When I first started my business, it felt more like a happy accident. I enjoyed selling my jewelry in person but knew I would soon be transitioning to an online business. I had a lot of learning to do along the way, and today I’ll share some steps that you can take to be sure that your online shop starts off on the right foot!
The first thing you’ll want to consider doing when you’re looking to start your online shop is to do a detailed name search. If you’re lucky enough to find your URL is still available, search to ensure that the social media handles that you plan on using are also available—a little side note on the social handles too. Please don’t feel like you need to post to all of them. For now, just secure the handles of the most popular sites. Once you get going, you’ll know which ones you’ll want to post to. Even if you’re never going to use a specific social media platform, it’s still nice to have the name secured so that another business doesn’t pop up with your name on it. It would be best if you tried to secure the same name on your social media site as your URL and business name.
File your DBA
Be sure to file your FBN or DBA in your state. FBN stands for Fictitious Business Name, and DBA is Doing Business As. Once you’ve filed your name, I would recommend visiting www.uspto.gov to secure it as a trademark. I waited almost 8 or 9 years to do this, and slowly the name Willow and Bee started to pop up in more and more places. My jewelry has sold in all 50 states, at a national retailer, and in Europe. In no time at all, someone might find your new business name catchy enough and decide they want to use it too. Taking this extra step sooner than later will make a big difference.
LLC or Sole Proprietor?
File your business as an LLC or sole proprietor or whatever fits your business model best. This is a great place to hire an accountant for some sound advice. You’d be surprised at the clarity that you’ll get in your decision, and you won’t regret it at tax time either. Even if you file your own taxes, selecting the best option for your business can help you to know what you need to track, what you’re allowed to right off, and how best to avoid getting into the mess of digging for supporting receipts that you threw away.
I know this one is tedious, but in the end, it will save you a lot of time. If you’re providing a service, you’ll want to create a contract that outlines your work terms—the number of revisions, etc. For a product-based business, you’ll want to define your return policy along with a risk of loss policy.
In most cases, these terms will be provided for you if you’re selling on a large platform. You may or may not have the ability to provide your policy. If you’re starting your own shop, I highly recommend looking at other business pages similar to yours to get an idea of what is standard. Hiring a professional will always pay off in this department. But you’d be surprised at how much is already available on sites like Etsy and Amazon Handmade. I’ll give you a scenario that is common when mailing physical products. If you sell a product and it is delivered to the wrong address or never arrives, who will be responsible? I’ve had this very thing happen in my business. You need to make sure that you spell that out for the customer before they make their purchase. Many platforms assume that you are responsible for the item getting to the customer…even if it was lost in transit.
File for your EIN. Simply put, this is just a tax id number for your business. The government will need this number to identify your business, and you’ll need it when it comes to paying taxes. You’ll need to apply for your EIN online.
My favorite step, open your business account. After creating a DBA and with your EIN, you’re now ready to march into the bank and make this real! I’m not sure why this is my favorite of all the steps; maybe it’s because I was a banker a few lifetimes ago. I remember that job like it was yesterday! You’ll want to call your bank first and find out what type of business accounts they offer. There are a lot of great bands out there that don’t charge a minimum balance fee. Once you find the right bank, be sure to ask what supporting documents they need for you to bring in.
Talk to your insurance agent. You won’t need any additional insurance in many cases, but in other instances, you will. I have a friend who runs a service type of business, and he needs to insure his equipment and carry insurance to cover the independent contractors that he employs at an event. If you’re not sure if you need it, do a little research or ask your agent.
Determine how much you’ll save from each sale or business transaction. Notice I didn’t say if you’ll save. I can’t stress this enough. There are plenty of ways that self-employed business owners can grow their nest egg. Believe me when I say that I learned the hard way that running your business will feel like a thankless job without this step. Make your savings a non-negotiable. Let’s say you take 20% from every sale in due time that will accumulate and grow. If you wait until the end of the year, you’ll be missing out on potential compounding interest. And don’t fall into the trap of not saving until all of the debt is paid off. Just like a few small purchases add up to a whopping credit card bill at the end of the month, so will your savings add up. You’ll have to believe me here that the sooner you start to save without exception, the sooner you’ll begin to see growth.
Well, there you have it, my friend, 9 steps that you’ll need to complete when starting your small business. I know all of these items can feel overwhelming, but try to take them one step at a time. Click the image to download your free printable. If you follow along and tackle it one step at a time, I promise it will be doable.
If you’re already running your business, I’d love to hear what has been most helpful for you! If you’re just getting started, I would love to know what things you would like to learn more about.
As always, at the end of the month, I like to take the time to thank you for all of your support. I appreciate the shares, the reviews, and, most of all, the time you spend here with me.
With a little advice from experts, inspirational stories, and some guidance, I hope your small business journey is starting to take shape.
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