Start a survey business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Survey Business
- Form your Survey Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Survey Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Survey Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Survey Business
- Get Survey Business Insurance
- Define your Survey Business Brand
- Create your Survey Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your survey business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a survey business?
Costs are negligible to get started, especially if a person is planning to start with organic content. People can conduct their business straight from a home office with a computer, wi-fi, and a small advertising budget. Owners can save even further by using online sites like Survey Monkey or Constant Contact to get a jumpstart. Many of these services offer a free account that you can use to create sample surveys.
What are the ongoing expenses for a survey business?
Expenses for a survey company may include the following:
- Independent market research
- Website/advertising costs
- Administrative equipment/maintenance
- Employee salaries
- Office space (if applicable)
Who is the target market?
The target market can be anyone who cares about improving their business or cause. Teachers use surveys to gauge what their students are getting out of the class. Companies use them to find out how their employees or customers feel about certain processes or changes. Non-profits use them to find out how much interest there is for different endeavors in any given area.
How does a survey business make money?
Survey companies typically charge based on the amount and the type of questions they ask. For example, an open-ended question that requires a written response will require more time than one that asks responders to list how they feel on a scale of 1 to 10.
How much can you charge customers?
The costs for surveys ranges based on the types of questions asked and the company who’s conducting the research. However, make no mistake that companies are willing to pay for solid feedback. Some companies will gladly pay consumers for their opinions, so owners will need to structure their budget based on a number of factors.
How much profit can a survey business make?
Survey companies can make plenty of profit once their clientele can make the connection between feedback and profits. Figure out what you’re bringing to the table, and show new clients how you can do the same for them. If you administer 5,000 surveys a year at $1 a pop, you would make around $40,000 in pure profit (assuming you’re the sole proprietor.)
How can you make your business more profitable?
Survey companies may want to eventually expand their business into additional marketing services. For example, instead of just brainstorming a marketing campaign based on survey feedback, you can design and implement too. Companies may be more likely to turn over additional marketing services on an ad-hoc basis because you’re already familiar with their mission and clientele.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Survey Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your survey business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a survey business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
Some survey businesses are run out of an office space. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a survey business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your survey business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a survey business
Survey companies live and die by their results. Samples, success stories, and testimonials will go far to drive additional business. If you want to do strictly online work, then you'll likely want to invest in Google ads to really get the word out there. (Please note that the market for online surveys is somewhat saturated.) For those just getting started, a good website and logo are an absolute must, but there should be more to it than that. Start by venturing outside and developing relationships with local businesses to get a sense of their challenges. Many people may already have a survey system in place but that doesn't mean they couldn't be getting more out of it.
How to keep customers coming back
Business owners are looking for actionable steps they can take based on survey results. It's crucial that a survey giver can back up the answers they receive with substantial ideas. The more a survey owner gives their clients advice that they can literally take to the bank, the more likely it is they will build up a steady clientele.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Survey Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
People who love data will be an ideal match for creating a survey company. They should be interested in the core needs of people to better understand how to structure questions. Potential owners should also be proactive in terms of giving advice or ideas to clients based on the formal analysis.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a survey business?
Owners may have to complete any or all of the following on a typical day:
- Researching potential clients
- Writing/distributing surveys
- Compiling/analyzing data
- Managing employees
- Brainstorming for clients
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful survey business?
It may help for the owner to have some type of background in psychology and marketing before getting started. They will need to be able to structure a survey in a way that is both compelling and revealing. This may not even have to be formal education, but they should bring with them a thorough understanding of how and why certain ideas and concepts succeed where others fail. They should also be extremely organized to keep track of their many clients and questions.
What is the growth potential for a survey business?
While it’s true that there are plenty of existing survey companies (both online and otherwise), there is still a need for surveys that can get to the heart of the question. It’s all too easy for participants to rush through their responses or to misunderstand their own thoughts and intentions. There is plenty of growth potential for a company who can cut through the noise and focus on what people are really saying.
Not sure if a survey business is right for you? Try our free Business Idea Generator and find your perfect idea.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a survey business?
Owners will first need to master the art of handling business owners or leaders. They may be skeptical of an outsider whose entire premise is built on implying that a leader is missing something. After all, they handle the details of their business, and they may not want another cook in the kitchen. Survey business owners need to learn to drive home examples of how the right questions can make all the difference.
For example, when initial survey results of New Coke were conducted, the infamous failure was touted as tasting better than original Coke. But what the surveyors failed to realize is that a tiny sip of the sweet beverage was not the same as a full can. They also didn’t take into account the pure nostalgia element of Coke — a component that consumers weren't ready to give up for the sake of something new. It’s these types of failures that cost companies millions, and they’re all tied in with how well a survey is conducted.
Owners must also learn how to use their unbiased perspectives to their advantage. Sometimes an outsider can spot problems in seconds that insiders are too close to see. It's these insights that allow successful surveyors to demonstrate their value to the company (in more than just abstract terms).
How and when to build a team
Survey companies don’t necessarily need to start with a team until they have enough business to warrant the extra salaries. If owners do choose to hire, they should look for excellent writers with a passion for what makes people tick.