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May 31, 2024 · 7 min read

Essential small businesses costs: a complete list

Understand essential startup costs and learn how Enty can simplify financial management for your small business.


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Starting a new business venture is an exciting prospect, but it requires careful planning and preparation, especially when it comes to understanding the start up costs involved. An accurate estimate of your business plan's financial requirements is crucial for securing startup funding, conducting break-even analysis, and ensuring long-term profitability.
From office space and equipment to market research and advertising costs, the initial investment can be substantial. However, with meticulous cost management, you can streamline expenses, leverage tax deductions, and allocate resources effectively to support your business goals. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential start up costs and the process of calculating them to set your small business on the path to success.

Identifying essential startup costs

Before your business opens its doors, you'll have bills to pay. Understanding and accurately identifying your startup expenses is crucial for a successful launch. Calculating startup costs helps you estimate profits, operating income, secure loans, attract investors, and save money with tax deductions.

Common costs across industries

Most businesses fall into one of three categories: brick-and-mortar businesses, online businesses, and service providers. While you'll face different startup expenses depending on your business type, there are common costs you're likely to have, regardless of your industry:

  1. Office space: whether renting a physical location or setting up a home office, factor in costs like rent, utilities, and internet.
  2. Equipment and supplies: from computers and software to production machinery and raw materials, account for all necessary equipment and supplies.
  3. Communications: budget for phone lines, internet connectivity, and any communication tools your business requires.
  4. Licenses and permits: research the licenses and permits required for your business type and location.
  5. Insurance: calculate costs for various insurance policies, such as general liability, property, and product liability insurance.
  6. Professional services: account for fees associated with legal counsel, accountants, and consultants.
  7. Inventory: if selling physical products, include the cost of initial inventory stock.
  8. Employee salaries and benefits: estimate costs for hiring and compensating employees, including salaries, payroll taxes, and benefits.
  9. Marketing and advertising: project expenses for marketing initiatives, advertising campaigns, and creating a professional website.
  10. Market research: factor in costs for conducting market research to understand your target audience and competition.

Estimating costs

Once you have identified your business expenses, you can estimate their actual costs. Some expenses, like permits and licenses, have well-defined costs, while others, like employee salaries, may require research and estimation. Look online, consult mentors, vendors, and service providers to determine realistic costs for your area and industry.

Categorizing expenses

Organize your expenses into one-time and recurring costs for better financial planning:

  • One-time expenses: initial costs like major equipment purchases, logo design, permits, licenses, and fees. These are typically tax-deductible.
  • Recurring expenses: ongoing costs like salaries, rent, utilities, and marketing. Budget for at least one year, but ideally five years, of recurring expenses.

By accurately identifying and categorizing your startup costs, you'll have a clear picture of the capital needed to launch and sustain your business successfully.

Calculating one-time and recurring expenses

One-time expenses are the initial costs you'll incur when starting your business. These are typically larger investments that you'll make upfront before launching your operations. Some common one-time startup expenses include:

Equipment and supplies costs
  • Purchasing essential equipment like computers, machinery, vehicles, furniture, and initial inventory
  • Stocking up on necessary supplies such as office supplies, raw materials, or packaging materials

Legal and administrative fees
  • Business registration fees for establishing your legal business structure (LLC, corporation, etc.)
  • Costs associated with obtaining required licenses and permits for your industry
  • Fees for consulting with lawyers and accountants to ensure compliance and proper setup

Marketing and advertising expenses
  • Developing a professional website and online presence
  • Designing and printing marketing materials like brochures, business cards, and signage
  • Initial advertising campaigns to build brand awareness and attract customers

One-time expenses can typically be deducted for tax purposes, which can help reduce your overall tax burden. However, it's crucial to keep meticulous records and consult with an accountant to ensure you're taking advantage of all eligible deductions.

Recurring operational expenses

In addition to one-time startup costs, you'll also need to budget for ongoing, recurring expenses to keep your business running smoothly. These expenses can be monthly, quarterly, or annual and may include:

  • Rent or mortgage payments for office or retail space
  • Utility bills (electricity, water, internet, etc.)
  • Salaries and wages for employees
  • Insurance premiums (liability, property, etc.)
  • Software subscriptions and licensing fees
  • Marketing and advertising costs (social media, email campaigns, etc.)
  • Office supplies and consumables
  • Professional services (accounting, legal, etc.)

