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Start your business

5 easy steps to determine your startup costs

Launch your business on solid financial ground and plan ahead for unexpected issues by calculating your startup expenses with this five-step guide. Presented by Chase for Business.

When you’re planning to launch a business, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. Getting a clear picture of how much startup money you will need is essential to help avoid cash-flow problems until your business starts turning a profit.

When you have a handle on your expenses, you can get the funding you need, plan for business growth and much more. Find out how to calculate startup costs for your small business in five steps.

Why do I need to know my startup costs?

Calculating your startup costs gives you more than just peace of mind. Knowing how much money you need to get started can help you:

● Write your business plan. Every startup needs a business plan that includes a complete list of expenses. The financial portion of your business plan should include both costs and assets. From there, you can calculate whether you need funding and when you’ll make a profit.

● Plan for growth. Once you map out your finances, you can create a strategy for business growth. Knowing your costs is essential for determining when you can afford to develop new products, hire a bigger team or open a new location.

● Apply for funding. Whether you want to set up a line of credit or get a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, most lenders will ask about your costs. With your list of expenses and assets, you can clearly show why you need to apply for funding.

● Seek out investors. If you’re aiming to partner with investors or venture capital (VC) firms, you need detailed financial data. Investors often ask to see your startup costs and expenses to calculate how soon they can make their money back.

How to calculate startup costs

Adding up the costs to launch a small business takes both research and math. Follow these five steps to assess your startup expenses.

1. Identify your expenses

Start by writing down the startup costs you’ve already incurred — but don’t stop there. Research the expenses you’re likely to come across as your company gets closer to launching. Think about these standard startup costs:

  • Business registration fees: Unless you’re a sole proprietor, you need to register your business with the state. Most startups have to choose a business structure and file paperwork with the Secretary of State.
  • Business licenses: Many states require certain types of businesses to be licensed. For example, you might need to pay for a license if you broadcast online or on TV, or if you care for children or pets.
  • Equipment: Most businesses need some type of equipment to manufacture products or handle everyday tasks. Add up your company’s expenses for items like computers, smartphones, vehicles and production systems.
  • Supplies: Most businesses also buy necessities ranging from pens and paper clips to printer paper and cartridges.
  • Consultants: Account for the fees you might be paying another company to provide advice or help develop a strategy. Other examples include working with a management analyst or a recruiting expert.
  • Payroll: This amount should include what you pay your employees and your management team as well as yourself.
  • Insurance: Calculate both health insurance costs and any business insurance you need.
  • Office: Whether you rent office space or pay for a warehouse, note these costs.
  • Inventory: If your business sells products, account for the cost of keeping inventory in stock.
  • Marketing: Project your potential costs for marketing your business. Yours might include social media management, partnering with influencers or advertising through traditional channels like radio, print or TV.
  • Website: Remember to account for the cost of developing and maintaining your website as well as for creating content for it.
  • Taxes: Every business pays income tax. Depending on your business, you may also pay sales tax or payroll tax.
  • Accountant: Businesses of all sizes often depend on accountants to balance the financial books, prepare tax returns and produce reports.
  • Legal: Factor in the fees you pay an attorney to write contracts or to help you comply with industry regulations.

2. Estimate your costs

Once you’ve developed a list of your business needs, note the average cost for each category.

Check with the government offices in your state to determine business registration and license fees. To estimate the costs for equipment and supplies, you can shop online or request a quote from a vendor.

For other standard costs, you might choose to set aside a percentage of your total budget. For example, many startups budget up to 10% for marketing and at least 20% for business taxes.

3. Do the math

After estimating your costs, divide the list into one-time and ongoing expenses. Make sure all ongoing expenses reflect a monthly average. Add up your one-time expenses and multiply your ongoing expenses by the number of months until you launch.

The total represents your estimated startup expenses. For example, your list might look like this:

One-time expenses

  • Business registration fees
  • Business licenses
  • Equipment

Ongoing expenses

  • Supplies
  • Consultants
  • Payroll
  • Insurance
  • Office
  • Inventory
  • Marketing
  • Website
  • Taxes
  • Accountant
  • Legal

4. Add a cushion

Even with a business plan in place, your startup could experience delays and setbacks. Make sure you have enough funds to keep your startup afloat by giving your expenses an extra cushion. Consider budgeting enough to sustain your business for up to 12 months beyond the target launch date.

5. Put the numbers to work

Finally, run your calculations. Factor in fixed and variable costs to help establish a pricing structure for your products and services. Include your startup costs in your business plan to help estimate when your company will become profitable. You can also use your expense sheet to see what kind of financing options are available for you from banks, investors and VC firms.

Start your business on solid footing

Launching a business requires you to follow a disciplined path with countless twists and turns. You can increase your chances of winning the game of startup by taking the time to calculate your costs and manage your business expenses. 

Meet with your local business banker to see how opening a business bank account can help you get started on the right foot.