You can visit a college campus through video tours. You can train for your next sales meeting through simulation games. You can meet your soul mate. You can do all of these things without ever leaving the comfort of your seat.
Something else you can do without ever getting up from your desk? Start a small business. This is, of course, ignoring the advice from medical practitioners that sitting all day poses serious health risks. But generally, most items you need in order to be up and running -- defining your business entity, getting funding, marketing and establishing your online presence -- can be done through the web.
Structure Your Small Business
When starting a small business, you have to consider how your business will be structured. There are legal and tax considerations that come with each type of business entity, though many small business owners choose to form a limited liability company (LLC). Research the options -- which also include sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and s-corporations -- and decide which is right for you.
You can structure your small business without ever leaving your desk. You have three options:
- Work with a third party like Incorporate.com, who can help you form your business and complete all the necessary paperwork for a small fee.
- Do your own legwork.
- Access the proper filing forms through the IRS or refer to your state's website to find out the exact process of registering your company name and filing your business entity. You should find his information in the "Secretary of State" area of the website.
- Get an EIN. One must be secured in order to do things like open a bank account, apply for business licenses, and file your tax returns. You can apply for an EIN for free online through the IRS website.
- Engage with a lawyer to get your paperwork taken care of. He or she may suggest you visit their offices, but in the spirit of staying seated, papers can be signed, scanned and emailed or exchanged via mail.
If you're not funding the company yourself, research other funding options that you may need in order to get your business off the ground. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses rely mostly on owner investment and bank credit, averaging about $80,000 a year. You may consider getting your small business funded via:
- Crowdfunding - Crowdfunding is tapping a community of people who network and pool their money together in order to support business ventures and projects. There are a handful of crowdfunding sites, many of which specialize in a certain type of business. For instance, Kickstarter is for creative endeavors, and CoFolio can help connect you with sources of money for your local business. Logging in and submitting your project or company idea is easily done from the comfort of your office chair.
- Venture Capitalists - It's tough to get venture capitalist money without actually leaving your desk, but you never know -- it's possible some VCs may be wooed via email and Skype. Certainly a lot of your research on pitching and approaching VCs can be done in front of your computer. Nic Brisbourne gives you a great rundown of how to get the attention of VCs via email (hint: brevity is key). If you email a VC, be sure to have done your homework, and keep it short and sweet. Ideally, you would get an introduction from someone they trust, work with, or advise.
- A small bank loan -- If you're completely at a loss on how to find a small business loan, turn to the SBA's loan search tool. Or, do a little digging on the websites of major banks or smaller credit unions in your area. Many allow for applications to be submitted online.
- Friends & family -- Likely, your friends and family are aware of your efforts and your dream to start your own business. Approaching them for a little seed money can be done over email or Skype, though Uncle Ernie may want a full in-person pitch over a cup of tea before he commits.
Launch a Website
It goes without saying that starting your website can be done from your desk. You can contract with a designer and web developer to get your website up and running by reaching out via email or telephone. If you're more of a bootstrapped do-it-yourself small business owner, there are a few steps you have to take to get your .com ready for customers:
- You can register your domain name URL and set up your hosting all in one when you work with companies like Webs.com or Weebly. They specialize in helping small businesses create a professional-looking website easily with no development or programming expertise needed.
- If you're selling products or services through the internet, you should set up an online shopping cart through Yahoo, PayPal, or Google Checkout in order to accept credit card payments.
Create Basic Marketing Materials
If playing around in Photoshop, MS Paint, or even Microsoft Word to create business card templates and logos isn't your thing, you can outsource the design of necessary marketing materials by turning to creative communities like eLance, Odesk, or Design Crowd to get bids from freelancers.
From there, you'll want to set up an email marketing account. The most popular small business email marketing providers are Constant Contact, MailChimp, and AWeber. You'll also want to promote your products and services with social media, offering exclusive content, thoughtful insights, and discounts across social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
It's pretty easy to launch a business without ever having to leave your desk. For many of us, sitting hours a day in front of our computer is commonplace. While we recommend some light stretching and a walk or two around the office each day, we guarantee that launching a small business from your desk is a snap.
Photo sources: seniormoneymemos.com, deutsch-heute.blogspot.com/