1. Start With Your Business Name
The first thing to do (after you decide what you want to sell, of course) is choose a fabulous, memorable business name that no one else is using. You can conduct a corporate name search to make sure it’s not already in use. Once you’ve chosen the name, register it. (If you form an LLC or corporation, this will happen automatically in the state where you file your paperwork.)
2. Secure Your Domain Name and Website
Ideally, you’ll get your business name as your domain name, but if it’s not available, choose a URL that’s easy to say and spell, and relates to your business. So if your business is Karen’s Craft Creations and KarensCraftCreations.com isn’t available, try something similar like CraftsbyKaren.com.
The design of your eCommerce site may be the biggest business expense you have. But you want to ensure that it’s not only visually appealing, but also functional. There are out-of-the-box eCommerce solutions like Shopify to begin with, but you may require something more custom-made if your needs are more than basic.
3. Select The Best Business Structure and Register Your Business
You’ve got several options when it comes to your business structure:
- Sole Proprietor
- Partnership (if you have a business partner)
If you don’t choose a business structure like a corporation or LLC, you’ll automatically be considered a sole proprietor (or partnership) by the IRS. However, operating as a sole proprietor, your personal assets are at risk. If your company is ever sued, the court can seize your personal assets if your business doesn’t have enough to cover its debts. Both the corporation and LLC separate you and your assets from the business, and provide other tax benefits.
You can register on your own by filling out the appropriate business structure paperwork from the IRS yourself, or you can hire a business filing company to do it for you. A lawyer is another option, but that’s often overkill for the average small business owner’s needs.
4. Get Your Tax/Employer Identification Number
You’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Tax Identification Number (TIN) to open a business bank account and file your business taxes next April. Your EIN is a bit like your business’ social security number: it’s a unique number that identifies your business and helps you file important paperwork. Every business needs one, whether you’ll have employees or not.
5. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
Operating an eCommerce business does not exclude you from needing certain business licenses and permits. Check with your city, county, and state to see what sorts of sales tax licenses or home business licenses you need, and get those approved before you start operating.
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