Online businesses are booming right now. The trend has been steadily picking up steam over the last decade, but given the global pandemic of 2020, more people are shopping online than ever before. The ultimate checklist will cover everything you need to start a successful online business.
Name your business
Take some time with this one, because the name of your business is the first step in establishing your reputation. Your business name should be something that reflects the nature of your business and is easy for customers or clients to remember. Once you have found the perfect name, register it. You can do this by filing a doing business as form at your county courthouse, or by establishing a limited liability corporation (LLC).
Decide how to host your website
Building a business website starts with choosing a hosting service. Hosting services fall into four categories.
Shared hosting is the most economical, but it is also the most unreliable. You have a single server shared by numerous websites, and that can mean frequent crashes and other site issues.
Dedicated hosting gives you all the power you could need, but it is an expensive option for new businesses. Dedicated hosting means that you purchase and control the physical machine that acts as a server.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)—VPS hosting falls between the two options above. You are sharing a server, but you rent a specified portion of the server’s capacity. With a VPS, you get the benefits of a dedicated server, without the associated costs. GreenGeeks at https://www.greengeeks.com/vps-hosting is one of the companies that specifically offer both options.
Cloud hosting is another option for mid-sized to large businesses. Cloud hosting is quickly scalable, secure, and robust. The downside is that you pay a premium for the service, and it does not have the same level of customization options. If you want to launch quickly, some cloud hosting sites cannot accommodate a quick launch.
Get an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
You will need this number for tax purposes and to open a business bank account. The easiest way to think of an EIN is it equates to having a social security number for your business. You can file for an EIN online with the IRS.
Research licenses and permits.
Doing business online does not exclude you from needing licenses and permits related to your business. You will need a sales tax permit in most states, and you should check with city, county, and state agencies to learn what other permits and licenses your business will need.
Write a business plan.
If you need financing for your business, a business plan will be a must to secure a loan. Even if you are starting your business with your capital, a business plan is an excellent tool for anyone starting a new business. You can find forms and templates online, or you can write your own. A business plan, at a minimum, should include:
- An executive summary that concisely states what your business is and what market needs it fulfills.
- A company overview that describes where your company does business, what legal entity it operates as, and any experience you have that is relevant to the industry.
- Include an industry analysis that highlights trends, demand, and growth projections.
- A marketing plan that details how you plan to market your products or services and resources to consider as your business grows.
- A financial plan that identifies your working capital and outlines how your business will generate revenue. If you are creating the business plan solely for your use, feel free to establish goals that you hope to reach and your first-year targets.
Start your marketing campaign early.
Even if you do not have your website up and running yet, you can start taking advantage of the power of social media to promote your business. Generating interest early in your business will help you learn the ropes of marketing while building up awareness of your business. Start creating content for websites, social media, and any blogs you will use to promote your business.
Secure your vendors
If you will be selling products online, finding vendors that offer excellent quality at the best price allows you to remain competitive in pricing. Check out the reputation of potential vendors. Unreliable deliveries or shady business practices can have a direct impact on the reputation of your business.
Decide if your business needs insurance.
Some types of companies are required to carry specific amounts of insurance, while others do not need any coverage at all. Business insurance can help protect you from losses or unforeseen liabilities. The Small Business Administration can help you understand if you need insurance, and if so, what type is best suited for your business.
Research the technology you need.
Whether you will be offering an online service, or selling products, using the right technology can help make your job easier. Whether you need a simple bookkeeping program, or project management software, know what solutions are currently on the market.
Track your progress
before your business officially opens, you have inventory to stock, vendors to interview, website building to complete or have done for you, and a multitude of other tasks. It can start to feel overwhelming, and it is easy to drop the ball with so much going on. Use any number of calendaring applications to track the things you need to do and the progress you are making. Not only will it help keep you on track, but it will provide motivation and satisfaction as you continue to mark things completed.