Welcome to the final post in our how to make money with WordPress series! It’s about time right? We’ve already covered how to generate an income from your WordPress blog as an affiliate and as a creator. The next step is to take care of all the other things that need to be done to turn your blog into a full-fledged business.
Before getting started we just want to make it clear: we are not lawyers or public accountants. We are not giving you legal or financial advice. We are simply sharing the steps we took to start our business plus some tips on what worked for us. We recommend taking the time to do plenty of research on your own and possibly talking with a professional before you make any decisions.
Create A Brand
When creating a business or blog you’ll need to think about what you want your overall brand to be. This involves a ton of factors. According to the American Marketing Association a brand includes:
name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers
Choosing A Name
Alternatively you can come up with another name, although we suggest creating a name based on your niche. And truth be told – your business name might just come down to what domain names are still available. That’s what happened when we chose WPExplorer. We sat at our computer desk and just kept typing combinations of WP and other words into the GoDaddy registrar. WPExplorer was available, it worked, and turns out it was the perfect fit for our brand.
Creating A Logo
Once you have a name you need to decide if you want an image to go with it. Many businesses simply use their name as a logo. If you want to go this route you might want to consider a Google font or event a premium font (such as those from Typekit, or available on design marketplaces like Creative Market) to add a bit of visual interest.
If you want to create an image logo there are a ton of great options. We have an entire article on with budget friendly options for creating a logo for your website. Or you could give Shopify’s free logo builder a try.
When we created our logo we decided that we wanted to work with a designer directly. So we spent tons of time on Dribbble researching logos. We found Stevan Rodic and we absolutely love how our logo turned out. We tweaked the colors a bit when we did our big redesign a few years ago, but the telescope has pretty much remained the same (in fact – we love it so much we even added it to FontAwesome).
Choosing A Website Design
To really tie together all the different elements of your brand you’ll need to choose an awesome website design. Just like most things in life you have a couple options.
Your first option is to use a theme. To have the most control over the look of your website we suggest a multipurpose theme with plenty of customizer options as well as a page builder. Of course we’d love it if you’d give our Total WordPress theme a try since it really is one of the most feature rich themes on the web. But there are a ton of great business WordPress themes available for every budget. A theme is easy to setup and most come with great documentation so you can easily get your new design setup quick (Total even features a built-in demo importer so you can import sample data in just a few clicks).
Your second option is to have a custom design created just for your website. If you’re a developer (lucky for us we have AJ and he’s awesome) you don’t have to spend a dime. You can custom create your own theme, which by extension is a great representation of your brand. If you aren’t a developer then a custom theme and design will probably cost you a pretty big chunk of change. Bespoke themes can cost anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, but a custom theme means that your website will look exactly how you want it. Try a website like Upwork, Freelancer or you could try asking some of your favorite theme developers if they’re available.
Make It Official
Once you’ve figured our your branding the next big step is to make your business official. Depending on the country, State and city you live in these steps may be different but we can at least give you a look at what we did.
Forming Your Business
When you decide it’s time to legally create a business there are four main business types you’ll most likely be choosing from:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- S or C Corporation
LegalZoom has a great page where you can learn about the different business types and choose which is right for you. We actually found LegalZoom when doing our research and we used them to file as an LLC. This worked great for us since we could function as a partnership, but still keep our business and personal finances completely separate.
When you create your business through LegalZoom you also have the option to hire a Registered Agent through them. Your agent is sort of like a middle man – if you ever need to serve or receive legal docs they’ll step in and help provide a friendly face (that’s not yours). Plus, with a registered agent subscription from LegalZoom you’ll also have access to a handy compliance calendar to be sure you never miss a deadline.
And while you’re at it, you might want to consider filing a trademark your name or logo. This protects the use of your name in the future, as well as you rights to the use of your business name or logo in domain URLs, social media accounts, media and more.
Once you’ve created your business, you need to register it according to your locale. For those of you in the USA this typically means registering with your Federal, state, city and possibly your county government offices.
You’ll want to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the Federal government. This is basically a social security number for your business. It’s what you’ll use on your business taxes, W-9 forms, 1099-Misc forms and all the paperwork required to register everywhere else. If you are a sole proprietorship you have the option to use your own social security number on your business docs or to register for an EIN. We would really encourage new businesses to take the time to get an EIN, if only to keep your private information private. LegalZoom makes this easy since if I remember correctly these documents are all included in the package (just sign and mail them in).
With your business created, you’ll also need to register for a State Business License. Many states make all of this information available online (Nevada for example even has a super easy online business portal to make things even easier), or you can turn to LegalZoom for a bit more help. Typically states as for information on the type of business you operate, articles of organization, a list of managers, whether you have employees, etc.