It's essential to project your recurring expenses for at least the first year, but ideally for the next three to five years. This will give you a comprehensive understanding of your business's long-term financial requirements and help you plan accordingly. Don’t forget that with Enty’s finances service, you can get a clear overview of your company’s financial health - it’s costs and revenue, as well as make use of advanced AI tools.

By carefully calculating both your one-time and recurring expenses, you'll have a clear picture of the capital you'll need to secure for a successful business launch and ongoing operations. This information will also be invaluable when seeking funding from investors or lenders, as it demonstrates your financial preparedness and understanding of your business's true costs.

Estimating operating costs

Payroll and employee benefits are significant recurring expenses that you must account for when estimating your operating costs. Payroll expenses encompass all costs associated with compensating your employees, including:

  1. Base pay (hourly wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses)
  2. Paid time off (vacation, sick leave, holidays)
  3. Employer's portion of payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance)
  4. Employee benefits contributions (health insurance, retirement plans)
  5. Workers' compensation insurance
  6. Payroll administration costs (if outsourced)

A general rule of thumb is that payroll costs can be around 1.25 to 1.4 times an employee's base pay after factoring in the additional expenses mentioned above. For example, if an employee's base pay is $30 per hour, the total payroll cost could range from $37.50 to $42 per hour.
Additionally, you may need to account for expenses such as recruiting, onboarding, training, equipment, and uniforms provided to employees.

Office space and utilities

Securing a physical location for your business operations is another significant operating expense. This includes:

  1. Rent or mortgage payments for office or retail space
  2. Utility bills (electricity, water, internet, gas)
  3. Property taxes (if applicable)
  4. Maintenance and repair costs
  5. Cleaning services

If you plan to operate from a home office, you may be able to deduct a portion of your rent or mortgage, utilities, and other expenses related to the dedicated business space.

Technology and software

Most businesses rely heavily on technology and software to streamline operations and remain competitive. Some common technology and software expenses include:
While some of these expenses may be one-time investments (e.g., hardware, website development), others are recurring costs (e.g., software subscriptions, cloud services).
It's important to carefully evaluate your technology and software needs, as these expenses can quickly add up. Consider outsourcing or using solutions to reduce upfront costs and maintenance overhead.

One of such solutions is Enty - an all-in-one platform for managing most back-office processes. Save precious money and time on accounting, financial analysis, contract creation, issuing invoices, signing documents online and much more. There is no need to pay for each service separately - all this can be accessed under one single subscription. Moreover, we also provide more fun and advanced features like AI contract review, company name rating, and more - explore it for yourself now! Take your business to a new level with Enty.
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By accurately estimating your operating costs, including payroll, office space, utilities, technology, and software expenses, you can better prepare for the financial demands of running your small business. Remember to periodically review and adjust your estimates as your business grows and evolves.

Securing startup funding

One of the most common ways to secure startup funding is through self-funding, also known as bootstrapping. You can leverage your own financial resources, such as savings accounts, personal loans from family and friends, or even tapping into your retirement accounts.

While self-funding allows you to retain complete control over your business, it also means you'll be taking on all the risk yourself. Be cautious about spending more than you can afford, and exercise extreme care if you plan to use retirement funds, as you may face expensive fees, penalties, or jeopardize your ability to retire on time. Consult with your plan's administrator and a financial advisor before making such a decision.

Are you looking for an alternative source of funding? Have a sneak peek into the concepts of crowdfunding, venture capital and more in our guide.

Last thoughts

Navigating the financial landscape of starting a small business can be challenging, but with the right planning and resources, it's achievable. Detailed knowledge of startup costs and effective management can drive your business forward. Enty's all-in-one solution can streamline your financial and administrative tasks, helping you focus on growth and success. Invest in your future by understanding your costs and leveraging Enty's robust tools for a more efficient operation.
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