No matter what your business ideas or plans are, the most important thing is to take action. According to the AJOT article, “Wanted: Entrepreneurs in Occupational Therapy“, entrepreneurship in occupational therapy takes on many forms.
OT Small Business Types
When most people think of starting a small business in occupational therapy, they are likely thinking of private practice. However, entrepreneurship in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 world may require approaches in different directions. There has never been a better time to kickstart your idea.
This post outlines the 6 important steps to starting your small business.
1. Business Name
Come up with a business name. This is the most fun part, but also the most important. While the name you decide on can be changed, once you are established and have registered and become licensed, etc., it can be costly and a lot of work to change it in the future
Conduct research on Google to see if such a name already exists. Is the type of business you are starting only going to involve you, a partner(s), or additional employees as you grow? Or is it a type of product that needs a catchy name?
Will the business name include your name? Why is this important? If your business name includes a part of your name, then you will not need to register for DBA/FBN once you become serious and start earning money. DBA stands for doing business as and FBN stands for a fictitious business name and is often used interchangeably. For example, OTDUDE is obviously not my real name, so I had to register in my local county for a DBA license. This allows business owners to be accountable, including legally. The DBA will associate a business name such as OTDUDE to the owner and co-owner’s real name(s). The process of applying for these licenses is straight forward and not too expensive but beyond the scope of this post. In general, it involves filling out an application, paying a fee, and paying for an ad in your local newspaper to make your new business name “official”.
2. Business Credit Card
It is a good idea to now separate your business finances from your personal finances. If you have good credit, research some good business credit cards to apply for. Many come with good cashback rewards or incentives. Business expenses come in many forms and nearly all of them can be put on a credit card. Savings could equate to thousands when you increase your expenses in the future.
3. Domain Name Registration
After you have come up with a name, it is a good idea to reserve a domain name aka web site address. Why? It prevents it from being taken by a third party. In the US, .com domain names are also becoming more scarce. While .com’s are not the only domain names available, they are the most common and sought after. Others include .net and .org.
Domain name registration is also quite affordable. Currently, OTDUDE.com domain name registration costs only $12/year.
How do you register for a domain name? We like using Google Domains because it has an easy to use domain checker to see if a domain name is already taken but also because it can mask your private information from the public. The process is quite straightforward and intuitive. Once you register for a domain name, you can rest easy and decide on which web hosting provider to use down the road to “power” your website.
4. Social Media Accounts (Free)
The power of social media for small businesses should not be underestimated. Social media allows small business owners like you to build brand awareness and traffic without any cost, or for advertising down the road. There are numerous companies out there and this is constantly changing. The most important thing is to register your social media accounts before they get taken by a third party, similar to your domain name.
Try to be consistent and use the same usernames across the platforms. This allows users to easily find you and for cohesiveness. If an account is already taken, you may need to get creative. For example, our social media accounts mostly have the username @otdudedotcom.
5. Mailing Address
As your business grows, it is important to appear professional. Even if your business will be conducted in a home office setting, you do not want to list your home address publicly for privacy reasons.
If you are starting a small practice, then your mailing address will naturally be the commercial office that you rent. You may have heard of PO Boxes from USPS. This is the most affordable option, but also the most limited. Restrictions include: limited physical access times, smaller boxes, decreased ability to accept mail from other carriers (such as UPS, Fedex), and lots of entities (banks, governmental agencies) do not accept PO Boxes as a business address.
A more worthwhile solution if you do not rent physical office space is using UPS rental boxes. UPS is well established and with UPS rental boxes, you get to have an “office looking” address such as 123 Grand Street Suite #11, San Francisco, CA and the ability to accept all mail. You can even get alerted by Apps when you receive mail – something that PO Boxes does not offer. With PO Boxes, you would have to physically check your mail.
An alternative to carrier mail boxes such as UPS are “virtual mailboxes” such as iPostal1.com. This service is similar to UPS boxes, but more affordable and based on a “pay as you go” model – you pay to shred mail, forward mail, and accept packages.
6. Logo Design
Another fun and creative part is the creation of your logo. If you are artistic and familiar with software such as Illustrator, then have at it. Otherwise, we recommend hiring a professional. A logo is the identity of your new business. While logos can be changed, it is important to have it done right from the start. Check out Upwork to hire freelancers for your logo. Upwork is also great for finding freelancers in general for projects such as web design, print media – you name it. After some drafts have been designed, get some feedback from your friends and family. This helps to give additional feedback and help you make a good logo decision.
These 6 steps will get you off the ground and started with your small business. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, but they are simple steps that be taken for any small business entrepreneur. Good luck! Let us know in the comments your experience with this process and any additional tips that may be helpful.