Starting a new business is an exciting time. As a new trainer, you want to get started training dogs, but you know that you need to get your business and legal “pups” in a row, first. But where to start? Should you form your LLC, choose a name, decide what services to offer and how to price them, or get a logo first?
As a business lawyer and an entrepreneur, I have started or help to start many new businesses. What I have learned is this: start juggling right now! Decisions about your name, business entity, services, and logo are all inter-related. (Not to mention permits and business registrations, whether to hire employees, location, business processes like waivers and contracts, and on and on.). It is not possible to start on just one, without taking into account the others. But the good news is that not everything has to be finalized at once. Here is a sample chronology showing how you might go through the steps of setting up your business.
- Brainstorm the services you will want to offer. Group classes, private lessons, online courses? Focusing on puppies, aggression, sports? Who will your clients be? (Individuals with time and money to spend on dog sports? Families with children? People in your immediate area with new puppies? People around the country with a dog with a very specific, significant behavior problem?)
- Do some brainstorming about a name for your business, but don’t get your heart set on one yet. Will you simply use your own name as the name of the business? Or an original name that you might eventually be able to trademark? Should it be cute and fun? Or edgy and energetic? Or serious and professional?
- Decide on what type of business entity to use. You may want to be a sole proprietor or partnership, or you may want to form an LLC. If you do decide to form an LLC, you will need a unique name for it that hasn’t been used in your state. Remember that you can name your LLC one thing and operate your business under a different name (this is what is meant by “doing business as” or “d/b/a”). That way you can form your LLC before knowing what your official business name will be.
- Settle on the services you are going to offer. DTU offers lots of resources on how to decide how many clients you need and what to charge in order to make a living.
- Set up your paperwork and processes (intake form, email templates, waiver form, contracts for client signatures)
- Settle on a name to use. If you think you may want to trademark your business name, do this in consultation with a trademark attorney.
- Get a tax ID number and business bank account.
- Register with your state or local authorities, if necessary.
- Set up social media accounts and a website, if you are going to have one.
- Begin networking and marketing.
- Buy insurance. Do this before working with your first client (or as soon as possible if you’ve already started).
- Accept your first client!
There are many more details, and again, many of the steps are dependent on other steps. You will likely find yourself moving forward bit-by-bit on multiple fronts at once. But with some research and patience you can get your business launched. Having support from others who have gone through the process can help tremendously. If you are thinking of starting a dog training business, join our community “Dog Trainers Umbrella” and introduce yourself. We’re happy to answer questions!
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