How to create your very own veterinary house call start-up, without getting off the couch (at least for steps 1-5 out of 8)
Step 1 - What shall we call you?
Can you think of any really cool names? Think of all the best trending businesses - what makes them different? Google, Uber, Chipotle - Make up your own word if you want. Honestly if you’re looking for a .com website, every actual word in the dictionary is long gone - people make a lot of money brokering domains.
If you want to create a brand, find a name that is not already in existence anywhere else in the world. Not only for registering the LLC but also for your .com website, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and all the other possible online accounts. Even if you think you don’t want these accounts, if you don’t nab them up when you can, they may not be available in the future.
If you never plan on branding or expanding regions you can incorporate your city name - ToledoHomeVet.com (I have no idea if that already exists). Just for continuity, you probably do want to make sure that at least the Facebook name is available, along with any other social media platforms you’re privy to.
TIP TIME - This entire step from idea to domain ownership probably took me a little over an hour. I bought www.vettodoor.com and my sister, who is an artist, asked me why I didn’t buy www.vet2door.com. I did that within 10 minutes. Then I had to amend my LLC and my biz bank account still has the name Vet to Door - Oh well, minor set back and caught early.
Once you think of a cool name you’ll need to check if that name is taken.
For Example - If you want the name “Best Home Vet” you will probably want to make sure the BestHomeVet.com website domain is available.
To do this go to a domain retailer and try out a few cool names you can think of. My faves are:
https://domains.google Anything “Google” seems more official. Domains cost approx. $10/year and you can put them on auto-renew so they can’t be stolen out from underneath you once they expire, which is especially important if you came up with something great.
https://www.namecheap.com Pretty inexpensive to buy a domain here and they are easily transferable (I bought PoshBark.com for $7 and sold the domain for $500 a few months later- The transfer of ownership could not have been easier).
TIP TIME: There’s a million domain brokers. Another popular one is GoDaddy. I’m not a fan of GoDaddy, but they do allow you to build a landing page for FREE and I made a bunch of really simple and hideous free websites for fun. Compared to Wix, the platform is easy but I didn’t appreciate the functionality.
Step 2 - How shall we find you?
SKIP this step for now, once you have claimed the domain, if you want to focus on just the basic necessities for starting this business. Come back to it, while you are awaiting approval for your LLC, if you like to play around with website design.
Let’s face it, in this day and age, you are nothing without an online presence. Every business must have a website or it does not exist as far as most are concerned. The website could be one main page, but you must have something.
Decide if you will build your own website or at least your own home page or if you will hire a website designer to do it. If you’re unsure if you will do this long term, you probably don’t want to invest in a website designer.
To build your own website consider simplicity and functionality. A few options are:
https://www.wix.com After consideration and research I went with Wix because they integrate well with google domains and the layout seemed simple. They have lots of FREE photos you can use on your site with them, so I didn’t have to worry about copyright issues with photos AND they have videos for less than $20 that you can purchase as well. I use the photos for my blog and the video as a banner. Cost = $250-300 per year.
https://wordpress.com This one is popular and you can get something started for free but I feel that there is limited functionality for anything other than affiliated blogging.
There’s many more options, these are just the two main ones I learned from business classes.
This is the webiste I built by myself: www.vet2door.com
TIP TIME: Building a website really isn’t that hard if you’re already a social media guru. You just have to play around with it a bit and once you’re done, for the most part you’re done. I haven’t tweaked my website in over 12 months. Total time = Hard to quantify. I had an issue with google integrations and spent a total of 3 hours on the phone with wix.com, but other than that I played with it at night for a week max.
Step 3 - How shall we reach you?
I don’t want to be presumptuous, but you know how to make a gmail.com address right? This is pretty basic stuff, so just make sure you do this using your business name. I registered firstname.lastname@example.org. My dogs have WhiskeyNDaisy@gmail.com (feel free to send them any correspondence you would like. I redirect all of my 2nd internet discount coupons here, so I may eventually see it)
At some point you may want to decide if you want a business email address. Mine is email@example.com it took me a while fork up and commit to paying $50/year just for a Google business email address, but eventually I got fancy. I redirect all of my firstname.lastname@example.org emails to email@example.com because I worked through this email for months. So basically getting a business gmail account is unnecessary unless you think that you may want to scale up your business in the future or want a more professional email address to give out.
TIP TIME: Once you buy a website and start making business decisions people i.e. companies who want your money, will come out of the woodworks. Ignore them. Google will call, Yelp will call, people from India, who want to “help” your business grow will call (Help with clicks, help with SEO) - Ignore them and find local, real people you trust to help advertise or build your website. We’ll talk about advertising and SEO later.
Step 4 - Let’s make it an official company i.e. form an LLC!
