Steps to starting an online business:
1. Plan your business
Like any business, you’ll need a plan. Your planning process should include thorough market analysis, plans for how you’ll fund product production, and perhaps a SWOT analysis to begin your planning process.
2. Write your business plan
Once you’ve done a bit of preliminary planning, it’s time to write your business plan. Unless you’re asking for funding from the bank, an investor, or have a similar “business plan event” coming up, you’re better off sticking to a lean business plan. A lean plan is quicker and easier to write, and distills your plan down to the essentials.
3. Register your domain name and set up your website
If you’ve chosen to set up your own eCommerce site outside of a platform such as eBay or Etsy, you’ll want to make sure your chosen domain name is available and ready for use. Once you’ve secured it, the process of setting up your business website begins. You can choose to outsource this to a professional, or DIY ...
4. Make it legal
There are a few steps you’ll have to take to make sure your business is legal. While generally speaking, the same rules apply for online businesses as brick-and-mortar businesses, there are a few subtle differences:
Read up on online business regulations
The most important distinction when it comes to doing business online versus in person is online business law. These laws regard the distribution of your customers personal information, as well as other privacy and intellectual property regulations. The SBA gives a thorough rundown of the specifics of online business law, so make sure to brush up on them before you start your online business.
5. Assess your finances
Starting any business has a price, so you need to determine how you're going to cover those costs. Do you have the means to fund your startup, or will you need to borrow money? If you are planning to make your new business your full-time job, it's wise to wait until you have at least some money put away for startup costs and for sustaining yourself in the beginning before you start making a profit.
6. Register with the government and IRS
To become an officially recognized business entity, you must register with the government. Corporations will need an "articles of incorporation" document, which includes your business name, business purpose, corporate structure, stock details and other information about your company. Otherwise, you will just need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious "Doing Business As" name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you've come up with for your company. You may also want to take steps to trademark your business name for extra legal protection.
After you register your business, the next step is obtaining an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else.
7. Build your team
Unless you're planning to be your only employee, you're going to need to hire a great team to get your company off the ground.
8. Brand yourself and advertise
A great startup idea won't do you any good if people don't know about it. Before you start selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people ready to jump when you open your literal or figurative doors for business.
A company website and social media profiles are practically essential for any small business in today's world. Create a logo that can help people easily identify your brand, and be consistent in using it across all of your platforms.
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