As you move into and on through the new year, you may feel that this is the year you finally go into business for yourself. With the economy turning up and small businesses on the rise, setting “make my first sale” as your New Year’s resolution isn’t a bad idea. However, even if you’re ready to get started, there’s always room for professional advice. Take these tips to heart as you move forward with your business plans and get started the right way.

  1. Know What Kind of Business You’re Running

There’s a big difference between selling hand-carved oak figurines and walking dogs for a living; understanding the kind of business you’re starting is key to making sure you get started in the right place. And don’t worry too much about competition—according to ABC News, the trick isn’t to do something that nobody else has ever done, but to do something people want in your own unique and marketable way. Since you’re just starting out, you can view your competition as a mentor; watch what they do, what works and what doesn’t, and learn from their mistakes.

  1. Know Your Demographic

Before you go into business, you need to ask yourself, “who am I going into business for?” If you don’t know your target demographic, you’re not going to get very far in your early marketing endeavors. Once you have your demographic established, research marketing tactics that cater toward that demographic and get the word out about your business! Start with social media, utilize tags and trending topics, and give people something to talk about. Building interest in your business is the key to a strong grand opening, and understanding your target audience is the only way to build the right kind of interest.

  1. Work in Small Steps

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and chances are your business won’t be either. According to the Huffington Post, it’s best to look at creating a business as a series of small steps that’s likely to last for the life of your business, or at least the duration of your involvement in it. Don’t set goals you can’t achieve, and work hard to make sure you’re not painting yourself into a corner as you get things up and going. Make sure that you don’t set your business up in such a way that leaves you with long periods of nothing to do, as these are usually followed by very short periods with entirely too much work to handle.

  1. Do Everything by the Book

Entrepreneur.com recommends you obtain all necessary permits and licenses as soon as your business name is finalized, as well as completing required tax forms, filing for the appropriate business insurance and finalizing your methods of money handling. If you intend to take credit card payments for your offered goods or services, makes sure you’re PCI DSS compliant as early on as possible—saving this for the last minute could result in scrambling to finish before your grand opening, or having to push back the launch of your online store while you wait for your compliance to be accepted.

For retailers, worrying about PCI DSS compliance can be avoided by setting up shop through an established service like Shopify, wherein all users are automatically considered compliant upon signup. If you’re not a retailer or you would rather start on your own for some reason or another, you can obtain a checklist of required information and materials from the PCI Security Standards website for your reference.

  1. Get the Right Equipment

No matter what kind of business you start, you need to be properly outfitted before you get started. For dog-walkers this means leashes, walking shoes, dog harnesses and weather appropriate clothing and shoes. For a retailer this could mean a cash register, racks on which to hang your wares, or even just a professional eCommerce site on which to host your products. It can also mean a portable credit card reader, regardless of what your business offers; using one of these is actually extremely beneficial for all types of businesses as it allows you to accept payment by card any time and any place, so long as you have a wireless signal. Whether you’re walking dogs, selling handmade plush whales or catering local weddings, a portable reader allows you to get paid on the spot without any hassle.

Go Your Own Way

Everyone will tell you that it’s important to listen to industry leaders, and that’s certainly true, but very few will note that listening to people doesn’t necessarily mean following their advice. If something doesn’t work for you, even something on this list, don’t let it hold you back from getting started. If you need to build up some capital to buy the equipment you need, start small and work with what you have. If you work best under a tight deadline, set yourself a deadline that works for you. This is your business and you have the final say; make sure that you’re saying what you really want.