(You need a name and email address to do this, but not a website. The website info became “Step 2” because you can’t really come up with a name until you know that the domain is available to build your website on)
FORMING AN LLC DIFFERS STATE BY STATE - It’s easier than it looks, A LOT easier!
So here is what you need to Google - “How do I form an LLC in [State]”
Make sure you are on the official government website.
Click on the link that says something like “Starting a Business”
Do all the things listed under starting a business, keeping in mind “Articles of Organization” is a fancy term for “Fill out this basic information and click submit”
If you’re still uncomfortable filing an LLC on your own, watch a few of the many instructional videos on YouTube, intermixed with funny cat videos for stress relief.
In my state of Florida, I formed an LLC by filling out an online form. It’s as easy as buying stuff you don’t need on Amazon. My total cost was $180, Legal Zoom wanted $350 to do the exact same thing on a website with a less intimidating platform.
Your LLC registration needs to be renewed (possibly annually), so don’t forget to have Alexa remind you in a year. If you do forget, don’t worry, you’ll get email reminders.
I feel like the government likes to use official words that make you feel like you should hire someone to fill out the paper work. Every year I have to fill out an “Annual Report”. This is nothing. It takes 5 minutes to do online and you don’t have to make any changes or give up your first born son. Just check your emails and deal with it. If you miss something they will be there to send you more emails. “Articles of Organization” is also no big deal. You need to know very little and you will not need to write a dissertation or even an essay. Don’t be intimidated.
TIP TIME: At this point, just imagine that every parasite on the planet is trying to get your money, 50 bucks at a time. Only do what is necessary. You can do it by yourself, just like I did. Filing your LLC is easier than steps 1-3, but many websites will make it easier for twice the price - like legalzoom.com . And you may fall for it because reading the government websites is like reading Ulysses. There will be many offerings that you may think you need, but don’t actually need. Like official certificates you’ll never look at and so on. These requests will look very official. Don’t buy into it - ask a professional or call the state business number, wait on hold for 3 days and ask an official government employee if you need anything additional.
TIP TIME: Unless you have business partners, you will most likely want to form an LLC. Your state website will walk you thru this process. If you screw up the paperwork, they will find you and you will correct it and no one will be hurt in the process. If you need help, call your state department and take up all their time asking questions (you pay them with your taxes, so get your money back by benefiting from the service). Everyone must patiently wait on hold for 3 hours, because people like me are getting my monies worth out of government services and asking a million questions.
TIP TIME: To file the Articles of Organization for your LLC you will need a business address and mailing address. If you don’t want to use your home address for both, consider getting a virtual office with a mailbox. Many co-working spaces offer this. Google “Virtual offices with mailbox near me or coworking space near me” This may be a city thing, so I’m not sure if they exist in suburban or rural areas. My fancy downtown business address is: 260 1st Ave S, Suite 200 Box 83 (Sometimes I leave the box part out because they all know me there and I definitely don’t have my own suite). I pay $50/month for this fancy business address, but they have a networking event with free drinks, a monthly free breakfast and the location is downtown in the most glorious building, with the best coffee/tea shop - I’d pay $100/month if only they asked. It’s a mega bonus that this virtual office is linked to Google Maps, basically ensuring that many city dwellers see my business first, due to proximity. Look around, you may find a cheap virtual office you want to use so that clients don’t know where you live - at some point you may also want to send clients correspondence via snail mail.
STOP! And acknowledge all of your newly acquired bragging rights:
You’re an entrepreneur, so make sure you add that to your dating profile.
You own a start-up, again with the dating profile.
You make the rules for your own business, Mr/Ms. President of your own business.
You’re a boss. Make sure you go to HomeGoods and buy a plaque that says “Boss Babe” or another gender appropriate title, for your desk.
Step 5 - You have a business!!!! Now get even more official by going federal!
Alright! Now you need an EIN# There are several websites that offer to give you an EIN for a price as high as $75. It’s free to get your EIN if you go to the official IRS website. FREE!
Keep in mind that you can get your EIN online, but it has to be done during business hours. Apparently their internet closes at 10pm.
TIME TO GET OFF THE COUCH - YOU BUSINESS OWNER! YOU!
Step 6 - How shall we pay you?
Time to open up your business bank account to hold all the money you’re about to start making!! This is step 6, because you can’t do this part with out an EIN, and you need an LLC to get that!
You DO NOT need a good credit score to do this. You can trust me on this one. I picked Bank of America because I’m a loyalist. I went into the desolate branch building, told the depressing, solitary man at the podium, who was clearly ecstatic to see any signs of life, that I wanted to start a business account and I had a whopping $5000 of borrowed money that I’d like to put in that account. I walked out with a business account and temporary forms of payment to use with this account.
