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tarting a new business is exciting. It's an opportunity to share your vision, pursue your passions, and leave your mark on the world. Whether you're building a startup or freelancing, you'll have complete control over your future. However, it's important to put a framework in place for success—and finances form an essential part of the foundation of your business.

Startups and freelancers need tailored strategies

As a new business owner, you're striking out on your own. You might have a few clients lined up or a stellar product idea, but you may not have a steady revenue stream—at least, not yet. It takes time to build a loyal customer base, and in the meantime, you may have some expenses to take care of. Things like business licenses, product development, marketing, and hiring employees bite into your earnings, so carefully managing your finances is necessary for sustainable growth.

To maintain their company's stability in the early days, business owners can turn to a few different financial resources—their savings, a line of credit, or an equity investor. Early revenues can also help preserve a company's financial footing. However, you'll want to establish effective financial management processes so you can focus on your work—and worry less about what's in the bank.

Seven strategies for developing your startup or freelancer business

Here are a few strategies for startups & freelancers to consider as you navigate your new role as a business owner.

1. Create a business plan

Your business plan details your company's goals and objectives. It outlines your business activities, including what you'll sell, your target customer base, and your marketing strategy. Most business plans include descriptions of financial plans and future projections, which help business owners establish sales benchmarks.

A business plan can be as long or short as you like. However, detailed plans that address your company's fundamentals—your mission, organizational structure, market analysis, and product and service descriptions—can serve as a roadmap as you build your organization. Longer business plans can also reassure investors or lenders you approach for financing opportunities.

2. Define your budget

Preparing a budget helps you understand the future expenses you'll be accountable for. It includes your projected revenues and any known or anticipated costs. Establishing a forward-looking monthly budget for the next year or longer allows you to estimate your costs against your incoming sales and your savings or business financing. []

Using your budget, you can determine how to allocate your available resources. It can also help you evaluate critical business decisions. For instance, if you're on an extremely tight budget, you might forego hiring new employees until you're financially stable.

3. Outline your cash flow

Cash flow reflects the amount of money coming in and out of your company during a specific period, such as a week, month, or year. The money coming in reflects cash received from customer sales or debt or equity financing, while the money flowing out reflects business expenses.

Knowing your cash flow helps determine whether you have a cash deficiency or surplus each period. A surplus means an increase to your cash balance, while a deficiency requires you to draw from available reserves to meet your obligations. If you anticipate a negative cash flow during the initial stages of your business, it can help you determine how much money you need to have in savings or available through financing to keep your company running.

4. Understand your tax obligations

Paying taxes is a part of being a responsible business owner, and you'll want to fully understand the obligations that apply to your company. At a minimum, you'll need to file a federal tax return, and you may need to file a state return, too. Some cities and localities also require business owners to pay local taxes.

Your business structure and whether you hire employees can impact your tax requirements. For instance, a freelancer operating under the sole proprietorship structure might owe self-employment and business taxes, while a startup corporation with a handful of employees might owe business and payroll taxes.

If you're unsure about your tax obligations, speaking with a qualified accountant or tax professional who can advise you of your responsibilities is wise. That way, you'll understand your filing requirements and can budget for your tax liabilities.

5. Establish an accounting process

Even if you only have a handful of business expenses and sales in the first months of your business, it's crucial to develop a thorough accounting process that documents your company's transactions. Your transactions form the basis of your financial reports, which you'll use when preparing your taxes. Lenders or investors may request a copy of your financial reports if you decide to seek financing in the future.

If you're comfortable handling accounting independently, you could purchase inexpensive accounting software for your business activities. Some accounting software tools include integrations that connect directly to your business bank account, making it easier to categorize your sales and business expenses.

Business owners strapped for time may find hiring an employee or external accounting service advantageous to manage their organization's finances. Hiring someone eliminates the headache of handling things yourself, but it is an additional cost to plan for.

6. Open a business bank account

Mixing personal and business finances in the same checking account is never a good idea. Depending on your company's structure, you may lose certain legal protections over your personal assets if you combine business and personal transactions. Instead, establish a business bank account exclusively for your organization. Use it for all your business transactions, including sales and expenses.

You can open a business bank account with your preferred financial institution or shop around for a bank that offers features that benefit your business, like low fees or speedy transfers. Novo's business banking is tailored for business owners and includes no monthly fees or required minimum balances. It's a powerful banking solution that integrates with popular business tools, including QuickBooks, Shopify, and Xero. Plus, Novo also offers free invoicing tools and analytics to monitor your business earnings and expenses.

7. Document your financial transactions

Get in the habit of recording all your financial transactions and saving that documentation in an accessible place. That way, if you need to refer to the transaction later, you'll have a record. For instance, say the IRS decides to audit your business taxes. It might ask for proof of your office or employee expenses. If you have your receipts on hand, you can easily provide them and satisfy the IRS requirements.

You can keep physical or digital copies of your receipts and sales contracts. Some business owners save both. It's good practice to keep all documents for at least six years after filing a tax return. By law, owners must keep records for three years following a tax filing.

Get your business off to a flying start

Taking the proper steps now prepares your business for a solid future. Start by outlining your business plan and establishing a budget. Then, speak with an advisor to help you understand your tax responsibilities. Developing a robust financial process ensures you have the tools to sustain business growth.

Novo offers an ideal business banking solution tailored for startup owners and freelancers. With our business banking platform, you'll receive lots of features, including free invoicing, fast transfers, and no monthly fees. Sign up today to experience what Novo has to offer!

Novo is a fintech, not a bank. Banking services provided by Middlesex Federal Savings, F.A.: Member FDIC.

Novo Platform Inc. strives to provide accurate information but cannot guarantee that this content is correct, complete, or up-to-date. This page is for informational purposes only and is not financial or legal advice nor an endorsement of any third-party products or services. All products and services are presented without warranty. Novo Platform Inc. does not provide any financial or legal advice, and you should consult your own financial, legal, or tax advisors.

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