How to start a business: 9 steps to get started

You've decided you want to make the leap to self-employment. Congratulations! To help you get the ball rolling, we've put together a 9-step checklist to how to start a business, sourced from our members:

1. Build savings to cover three months of expenses.

This is the tip we hear most often from Stride members— you need savings to get through the lean months. A good rule of thumb is to have savings to cover three months of expenses. However, when you are getting started, you'll have even more expenses, so may even want four to six months worth of savings to give yourself extra runway.

“Pay close attention to what you spend per month, and set income goals for next month.”
— Amanda, Designer @

2. Develop your network.

The second biggest piece of advice we get from Stride members is to build out your network. Depending on you type self-employed business, network may not be as crucial. However, if you have a business where you need to find clients (read: most freelance jobs), you'll want to hit up as many networking events in your area as possible. Check out Meetups in your area.

3. Download our planning worksheet.

Making a full-blown business plan can be intimidating. That's why we've made a simple, six-month action plan to help you define your goals and create a roadmap for what you should tackle first. It will help you:

  1. Define and describe your business
  2. Develop a set of promises to your customers
  3. Deliver on those promises
  4. Make a six-month action plan to achieve your goals.

Download the PDF worksheet to get started!

4. Learn, learn, learn.

If there are any free training and counseling services for entrepreneurs in your area, go to local events to know what you don’t know. In addition, check out free resources online like YouTube, paid education resources such as Lynda, and job-specific advice for your line of work.

“When I started freelancing, everything became a relationship— not just a piece of work.”
— Christian, Motion Graphics @

5. Look into business entity options.

There are a number of reasons why you may want to consider forming an LLC or S-Corp rather than operating a Sole Proprietorship. See our overview of the pros and cons of an LLC vs. S-Corp. Regardless of the entity you chose, you'll need to register your business name with your state and/or local government.

6. Get a tax identification number (optional).

There’s no avoiding taxes, but you might be able to avoid this step. Sole Proprietors are not required to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), if they do not have any employees. If you opt for an LLC or S-Corp, you’ll need to pick up an EIN.

“After talking to another freelancer, I realized I didn’t actually need an LLC.”
— Leslie, Freelance Writer @

7. Know where (and when) you should work.

Location goes hand-in-hand with networking. A good location will help you reach your target customers. If you are a designer living the digital nomad lifestyle, can you build your network on the road? If you’re an Uber Driver, do you know the tips and tricks to finding surge zones? Are you driving at the right time of day?

8. Apply for a business license.

Depending on your type of business, you may need to apply for a license or permit from the state or local government. Find exactly what permits you’ll need in your state.

9. Protect yourself from unexpected expenses.

Now that you are self-employed, you should consider protecting yourself from big expenses that can set you back, financially. Insurance can help you transfer big bills and keep more money in your pocket, if you find coverage that works for your lifestyle. To save you time and help you make the best decision for your unique needs, we've built recommendation tools for health, dental, or vision plans that are customized for self-employed lifestyles.

What tips do you have for freelancers and self-employed individuals? Comment below!