Your role and Blogging experience

As an entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur you should be expecting to get your hands dirty in building your new business. If you are partially or completely bootstrapping the operation, this may mean taking the approach that hobby bloggers take and doing pretty much everything yourself. But even if you plan to hire staff, it’s still good to actively work in one or more of the roles in the business. In particular, it’s a very good idea to have experience in the writing and editing capacities. These are the pillars of blogging and knowing them intimately is not only important should you be short-staffed, but it will also help you with planning and strategy.

Beyond writing and editing

Beyond writing and editing, your role as entrepreneur is really to do whatever is needed. This might mean high-level tasks like marketing, accounting, monetization, and management. It will probably also include a lot of strategy and set-up work. This book will guide you through the many and varied tasks you will find yourself working on. If there is one piece of advice I can give that will serve you well in building a business in blogging, it is to get some experience as a blogger before you commit money and resources to the project. Even if you are a horrible writer, even if you aren’t sure what to write about, the experience is so useful that I encourage you to do it anyway.

It’s very easy to get started, and the difficulties and questions you encounter will make the following chapters much more useful and interesting. So if you haven’t blogged before, pick a topic you are interested in and set aside a few weeks to intensively blog on the subject, to do your best to get noticed, and to learn about the mechanics of blogging. At the end of this book is an appendix chapter (The Blog Basics Crash Course) where you will find an absolute beginner’s guide to blogging, covering setting up, common terminology, and many other basics. If you’ve never blogged before, I can’t recommend enough reading through this and starting your own blog while you plan your larger blog enterprise.

Setting up as a Business

The first steps in creating your new enterprise are ones that virtually any business needs to go through: registering the business, getting advice, and opening a bank account. Here’s a quick rundown of some of these tasks.

Legal Counsel

When setting up any business, it’s important to know a lawyer who you can contact for legal work such as writing a privacy policy, trademarking a brand name, setting up a business structure, drafting contracts for staff, and other general legal work. Early on, you are unlikely to need their services often, but it’s best to establish a relationship before the need arises. Moreover, a quick consultation might give you a heads-up on an issue to keep in mind for the future. When my company set up our first website, it never crossed anyone’s mind that we had another company’s trademark (whose products were heavily related to the site) as part of our own site’s name. Years later, we ended up having to change the name, hand over the domain name, and the whole thing was very time-consuming and expensive. Had we had some simple legal counsel early on, the whole issue could have been avoided!

If you don’t already have a legal firm or lawyer you have used in the past, ask around for a recommendation. If you cannot get a personal recommendation, then find out if there is a local law association or business development centre who can assist you. The law firm that I use at work was recommended by a small business incubator that the government was running in my city. We visited the incubator while looking for office space, and while we were there asked the person who ran the organization if he knew any good law firms. As it happened, they had a lawyer who came in on Fridays to offer free introductory counseling for startups. We got in touch with him and years later we still work together!

When you have a company in mind

When you have a company in mind, you can ask for a consultation and give them a rundown of what you are planning on doing (i.e., opening a blog). Tell them you want to set up a relationship, and maybe ask if there are any particular legal issues you should be thinking about this early on. Many law firms won’t charge for the first consultation (though you should double check this) so it’s a good time ask any broad questions you have. Always ask for an estimate for any actual work you discuss before commencing so you don’t get any surprises.

It’s not a bad idea to meet with a few different firms and lawyers. This will allow you to find someone you feel comfortable talking to, that you understand, and that you feel knows at least a little bit about working online. It will also give you a chance to compare rates if you ask each lawyer to estimate on a specific comparable job such as trademarking a business name or writing a privacy policy.

Accounting

Having well-maintained and accurate accounts is vital for any business because your accounts allow you to map out what is happening in the business. These accounts only get more and more important the bigger the business gets, as everything becomes more complex with more money involved. Moreover, if you don’t have a solid foundation to begin with, then you will have a lot more trouble putting it in later, so it’s best to get this right from the very beginning.

A good accountant can help you with financial advice, help plan your business, make sure you pay as little tax as possible, and ensure you don’t get into trouble with the tax department. As with finding a lawyer, the best way to find an accountant is to ask around. Look for recommendations from people you work with, friends and family, anyone you know in a similar business, or any local business groups or associations. You should be looking for someone who is a registered accountant, and whom you understand and feel comfortable talking to. While an accountant will provide advice and manage the more major financial events for your business, you may find that they are too expensive.

Blogging as a Business for your day-to-day book keeping

Blogging as a Business for your day-to-day book keeping: writing up financial records of incoming and outgoing transactions. If this is the case, then you can either do it yourself or hire a bookkeeper. Keeping your own books is largely a matter of being organized and consistent. If you go down this path, get yourself some bookkeeping software such as QuickBooks and pick up a book, or enroll in a seminar on the subject.

Because it’s such a common necessity, bookkeeping is often a popular crash course at universities and local colleges. The most important thing is to be extremely diligent about keeping everything up to date. An accountant will often suggest a system that works well with their own processes, so that you can deliver your books to them on a regular basis in order to have your taxes done or your books audited. Even if you choose to maintain your own accounting books, you will still want an accountant for high-level advice on tax, set-up, and how to structure ownership. If you don’t want to keep your own records, an accountant can usually also recommend a bookkeeper or even do the job themselves.

whether you keep your own books

Regardless of whether you keep your own books, if you aren’t very familiar with accounting and business, it’s not a bad idea to buy a basic book on the subject such as a Dummies guide on the subject. Getting an understanding for terminology and concepts like balance sheets and profit and loss statements will go a long way toward making sure you know what your accountant is saying to you and ensuring you have a fair understanding of the financial realities of your business.

When you choose your accountant, you’ll want to ask them questions about how to keep your financial records, what types of paperwork you need to keep, what types of receipts and expenses should be coming out of the business, and what issues they foresee for your blog business. Before your first consultation, write down every question you can come up with and just run through them. If you don’t understand what they are saying, ask. If you still don’t understand, consider finding another accountant – not all of them are good communicators!

When you are setting up the business, make sure you record every expense related to your business, so at tax time, you will be able to claim a wealth of new business-related deductions and save yourself a lot of money. Again, your accountant will be able to tell you what is tax-deductible in your region. The most important thing to remember is that having consistent good habits from the very start makes life much easier in the long run. In particular, documenting everything will ensure that even if you have to change accountants or run into problems, you can always backtrack and work it all out again.

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