1) Do what you love.
You're going to devote a lot of time and energy to starting a business and building it into a successful enterprise, so it's really important that you truly deeply enjoy what you do, whether it be running fishing charters, creating pottery or providing financial advice.
2) Start your business while you're still employed.
How long can most people live without money? Not long. And it may be a long time before your new business actually makes any profits. Being employed while you're starting a business means money in your pocket while you're going through the starting a business process.
3) Don't do it alone.
You need a support system while you're starting a business (and afterwards). A family member or friend that you can bounce ideas off and who will listen sympathetically to the latest business start up crisis is invaluable. Even better, find a mentor or, if you qualify, apply for a business start up program such as The Self-Employment Program. When you're starting a business experienced guidance is the best support system of all.
4) Get clients or customers first.
Don't wait until you've officially started your business to line these up, because your business can't survive without them. Do the networking. Make the contacts. Sell or even give away your products or services. You can't start marketing too soon. (See Attracting New Business on a Shoestring Budget and The 7 Best Places to Find Clients for tips.)
5) Write a business plan.
The main reason for doing a business plan first when you're thinking of starting a business is that it can help you avoid sinking your time and money into starting a business that will not succeed. (See Why You Need a Business Plan for other good reasons.)
Remember, you don't have to work through a full scale business plan for each new business idea you come up with; my Quick-Start Business Plan, for instance, will let you test the potential of your business idea much more quickly.
6) Do the research.
You'll do a lot of research writing a business plan, but that's just a start. When you're starting a business, you need to become an expert on your industry, products and services if you're not already. Joining related industry or professional associations before you start your business is a great idea.
7) Get professional help.
On the other hand, just because you're starting a business, doesn't mean you have to be an expert on everything. If you're not an accountant or bookkeeper, hire one (or both).(These Tips for Finding a Good Accountant may be useful.) If you need to write up a contract, and you're not a lawyer, hire one. You will waste more time and possibly money in the long run trying to do things yourself that you are not qualified to do.
8) Get the money lined up.
Save up if you have to. Approach potential investors and lenders. Figure our your financial fall-back plan. Don't expect to start a business and then walk into a bank and get money. Traditional lenders don't like new ideas and don't like businesses without proven track records.
9) Be professional from the get-go.
Everything about you and the way you do business needs to let people know that you are a professional running a serious business. That means getting all the accoutrements such as professional business cards, a business phone and a business email address, and treating people in a professional, courteous manner.
10) Get the legal and tax issues right the first time.
It's much more difficult and expensive to unsnarl a mess afterwards. Does your business need to be registered? Will you have to charge GST or PST? Will you have to have Workers' Compensation Insurance or deal with payroll taxes? How will the form of business you choose affect your income tax situation? Learn what your legal and tax responsibilities are before you start your business and operate accordingly.
Following the advice on starting a business above will make starting a business both a smoother, less stressful process and go a long way towards ensuring the business you start lasts and thrives.