You've got a great business idea. Maybe even a business plan. You've worked on your business pitch--you may even have a prototype or a website.

You are an entrepreneur and you're ready for business.

Not so fast.

While you can jump headfirst into the marketplace with your idea or product--and you're excited to show it off--there are important things to do first. Things that, if you don't know about them or ignore them, can really trip you up later.

At MeetAdvisors, we connect entrepreneurs to advisers, so we talk to eager capitalists every day. And you'd be shocked to hear how often this conversation happens:

Us: "So, you've got your trademarks search and your LLC and your business license all set up? Insurance ready?"

Entrepreneur: [blank stare] "You mean I need a business license?"

Chances are, before you run to market, you should speak to a lawyer about what licenses, permits, and protections you, your company, and your idea may need.

But lawyers can be expensive. And slow.

I'm not defending what lawyers charge. But if you think going through a lawyer in your business development is costly, try needing one later.

And one secret: Lawyers have become so specialized that, if you're in a big town at all, there's likely a lawyer near you who specializes in startups. Not just corporations, but the quick, dirty, and cheap kind of legal work that startup entrepreneurs love and need.

Exactly what you need will depend on your type of business model. And let me be clear--I'm not a lawyer and I'm not offering legal advice. That's why I suggest talking to a lawyer.

When you sit down with a lawyer or mentor--or both--here are four things you should be sure to ask about before you make your first sale.

Can I protect my idea/product?
Should I be incorporated? What are the options?

Believe it or not, based on our informal surveys, it's not the competition or the long hours that drive entrepreneurs out of the business--it's the paperwork and legal headaches. So be smart. Start early and do the work ahead of time. And do it, when you can, with a professional.

Published on: Oct 13, 2014