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The idea of starting your own business is exciting, but it can also be a little intimidating. Becoming an entrepreneur can sometimes feel like you are exploring an uncharted territory, but rest assured plenty have come before and there are many ways to get started as a successful entrepreneur. But just where do you start?

Evaluate yourself
Take stock. Really consider how you like to spend your time. An entrepreneur doesn’t just get to do the cool thing you are thinking about doing – they also have to do the hiring (and the firing), the training, the bookkeeping, the sales, the marketing, and more, especially in the beginning. Make sure you are prepared for that kind of commitment before you start.

Develop your idea and do your market research
Great ideas come everyday, but determining just how great an idea will depend on whether or not you can sell other people on it. Just because you think that a new device designed to scratch the back of pet ferrets is a good idea, doesn’t mean that everyone will. Research your market. Develop your product or service and get feedback before you plow ahead.

Separate business from personal
In all things, try to separate your business life from your personal life, but particularly in your financial transactions. Open a separate business account, and make sure you keep your receipts for your taxes.

Write your business plan
Even if you think you know exactly what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, writing a business plan can help you not just present yourself to others, but answer questions you may not have thought about. A proper business plan can also help you put together your marketing plan and give you a way to formally present your ideas to investors or lenders.

Establish a budget
It’s important to know just how much you have to spend and how much things will cost. Allot for office expenses (right down to the new stapler) as well as for marketing and marketing materials. If you have to pay someone right away, make sure you understand the tax implications of hiring an employee or a subcontractor.

Establish your legal structure
It’s important to start out right away in the right legal structure. Should you incorporate? Should you incorporate as an LLC? Should you stay a sole proprietor? Should you enter into a partnership. Consult an attorney if it helps and make sure your assets are protected especially if things don’t go as well as you plan.

Keep marketing!
No matter what, keep the pedal to the metal on marketing. In this age of digital everything, companies flash before people’s eyes and they don’t know who or what is doing what. Make sure your marketing message is clear and that people see it often. None of your hard work setting up your business will matter if no one knows who you are.