Business Startup Costs: How To Calculate And Budget

Starting a business comes with a variety of costs, which may require you to seek external business financing. In fact, entrepreneurs file millions of business applications every year in the U.S. The number of new business applications surged to a record 4.5 million in 2020, according to the Economic Innovation Group.

If you’re working to get your own business up and running, it’s crucial to understand the different costs you might encounter. Knowing potential business startup costs upfront makes you better prepared as an entrepreneur and can improve your odds of success.

How to Calculate the Cost of Starting a Business

There’s no set cost to start a business—many factors can impact your initial startup expenses. In some cases, you might be able to get a company off the ground with a few thousand dollars. Other small business owners might need to come up with five figures (perhaps several times over) during their first year in operation.

With such a wide range of potential expenses, it’s helpful to start with a business plan. A separate startup cost analysis can help you estimate your costs as well. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides free guidance and sample worksheets you can use for both.

Taking the time to write out (and add up) your initial startup costs is a smart move. This extra preparation on the front end can lead to more realistic expectations and better long-term results for your new business endeavor.

Common Business Startup Costs

Go through the common business startup costs below to determine which expenses your business might encounter.

Incorporation Fees ($145)

One of the first tasks you’ll need to complete when you form a new business is choosing a business entity. General business structure choices include:

The average cost to register a business is $145. However, filing fees and other associated costs can differ based on the state where you operate.

Research Expenses ($100–$30,000+)

Researching the market you plan to enter puts your business in a better position to succeed. Some entrepreneurs attempt to do this research on their own. However, hiring a professional market research firm could give you a clearer picture of the industry, your target customers and your competition.

The price of market research can vary depending on the type of report and guidance you require. High-level market overviews might cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. A more detailed and personalized project by comparison could cost at least $30,000.

Equipment ($11,000–$125,000)

Regardless of your type of business, it probably needs some type of equipment to operate. Even online microbusinesses need access to a computer or device and an internet connection. Other types of businesses may have much more demanding equipment needs that could cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Below is a look at sample startup equipment costs for several different types of industries. (Your experience could be different.)

  • Hotels and restaurants: $125,000
  • Real estate and rentals: $75,000
  • Insurance and finance: $52,000
  • Retail establishments: $32,000
  • Health care: $27,000
  • Warehousing and transportation: $16,000
  • Arts and entertainment: $16,000
  • Service-based businesses: $14,000–$18,000
  • Construction: $14,000
  • Support for other businesses (administrative or janitorial): $11,000

Office Space ($300–$1,230 per Month, per Employee)

With certain types of businesses, you might be able to operate from your home. But if your company requires office space, the cost of renting or buying a facility can add up.

Just like residential rent and mortgage costs, the price of securing office space for your business has a lot to do with your location. The size of your office will of course influence the price you pay as well.

The cost of office space starts around $300 per month (per employee). Yet in high-cost areas like San Francisco or New York, your monthly office space cost could be over $1,230 per person.

Utilities ($2.14 Per Square Foot)

On top of a monthly lease or loan payment for office space, you need to prepare for the added expense of utility services. For commercial buildings, the average utility cost is $2.14 per square foot, according to Building Owners and Managers Association International. The larger your office space and the more employees your business has, the higher its utility costs may climb.

Inventory (25%–35% of Operational Budget)

If your company plans to sell products to its customers, you’ll need to have some inventory on hand to fulfill orders. Inventory costs can require a significant financial investment. But the actual amount your business needs to spend here depends on numerous factors.

Most businesses that require inventory spend between 25% to 35% of their operational budgets on related costs. Initially, it can be hard to gauge how much your business will spend in this category. To estimate potential inventory costs, start by figuring out how much product you expect to sell in a 12-month period. Then, divide that number by 10, aiming to keep 10% of your annual inventory needs in stock.

Let’s say you plan to sell $75,000 in inventory over the next year. If you wanted to keep 10% of that number available to sell to customers, you’d need to purchase $7,500 in inventory.