Getting even closer to home you’ll also need a City and/or County Business License as well. We suggest calling your county office first to see if you’ll need to register with them as well as the city you operate your business from. Where we’re located we only need a city license and can skip the county one, but back in the day when we were in California we needed to register with both.
In addition to these licenses, you might have to file for more permits and documents to cover the other aspects of your business that aren’t online. If you have employees, company vehicles or a physical storefront (hello Police and Fire department approval) these are all added permits you’ll have to look into. For example we filed for a home occupation permit in California since our office was in our home. Check the websites for your state and local governments, give them a call or even hire a lawyer if you want to be sure you’ve done everything right.
Hiring Employees & Freelancers
With your business up and running you might find yourself in need of some help. Before posting help wanted ads consider whether you’re in the market for employees or freelancers to lend a hand.
An employee works for you, has set duties, uses your equipment/resources, operates within your schedule, is paid hourly or per salary and receive company benefits (reimbursements, insurance, workers comp, etc.). If you have employees you’ll need to collect W-4 forms, issue W-2 forms, organize retirement and health benefits among a bevy of other legal requirements. The main benefits of hiring employees include the ability to control the work method and schedule used. Employees are an extension of yourself.
A freelancer (or independent contractor) works for themselves, sets their own schedule, is paid per contract and received no benefits. You do have to issue a 1099-Misc to any contractor who is a citizen or resident of the USA you paid $600 or more in a tax year. But this is an easy form you can pick up at any office supply store in January. The benefits of hiring a freelancers include the ability to hire specialists on a per project basis and you’ll save a bit of cash and lots of time since you aren’t required to provide benefits.
Carefully consider what your individual business requires before hiring anyone. And be sure to do your own research or talk to a professional about the legal and tax requirements in your locale for adding new members to your team (for example – Nevada has state labor laws, a modified state business tax, unemployment insurance laws and workers compensation insurance that all come into effect if you hire an employee).
Accounting & Taxes
Running your own business is great since you get to be your own boss and make your own schedule. But when it’s your business you’re also the one in charge of finances, budgets and of course reporting & taxes.
It’s important to keep good financial records for your business. Depending on how complicated your finances are you might be able to get by with do-it-yourself accounting software such as QuickBooks or Sage. But there are advantages to hiring professionals. When you hire your own bookkeeper or go through a service like Bench or a local accounting firm it takes the stress off you, freeing up more of your time to focus on what it is you do best.
In addition to general accounting, there are of course taxes to consider. If you’re in the USA you will need to file federal taxes and most likely state taxes for your business. And depending on what you’re selling and where, you may have a variant of sales taxes due each month or quarter. The IRS has a great small business page that has tons of information for you to read up on, but here are a few of the more common tax forms we file at the end of each year just to give you an idea:
- 1099-Misc: You must mail these to independent contractors (located in the USA) who have been paid over $600 at the end of each fiscal year.
- 1065 plus Schedule K-1: For LLCs operating as a partnership you’ll file your business tax return with this form. The schedule K-1 within the form is used to report partner income.
- Consumer Use Tax: This is a local form that we use in Nevada and file after each fiscal year. We use it to declare the sale of tangible goods (we are required to file even thought we have none – and yes, we talked to the tax department for our city to be 100% sure).
Keep Getting Better
Once you have your business up and running you can start making improvements. There are many ways to grow and improve a business, but here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Get Involved With The Community
We mean both the WordPress and your local community. Attend a WordCamp in your area, donate your time or money to a local charity, join the Chamber of Commerce, or even take on an intern from a local college if you’re able. There are a ton of great ways to get involved if you get a bit creative. Community events are a great way to network with other small businesses in your area.
Professional Associations & Conferences
Another great way to grow is by joining professional associations and attending conferences relevant to your niche. If you work with WordPress this could include events like LoopConf, Affiliate Summit and WordCamp US. Not only are these great places to learn your craft but you’ll get a bit of networking in to boot. If you can afford it, become a sponsor. This goes a long way to grow your brand awareness, and it’s even easier to network when people can walk up to you at your booth.
Grow Your Network
In addition to hiring employees or freelancers it’s great to expand your professional network by reaching out to others in your industry. Cross-promote your business by teaming up with other blogs and exchanging posts. Support complementary businesses by buying ad space on their websites (if you offer hosting, look for ad spots on blogging websites). Team up with other industry brands to plan events or giveaways. There are a ton of ways to get creative and work together to both benefit.
There is of course much more that we didn’t cover – but we hope what we did included was helpful. These are just some of the steps we took to get started and methods we use to promote ourselves.
If you have any questions about running your own WordPress business feel free to ask – we’ll do our best to help and point you in the right direction. Or if you have tips of your own please share in the comments section!