Bring all your ID’s to the bank with you and bring your EIN.
Use this new account to make all further payments that you can in any way relate to your business.
TIP TIME: You may want to make sure the bank you choose has an App that will allow you to make mobile deposits if you plan on accepting checks. This will ensure that you will never have to set foot inside a bank again. I deposit checks into my account using the Bank of America App in as little as 30 seconds by taking a photo of the front and back of the check and entering the amount on the check. Even if you don’t accept checks from clients, chances are you will get them from various sources, like your online pharmacy (VetSource).
Step 7 - How shall the government find you so that they can take their cut?
Time to get an accountant to do your taxes!
If you’re anything like me you will try to do this stuff on your own and you will fail. Why? Because accountants go to school for years to do this job and have to keep up with the latest tax regulations. You can no more be your own accountant, then your accountant can learn how to be their own veterinarian. My wonderful accountant told me that.
They will need to see all of your expenses and all of your income, categorized. Most accountants don’t like it when you bring in a shoe box full of receipts, so I’ve heard.
How do you categorize income and expenses for your accountant? You can use QuickBooks (QB). I use QuickBooks Self Employed Online - $5/month. Link it to all your business bank accounts and business credit cards. Then every month you may have to take a grueling hour to categorize/label all of your income and expenses. Most are done automatically, which is easy to set up i.e. every bank account debit from Patterson automatically gets categorized under Supplies and Materials.
Tracking mileage is also easy with QB. Thankfully, Google tracks every movement I make, without ever having knowingly consented to that. You don’t even have to use Google Maps for this level of surveillance. I do have a smart phone - iPhone to be exact. This is important for that mileage tax write off. There are Apps that track mileage as well, but I don’t have any experience with them.
QB categorizes any deposits into “Income” which is easy.
Common expenses that you will have to categorize in QB or at least divide receipts into Ziplocks within your shoebox:
-Office Supplies (printer, computer)
-Shipping and Postage
-Supplies and Materials (meds, muzzles)
-Professional Services (labs, cremation)
-Online Web Services/Software - (Practice management software, website, domain)
-Rent - virtual office/mailbox
-Utilities if you do rent office space.
-Cell phone bill - Split between work and personal cell phone.
Here’s what I ended up handing over to my accountant OR discussing:
I filed the S-Corp tax election so I could pay myself dividends and pay less taxes. TIME SENSITIVE, INQUIRE ASAP!
Access to my QB online account as an administrator (different than total access)
How much I want to pay myself via a W-2 - Strategically discussed at the end of the tax year.
Quarterly State Tax Vouchers that need to be filed online every 4 months (Differs by state)
Any tax documents that came into my possession or documents that looked tax-like or “taxy” as I like to say.
TIP TIME: My accountant told me not to use the home office tax exemption because then the IRS could audit me and check out the space. Apparently the home office exemption adds to the possibility of an audit. Make sure you mention the exemption to your accountant to see if it’s right for you.
TIP TIME: To do my taxes, personal and business, my accountant would have charged me $1500 for 2019 and 2020. Luckily my accountant has lots of pets, so I paid nothing. I’m the bartering type. So if you are super motivated, find an accountant that has pets. Bonus points if the pets live in the office - two birds, one stone. Double bonus points if the state tax accountant (the guy who does quarterly taxes) is also a friend. Also, I don’t care who your accountant is, NEVER show up to the office without some sort of pastries! My accountant and staff like big, fluffy cinnamon buns.
TIP TIME: S Corporation Tax Election. This needs to be discussed with your accountant ASAP. In Florida you need to fill out form 2553, a sequence of numbers burned into my memory. You have 70 days after registering your LLC to do this or you will have to file an amendment and you may need a lawyer to draft something up. Or there could be a government shutdown that impedes the processing of this paperwork and you will have to sit on the phone for hours and write a really angry letter to the IRS and fax it to them 50 times! Either way, the time to file this may be limited and it’s really annoying to do it after the fact. Google “LLC with S Corp tax election and IRS Form 2553” to know more.
Step 8) Any permits/licenses which vary by City/County/State
This varies too much for me to be able to help with. I consider these requirements unnecessary for your day to day business operations, however, someone, somewhere will find a way to inform you that there’s a fee you haven’t paid.
Here’s the two things, which seemingly have zero benefits, that I didn’t get. I was found and schooled, but NOT fined.
Business Tax Certificate Receipt - Varies by city/county/state. Check your city/county website New Businesses page.
State Biomedical Waste Disposal fee - Don’t go looking for this, it will find you if it exists.
At this point you could start a veterinary house call consulting service bringing only supplies that you don’t need to get through a distributor (Examination Supplies) if you wanted to!!! You have a legit business!
- Dr. J