If you’re planning on starting up a business, you’re not alone. In 2018, 15 million Americans were self-employed, and this figure is expected to rise to 27 million by 2020. The U.S offers the best environment for entrepreneurs, yet only half of all businesses survive past the five-year mark. So, what’s the secret to startup success? How can you make your business stand out from the competition and give it a fighting chance against the big brands? From setting up a user-friendly website to getting a virtual phone number, we’ve put together our top tips to help your startup look professional and inspire consumer trust from day one.

 1.Set up a User-Friendly Website

 A company website acts as a central hub for all online marketing activities. Social media, email, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and paid advertising campaigns will all be set up to drive traffic to your website.

Startups should prioritize creating a professional and user-friendly website before they launch. It’s not necessary to spend a fortune or add fancy effects. But it is important to create a site that has prominent branding, a clear message (what are you selling?), and that users find easy to navigate. Whatever industry you’re operating in, there will be plenty of competitors for consumers to choose from. A poor user experience — such as slow site speed or confusing menus — will have people bouncing straight off your site and onto that of a competitor.

In 2016, 209.6 million people in the U.S regularly shopped online, and this figure is expected to rise to 230.5 million by 2020. Even if you don’t have an eCommerce site, it is essential to create a professional company website. Most consumers conduct significant online research before making a purchase either online or in-store. To “Google” has become a verb for a reason.

 2.Get a Virtual Phone Number

A recent survey of small businesses revealed 69 percent of U.S entrepreneurs start their business at home. This can be a great way to get up and running in a manageable and affordable way. However, first impressions are king when it comes to acquiring new customers and establishing a brand reputation.

Using a personal cell phone number for business will not inspire confidence and trust in potential customers or business partners. Failing to separate work and private lives can also lead new entrepreneurs down the road to burnout. Add a second business line to your cell with a virtual phone system. A virtual number is not tied to any particular device, so you can route calls wherever you choose. You can set up a professional greeting and direct calls to employees or voicemail while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

A designated business number looks professional and provides the ultimate flexibility — allowing you to handle business wherever and whenever you choose. If you’re running a business from your bedroom, your customers will be none the wiser!

 3.Build Your Company’s Social Media Presence

The number of social media users worldwide in 2019 is currently 4.388 billion — up 9.1 percent year-on-year. In the U.S, social media penetration is 76%. You don’t have to immediately set up accounts on every social media platform going, but you should find out where your audience is and start building your company’s social media presence before you launch.

Make sure to add social media buttons to marketing emails, key website pages, and PR (Public Relations) outreach articles to achieve maximum company exposure. The most popular platforms are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But it’s important to identify with the people likely to be interested in your products or services. So take the time to conduct research. If you’re setting up a kitchen design business, and there’s a huge interest in this topic on Pinterest, set up an account and get the brand message in front of the right people.

4.Set up Efficient Invoicing and Payment Processes

Nothing will dispel a startup’s professional image more quickly than if it fails to pay employees and contractors efficiently, or customers have issues with the payment process.

There are a wide variety of invoicing platforms and payment gateways to choose from. Many of these are very cost-effective for businesses with a low number of transactions. The features and price plans vary considerably, so take the time to assess your needs and find suppliers that provide a suitable service within your budget. Opt for a rolling monthly contract or services that allow you to scale up or down in line with business growth.

Starting a business is an exciting, overwhelming, and often exhausting experience. If you’re planning a startup, there have probably already been considerable blood, sweat, and tears invested in your entrepreneurial dream. Give yourself the best chance of success by getting off to a great start that establishes a professional image consumers can trust.