include in your contract document. {link here]


I strongly urge service-based businesses not to commence any work until a contract is signed and the initial invoice has been paid.  There have been many tales of woe reported when this has not happened.



You are ready to launch.  Not only that, but you can do so with confidence that you have set up a business that you are invested in and that looks professional and covers you for getting paid what you and your products are worth.


Some Myths Busted


Myth 1 – You Need to Spend Money to Make Money

Yes and no. As outlined above, there are some expenses that you are going to have in getting started, such as business registration, domain name, potentially branding and website set up. Making a professional impression from the outset will get your business off to the right start, setting the right impression for your target audience and instilling confidence in you and your business.


There are plenty of free resources out there – Pinterest is a gold mine for useful tips and information.  If you are going to invest in a course before you launch, ask yourself some key questions first about whether it is necessary for you to launch, or whether it is something that you can add to your business plan once you achieve a certain milestone.  If you need to invest $5,000 in a course to learn a service that you want to offer, then perhaps it’s not the right service for you yet.  You want to be sure that your business offerings and target market are aligned before such an outlay.  On the other hand, if you find a course that provides you with some allied skills such as marketing, using an accounting system for your finances or a project management tool to increase your workflow efficiency for a relatively low cost, that is something that is worthwhile considering.  It may not be essential, but it can save you time and therefore money in the short and long term.  Small costs can be easier to recoup in a short space of time.


Myth 2 – Start A Business in Just 30 minutes

It may not be 30 minutes that is being promoted.  I have seen 5 minutes, 1 hour, 5 days and everything in between and beyond.  Starting your own business is going to take more than 5 minutes, and for most businesses it is going to take more than 5 days.  This doesn’t mean that it is going to take 6 or 12 months to set yourself up for launch, but you do need to be aware that investing in your business, yourself, and your future, takes time to do it properly.  A business set up in 5 days may be possible, especially if it is a service-based business, but it will mean being organised and following each step.  Building a website takes time also, whether you are doing it yourself or engaging an expert.




Being profitable or making money in your business will depend on how well you implement the foundation steps and maintain engagement with your networks and your target audience.


In this Blog we have explored the essentials of starting an online business with a step-by-step plan.  I explained how planning should be a key premise on which start your business from scratch.  Plan your business, your services, your pricing, your marketing strategy.  Planning your business means that you are planning for profit.


If you are an established business, take the time to carry out an audit of what you have.  For example, if you don’t yet have a business plan or a marketing plan, set aside some time now and make one.  Your future self will thank you for it.  These plans provide you with some goals to help you keep track and to keep you accountable to your own business.


I would love to hear what you found useful in this Blog, and if there are any other aspects you would like to see covered in the future.  Happy planning, and celebrate your launch success.


Yours in Design