Startup Costs: Your Guide to Getting a Business Off the Ground

November 3, 2023
Startup Costs: Your Guide to Getting a Business Off the Ground

Starting a new business is an exciting journey filled with new opportunities—but that journey also comes with endless financial considerations. Aspiring entrepreneurs often have to learn quickly as they go.

Generally speaking, business startup costs are the financial investments and expenditures associated with establishing a new business. Managing these costs plays a pivotal role in determining the financial health and sustainability of a new venture. Depending on the nature of your business, startup costs can vary significantly. Some can kickstart with minimal expenses, while others may require substantial investments.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of business startup costs and explain why new business owners need a detailed grasp of these costs ahead of time.

Getting a Handle on Startup Costs

When it comes to understanding startup costs, it's essential to distinguish between two key categories: pre-opening startup costs and post-opening costs. Pre-opening costs include all expenses incurred before the business begins its operations, such as market research, acquiring office space, and developing an online presence. Post-opening costs encompass ongoing operational expenses, including utilities, employee salaries, and marketing expenses.

It's equally important for a small business to differentiate between fixed costs and variable expenses. Fixed costs, like office rent and loan payments, remain relatively stable over time. Variable expenses, such as shipping and travel, fluctuate with your business activities. These types of expenses can have a more immediate impact on a small businesses’ cash flow.

Organizational costs

Organizational costs are an integral part of startup expenses. These are the expenditures related to the corporate establishment of the business. Organizational costs may include legal or accounting fees for setting up your chosen business structure, trademark registration, and various licenses and permits.

You can sometimes deduct startup costs from your taxes, and organizational costs are good possibilities. Deductions will depend on the type of business, the amount of W-2 wages your business pays, the property held by your business, and your taxable income.

Typical startup costs

There are numerous types of startup expenses, depending on the type of business you’re planning. Here’s a list from the Small Business Administration of the most common costs to consider when starting a business.

  • Office space. The cost of renting or leasing a workspace is a significant startup expense. For some businesses, finding the right location is critical to their success while others simply need a workspace that is the right size.
  • Utilities. Bills for electricity, water, gas, and other essential services are examples of post-opening costs and should be relatively fixed. Security deposits for these services, however, are pre-opening costs.
  • Equipment and supplies. The type of business will determine how much you need to spend for essential machinery, computers, and office supplies.
  • Communications. Phone systems, internet connections, and communication tools are critical for staying connected with customers and partners. If your business relies on a well-rounded customer service team, for example, it might be worth the cost to make sure customers can reach you via multiple forms of communication.
  • Licenses and permits. Fees associated with obtaining the necessary legal permissions to operate your business can vary depending on your location and industry, but they’re a must-have to operate legally.
  • Insurance. Premiums for liability, property, and other forms of insurance are essential for protecting your business and personal assets, especially if your business requires a physically active workforce.
  • Lawyer and accountant. Fees for legal and financial consultation services ensure that a business startup is on solid legal and financial ground. They can also help you run your business smartly.
  • Inventory. The purchase of initial stock or materials can be a major hurdle for businesses involved in retail or manufacturing.
  • Employee salaries. Compensation for your workforce is one of the most significant ongoing expenses for businesses with employees. The number of employees you start with will determine related expenses, such as payroll processing and other human resources tasks
  • Advertising and marketing. Expenses related to promoting and marketing your business are vital for attracting customers and generating revenue.
  • Market research. Costs incurred to understand your target market are crucial for making informed business decisions and tailoring your products or services.
  • Printed marketing materials. Expenses for brochures, flyers, business cards, and other promotional materials are part of your marketing budget and help create a professional image.
  • Making a website. Development and hosting costs for your online presence are essential in the digital age, especially for online businesses.

How to Calculate Your Total Startup Costs

Being able to calculate startup costs is a fundamental aspect of creating your business plan. A business plan outlines your business objectives, strategies, and projected financials, including startup expenses.

A thorough, detailed plan will allow you to accurately determine your pre-opening startup costs. From there you can determine whether you have the resources in hand to get started or will need to borrow money or tap other resources. Seek quotes from suppliers and service providers, consult experts where needed, and develop a realistic budget for all the costs involved. This budget will serve as your roadmap for managing your business expenses and making your way toward profit.

Tax Implications of Startup Costs

As we mentioned previously, some organizational costs are tax-deductible. Though the IRS doesn’t recognize startup costs as capital expenses, business owners may be able to deduct certain organizational costs and startup costs, but certain criteria may need to be met.

Consider working with a qualified tax professional to navigate these expenses properly. They can help guide you in identifying deductible startup costs and maximizing your tax deductions when it comes to tax preparation.

Strategies to Save Money on Startup Costs

In the quest to save money on startup expenses, consider leveraging personal assets to help fund your business.

Additionally, make sure to explore various startup funding options, such as loans and grants. Or you may opt to work with investors to secure additional capital for your business.

Getting Started with TriNet

Establishing a strong financial foundation is key to achieving profitability and sustainability in the competitive world of small business administration. Working with a provider for HR needs can help you focus on your goals while experts help you on HR compliance, access to benefits, and payroll processing. As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), TriNet offers HR expertise and valuable services that can significantly help small business owners in optimizing overhead costs.

According to a National Association of Professional Employer Organization study, using a PEO like TriNet can yield substantial annual cost savings.* The study found the average annual cost savings per employee were:

  • Internal HR salaries/benefits: 54%
  • Health benefits costs: 37%
  • Other external HR expenditures: 5%
  • Workers’ compensation costs: 4%
  • Total average cost savings: $1,775 per FTE

Contact us today to find out more about TriNet services and why 84% of surveyed customers experienced cost savings in HR-related spending with TriNet.**

*Individual business result may vary, including results of TriNet clients.

**Source: TechValidate survey of 160 users of TriNet (2022). Individual business results may vary.

This communication is for informational purposes only, is not legal, tax or accounting advice, and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

This article may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such web sites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

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