Marketing and Advertising (Up to 7%–8% of Revenue)

Getting the word out about your business is essential. But you have to be careful not to overdo it on marketing and advertising expenses—especially as a new company.

The SBA advises limiting your marketing expenses to 7% or 8% of your revenue. However, if your profit margins are on the low side (less than 10%), you might want to adjust your marketing budget down until those numbers improve.

Website Development (Up to $10,000)

Creating a professional online presence is essential for most businesses. The question you have to answer as a startup is whether you want to hire someone to create a website for your business or try to tackle the project yourself.

Depending on your skill set and time constraints, you might be able to design your own starter website. Services like Squarespace and WordPress have templates available that can make the job easier and far more affordable. If you hire a professional website designer to develop your website, the cost might run between $2,000 and $10,000. However, website packages often include branding services that could benefit your business as well.

Office Supplies and Furniture ($200–$1,000 per Month, per Employee)

Whether you’re operating your business from home or you have a dedicated outside office space, your business will probably need to spend some money on office supplies. Depending on the type of business, you might need to purchase:

  • Chairs and desks
  • Computers, tablets and software
  • Phones and headsets
  • Breakroom furniture and appliances
  • Waiting room furniture
  • Filing cabinets
  • Paper goods
  • Ink, toner and other printing supplies
  • Pens, paperclips, staples and notebooks

You might spend anywhere from $200 to $1,000 per month (per employee) on office supplies. But these costs can vary widely depending on your budgeting choices and the types of perks you want to offer employees.

Payroll (15% to 50% of Your Budget)

Payroll is one of the biggest expenses most businesses encounter. Yet finding quality team members and providing them with fair and competitive compensation is crucial if you want your company to thrive.

For many companies, payroll costs account for anywhere from 15% to 30% of their overall budget. Some businesses dedicate up to half of their budget to payroll expenses and still generate significant profit margins.

On top of salary and wages, be sure to factor the following costs into your company’s payroll expenses:

  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Benefits
  • Paid time off
  • Overtime pay

Professional Consultants ($75 to $400 per Hour)

As a new business, there may be many tasks that you try to manage on your own to save money. The cost of professional services, after all, can be pricey—running anywhere from $75 to $400 per hour.

For certain jobs, however, hiring a professional could be a wise investment. For legal matters, paying an attorney for advice and guidance can help you avoid potentially costly mistakes. Working with a CPA or bookkeeper could help your business make sure it’s meeting its tax obligations as required.

Insurance ($46–$86 per Month, per Policy)

Insurance is another important cost you should budget for as a new business owner. Depending on the type of business you operate, some types of business insurance coverage may be more important than others.

Below are some of the insurance options you may want to consider, along with the median monthly premium for each.

  • Workers’ compensation: $86 per month
  • General liability: $53 per month
  • Business owners’ policy: $84 per month
  • Professional liability: $46 per month

If you take out multiple business insurance policies with the same provider, you might be eligible for a bundle discount that could help you save money.

Taxes (Cost Varies)

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that nothing is certain in this world except death and taxes. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your new business will have tax obligations to pay as well.

Your business structure, revenue and expenses can all influence how much your business has to pay in taxes. Working with a CPA to calculate your tax requirements and look for potential savings strategies is often your best bet.

The corporate tax rate is currently 21%, but there have been recent proposals in Congress to increase that number. In general, saving at least 25% of business profits is advisable, but you should talk to a reputable tax professional for advice.

How to Get Startup Business Financing

Finding the funds to cover startup costs, not to mention other business expenses that may arise, can be a challenge. But the right business financing has the potential to break big expenses down into smaller payments that are easier to manage.

If you’re interested in applying for a business loan, calculate how much you can afford to pay each month so that you don’t overextend yourself. Then, take the time to research and compare available business financing options to make sure you find the best deal available for your company.

Related: Best Startup Business Loans

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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