Launching your own business – the unsexy but need to know details!

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

Shannon Cummings, Manager at the Women’s Enterprise Centre, YWCA Hamilton, spoke to the tellent community about how to set yourself up for success with self-employment.

The YWCA in Hamilton runs a comprehensive 16-week program to help entrepreneurs get established. Shannon offered us some tips and insights for getting started with self-employment.

1. Assess your readiness

When you’re starting out, you are a one-person operation which can mean a lot of work and a lot of challenges. Understanding why you want to be self-employed and setting a goal is the first step.

Refine your business idea, conduct market research and develop a business plan. Connecting to a goal or purpose will keep you motivated, learning and moving forward but you still need a plan and direction.

When you’re ready, make the decision to do it and do it!

2. Create an action plan

Your business plan, is rooted in strategy, and describes your vision, mission and overarching goals. An action plan will help you put your theories into practice. Create a big picture “to-do” list – break down the complex, overwhelming tasks into manageable ones and start moving forward.

Having an action plan will help you remain focused on your goals as time goes on and can prevent you from getting distracted. Revisit your vision, mission statement and business plan on a regular basis.

3. Make it official

You are going to need to register your business.

But first you will need to decide how you want to structure your business. You will also need to consider if you need any particular licenses or permits to operate.

The tax implications and longevity of the business will be different based on your choice. NUANS is a fantastic resource to look up registered business names in Canada.

There are lots of resources for starting a small business on the CRA website to help you navigate this process and make it official.

4. Finances

Putting your financial data in order early is critical to your success and should be part of developing your business plan.

You will need to open a business bank account and decide how you are going to get paid.

Opening a business bank account in Canada is a straightforward process. You will need two valid forms of identification for the business owner, including at least one photo ID and at least one document that is government issued. Supporting company documentation is required depending on your company structure. Make sure you know what to bring before you show up to your first appointment!

How you get paid will depend on the nature of your business. If you’re just issuing a few invoices a year, then maybe electronic transfers will work just fine.

But if you want to be able to do recurring billing, or accept credit card payments, you will need to establish other systems of payment using merchant services such as PayPal or Stripe.

Having a clear understanding of your financials will help you to refine your product or service offering and evaluate your business success.

5. Promote yourself

No one can buy your product or service if they don’t know about it! How you talk about your product or service and who you are talking to (your brand) should be defined in your business plan. This is should inform where you talk about it.

Think about how and where you will connect to your future consumers and clients. Will it be through word of mouth? If so, where is your target market congregating? Online? In person? What events can you attend or communities can you join to access those consumers?

Create a website. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive and there are some really simple tools available to help you get started.

Head on over to to chose and register a domain name.

6. Get support

Connecting yourself to a mentor or a business coach will greatly increase your chance of success.

They can help you stay focused and they will offer you a fresh perspective, experience and perhaps industry expertise.

Use existing resources at are available to you at low to no cost. The YWCA Hamilton is a great example. There are also online entrepreneurs groups and government supported start up incubators.

Self-employment can be an incredibly quiet and lonely place, so networking is good for your soul, but word of mouth referral is the greatest and cheapest way to promote your business. You may also come into some great partnerships or ideas along the way.

Tellent is fantastic example of a great network that supports self-employed women with the chat platform that is available plus the informative and insightful webinars like this one. We are all here to support one another in our pursuit for flexible work.